Two years strong Melanie Fiona headlines a promising group of superstars in the making for Rising Icons. Since launching last year, BET's partnership with GREY GOOSE ENTERTAINMENT has positioned artists like Melanie, J. Cole and Estelle as ones to watch because they all look and sound different, ushering in a new era for their respective contributions to music. For the new season, the performances were filmed at New York's Hiro Ballroom. The set design was made to have that upsacle feel of watching award shows on TV. Only thing is, out of most of the guests, Melanie is kind of a veteran after racking up a gang of nominations last year from the Grammy's to the BET Awards. When we caught up with her behind the scenes, she talked about the making of her sophomore album and how she's rising to the occasion.
INTERVIEW BY RICHARD "TREATS" DRYDEN
Being on this Rising Icons bill have you ever worked with any of the other artists before?
Melanie Fiona: I haven't worked with the artists of this year. I was invited back from Rising Icons to do this. I already did it last year and now they've invited me back to do it again this year which is pretty cool. I did a live performance with my band and I was a little like, 'What am I gonna do this year?' There hasn't been another album but I'm gonna do it a little bit differently. I'm gona do it acoustic today and do it a little different, and show a bit more of the simpler side of the music. Of course my story is a little bit different this time around.
What's the story now?
MF: I've now released the album and it being out, and have toured and have done some really great things, and awards and nominations. My interview process will be a lot different. I have a lot more to say now.
When you put out the album The Bridge, what did that signify at that time?
MF: It was sygnifying a lot: it was a signifying a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice, my vision I wanted for myself in the music industry, just kind of separate myself and just be almost like a pioneer I guess for a new movement in music because I wanted to bring back (in my opinion) live instrumentation, real singing, real stories and just music that would bridge people together. I didn't want to be a pigeonholed artist to one genre or to one demographic. I just wanted to make music to appeal to the masses and that album is just very significant to me because it's everything that I worked towards.
Would you ever go into the direction of doing something more programmed, when it comes to the production.
MF: I'm a band artist and I always perform live. That's just kind of my thing. Maybe I could do like a mixtape. Programming isn't bad, because programming with live instrumentation is actually really great, so we could create a sound. I mean, 808s & Heartbreak was such a great album—I'm a fan of it and maybe I'll evolve into that when I get to that time. But right now, I'm into live instrumentation.
Have you started to record for your new album?
MF: I definitely have.
Where's that at now?
MF: We're just starting. I'm very excited about it. It's a little more streamlined than what the first album. The first album had so many different genres of music. The second album is a little more rock and soul, in fact we're calling it Stadium Soul, it's like the graduation of soul from the first album.
That's a very profound way to look at it.
MF: It's definitely not the retro sound that the first one had. It's a graduation, it's a little more current, it's a little bit heavier, it's a little stadium sounding, it's bigger. I'm very excited about that because I feel my persona as an artist and as I am on stage has definitely graduated to that as well. I'm looking forward to fninishing that album.
Taking a look back for a second, where was your first show?
MF: Like my very first big show as an independent artist was with Keyshia Cole and Robin Thicke at the House of Blues.
That's pretty big.
MF: It was a very big show and a really great opportunity. I still have to thank Manny, Hallie, and Mia Hill who are people who believed in me and gave me that shot from the beginning. I did that at the House of Blues—it was a big deal. Queen Latifah was there, Jimmy Iovine, Diane Warren, there was a lot of people there that night. It was my first coming out as an independent artist with songs I had written and recorded. But I was still independent, and just performing just to be seen and get noticed, I think it was a really great place to start.
On your Twitter page you call your friends the melan heads. Where did that come from?
MF: I have a fan of mine, he's like my number one fan and he was like, "I really want to start a fan club for you." I always tell them that when I was a kid they used to call me melon head because Melanie- melon head, you know kids are cruel. But he was like, "That's a great name!" So he started the Melan Heads, and that's how it call came about. If they don't mind me calling them Melan Heads, I don't mind either. I think it's pretty cool. It definitely started with me. It was a nickname I had as a kid—a very mean one—but if we can make light of it and turn it into something positive that's cool too.
You can one day call your band the melan heads.
MF: I think so too. I think we should get them costumes, like a big watermelon [laughs].