Living the MF Life
As we speak, Melanie Fiona's two new Grammy trophies are in a box en route from Los Angeles. When they arrive, they'll christen the spanking new NYC digs that she's currently settling into. "I'm in my new apartment right now arranging flowers," she says on the phone with a smile.
She notes that she's been doubly blessed by the Grammy wins (Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for her work on the Cee-Lo Green track "Fool For You") and newfound success has both left her changed and unchanged. The surroundings are dreamily symbolic: the Toronto-raised singer-songwriter has blossomed in the States, establishing something that a select few Canadian R&B artists have accomplished.
"To be recognized in the industry and to have collaborated with such an amazing artist like Cee-Lo, I want to be able to get out there and work with even more artists that I've really dreamed about working with," says Fiona. With the win also comes amplified exposure and erroneous "overnight success" declarations for someone that was active in the early-2000s Canadian music scene performing solo and in girl groups (and also in a short lived urban collective with hip-hop's Drake called the Renaissance). Fiona, who's of South American heritage, credits Canada for helping to fashion her sound ― a sophisticated mix of R&B, soul, hip-hop and Caribbean influences.
Moving to the States in 2005 to pursue her dream was a "huge risk," she recalls, but ultimately led for 2009's well-received The Bridge album and to where she is today.
The newfound mainstream spotlight has created the perfect window to release her sophomore project The MF Life, an album that had previously been delayed numerous times in the past several months. The album pushbacks were beyond her control, she notes, and can be attributed to a music industry in flux, including a few label and personnel changes. It's now firmly set for an early spring release.
"It pretty much collapsed last year," says Fiona. "People got laid off, there were mergers. It was disastrous. As an artist, you're really just trying to keep your head above all the chaos. It was really frustrating because I wanted this music to come out. I wanted people to hear it. But it's a business at the end of the day. And now that the dust has settled, it coming out and I'm excited. I believe that nothing happens before its time."
Having her name permanently be preceded by the term "two-time Grammy Award-winning" is something that she's looking forward to getting used to, she notes. She also hopes that her triumph translates into more Canadian soul artists having global success: "I think there's an abundance of talent [in Canada]. There just needs to be an expansion of the resources, particularly in urban music."
It's now about having that credibility, she adds, along with the idea she's in her new surroundings to stay. "Now I want to operate on that level that Grammy winners do. It's about that respect and that level of excellence that you have to come with," she says. "I just want to keep going on that by building as a writer, performer and solo artist."
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