Last weekend I attended a couple of gigs in the virtual World of Second Life (I blogged about them already). Since then, I’ve been talking to Melanie Fudge and trying to line up an interview with her alter ego, the avatar Mel Cheeky. Last night I sat down with her at her Cloud Station on the Music City sim, to talk about her life, her music, and her Second Life experiences. Read on for the interview…
Mel Cheeky: Hi 🙂
Me: Good evening Mel!
Me: You had to cut short your last gig due to illness. How are you feeling, better?
Mel Cheeky: Much ty 🙂
Me: Good, so will you be back on the gig circuit soon?
Mel Cheeky: Tomorrow [Friday 20th October 2006]
Mel Cheeky: I usually play Friday – Mondays [Mel’s schedule is on www.melcheeky.com]
Me: *sitting down* Nice sofa.
Mel Cheeky: It’s just clouds, a sofa and TV lol
Mel Cheeky: It’s where I watch movies 🙂 I hire them here in SL
Me: So from what I can see from your website you’re 28, in Wales, and have only been playing and writing for 2 years? That’s remarkable.
Mel Cheeky: I had a birthday last week – so I’m 29 now 🙂
Mel Cheeky: I taught myself in May 2004
Mel Cheeky: I was singing Acapella on another chat program.
Mel Cheeky: To be honest, people were mean lol.
Mel Cheeky: They loved my voice, but would hate it if I used a track.
Mel Cheeky: It’s sad because I believe that if anyone has the courage to get up on a mic and do anything – it should be applauded.
Me: Anyone who does that is certainly braver than I am!
Me: Was there any particular reason you picked up the guitar?
Mel Cheeky: I’d been with my boyfriend for 6 months – a keyboard player. I was just so in awe of him and he made me want to learn. I’d tried piano before – I can read score and one hand works great on it’s own – but both together don’t lol.
Me: How long had you been singing before taking up the guitar? And, have you always been a lyricist?
Mel Cheeky: I have been singing since I was 7 – school competitions etc.
Mel Cheeky: I started to write songs and lyrics 4 weeks after learning guitar – ambitious I know hahaha – but it seemed to work.
Mel Cheeky: I figured, why take the time and effort to learn someone else’s song, when I can write my own.
Me: Really? So you’ve been writing lyrics for only around 2 years. Amazing. *scribbles furiously*
Mel Cheeky: To this day, I only know 8 covers hehehe – but I have 38 originals and 35+ collabs.
Me: I’ve heard the 38 originals. Let’s come back to the music a little bit later.
Me: Would you mind telling me a little about your RL background? From your profile, I gather that you’re in Wales, and a mother.
Mel Cheeky: Yes, I’m a single parent to my son. He’s 9 and has Asperger syndrome.
Me: I saw in your profile that you are a member of the Asperger Support Group in SL.
Mel Cheeky: There are two – one I founded under an alt lol
Me: It sounds tough, do you find that your SL world is very helpful to balancing your RL?
Me: I confess I have really no idea what it must be like to deal with your situation.
Mel Cheeky: Not for me – I’m a realist. This is who I am in RL – OK, I don’t have a perfect body and my hair isn’t always this neat hahahaha
Mel Cheeky: – but my morals etc are the same.
Me: Yeah well I don’t have red hair or a small dragon on my shoulder in RL either 🙂
Mel Cheeky: No dragon? U need a Welsh flag hehe
Me: True, I should paint one on my back.
Mel Cheeky: People in here – married in RL have partners in SL. I can’t get my head around that. It may upset people that I think this way, but to me it’s a form of cheating (don’t lynch me lol).
Me: So how did you get into SL in the first place?
Mel Cheeky: I was in another chat program and someone told a friend of mine who told me.
Mel Cheeky: 5 musicians came in at the same time. At that point, there weren’t many musicians here in SL.
Mel Cheeky: There was Frogg, Jay, Astrin, maybe 10 if that.
Mel Cheeky: Now there’s probably over 60.
Mel Cheeky: Well you can see from my shirt who I love lol. [Mel is wearing a Frogg Marlowe t-shirt, and the words “Frogg spammer” float above her head]
Me: So you’ve been here nearly a year?
Mel Cheeky: I came here the end of January 2006.
Me: Were you gigging from the moment you arrived in SL? You alluded to the fact that there wasn’t much of a music scene at first?
Mel Cheeky: I was playing here within a week of being here yes 🙂
Mel Cheeky: Just for tips at first.
Me: Great! Do musicians in SL make much of a living, do you think? It seems like it might be a labour of love. *smile*
Mel Cheeky: It depends who they are hehehehe.
Mel Cheeky: I only know of one that relies on SL performing as a sole income.
Me: Do you see it as an extension of your web presence, or…?
Mel Cheeky: It’s a little awkward as I’ve had to build up Mel Cheeky in a sense.
Me: I guess for me, the fact that you are in Wales and are presumably not doing stadium shows in London, SL is a great way to be able to experience your music.
Me: Is that a particularly important aspect of the experience for you – being able to reach out?
Mel Cheeky: It beats being out in the cold lol.
Mel Cheeky: I love the fact that you can actually see what people are saying about you.
Mel Cheeky: I giggle a lot during my songs – I try hard sometimes not to, but I guess if I’m enjoying myself – everyone else will too.
Me: Yes. Although not all artists respond particularly to chat during the gig, I noticed that you did in the set I attended.
Mel Cheeky: I think it would be rude not to comment.
Me: How many gigs do you think you’ve played now – do you play 4 times per week, every week?
Mel Cheeky: Currently I have 5 scheduled a week, every week.
Me: That’s an impressive workload.
Mel Cheeky: Not really – I could do more, but I would burn out and everyone would get tired of me I think.
Me: And do you have a set circuit of venues, or are you always looking for new ones?
Mel Cheeky: Those 5 are at the same venues every week. I love playing new places and always play my first gig there for free.
Me: What has the average audience size been, and how do timezones affect the make-up of the audience? Has it grown a lot, do you get regulars?
Mel Cheeky: I used to work on SL timezone. My shows were at 1am my time lol.
Mel Cheeky: I’ve had to change that – it was killing me.
Me: Yes, i can imagine
Mel Cheeky: So now I play at 9pm my time (which is 1pm SLT)
Mel Cheeky: There’s usually a crowd of around 30 – 40, again it depends where.
Me: So let’s talk a bit more about the music. How would you describe your sound?
Mel Cheeky: I have no idea haha
Mel Cheeky: Most people tell me folk.
Mel Cheeky: I say acoustic.
Me: I think folksy, acoustic definitely
Mel Cheeky: Let’s make a new label for myself lol – Acoustic folk
Me: I think on the soundclick website there were comparisons to Eva Cassidy, Katie Melua and others.
Mel Cheeky: I wouldn’t compare myself to anyone.
Me: Do you count any particular RL performers as influences?
Mel Cheeky: Growing up I would always listen to the Carpenters.
Mel Cheeky: I think that Karen had the most amazing voice. She didn’t even have to try – and everything was flawless.
Mel Cheeky: I think also that I learnt a lot about harmonies from listening to Richard Carpenters arrangements.
Me: And do you have any current favourite artists?
Mel Cheeky: RL or SL?
Mel Cheeky: In RL – I love Pearl Jam, Extreme and Bush – hehe I know not really what you would expect considering my sound.
Me: Absolutely not, but interesting!
Mel Cheeky: In SL, I absolutely adore Frogg Marlowe and Jaycatt Nico.
Mel Cheeky: Hence the Frogg stalker shirt (blush hehe)
Me: *makes a note to check them out* And how would you describe them to people not familiar with SL artists? Other than “unique”?
Mel Cheeky: Frogg just has the most incredible voice. He just urges everyone to listen.
Mel Cheeky: You feel as though you are in the same room as him and he is talking to you one on one.
Mel Cheeky: He also writes and plays guitar.
Me: *smiles* Sounds like someone I need to check out.
Mel Cheeky: Jaycatt plays keys – he writes too. Such beautiful melodies.
Mel Cheeky: These two are amazing as solo artists, but they play a lot together as they house share in RL.
Mel Cheeky: When they are together – just be prepared to get addicted.
Me: I’m sure you all time your gigs so as not to clash *smile*
Mel Cheeky: Hehe I make every show that I can – even if that means 3am – 5am on a Friday for me.
Me: I can tell that the SL music scene itself can be addictive.
Mel Cheeky: I really think so. I can maybe understand in someway why people like to listen to me. I stalk Frogg and Jay – it’s only fair hehe.
Me: That’s an interesting comment that I nearly allowed to slide – you think you understand why people like to listen to you. Why is that?
Mel Cheeky: Well live music in SL is still WOW to me – even though I’m a part of it.
Me: Yes. I had that experience over the last fortnight.
Me: Do you have any favourite current singles or albums in RL?
Mel Cheeky: Gary Cherone’s new EP ‘need I say more’. I’ve been listening to that a lot.
Mel Cheeky: Also, today in the mail I was lucky enough to get Frogg and Jay’s first cd’s!!!!!!!
Mel Cheeky: I’ve had their second ones for a while 🙂
Mel Cheeky: Sorry, I sound like a stalker for sure hahahahaha
Me: Getting CDs in the post is always good.
Me: I’ve been enjoying your tracks on my daily commute.
Mel Cheeky: Awwww ty 🙂 Some suck – it’s ok to say that hahahaha.
Me: I wouldn’t say that any of them suck. There are definitely tracks that I’m more addicted to than others!
Me: The music is particularly wonderful lyrically though.
Me: Do all of your songs come from personal experience?
Mel Cheeky: Sadly so lol.
Me: Hopefully not all compressed into a 2 year period?
Mel Cheeky: In the beginning lol………..
Mel Cheeky: They were mostly written about my ex-boyfriend.
Mel Cheeky: The guy that plays the keys 🙂
Mel Cheeky: He lives in New York – so it was just the whole emotions of that journey.
Me: Were you in NY yourself?
Mel Cheeky: I went out there 3 times during our ‘long distance’ relationship.
Me: Ah. *smiles*
Mel Cheeky: Yeah, I lived over here but in EST for 3 years lol
Me: The songs seem intensely personal. In One of These Days, you sing “Listen to my voice, my heart and to my melody. This is the real me.” Is that how you see your music – connecting people with the real you?
Mel Cheeky: It was actually a message to a friend lol (doesn’t take a genius to work out who if you know me)
Mel Cheeky: It’s about not judging people on what they look like if you love the person inside.
Me: The Wedding Song is very nice – a gift to friends?
Mel Cheeky: Yes, my best friend moved out to Rhode Island and married his girlfriend there.
Mel Cheeky: I actually wrote ‘all I need is you’ for the same friend.
Me: What inspires you?
Mel Cheeky: My ex-boyfriend is definitely my muse. He’d argue that he does nothing. I tell him all the time, he doesn’t need to do anything, it’s just who he is – that itself is incredible. He has helped me accept who I am and has always loved me for me. That’s priceless!
Mel Cheeky: I’ve also written songs about hurtful comments some people have said too. I’ve written for a few friends also. Russell (All I need is you, wedding song) and Billy (a song for Billy) – these guys just accept me for who I am no questions asked.
Mel Cheeky: I swear I could run up and down the street naked and scare all the neighbours, and they’d still find a way to be proud of me. I’m inspired by the wonderful people around me. My goal is to write a song about my son – that’ll be a tough one.
Me: Which is your favourite song lyrically?
Mel Cheeky: I think lyrically, I like: I won’t tell.
Mel Cheeky: That’s probably the best lyrics – maybe
Mel Cheeky: I have a notecard with all my lyrics on someplace [you can find them on the website]
Me: Probably maybe, I like it. And what about your favourite to perform?
Mel Cheeky: I loveeeeee playing ‘never good enough’.
Mel Cheeky: – about that same friend as one of these days.
Me: Another one! Famous friend. *grins*
Mel Cheeky: Sometimes people say things without thinking how it could hurt the person on the end of the comment. It makes for a great sound though.
Me: When you are writing, is it the melody or the words that come first?
Mel Cheeky: Sometimes I scribble down some lines on a bus.
Mel Cheeky: Or I can just be playing guitar and all of a sudden this beautiful melody will come from nowhere.
Me: It sounds quite organic then.
Mel Cheeky: I have a collabs partner though 🙂
Me: Well now, that leads neatly into your collaboration work, which was my next question!
Me: Tell me about Shining Voice. I’ve read a little bit about it on the web.
Mel Cheeky: I contacted Nils Ole Finbak on soundclick around this time last year.
Mel Cheeky: Well, before we knew it, within a month we had 30 songs.
Me: Was there any particular reason that you contacted him?
Mel Cheeky: His piano playing was just so very beautiful.
Mel Cheeky: It made me want to sing to it.
Me: I have to say that I haven’t listened to any Shining Voice music as yet. So it’s different in that it is piano-led?
Mel Cheeky: So this was him writing the music, and me writing the lyrics, singing and writing the vocal melodies / harmonies.
Mel Cheeky: A lot is piano – but not just piano.
Me: How much of a challenge did you find it to work like that? With 30 songs it sounds like it was a dream.
Mel Cheeky: It wasn’t a challenge – it just felt right 🙂
Me: That’s great *makes a note to check out Shining Voice as well as these other SL artists*
Mel Cheeky: Nils wanted to write a song about an umbrella – he thought it would be crazy
Mel Cheeky: I said no – let’s do it.
Mel Cheeky: So we did a 3 parter – like 3 movements.
Mel Cheeky: 1 is the umbrella pining to go outside.
Mel Cheeky: 2 is in the rain
Mel Cheeky: and 3 is when the rain has gone.
Me: sounds fun!
Mel Cheeky: They are my most favourite pieces – esp number 3
Me: Do you perform in RL at all?
Mel Cheeky: No – haven’t yet. I’m learning to drive – so once I can, I will look into that then.
Me: *smiling and listening* So really, SL is a good opportunity for you to do some live performances?
Mel Cheeky: Yes. It’s great practice for sure
Me: Any technical challenges to performing in SL? Presumably you use Skype or something? *curious*
Mel Cheeky: No way lol
Mel Cheeky: You basically broadcast on a URL, then it’s streamed into here.
Me: Do you need any particular hardware and software then?
Mel Cheeky: Here’s a notecard I made – it will tell you all you need to know 🙂
Mel Cheeky: It has pictures and everything lol
Me: *reading the notecard* Fascinating, Shoutcast. Yes, I see.
Me: *leafing through his notebook* OK. I’m running out of music related questions. What are you favourite activities in SL other than performing?
Me: Any particular sims that you recommend?
Mel Cheeky: Hahahahahaha I love playing pranks on my friend Charles.
Mel Cheeky: He rents here at Music City.
Me: Yes, so I heard on the set the other night.
Mel Cheeky: I’ve flooded his house, boarded it up with biohazard signs etc.
Me: Sounds like fun.
Mel Cheeky: Other than that, I set up newbies, have donated money trees.
Mel Cheeky: I of course support all other SL musicians.
Mel Cheeky: I schedule for the RoC.
Mel Cheeky: The bar here on this sim.
Mel Cheeky: I co-manage it 🙂
Mel Cheeky: I help others to play here and get them gigs too.
Me: Well, I’m at the end of what I wanted to ask… anything you want to ask the interviewer? *smile*
Mel Cheeky: I want to ask you – what is it that you like about my music?
Me: Well I am a big fan of good lyrics, for one. I love something thoughtful.
Me: Secondly I like the sound. Those musicians that soundclick says you are similar too are basically some of my favourites.
Mel Cheeky: I don’t really rate my lyrics – but I guess they are from the heart
Me: I’m not an expert but yes, I agree.
Me: I’m a huge fan of female singer/songwriters in general, including some very very obscure ones (not intending to say that you are obscure!)
Mel Cheeky: Not many on here. Check out Cylindrian.
Me: Well Mel, I must be wrapping this up. Thank you so much for your time and for talking to me.
Mel Cheeky: ty for your time too 😀
Me: And with all these other interviews lined up [Mel told me that she has 3 scheduled], clearly you are hot property at the moment.
Mel Cheeky: lol hardly
Me: OK. See you again – I’ll be at a gig as soon as I can.
Me: Thanks, and take care.
Mel Cheeky: Tc!!! You too!
Mel Cheeky: byeeeee
Links to more SL artists on Mel’s links page.
Have you been to a Mel Cheeky concert? Any comments on this interview? Please leave your thoughts below!