Artist Spotlight: Mélat
Who is Mélat?
Native Austinite, Mélat is the eclectic soul of modern RNB. The Ethiopian-American songstress transcends language and culture to tell a story that is both challenging and inspiring, crafted from her very own life experiences. Her music is a pure and honest reflection of her soul, with songs written and sung in both English and her native tongue of Amharic. From love, lust, and success to failure, struggle, and heartache, Mélat sings of what it means to be a human simply longing to “be”.
Born in Austin and a graduate of both Cedar Park High School and the University of Texas at Austin, Mélat (May-laht) has been making waves in the music scene since she began releasing music in 2014. The past year brought many incredible opportunities for the singer including the release of new music (album “MéVen” and single “The Now (feat. Jansport J)”), performances at SXSW and ACL Fest, and the official proclamation of Mélat Day by the City of Austin on December 14th followed by a charity dinner that benefitted American Gateways.
Her latest project, “Move Me II: The Present”, is another collaboration with Californian beatmaker Jansport J and will be released on Friday, February 9. Click here to preorder the album. She was also recently named KUTX’s Artist of the Month. You can catch her performing Live at Studio 1A on February 9.
AMF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
You just released your new album “Move Me II: The Present” earlier this month with Jansport J. What inspired the new record? What message do you want listeners to walk away with? How can fans listen to the new record?
When we released the first project and saw the response we got from it, I think we both knew that at some point we would have to follow it up with something. And we click as people so making another project with such a great friend was an added bonus. Musically, I think we’ve both grown so much as people and as creators since Move Me I. In Move Me II, you can hear a more grounded sound than on its predecessor.
You’ve collaborated with Jansport J before on “Move Me” and “The Now”. What was it like working together again? Were there any differences in the creative teamwork process than before?
We are good friends and have always had a great relationship so it was great to finally be working on a full piece of art again. This time around we had a better repoire because we had a more established understanding of how we work. Also, we got to meet in person a couple of times throughout the process of making this project whereas the time before that, I’m not sure if we had even met in person yet!
Growing up in Austin means you’re one of the few magical native unicorns of this town. What was it like growing up here? Did it have any impact on your desire to be an artist?
Haha I love that term “unicorn.” I pretty much get that every time I mention I’m born and raised here. It was pretty smooth growing up here for me. It was such a simpler vibe growing up here as a kid, but the city has definitely grown bigger and faster paced, especially in the last 10-15 years. Living in Austin you see and hear music everywhere and naturally, you want to be a part of that. For me, it was finding where to start and where to fit in. It’s been a process but a fruitful one thus far.
How has your music evolved since you first began writing & recording music?
I was really nervous to explicitly write lyrics, so I would kee a lot of my lyrics vague so that the listener could draw their own pictures based off of the emotions I was describing. Over the years I have become more comfortable and confident in what I am talking about so this latest album is definitely the most explicit when it comes to describing exactly what I’m talking about. And just like with any skill you hone, the more proficient you are, the more willing you are to take risks and I try to jump further out of my box with each project I create.
Your family immigrated to the US from Ethiopia in the 1980s. How important is it to integrate your cultural heritage and roots into your music?
It’s incredibly important because without those roots I wouldn’t be the person I am today. No matter whether I incorporate elements of the music of Ethiopia or not, so much of that culture is intertwined into my thought process, word choice, and demeanor. I’ve learned to love the things that make me unique and this is one of them that I absolutely cherish and carry with me whether I’m singing in my native tongue of Amharic or not.
2017 was a big year for you, including performances at Austin City Limits and SXSW, plus the proclamation of Mélat Day in December! What was your favorite moment of the year?
Mélat Day in December has to be my favorite because it allowed me to reflect on the year that I had and on that day I held a benefit dinner with fans, friends, and family and it was such a beautiful way to celebrate an awesome year. Being in The Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman, playing Waterloo Records, SXSW, ACL, and all after feeling like I was going to move to LA in December 2016… 2017 was a year that reminded me where I was from, who I am, and who I want to be.
What’s been your biggest musical accomplishment to date?
Finding my way. Embracing my sound. Discovering my potential. Music has been a long journey of self-discovery for me. This business will test you in ways that will lead you to discover who you are as a person and as a creative. It’s been challenging but so rewarding and so worth it as my number one concern has always been the health of my soul as the end of the day. I’ve turned things down that others may have jumped on and I’ve worked with and have done work for people and things that others may have ignored. This keeps my little soul healthy and, for me, gives this journey true value.
If you could collaborate with any artist or producer, who would you want to work with?
The Weeknd! Beautiful voice, down to earth persona, fun AND sexy music.
What does it mean to be named AMF’s Artist of the Month?
Growing up I had a hard time seeing myself in the Austin music scene because I didn’t think anyone was making or caring about the type of music that I wanted to hear. So growing up with that sentiment and being the AMF Artist of the Month is everything. It is a reminder that I still have a job to do in this city – to continue to diversify the look and the sound. AMF does so much to empower people to become strong, music-focused, professionals; I’m honored to be recognized by an organization that echoes my sentiments of empowering others.
Is there any advice you’d give to a young artist just starting to break out?
Don’t stop! It’s incredibly tough and you will want to quit. But as long as you continue to hone your craft and elevate… don’t stop working and innovating.
Now that the record is done, what’s next for you? Any big shows coming up you can tell us about?
Yes! You can expect to see me and Jansport J performing live more often. SXSW will be a hectic but fun time. And join me April 6th for my headline after-show at Stubbs! Tickets available here.
Photos by: Ismael Quintanilla III Photography
We’re so excited to have Mélat as our February 2018 Artist of the Month and celebrate her new release during Love Austin Music Month. Take a listen below and follow her on Facebook HERE, Twitter HERE, and Instagram HERE or visit her website HERE.