Creativity and connection are the heart of nightlife culture. The artists who perform and celebrate our experience are the foundation of that intimacy. As a fundamental part of our look at New York nightlife, we are going to take time to talk to the artists who bring life to connection. The first conversation in this series is with the singer songwriter Meleni Smith.
Name: Meleni Smith
Group Affiliation: solo
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Latest Project: My Heart in Focus
Next New York Performance: 2.1.12
GH: How did your musical journey start? What was your first motivation? What was your first performance like?
MS: I started singing when I was six. The expression of music always moved me. It was the only art form, besides acting, that had the ability to make me feel extreme emotions. I always felt very connected to it. My first performance was when I was in the 3rd grade for the entire school when I was chosen to sing the lead to "What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love." I was terrified. I wasn't even trying out for the lead but one of the student teachers overheard me singing to myself and told me to sing for my teacher. I didn't even think I was doing anything special, but they chose me.
GH: What is it about performing, especially performing in New York that you enjoy the most?
MS: Performing is a rush. You literally feel the adrenaline, the anxiety, the excitement… so many different emotions are experienced no matter the size of the audience. I have such a love/fear relationship with it because the moment right before I begin, it's like looking down from the top of a cliff and everyone is telling you to jump. But once you jump the relief and realization that you can do it and its ok feels so great. Especially when the crowd is there with you and showing love and appreciation for what it is you're sharing. It's amazing. I think some of the best crowds are in New York because New Yorkers really appreciate art and they love the experience of the live displays... but on the flip side New Yorkers are so spoiled. They literally have seen and done it all so they can be tough crowds at times too.. haha.. But I love the energy always. New Yorkers know what they like so if they're into it, they're REALLY into it.
GH: How have your travels to places like Egypt and Thailand affected your writing and performing?
MS: Being exposed to different forms and styles always affects my art even if only on a subconscious level. I absorb it all and all sounds somehow find their way in my music whether it be new melodies that I pick up or rhythmic patterns. Egyptian music, in general, uses more notes than American music so it was amazing to hear all the in between notes that I wasn't used to hearing on this side. The entire experience of traveling by myself to these countries made me fearless and that fearlessness has definitely affected my performing. I learned that life is really just about sharing your gifts with the people you meet and inspiring as many people as possible along the way.
GH: What have you learned the most from working with artists like Alicia Keys and other superstars?
MS: I actually never got the opportunity to work with Alicia Keys but hearing her voice on one of my songs was awesome. I guess from working with more well-known artists, I've learned that at the end of the day, we're all the same. We're all just artists yearning to express what we feel we need to channel into this world.
GH: Tell me about the creative relationship between your music and your videos? Are they conceived and created at the same time or does one give rise to the other?
MS: Everything begins with the music. The music is the fuel for all other art forms.
GH: Is there a driving message or focus in your new album?
MS: Well the record is called 'My Heart in Focus' and it basically chronicles falling in love, then falling from love or whatever happens when things change... what we all go through during this human experience. What reminds us that yes! We are alive!! It takes you on a journey of a heart. I have a song for every stage of love from the beginning to the very end.
GH: What performances do you have planned for the new album in 2012? Are you planning a tour?
MS: I'm just going with the flow. I believe 2012 will be all about the flow... But definitely visit my pages for updates!!