With a soulful and trance-like musical style, Melat has captivated the hearts from fans in her hometown Austin, and all around the world. Her self-expression shines with her experimental, multi-cultural aesthetic as well as her polished and experimental fashion and hair styles. Vanessa Peters got to meet up with the ATX Babe and talk culture, inspiration and fashion.
Vanessa Peters: How did singing and songwriting become one of your loves?
I was a very shy child and when I found music and writing I found outlets that allowed me to express the thoughts I was too scared to speak up about. Over the years, my writing and music merged into song. Now sharing my music and seeing the impact it has on people has become one of my most motivating factors.
Melat: It has been a journey that I never imagined. Growing up in Austin it was hard to find the places that played music that I liked or people that looked like me. However 2017 has been an amazing year with playing some amazing festivals like Austin City Limits, Babes Fest, and Sound on Sound. Also, the City of Austin is now taking the well-being of locally grown/based artists as a serious point of conversation and I’m proud to be a part of that conversation.
Are you muslim and if so how does that affect or inform the way you carry yourself or your music in general?
I am not Muslim, but I have a number of friends who are. I find it incredibly important to be respectful in everything that I do. Respectful to myself first and foremost and to be someone the people I know and love would be proud of.
Where would you move to and why given the abundant choice?
I would live here in Austin. It’s such a beautiful place that I’ve always known and I would love to continue to contribute to this beautiful unique town for as long as I can.
Where does the heart of the majority of your lyrics come from?
My lyrics come from the real life thoughts and experiences of me or the people around me.
What is it like working with the Pha the Phenom?
It’s an amazing blessing to work with Pha till this day. He was the first person who pushed me and encouraged me to sing outside of my own four walls. Since then we’ve worked to share that music with the world and I couldn’t be happier to have someone like that on my side. Not to mention the numerous amazing songs we’ve created together.
If you had your way who would you love to collaborate with?
I would love to work with Pharrell, Jidenna, Kelela, dvsn, Aluna George, Daniel Caesar, The Weeknd, Drake, Raleigh Ritchie, the list goes on and on!
Considering you seem to have the look for it, had you ever considered modeling as at most a career or at least something to dabble in?
Well first off, thank you! I have considered it and realized music was my passion first and foremost. I wanted to solidify myself as a voice before being a face. Luckily that has worked out for me as I have done a few commercial shoots that were propelled from my musicianship.
How would you describe your personal style?
Sleek Eclectic I suppose. I love patterns and I’m not afraid of textures but I like to pair something stand out with something sleek like a pair of white pants with a crazy jacket or some interesting pants with a solid crop top. The goal is to always be comfortable and true to how I am feeling.
How do you, or the world, validate what you do?
The physical people of the world validate me by listening to my music and sharing what I have created. The figurative “world” validates me with the opportunities to continue to creating and sharing my thoughts and music.
What is your personal opinion on love at this point in time?
I believe that love is at an all time high and low at the same time right now. On one hand you have several entities across the world attempting to assert one type of persons’ qualities over others which has promoted hate and divisive behaviors. But in retaliation to that so many people are loving each other and spreading that love with support of people who don’t look like or have the same beliefs as them. It’s an interesting time and I think it is a defining moment in history that will impact our children’s children in a large way.
What was the most fun party you had been to and why was it fun to you?
The most fun party I have ever been to was this party that took place in a warehouse of sorts, I don’t really remember what it looked like much since it was quite dark. But what I do remember is being surrounded by my best friends and dancing to our favorite songs all night. By the time I realized what time it was, I think it was near 7am and the sun was rising. We literally danced till the sun came up. It was an amazing night that I will always remember.
Tell us about ‘Dance Olivia’.
Dance Olivia is a song that was produced by a friend of mine Obey City. It’s a song that I wrote about how despite what we see portrayed in the media and what other people may tell us, that we need to continue to “dance.” That we should continue to be true to ourselves and understand that the negativity that surrounds us doesn’t need to be something we internalize. Keep dancing and keep pushing forward.
What was it like performing at SXSW 2016, walk us through that?
SXSW is always an experience. So many people come from far and wide to participate so there is a great chance of meeting new people. There are so many things going on that I always tell people not to make promises of being anywhere at a certain time because you will always end up falling into some event or show that is interesting. Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of playing many shows a week and that is always great because not only do I get to see fans, I also get to make new ones and that is priceless.
In Un-ruly.com you shared your hair journey, what would you say to females that feel you have ‘good hair’ and that you don’t have anything to ‘complain’ about so to speak?
“Good hair” is a state of mind. I wore my hair in a bun, in braids, used relaxer, fought with an iron comb, and flat ironed for most of my life. Sat in-front of my mother and the evil pink comb for 4 hours once a week to get those braids. I couldn’t comb through it and I had no idea what to do with it. I think right now the world is in a great space for women and girls who thought because their hair needed more love than others that it wasn’t “good hair.” We are seeing this embrace of the true nature of your hair and learning how to love it as need be.
At this point what does it mean to you to straighten your hair versus dying it blonde?
I’m all for doing what makes you feel good about you. I straightened my hair for a long time but I feel most at home today with my blonde, natural curls. Whatever makes you feel most in your skin is the right way to do it.
Do you feel like you have to leverage your sexuality in order to have your music heard or have a buzz created around it?
I have been very blessed in this area and haven’t had many issues with that. But I know many other women have. And I have been lucky enough to work with amazing men and women who respect me and not only my boundaries but the focus on the goals at hand. I find it important to be rooted in who you are and not compromise that despite what the industry may tell you.
Do you feel as though being a black female being straddled between two languages and cultures makes you a stronger musical contender?
Definitely. I think being able to take those unique things about ourselves and pushing them to the forefront allows us to stand out. We’re all a unique mix of likes, talents, and backgrounds and I’m so proud to be a black woman with the perspective that life has given me.
‘No longer intimidated by the size of my dreams’…i’m sure that sounds familiar, where does that come from?
Like I said, I spent a good portion of my life afraid to speak up, afraid to stand out, but I always loved the stage and singing and music. So now as I actively live in and chase my dream, I’m no longer intimidated by those fears that once held me back.
Madisyn Mahagoni did a dope drawing of you, how did you link up with her?
She’s a good friend of mine who also resides in Austin by way of Houston. She always has really great artistic insight. She, along with her sister Savana, created a really great brand called LeagliazeMelanin that had a series called “Brown Babes.” When they told me they were going to do my likeness next, I was ecstatic!
What do you think your biggest insecurity at this point is?
Though I’ve made huge strides, I get insecure in my own ability to firmly land the next step. And it’s a fear that exists before I do something. The anxiety that precedes an action, because in the moment I’m flying and I embrace it. But getting out of my own head and not worrying about what people may say or how I may be perceived is my biggest insecurity.
On a sunny day where would you want to be?
I would want to be near the water, whether at a rooftop pool or by a body of water with a waffle cone with some delicious ice cream.
What can we expect to see from Melat?
Later this year I will be playing the iconic Austin City Limits Festival and Sound on Sound Festival. Also you can expect to see a new album from me and Jansport J, a follow up to our first project together, Move Me.
Where can everyone find you on the internet and wifi?