Nashville, Tennessee is one hell of a city known for hot fried chicken, an abundance of BBQ, and being, of course, the Country Music Capital of the World. However, in recent years, the city has immersed itself into a vast haze of R&B, becoming home to recording studio Blackbird (where Jack White and Alicia Keys recorded Quantum of Solace’s theme “Another Way To Die”), as well as The Nashional, a fresh music festival created by country musician Sam Hunt, aiming to unite an eclectic range of musicians all under the same roof.
Emerging from this scene enters Melanie Faye, a precocious, 19-year-old musician, who delicately seduces audiences across social media with her sublime guitar skills, recently even catching the eye of R&B artist, SZA.
I spoke with Faye about society’s overwhelming beauty standards and her imminent debut EP.
Where are you right now?
I’m driving to the skate park.
What made you want to play the guitar?
Guitar Hero, because it really introduced me to guitar music. The song “Cliffs Of Dover” from Guitar Hero 3 was my favorite on there; I really loved the way it sounded, and so it made me want to play.
What inspired your distinct look? Is it paying homage to Jimi Hendrix?
The headband is definitely — it’s letting you know that I’m a rockstar/guitar player, but it’s not as deep as people think it is. This is my real hair, it’s not a style or anything like that, my hair literally grows into an afro. Yet, people think it’s a trend or that I’m forcing my hair to look like his, but this is really me. The clothes that I wear aren’t Hendrix related; I wear a bunch of rainbow crop tops, high waisted jeans, etc. I don’t deliberately set out to look like him.
Yes! That’s incredibly powerful how you stick to your natural self, as it’s quite hard to find black females in the entertainment world sticking with their given hair.
Yeah, black women typically don’t wear their natural hair. The beauty standard of today is straight, silky hair, so I can understand why they don’t, but I never feel the need to conform to that standard.
Tell me about your upcoming EP Homophone.
I originally was going to produce it all entirely by myself. I did a fundraiser so I could buy all the supplies, envisioning that the process would take about a month or so altogether. Instead, it’s taken an incredible amount of time and keeps sounding like an amateur trying to make beats for the first time. I think it’s coming along nicely, but if I had known it was going to take this long, I probably would’ve collaborated with other experienced producers.
What kind of sound is it aiming toward?
Definitely R&B — that’s what I listened to growing up.
Does being from Nashville play a role in your music?
I think the art school I attended for high school absolutely plays a part in it. As a student, I studied jazz guitar, and that’s how I learned all the jazz chords that I incorporate into my music.
Toward the end of last year, you opened up for Noname in Chicago. What was that like?
It was absolutely insane; I had never played for a crowd that size. Before the show, I went to Bonnaroo in June and actually watched her perform. So, it was pretty surreal to be playing a show with her only a few months later and having her know who I was.
Did she spontaneously call you one night and ask if you wanted to open up for her?
Yeah, she texted me about a month before the show and said, “Hey, do you wanna open up for me in Chicago?” and I immediately accepted.
Were you nervous at all?
No actually, because I couldn’t see the audience. I had the spotlight, but the crowd was completely dark, so I couldn’t see anyone.
What’s your all-time favorite album?
I would have to say Mariah Carey’s Butterfly or Michael Jackson’s Invincible. I don’t think many people realize this, but I grew up idolizing Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson. In my music, there’s certain aspects of both of their styles that impacted me a lot, as they’re both R&B. Michael Jackson was my very first influence, and then Mariah came later in middle school.
Do you play any other instruments?
I played the euphonium in 5th grade till ninth grade. I wasn’t really passionate about it, but I was definitely a good noodle when it came to band. I’ve also been playing bass since last November.
My last question, who are your dream dinner party guests?
Probably Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey.
You can catch Melanie on Instagram @rainbow_fever_1998_