Ottawa Artist Mélissa Vales Releases New Album
All you have to do is listen to Gatineau born Mélissa Vales’ new music to know she is one of Ottawa’s most talented young artists. Her new project, The Things I Should’ve Said To You, looks at the experience of relationships in an honest and truthful way with incredible vocals to match—and is being released this fall.>>>
When did you first start making music?
I have known from a very young age that I wanted to be an entertainer. I have been singing, writing songs and performing with my sister in front of my friends and family since as long as I can remember. Before pursuing music, I danced competitively from age 9 to 21 (mostly hip hop but I was trained in jazz, ballet, b-girling and contemporary). I actually starting taking music seriously at the end of my dancing career, at about 17 years old.
What does it mean to be a musician from Ottawa?
To me, being a musician from Ottawa means opportunity. Ottawa seems to only be recognized for being the government city. In my opinion, it has the potential of being way more than that. Especially this year (Canada’s 150), I saw how Ottawa can be vibrant and could compete with big cities. There’s a spotlight that’s just waiting to be taken and I’m here for it.
What is the Ottawa Music scene like, in your opinion?
If you’re an artist from Ottawa, I feel like you have to create your opportunities. You might not know this but I’m from Gatineau, the other side of the river (Yes, where they speak French, my first language). Before I started taking music seriously, I had never really had a reason to go to Ottawa. Because I wanted to be an international artist, I knew that I wanted to write English music. I forced myself to go out alone, meet people in Ottawa and find the people I wanted to work with and that I vibed with. I put myself out there and came to find many VERY talented artists. I am still shocked to see how many Ottawa gems we have. For example I met my producer Jeff Sanon, and my sound engineer Trey Timeless. I also worked with Maurice Moore, CGB, etc. and that’s just a few. I feel like everyone is just plotting and we’ll see Ottawa’s music scene flourish soon enough.
How would you describe your music, your sound and your style?
I would say that my sound (right now) is a blend of R&B, Pop, Hip Hop, Soul… I know it’s really broad but like I said, I love to navigate between styles and turn whatever inspires me into a song. I feel that as humans, we change a lot and I don’t want to fight the change. I do whatever feels right at that time. I don’t like to limit my creativity but I invite you to label it yourself. You never know, I might end up doing a rock song too! My only goal is to express myself and to make YOU feel something while/after listening to my music. I want to inspire you to create something yourself.
When you create music, who are you creating it for? What do you want people to know?
Most of the time when I’m writing, I try to emulate my experience. When you think about it, that’s the only thing that can be honest. I create the piece for myself first. I believe that if I’m happy with what I come up with, I will be okay with the response it gets. Even if it wouldn’t resonate with other people, at least I know that I am proud of what I have accomplished. I know that authenticity and art wins every time. It’s not so much about the notes, it’s about the texture, it’s about the truth and rawness of the music. I’ve come to realize that truth and authenticity is what people want to see and hear. I want people to know that whatever I’m singing about or doing, it’s coming from a real place.
What are some tips for aspiring artists, especially other females?
The first tip I would give to any artists in general is to put yourself out there. Don’t wait for the right time because it will never be the “right time”. Another tip I would give is to stay true to yourself. And to me, it means that you don’t have to be just one thing. If you feel sexy, be sexy! If you feel like being goofy, be goofy! If you want to cut your hair short, cut your hair. Be whoever you want to be and don’t waste your time worrying about what people think. For example, you CAN be intelligent and dress “provocatively”, you CAN dress like a tomboy and still be feminine! Trust me, we waste so much time trying to be someone in particular when we are everyone. Don’t be scared to try new things and ladies, don’t ever think that your opinion is less valuable than a man’s opinion.
What was the inspiration behind your new song Admit it?
Admit It is going to be featured on my project The Things I Should’ve Said To You. This six-song project is about my experience with modern relationships and what I’ve seen my generation go through. This piece in particular explains the “chase” in a relationship. It’s the part when you’re afraid/nervous to reveal how you truly feel about the other person. I wrote this song about someone in particular in hopes of reassuring him of my own feelings so it could be easier for him to open up to me. I remember feeling so many emotions at the same time! I was frustrated, happy and nervous all at once. Frustrated because I didn’t understand what was holding him back, happy because I finally allowed myself to feel this genuine connection and nervous because I feared rejection. Even though most of us fear rejection, the chase is an exciting part of a relationship which is why I decided to go with a happy Caribbean summer vibe.
What was it like to shoot the video for Admit it?
This was my first music video ever! Shooting this was a blast!!! This single screamed for visuals. I wanted the video to be entertaining and esthetically pleasing. Most people don’t know that I studied film production for two years in Cégep. During this time, I met a few talented people that I’m still in contact with. I chose to work with director Thom Louis who I believed could bring my vision to life. I sent him a storyboard I put together and we went from there! I choreographed the piece with one of my dance students Martin Gratton, grabbed a couple of my long time best friends and voilà! Being in front of a camera was uncomfortable at first but performing with my friends by my side made me feel at home. I’m grateful that I shared this significant experience with people I truly love. Thom and I spent many nights editing this to make sure it was how we wanted it to be. Shooting and editing this video made me realize how much I enjoy having creative control over my art. Being an independent artist allows me to have that.
How do you find the confidence to put your music and yourself ‘out there’?
To be honest, I feel like my work is never finished but I have to get it to a point I’m comfortable with. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my music career but as an artist you have to be able to let go at some point. You’ll make mistakes, you won’t be perfect right away but you’ll be growing in the process. My advice is to finish the piece, let it rest, come back to it a few days or weeks later and if you’re still comfortable with it, release it. When it comes to putting myself out there as a person, it’s not easy but I made peace with the fact that not everyone is going to like me or what I do.
That’s fine. As long as I am happy and that I am becoming a better person everyday, I’m good. Surround yourself with people that inspire to do better and you’ll be set.
How do you define success?
If you would’ve asked me the same questions years ago, I would’ve probably answered an amount of money or fame… Today, I believe that you can be successful in many areas of your life. To me, living a successful life is to create a healthy balance between areas like love, family, friends, health (mental and physical) and my career.
Social Media—love or hate?
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It’s a blessing because it allows people and artists like me to promote their art and retain creative control. Oh and let’s face it, it’s fun to share what you’re up to, learn about new things and discover people you wouldn’t have had the chance to discover without social media. However, it’s also a curse because it can be highly addictive, it can waste considerable time and can seriously damage your self-esteem. It’s important to remind ourselves that most of what we see is fake. Fake is the new real. Don’t let it get to you and remember that people only show what they want you to see. Please don’t stay on there too long and live YOUR life.
What are your goals for your music?
I would want to be an international touring artist. My goal is to provide you with an experience you won’t ever forget. I have so many cool ideas I would love to bring to life… You have no idea. And like I said previously, I want to help people communicate with empathy and love. I am convinced that communication is the key to peace and if I can make a difference and influence people in a positive way, I will.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your career as an artist this far?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is to stay curious, and that’s why I study music business at Berklee College of Music. I want to understand it and to be able to make informed decisions. Artists nowadays are versatile. The best ones are skilled in different areas of the music industry. For example, you can now learn how to produce music by watching videos on YouTube, you can build your own studio at a lower price, you can make your own cover art using softwares like Adobe Photoshop, you can build your own website like I did, etc. Yes, there is more music being shared everyday and your work can be drowned in this never ending digital space but if you reach even 1% of the population out of billions of people, I believe you stand a chance.
Photography by Tina Picard