Artist Interview : Melissa Polinar

February 3, 2009 | No comments yet

Courtesy of Melissa Polinar

Photo courtesy of Melissa Polinar

February 3rd, 2009I’m trying something new with artist interviews and if there’s interest, I’ll do more. Let me know if you have connections to anyone you think other readers to this site might find interesting. Thanks! Also, my apologies for the weird line formatting, WordPress is being buggy.

About a month ago, I was browsing Youtube for videos of guitar tutorials for “Heart of Life” by John Mayer when I stumbled upon a cover that caught my ear. In it, the young woman not only sang the song well technically, but had vocal inflections that showed me she really understood the song. The performance perhaps had even more impact than John Mayer’s. That’s quite rare these days, and she stood out in a sea of Youtube mediocrity.

Both my girlfriend and I listened to her other covers (she has a fantastic Bonnie Raitt cover), and original songs and were stunned at her talent. It takes a lot to impress us; my girlfriend was previously signed to EMI Records as a solo artist, and me…well I’m just picky. What’s impressive is that she’s one of those artists that you like better raw, live, and un-produced. While her fully produced songs are good, she’s more free when she’s alone with a guitar. I’ve produced quite a few people professionally and recreationally, and artists like her are very rare. Sometimes though, it’s difficult to reproduce that intimate feeling when doing full productions. In those situations, it’s the limitations of the producer, rather than the artist.

Without further adieu, here is our interview :

1. Do you have any specific music training?
When it comes to vocal, piano or guitar, I really didn’t have any formal training. I did, however, have classical training on the violin and that’s how I pretty much learned the “theory” aspect of music. I know the basics but I can’t claim I know music theory extensively. I’m constantly learning.

2. Have you ever been signed to a publishing or recording deal? If so, which companies? What were your experiences like with them?
I’ve ONLY been signed to a publishing deal so far. It was a company under the Warner/Chappell family (Warner Music). My experience was definitely an eye-opening one. I felt like I was a freshman in college ready to absorb anything. I learned a lot and had wonderful experiences working with songwriters, musicians and producers. Some of them, I’d still consider good friends and that’s what I loved about it all.

3. When, and what, made you decide to pursue music seriously?

I don’t necessarily remember as to when exactly I wanted to pursue music on a serious level. But I’m pretty sure it was around my mid-high school years. I’ve always loved music growing up but it was then when I started to look at music as more than just a hobby and became a passion in my life.

4. When you started posting videos on Youtube, was it a conscious marketing decision? When did you realize it was working? How do you plan to use the publicity you’ve generated on Youtube?
YouTube as a conscious marketing decision? Not really. I knew it could definitely serve that role but I didn’t intend to make it that way especially in the beginning. I signed up on YouTube back in 2006 because a friend referred me, but I wasn’t really active in it. I even forgot I got an account. I actually used other social networking sites to promote my music (i.e. myspace, soundclick, virb, etc.).

It wasn’t until friends of mine wanted me to post a little promo video for an upcoming show last summer (2008). So I guess I used it to promote that show and not necessarily me as an artist. I figured it was just a way to inform the public (who’s going to that show specifically) who I was as an artist – since I was fairly new. 🙂 In that video, I sang my original “Meant To Be.” And from then on, I just randomly posted videos.

How do I plan to use the publicity generated on YouTube? Well, I plan to take advantage the opportunities that were presented because of it. I really don’t have a specific plan per se. 🙂 I go along with the flow. It’s more fun that way.

5. How do you find people to collaborate with? What has your experience been with collaborations in general? Do you have ground rules when you begin collaborating with someone? Do you split songwriting equally with the people who you write with, or do you split the ownership by how much work each person does?
Because of my previous experience with my publishing deal, I’ve had the opportunity to gather a list of people I can collaborate with. It is like a domino effect as well. One collaborator can recommend me to another person and so on.

I LOVE collaborating but I also experienced some collaborations that weren’t the best because of creative differences. However, if you find a number of people that you get along with in the creative aspect, it’s a great feeling.

Ground rules? Besides common sense, have fun and don’t be afraid to share your ideas.

Splitting ownership can be tricky. Collaborators just need to communicate how they want to split ownership. Some have a policy of equal splits no matter the case may be while others do the “how much work you put in” policy. I do both ways and I base my decision depending on the situation.

6. Do you prefer starting with a melody, or lyrics, when writing music?
It depends. Although starting out, melody is my stronger suite. I still consider it to be my stronger suite but I don’t want melody to override good morsels of lyrics, for example. I’ve also started songs with lyrics as well. And sometimes, I start with chord progressions.

7. Are you the type of songwriter that sits down to write at a certain time, or do ideas come to you all the time?
Late nights are great for me but that only works with songwriting on my own. Obviously, cowriting involves other people in the mix so scheduling would have to be agreed upon. But I make sure to record, jot or type ideas whenever a compelling one comes around – whenever it may be.

8. Which publishing associations do you belong to? (eg. BMI, ASCAP, etc)
9. Have you ever tried promoting your career in countries other than the US?

It’s something I’m open to do in the future but no, I haven’t as of yet.

10. How do you feel about major label record contracts?
I have no particular feeling about them – good nor bad. 🙂 They work for some and won’t work for others – its just the way I see it.

11. You have very diverse musical tastes. Do you find this hinders, or helps you when trying to nail a song in a specific
genre? Or do you ignore genre when writing music?
Since I’ve been writing more for my artistry, I don’t really try to “nail” a song in a specific genre. I don’t necessarily know if that’s a good idea. I understand, however, when writing for a certain project/artist, I need to be more specific in a certain genre. It is a cool way to stretch myself musically. I view my diversity in musical taste as an asset. I feel that I represent the current generation who are probably the most eclectic in musical taste compared to previous generations.
12. How do you balance your artistic self with your business self?

I‘m still trying to find balance. It involves both parts of your brain. My way of finding balance is asking help from others. Its okay to admit that you can’t do everything. I consider myself as an artistic person and sometimes I ask confidants for advice when I deal with the business end of things.

13. Are there any mistakes you think that many new songwriters make whether technical or business? What can people do to avoid them?

Songwriting has both technical and artistic sense to it. One mistake that many songwriters might fall into is to try to be someone else. It’s ok to be different. Don’t expect to write a hit song after one try. There are many reasons why people start writing songs but whatever motivations, make sure to share them to the world. You can start with your best friend.

Songwriting is fun. I’m a nerd to admit this but once you get started, you can’t stop.

14. Your preference: Live off the floor, or carefully produced.


15. Lady Gaga: here for the long haul?
Not sure. If she is here for the long haul, more power to her.
Thanks Melissa!

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