The R&B singer Melanie Fiona is based in Los Angeles and won a pair of Grammys for her 2011 collaboration with Cee Lo Green on the song Fool for You. But when she drops into her Toronto hometown (which she does Friday, for a concert at the Phoenix), she hooks up with a Canadian legend. Guess who?
You’re known for your collaborations, but what’s going on with you and Randy Bachman? I don’t think anyone saw that one coming.
He’s a Canadian gem, and a nice, humble man. He actively pursued the idea of the two of us writing songs together. He was so dedicated with setting up the studio sessions and making our schedules work and introducing me to another amazing producer, Rob Wells, who has worked with Justin Bieber. We wrote awesome songs. Whether they end up on my album or a soundtrack or with other artists, I don’t know. He’s a legend. To even take a piece of his wisdom is just an amazing gift for me.
There’s a YouTube video of the three of you in the studio, where you describe yourselves as three nice Canadians. The thing of it is, a lot of Canadians who may know your music might not know you’re Canadian. Do you have an explanation for that?
It’s a fact. It’s reality. I’m bigger many places – not just in the States, but abroad. No one knows why. The people who know me in the States know that I’m Canadian. It’s the first thing they know about me. That Canadians don’t know I’m Canadian is a little disappointing. I won a Juno last year, which is awesome. I went to the Junos this year, but even my mom was asking why we didn’t see anything about me. I flew myself out to Regina, and I don’t know what happened.
Well, your mom knows you’re Canadian.
She does. She made a strategic move to immigrate to Canada so her kids could have a great life. Ultimately, it would be my greatest wish to be able to live and work in Canada.
Could we say that you made a strategic move when you moved to Los Angeles?
There’s only so much we can do in Toronto. I can do a show every day for a month in a different city in America, before I can do three shows across Canada. That’s just the demand. It becomes cost effective and practical to live where you can work and travel domestically. Unfortunately, a lot of us have to jump ship and go south.
So, it’s really not a mystery as to why you’re more well known outside of Canada. I mean, you have a couple of Grammys to your credit, plus another nomination, and you’ve released two albums on a major label. And yet, Friday is the first headlining show in your hometown, isn’t it?
I’ve done some shows in Toronto, with radio stations or corporate events. But, yes, this is my first show with tickets for sale and it being open to the public. I’ve been campaigning for it for a long time.
What kind of crowd do you expect here?
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know. I’ve had different songs played on different radio formats, whether it’s urban radio or adult contemporary. So, I’m looking forward to seeing people who want to hear my West Indian influences, and people who want to hear my retro-soul influences. And I’m looking forward to seeing those people get to know each other.
Have you ever felt pressure to restrict yourself to one genre?
Yes, actually, I have felt that. I’ve felt that when it comes to genres of music, and I’ve felt that in being a female artist and sexuality. Don’t sing, sell more sex. But I’ve never been one to listen to anyone who didn’t fit my moral standing.
After two albums (2009’s The Bridge and 2011’s The MF Life), you’re off Universal/SRC Records. What happened?
It was a choice to do that. I was grateful for every opportunity I’ve had with them. Now I want to find the kind of career I want for myself, without any corporate influence. It was time to move on.
Those corporate influences can help you with collaborations and connections though, right? And you’re still managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
Every collaboration I’ve ever done has been off of my own relationships with whatever artist I’ve wanted to work with. And now that I’m three albums in and established, I can call up a lot of people in the industry.
I would love to collaborate with Stevie Wonder on my next album. We’ve actually spoken about doing something together. I’d love to work with Miguel. I’d love to work with Kendrick Lamar.
Yes, but these are people I speak with on a regular basis. It’s like, let’s not get caught up with structure and deadlines. Let’s just make some good music for people who want to hear it. Whether there’s a label involved or not, or a big management company or a machine behind you, people who want to hear your music will find it.
Melanie Fiona plays the Phoenix, May 3.