New & Next: Meet Jazzy Soul Singer Amana Melome

Photo by Myra Vides
ESSENCE.com's "New and Next" column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know.

ESSENCE.com's "New and Next" column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we meet singer Amana Melome, a European born, Caribbean-American wanderlust who travels the world and incorporate every piece of her journey into her music. Melome's new single, "Icarus Remix," is out now. 

How would you say travel has influenced your artistry?
Travel has definitely influenced my musical landscape. Every time I go to a different country, I love to take in the sounds, the different kinds of instruments that are from there, different rhythms. Everything I do is kind of jazz roots because it’s in me, and it’s like, from my family. But I’m happy to add layers of other influences, be it Bossa nova, or whatever.

So you write everywhere…
I write all the time. Writing is an ongoing process. I might be driving and grab the phone and record something that hits me. I actually got down to what became the songs as they are in California. Thus far, I’ve only recorded in Los Angeles. This is my third album and every time I recorded in Los Angeles because that’s what I know and that’s where I know a lot of people in the music industry. And I was living there for many years.

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You grew up around all music genres. Why the connection to soul and jazz?
I come from a jazz family so I have a lot of jazz love out there in the world. My grandfather [Jimmy Woode] was a base player for Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Jazz is definitely in my blood. I’m an unstudied musician, so it's definitely from within, because all the jazz musicians I play with are like, ‘Where the hell did that come from? I didn’t even know what that was!’

Or your grandfather...
But even my grandfather, when he heard me first he was like, ‘Where did that come from?’ I was like, ‘Hey, from you. I don't know.’ I kind of grew up with all kinds of music. My mom was a big music person and we listened to everything from hip-hop, to African music to R&B to Brazilian. So I’m definitely open minded. I’m actually in the process of collaborating with a lot more ethnic collaborations. I’m working with people in Africa. I think it'll be interesting. But again, I bring to the table what comes through me, what I feel and then depending on the collaborations, it can take you to a different world.



What do you want your audience to get from your EP, Lock in Key?
I feel like this is the most sincere and naked album I’ve put out. There’s a lot of truth going on in the songs. I think I came into this EP with the desire to remind self and put out there that we are limitless, that there are many layers to us. And hence the title Lock in Key, where its like we are lock in key, we have the key to set ourselves free, but we also have the lock to lock ourselves up. So it’s like, you’re your only limit and you have everything that you need to soar.

What would you say is your most fearless track?
Every time I sing "Icarus" live I get super emotional. Icarus is a mythological character from Greek mythology. In that story he is a young boy on an island in Greece and they’re under attack by another part of Greece and his father decides to create wings out of wax and feathers for him to fly and escape from the island. He ends up getting so excited that he flies too close to the sun and his wings melt and he falls to his death. I associated the sun with fame—with the highest highs of fame and the lows and the dangers and the excitement and all of the levels of emotion that it can bring in trying to reach those heights and how easily it can be the death of you. I lived in Hollywood for a number of years, and I have seen so many situations that could have burnt the wings really easily.

What do you want the world to know about you and take from your music?
I think I’m somewhat of a pioneer of being yourself and doing you. You are your only limit. You can't fail at being yourself.

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Take a listen to "Icarus Remix" below.

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