Melina Malone told David Hennessy that her most recent single was a homage to her native city, why this is a golden age for Irish music and why performers in Ireland need a roadmap back to normality.
Dubin R&B artist Melina Malone has been described as ‘one of Irish music’s best kept secrets’ by GoldenPlec, while BBC Ulster say, ‘Malone really sounds like she has all of the talent in the world and she’s just waiting for the rest of us to catch up with her’.
Following a successful independent debut single release Now or Never in October 2019, and singles Ti Ein Afto and Realize in 2020, both of which received critical acclaim.
Melina has gone on to support a host of International and Irish acts and her collaboration with Dublin rap duo MangoXMathman in 2018 on their remix Heartbreaks and Promises is a huge crowd hit.
Melina also joined the collective Irish Women in Harmony group for their charity cover of Dreams which raised over €215,000 for Safe Ireland last year.
Melina had only released one single prior to Covid-19 shutting down the live music scene.
Her latest single, No Better Place, is a tribute to the native Dublin that the virus left her confined to during the crisis.
Melina, who grew up in the Charlemont street area and now lives in Drimnagh, told The Irish World: “I’m kind of a Dub like.
“I’ve always been very proud to be from Dublin.
“That’s kind of the inspiration of No Better Place.
“It was just being proud to be from here and being here during the pandemic and having to spend a lot of time with my family and with the city on its own when there’s no one here.
“I’m just realizing, we are located here and we’re really lucky to call this our home.
“So yeah, I love Dublin.”
The singer quickly sold out her first headline show in Button Factory.
The show has been delayed but is soon going to go ahead and she expects to announce more shows in the near future.
“It had to be postponed unfortunately, “ she says of the gigs that was planned for 15 July.
“Yeah, I’m really excited for that. It’s the first show since everything happened, since lockdown.
“So it’s been a long time coming.
“Originally the gig was going to happen in 2020. It’s been postponed so many times.
“We’re very up in the air at the moment in Ireland when it comes to all of the live music industry so it’s just great to finally know it’s going to happen after such a long time.”
How has the last year been for someone who was just getting going when the virus put a stop to things? “It’s been very up and down.
“I mean, there have been moments of inspiration. There’s been good times but I think ultimately, it’s just this roadmap of how we’re getting back to live music is, I think, is on everyone’s minds.
“There is weird atmosphere just because the live industry is still kind of in the dark.
“There is kind of a cry for a bit of clarity on what’s happening.
“And that’s really kind of, for me and a lot of creatives, what is weighing us down.
“That’s really tough.
“All my friends are just dying to play. They’re dying to show what they’ve been working on for so long.
“It’s been a year and a half of very little live music so it’s nice to see the something’s happening there.
“But hopefully, we can have a bit more of a roadmap. We’re kind of crying out for it at this point: A bit of a plan in place.
“We want to be organizing ourselves. It’s been a challenge to stay motivated but we’re getting there.”
If you thought Melina was a newcomer to the industry just from her debut coming in the last two years, you would be wrong.
“I’ve been gigging for years in the industry but we had just never released any original music until Now or Never in 2019.
“We were really kind of picking up steam and we had loads of big plans.
“And we were gearing up towards a really busy 2020. We had loads of releases planned, we had loads of gigs planned.
“And then obviously the pandemic hit, it was just a huge shift to our entire plan and what I was going to be doing.
“I studied in BIMM, Dublin.
“I had a solo career before Now or Never.
“I used to just perform on keys, did a lot of support slots, played the venues all around Dublin.
“It’s just that I had always had a kind of vision in mind with my music and where I wanted it to go.
“So I just started collaborating and now I feel like I have definitely honed a sound for myself and kind of a pathway into the new music that I’m planning.
“It’s all been a journey up to this point.
““I’m definitely not new to the industry anymore.”
Melina released Ti Ein Afto and Realize in 2020 with her latest single No Better Place arriving last month.
“So yeah, it’s been weird that the majority of my emergence into the scene has been through a pandemic.
“It is strange because you usually have a way to communicate and connect with your audience and talk to them and see how they’re getting on with it.
“It’s weird to see it like it is. It’s been great that there has been a huge amount of support but obviously it’s just really weird to not be able to perform live, that’s the big one that I miss the most.
“So it’ll be really cool for the show in the Button Factory at the end of the month to finally play all of these tracks that I’ve released live for the first time so I’m really excited.
“I can’t wait to get back to a bit of normality in terms of gigs next year.”
Melina names Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu as her two biggest inspirations: “Amy would be a big one. Erykah Badu D’Angelo- Any of the soul trailblazers.
“At the moment I’m listening to a lot of UK R&B and there’s so many amazing R&B and soul artists.
“They’re like verging on the electro-soul territory now.
“And then there’s hip hop artists, even from Ireland, like Denise Chaila and Kojaque who are massively influencing me as well.
“I think I just have a range of influences.”
The single No Better Place is a prelude to the singer’s highly anticipated debut project expected to be announced in late 2021.
“At the moment, I’m working on my debut project, or my LP, and it has everything.
“Obviously, there’s jazz in there. There’s bossa nova, I’m really into bossa nova as well. And, yeah, there’s just a plethora of influences there.
“I’m kind of just knuckling down now.
“I’m gonna just take a bit of a break and fine tune it and make sure that it’s the best that it can be.
“I don’t think it’s going to be this year, it could be 2022. I’m not going to put any labels on it, especially when it comes to an album.
“I really want to make sure it has the time and space to develop and to be given a chance.
“It’s really hard to see artists releasing music right now, in terms of albums, because you can’t gig them and that’s what’s so important to me especially: To be able to see how people are getting them.”
Talking of acts like Denise Chaila, does Melina feel like this is a really exciting time for Irish music? “Definitely.
“I think a lot of artists have said this: It’s almost like we’re at a golden age of music in Ireland.
“And right now, you just see the amazing difference of genres. And people from all backgrounds, all over Ireland.
“Before, primarily a lot of Dublin acts went on to be big and you also saw a lot of just the same types of music, and now it’s just booming.
“There’s so many different types of people. And that’s just really good to see and there is a really lovely sense of community here.
“And we all support each other. And I will be definitely going to all of their gigs when we can.”
Melina got to feel a part of a very special musical community when she joined RuthAnne and Irish Women in Harmony last year.
Since their debut last year, they have gone on to release a charity Christmas single and the recent Only A Woman.
“I’ve learned so much from them,” she says of the collective that also includes Sharon Corr, Lisa Hannigan, Una Healy and Moya Brennan to name a few.
“They’re in different parts of the industry. They’re different genres, Some of them are a lot more established.
“RuthAnne is obviously a Grammy nominated songwriter. She’s written for people all over the world and it’s just great to learn from those people and to be able to be in the same room as them.
“We have an amazing writing camp coming up at the end of the month, that we’re all going to finally meet each other at which is crazy to think that it hasn’t happened yet.
“There’s so many plans in the works for us and I’m really grateful to be part of it.
“It’s just such a lovely collective of women supporting each other in an industry where, especially in Ireland, I feel like we get pitted against each other quite often.
“It’s really nice to be feel a sense of community there. Especially with women in Ireland.”
Does that mean that prior to RuthAnne’s initiative it often felt, falsely, like Melina was in competition with other females?
“I think because Ireland was then- and I don’t think it is now- but it was a very small market for a long time so it felt like we were kind of pushing our way to get to the top. And it’s not like that, it shouldn’t be like that. And you should never think like that.
“And you shouldn’t be compared to another artist just because you are Irish. You’re not the same, all musicians are different.
“And especially here, we have all got our own strengths. There’s room for everyone.
“It’s great that finally it doesn’t feel like there is that competition there anymore. I think it’s very much, ‘There’s room for everyone’.”
Does that mean Melina can see a change in the better as Irish Women in Harmony was founded to also draw attention to the gender disparity in Irish radio play? “Definitely.
“Obviously, Linda Coogan-Byrne did that wonderful gender disparity report.
“And we were all very much involved at the time. She was prepared to ask for comments and concerns and just even conversations about how we’d felt in the industry up to then as women.
“And it’s crazy to think that we all had such similar experiences but we didn’t realize that it wasn’t unique to us.
“We were all experiencing it at the same time.
“Yeah, I think there’s lots of changes happening right now in media in Ireland.
“People like 2FM are probably at the forefront right now. They’re supporting Irish music so much in radio and it’s changing, it’s slowly actually changing.
“There’s no excuse that can be made any more that there isn’t any Irish females.
“In Irish Women in Harmony, there’s 40+ women right in front of you that you can choose from. They’re there if you look for them.
“I think that we’re definitely on the right track.
“I just hope that we continue this and it doesn’t become like a fad or something that people stop caring about because it’s ongoing, and it should be definitely still considered at all times.”
Melina has considered making the move to London in the past and now says she can’t wait to play a show over here: “I’ve been to London a good few times. I love it. It’s a great city and I definitely contemplated moving there.
“I think the music scene over there in terms of R&B and soul and all the genres that I love appeals to me. All of my favorite artists are from London.
“I would love to play there. I’m hoping to do some international shows next year, fingers crossed how things go.
“I would love to play a London show. That would be amazing.”
No Better Place is out now.
For more information, click here.