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Thursday January 2, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday January 2, 2014 MYT 9:02:16 AM
by angelin yeoh
The last laugh: Despite naysayers telling her not to release a full album, Melissa Indot was adamant to put her work out. The result is 'MDot', an 11-track album featuring current single 'You & Me'. - Photo SAM THAM/The Star
Melissa Indot returns with long-awaited second album MDot, and continues with her pledge to add variety to her music.
SOME time in the mid 2000s, Melissa Indot returned to Malaysia after a frustrating stint with a major record company in Britain. She and a friend had secured a publishing deal as the pop duo Confucius Says.
“We did a lot of showcase performances for people like Simon Cowell, (CEO of Atlantic Records) Craig Kallman and Robbie William’s manager at that time, Rob Stringer. I still remember, it was just around the time of the Spice Girls’ breakout. It was really a good time for us,” said Melissa in an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
The enthusiasm was short-lived, though, as Melissa and her partner had the problem of being perceived as not fitting into any specific mould.
“I’m Malaysian and my partner was Eurasian. The marketing executives kept saying that we were a girl band which wrote and sang our own material. But they couldn’t figure out how to package us. They didn’t know where to place us.”
Melissa added all they needed at that time was just one party to take the chance and sign them up.
“We were told we were great and that they loved our poppy sound. We could even sing live without the need for a backing track. Frustrated, we then decided to just quit the music business at that time.”
Later, a disillusioned Melissa moved back to Kuala Lumpur and a friend persuaded her to sign up for an open mic session for fun.
“There was this event at Bar Blonde and I think I performed some Sting, Blondie, classic top 40 stuff ... and then I won! Eventually, the owner of Bar Blonde invited me to perform there. From that one gig, I got more offers to perform at parties, weddings and corporate events.”
Sharing the stage with Melissa at that time (in 2005) was her band The Misfits, which was present during this interview.
“Honestly, this is the first time I’ve seen my boys looking so smart during rehearsals. I think it’s because I told them that I’ll be doing an interview with the papers today," she laughs.
What started out as something she did for fun became the turning point for Melissa to start making music again. “I’ve just got the music bug,” she confessed.
Melissa’s approach to making her first album was simple: “I had no knowledge of the (local) industry at all. All I knew was that I just wanted to put an album out.”
The fruits of her labour resulted in her debut Eclecticism winning the Best Local English Album at the 2008 Anugerah Industri Muzik. That album was an exciting blend of pop, disco, dance and even lounge music.
“When Eclecticism won an AIM award, it was a very pleasant surprise. Initially, I was just gonna put it out and make it work. The minute it won the AIM, people wanted a piece of it.”
She still remembers what happened when they called her name to receive the award.
“I really didn’t expect it. I nearly fell down the stairs on my way to receive it. It was an amazing experience.”
When the time arrived for a follow-up, Melissa was adamant to not make an album that sounded just like its predecessor.
“It was very important for me not to write another version of Eclecticism. I really wanted an album that was reflective of the journey that I’ve been through.”
For her second album, Melissa worked with Paul Morrison. The British producer has previously collaborated with the likes of Camelia, Poetic Ammo and Nora.
“We faced many obstacles during our time working together. I let him listen to the demos I’d made and he said ‘Oh yeah, this is very good. But it’s very Melissa Indot’. And I’m like ‘What do you mean?’ After all, I am Melissa Indot!
“Then he said it’s just what people would expect from me. So we’d get into a lot of fights like that.”
Eventually, she realised why it was important for Morrison to push her buttons.
“Paul pushed me to try out different things, to step outside my comfort zone. I’m very grateful for that. The results are really reflected on the new album. Some things are signature Melissa and there’s also new elements to it.”
Melissa’s latest offering MDot features 11 tracks, including latest single You & Me. It’s been five years since her AIM win and the local music industry has changed a lot since then. The category for Best Local English Album has not been contested in the AIM since 2010.
“I’ve had people try to discourage me from releasing a full album. The reason being, apparently nobody releases an album any more. I was told to just release singles or a five-track EP and then release a whole album later.”
Winning another AIM was the last thing on Melissa’s mind when it came to releasing her new music.
“I’m very old school. To me, an album is about a story and it’s like another chapter in a book. It’s fresh, I made it for now and I want to put it out.”
To her, success simply means people can relate to the songs on her album.
“I wrote about things that most people don’t want to talk about, like betrayal and depression. I wanted to tell stories about situations that are uncomfortable. I hope listeners find comfort in these songs. That’s success to me on a very personal level.”
Melissa Indot’s MDot is available on iTunes.
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