In Paris – where Rue Melo was born – the word rue
means road. Although it isn’t her given name (“Rue
is actually a nickname that I grew up with,” she explains) somehow it
totally fits her.
23-year-old singer has lived a bit of a gypsy existence, but in all the best
ways. She was born in the City of Lights. Her father
is a musician of
Uruguayan descent. Leo Melo is a well-known singer and guitarist in Latin
circles, with a diverse career that includes a stint with the popular 80s
world music group the Gipsy Kings. Her mother was a French dancer who doted
on her children. “My mama was an artist, some may say, she painted a smile
upon my face,” Melo sings in tribute on the autobiographical tune “This is
the time Rue Melo was ten, she was living in a totally different world,
soaking up the funky vibes and street rhythms of the Bronx. At fifteen
Melo’s world was relocated again, setting down in bustling Los Angeles,
exposing her to new styles and fresh beats.
of these worlds reveal themselves in Rue Melo’s music… and more. She is
fluent in English, Spanish and French and sings in all three languages –
sometimes more than one in the same song. Her songs feature hip-hop bounce,
jazzy cadences, reggaeton toasting and traditional flamenco flourishes.
“I think [the diversity
of musical viewpoints] has added in every way,” Melo exclaims. “When I
moved to New York, there was definitely a big hip hop influence that came
into play, as opposed to when I was living in France, it was a lot of Edith
Piaf. My mom was really into Janis Joplin. My dad was with the Gipsy
Kings. So being from all those different backgrounds, I came to love music
in general. Period. There was no way I could pick one genre. Then in
California, it was like No Doubt, Sublime… and I’m like, oh my God, what is
this new kind of music I’ve never heard?”
the road has landed Melo in a cluttered sports bar in a Center City
Philadelphia hotel. She is just off of the long road into town and looking
for a quick, tasty lunch several hours before her first show in the city at the
historic North Star Bar. Melo will end up getting a nice salad in a nearby
restaurant on Rittenhouse Square – but first things first, she is here to
talk about her self-titled debut CD, due to be released less than a week
after this meeting.
Melo sits comfortably in a booth, not even noting
the big screen TVs blaring the afternoon scores all around us.
takes a sip from a glass of water as she
looks back on how she got to this particular crossroads in music.
“I was kind of born
into it,” Melo says. “My dad is a musician. His whole family was
musicians. It was just something I loved from the get.”
Family is obviously
something that is very important to the young singer. Dad Leo worked on a
few songs on the album, as did her brother Manny, who is also following in
the familial footsteps: “My brother got into producing,” she says.
So this artistic and
musical temperament, it’s all a family affair? Does she feel that the love
of music and performing gets passed down in the genes?
says. “I think if it weren’t for that I’d be a lawyer or something.
Well the law’s loss
is music’s gain. Melo’s music is a spicy seven-layer dip of sonic delights,
a diverse and satisfying deep dish of tastes and textures. “Best of Me” is
a lilting and lovely old-school ballad. “Enamorado” is very traditional
sounding Latin music – sung in Spanish and French with acoustic
instrumentation and telling a story of domestic violence. “Good Luck Daddy”
has a reggaeton feel with its tongue-twisting lyrics and
background male-vocal toasting.
“Can’t Deny” is a snaky and seductive celebration of new love. “Hang On” is
throw-down funky while “Check It” is more straight up street beat. “Fallen”
is an acoustic-tinged love lament – which is available on the disk in three
versions, in English, French (“Tomber”) and Spanish (“Cayendo”).
“I think for me,
there are just so many styles of music that were involved in my growing up
that I can’t make up my mind,” Melo says. “I just wanted to incorporate all
of that into the album. It came about so naturally with everybody. I mean,
working with my brother and my dad. My brother was the hip-hop influence.
My dad was the Latin influence. Bernd Bergdorf [who has also worked with
Pink and Tom Waits] who produced most of the album, he comes from a whole
different kind of a background. A lot more pop. He comes from Europe, so
there’s that whole thing that comes into play.”
The CD is being
previewed with two different singles. “Check It” has been released to
outlets like iTunes, complete with a funky and fun video. (Check it – yeah
I said check it – down at the bottom of the page.) The first widespread
single is “This is My House,” which mixes autobiographical lyrics (“Once
upon a time in ’84, under the sun I was born”) with a blissful hip-hop vibe
and just a bit of a jazzy feel… (“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” Melo says. “A lot
of people say that to me.”)
“‘Check It’ is more the digital single,” Melo says. “That’s something that
we’ve already kind of put out there. And the video is amazing, so that was
really easy. A no-brainer. ‘This Is My House’ is going to be more like our
bigger single that we’re going to drop on everybody.”
“This is My House” is
her life set to music, which makes one wonder – how many of her songs are
“All of them,” she
states. “Except ‘Enamorada’ is one that I wanted to write about something
that I’ve never experienced before, personally. I have seen other people go
through it, but never really been on the inside. It was something that I
felt like I really wanted to put myself in those shoes and put myself
through that experience by doing that song. It was really interesting,
actually. I remember that when we did the video, by the end of the day I
felt like I was that girl that gets beat up by her boyfriend and still comes
back to him. I just felt so emotionally drained. I felt so sorry for
myself in a sense. I really took myself through that. But, I think it’s
“Enamorado,” with its
melding of Spanish and French lyrics, was a collaboration with her father.
The languages in which she conveys the songs are often influenced by the
music itself – though her life also comes to play in the decision as well.
“It definitely is a
mix of the two,” Melo says. “With ‘Enamorada,’ there is definitely a huge
Latin influence from the get with that song. My dad was in town, so I was
speaking a lot of Spanish with him. It was something that came naturally to
do that. You know with ‘Smooth Brotha’ [a new track which is not on the CD,
but is currently available to stream on Melo’s MySpace
– I don’t know if you’ve heard that, it’s something we may add to the album
later on down the line – but with that, we were in the studio and French was
just in the atmosphere with that song. I felt like that was just something
that really came out. It’s mostly very natural.”
That natural feel is
very important to Melo. She is the main songwriter on the disk, handling
all of the lyrics, but musically it is more of a group effort. Some are
written by Rue alone. Some she did with her dad or her brother. Some with
“It’s kind of
collaborative,” Melo says. “As far as the lyrics, I do write all the
lyrics. But, I’m one of those people who if somebody has a better idea for
a lyric, I’m totally open to it. Musically, it depends on what song you’re
also extends to Melo’s exceptionally tight band, which is made up of
guitarist Martin Estrada, bassist Bryan Bush (who has worked with John
Legend and Stevie Wonder) and drummer Idris al-Mutazz Tate.
“It really came about
very, very naturally,” Melo says of the genesis of her band. “I came in the
office one day and they were sitting there. My management had found these
guys because we were really started thinking about involving some live
players. [They said], ‘these guys are really great. Tell me what you think
about them.’ I walked in the room and instantly it was like; oh my God,
these guys are it. I knew it. We played together and the first time we
played – I had just met them, I couldn’t even remember their names yet – we
came up with ‘Can’t Deny,’ which ended up being on the album. So there was
no way to deny the fact…”
The disk is released
on the small label Fighter Records – but that imprint is part of Fontana
Records, an important indie branch of the colossal Universal Music Group.
Therefore she has the best of both worlds – working with a small indie label
that is coincidentally part of a huge conglomerate. Melo feels it’s a
perfect fit for her.
set up there is still a very personal relationship between the label and the
artist,” Melo explains. “I think that’s the most important part. Really,
even Fontana has been really personal with us, too. It’s very
important to maintain that relationship to make sure that everything goes
accordingly and everybody’s happy, you know?”
The music is working
its way into the world and all the feedback has been positive. The ballad
“Fallen” was even played in the background of a scene on the successful
cable series The L-Word.
It was the first time that Melo had heard her music outside of her own
recordings – and a complete thrill.
“That was crazy,” Melo
smiles. “It was insane. I was sitting there. I couldn’t believe it. It
felt like I was watching TV and someone just started playing ‘Fallen’ in the
background in [my] home. I was like, wait, no it’s not playing. It’s on
the TV. It’s actually on the episode. Snap out of it.”
she did know that the song was going to be on, right?
did. We did get a heads up. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was still that
feeling of like – you just can’t believe it. I just had to watch it
literally five or six times before I said, yeah okay, it’s really on
there…. It’s everything people say it is and nothing like anybody could
buzz has also led Melo to the opportunity to open a recent tour for Los
Lonely Boys – another Latin-based band which exploded with the smash hit
single “Heaven” a couple of years ago.
“It was dope,” Melo
says enthusiastically. “It was the dopest thing ever. Those guys are
amazing. To see the reaction of their audience and their fans and to be up
there…. They were so welcoming and so warm to us. And so good to us – the
audience, the venues and also Los Lonely Boys. The best experience I could
have had for my first support tour.”
With her CD now getting released, the
question is will radio share the love and support? Radio playlists are
notoriously fickle in a focus-group world and it’s not always easy to get
the conglomerates to take a leap on an unproven performer. However, if that
turns out to be the case, it is radio’s loss.
“I honestly don’t think it hurts the artist in getting a
following,” Melo says. “I think more than anything it hurts the radio
station more than the artist. The artist, if they have a song that is good
for all kinds of music – if not that radio station, another radio station
will play it if they know that the audience is there. By not playing them,
it’s only the radio station that’s losing the audience.”
In the meantime, Melo is stoking the fires the old-fashioned
newfangled way, spreading the word through live performances and the
Internet. The web is a new venue for musicians to
capture the world's attention and she
is doing her best to get herself and her music out on the cyber-radar. Melo has a new
website, as well as a page on MySpace - an element of the music
biz to which she is quickly becoming a bit addicted.
“I’m on that thing
every night for at least an hour and a half to two hours.” Melo laughs. “I
definitely agree with [the fact that it helps get the buzz going]. But, in
more ways than that – I was looking at your website and a lot of the
interviews we’re doing are Internet based. I love that, because it’s not
just the one magazine at a magazine stand that will only be sold in certain
cities. Anybody in the whole wide world can read it from their home.”
Melo isn’t just
passively lurking either. She communicates with fans and friends and most
anyone else that cares enough about her music to drop her a line.
“Absolutely, as much
as I can,” she says. “Sometimes it gets so hectic it takes me a couple of
days to sit down [and do it], but I always, always, always… It’s very
important to me to keep in touch with people, to communicate with them and
get their feedback. You have to. The reason why we’re here is because of
It’s all about
following whatever roads the world, music and life present itself to her.
And Melo’s boots are made for walking – wherever she needs to go.
“I definitely want people to see me as a chameleon artist,” Melo says.
“Someone that’s touched on every base. I plan on doing all kinds of music
throughout my career and reaching out to all kinds of people. I think
that’s mostly what I want to be remembered for – someone who has the ability
to change themself without
Just kind of put on that costume to relate to that person, no matter who
they are or where they are or what they are going through.”