A Sunny Day's Talk From The Shade
Every Piece of the Future is Made In the Present
The creeping overcast of gray clouds make the room, five stories above the West Loop’s Green Street, a little darker than usual. His face partially obscured by the laptop glowing in front of him, Melo Makes Music sifts through a slew of his unreleased tracks, the darkness periodically silhouetting his face against the wall. We engage in conversation about developing new music, strategies for releasing singles, trusting his team, and the benefits of knowing what to focus on. Every brief encounter of sunlight exposes the excitement on Melo’s face as he discusses plans for the future and, as I look at the content young artist across from me, I’m reminded of how Melo’s tracks have granted a similar periodic unveiling of the person behind the music over the years. Each release another brief encounter of what’s to come, Melo’s most recent body of work, Hold Your Tongue, stands to be the largest stretch of light over his career so far.
The September debut of Hold Your Tongue serves as a therapeutic-yet-meticulous journal entry, comprised of carefully chosen pieces of music representing Melo’s current state of mind. Revealing an older, extended version of Hold Your Tongue as he turned his laptop, Melo pointed out how some tracks made it on the album in their entirety, whereas others were sampled or a concept was reimagined into something new.
The narrative of the music has always been at the mercy of Melo’s dismantling and re-assembling procedures. Scrolling through his private Soundcloud haven, Melo mulls over the many singles and album variations - released and unreleased versions alike- marveling the amount of time that he’s spent tweaking each track. Some songs feature ideas that were polished over time, in some cases over a variety of beats, others are left infantile, raw, prepped to be revisited at a later date. Tending to the consistent reconstruction of his music allows Melo to take his time and to control his own exposure, to carefully and sparingly emerge from the silhouette while always leaving room for reinvention.
Hold Your Tongue embodies that very methodology, largely made up of singles and demos Melo’s been collecting and honing over the past few years. “A lot of my initial music was very centered around what was happening in my current situation. Like the ‘Evicted’ song, I wrote because I was being evicted,” he laughed, “Whereas I wrote ‘Murphy’s Law’ because I was searching for a way to make an impact with my voice.” Pointing at the tracks one by one Melo explains how, “A lot of these, the ideas might make it onto the next project but the tracks themselves might not.” As he continued, it became apparent decisions like these often came from embracing maturity: moving on from toxic relationships to healthy ones, finding positive ways to manage depression. As we switch up the discussion, digging a little deeper into his creative process seems like a hotter topic.
Confining himself to the heave-ho of some binary formula is a place Melo plans to keep his music away from. “Like I’m damn near telling people I’m only writing songs with four hooks,” he said smiling wide like Cheshire Cat. “Just hooks, no verses. But, like, it’s only raw if it’s actually raw.” Steadying his thoughts on song structure, he couldn’t help but sort of laugh because, “people really get caught up on that shit!” Melo further remarks that the biggest influences on his approach to the music stem from experience. He remembers risking it all on music, quitting his job, dropping out of school, and at the end of it all, bearing the fear of maybe one day accepting that it was all for a delusion of grandeur, “One day I realized that if I’m going to live then I need to work hard.”.
It was during that time years ago songs like “Murphy’s Law”, “Sleepless”, and “Drain U” were created, an era of music Melo says the album will reignite through a new lense. “Now that I’ve released Hold Your Tongue I can kind of hone in on where my head’s been at throughout this entire process,” he continued triumphantly, “What am I about now? You know, what does it mean to be me?” It would be impossible not to see Melo’s optimism shine through at the root of it all, it’s something he believes his narrative always leads back to. “I feel like my optimism always leads me into favorable situations. It doesn’t matter, I could be in the darkest place but I’ll always be able to see a flicker of light.” Then, the clouds transitioned, allowing daylight to remove the dark overlay encompassing the room.
Relishing how long it’s been since the “Murphy’s Law” days, Mr. Makes Music celebrates his longtime friend and collaborator, Martin $ky. “It’s crazy because Martin’s new direction is unlike anything you’ve ever heard but it has everything you want.” Looking back on their journey now, Melo remembers when Martin’s production helped him to speak when he felt he had no voice of his own. Their ongoing partnership continues to grow beyond the typical producer-songwriter relationship. Alongside Martin, Melo has been able to find his way to the art of beat making, a newer learned skill that developed different approaches to songwriting for Melo. Adding more skills under his belt, Melo says working with Martin has increased his ability to combine more of his musical imagination. “We’re really crossing the boundaries with this next one. Like, I can see it have a place on Soulection or No Jumper, hell even B96. This is what I mean when I say I’m bending all the elements now.”
Fully exposed, the room now cascading with rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds, Melo Makes Music praises his management team for their advice and guidance so far. For the most part, any artist can understand the anxiety of wanting to release new music when the moment strikes. Similarly, any manager, or publicist for that matter, understands the importance of keeping your ducks in a row before releasing said music. Irritating that delicate balance is a non-issue as far as Melo is concerned. He understands having patience and trusting in his team are influential ingredients to sustaining longevity. Melo’s way of finding success in the music industry doesn’t hinge on how, or when, because, “I’m trying to take everything to the next level,” he says squinting under his five finger sunvisor, “I want to be a more well rounded perspective on topics like mental health and depression.” If Melo’s focus on the future wasn’t clear before it certainly was then. And so long as the sun continues to rise, Melo will continue unveiling the core within the music he makes.