Interview: Melanie Fiona Digs Deep Into New Album ‘Awake’

Melanie Fiona has found herself. The Guyanese-Canadian bred beauty took an almost three year hiatus since 2012 when her last album The MF Life was released. Now, the R&B songstress is back with her forthcoming project Awake (Title 9 / Primary Wave / BMG), a piece of Melanie’s authentic self, due later this year.

“I feel like sometimes people know my songs but haven’t gotten the opportunity to know me,” she tells VIBE. “I want to make people feel good and I want people to feel that they are not alone, that this album and me as an artist represent a voice for people to feel like, ‘Yeah, that is the life we’re living and we’re living it together so let’s do our part to move forward positively, and do some really great things while we are alive here.”

Her new catalog is a mix of loss, love and living morphed into a collection of short stories designed to encapsulate a wide range of emotions. Fiona isn’t just that heartbroken girl anymore—she is living, in love and taking everything in. Despite winning two Grammys for the CeeLo Green duet “Fool For You” in 2012, she admits that while success and accolades taste sweet, they are not the main focus of her agenda. Instead, she hopes to leave a mark on her fans with her deep love notes on wax. The chocolate beauty recently made a pit stop at VIBE HQ to dig deep into what it means to feel “awake,” her glowing outlook on life and pouring positivity into music.—Richy Rosario

VIBE: What have you been up to since The MF Life?
Melanie Fiona: Since The MF Life, I have been living my MF life. I’ve been just inspired and a being human. Writing and recording music, traveling, falling in love, doing all the things I think we as people and then specifically as artists, need for inspiration to make music. From then, I’ve grown. I learned so many lessons about myself. I feel like I went through so many personal and professional changes in my life. That forced me to decide what I wanted for my life this next kind of cycle, in this time of my life. I moved. And really just getting in touch with myself. The woman that I am, the artist that I am now, so that I could make a new album and let the fans know where I am at and what’s been going on.

So is that why you named your new album Awake?
It’s an epiphany. It’s almost like a rebirth of sense. I feel like I am my best self. I feel like I am my most complete with or without the things or people I thought I needed before, and that came from losing a lot of the things and people that I thought were important. It forced me to go deep within myself. It forced me to go dark to find the light and it forced me to always remain present in the feeling of how I feel in situations, and what that means. When I say the word “awake,” I always associate it with “aware” because I feel like it makes you aware to yourself, the world and other people to the things that are finding you, your cycles. I feel like the only way for you to continue to grow and evolve. It’s about growth and it’s about strength and growing. It’s about being vulnerable. It’s about really accepting and celebrating your life, all the good and bad things, so I feel like I’ve become more aware of this life and this world, my role and what I’m supposed to be doing in it.

LISTEN: Melanie Fiona Takes Us To The Islands On ‘Bite The Bullet’

What did you lose that made you come to this epiphany?
I lost love. I lost security. I lost the things that I thought made me who I was. I lost myself for a bit and that was the real thing that forced me to be like, ‘Who do you want to be in this life?’ and how you get back to being that thing that you know you’re supposed to be. I feel like what ended up happening was that I allowed a lot of negativity, pain, and the fear of change that was happening so quickly—I allowed that to dim my light. I allowed my joy to be suppressed and I allowed my outlook on life to just be waited and really heavy. I had to let go of anger, and be OK to be upset or be sad.

What steps did you take to achieve this newfound sense of self?
I had to forgive myself and other people. I had to accept the things that I couldn’t change and just let go. I think that’s one of the most freeing things you can do for yourself is just to let go, and just know that life is going to happen. We don’t have much control except for the things we say and speak, and the choices we make around the people we keep around us. Our path is destined, and what life throws at you, you can never be prepared for. You just have to work on being your best self. And I feel like the greatest thing for me [was] recognizing a closer connection to God and then recognizing the god in me to know that I am powerful enough to determine what finds me in this life. I had to lose myself to find myself again.

On The MF Life, you had songs like “4am” and the “Wrong Side of a Love Song.” Is Awake a continuation of that heartbreak? 
This album is a collection of different conversations of songs so some do address heartbreak. I have a song on the album, it’s called “Killing Time” because in this time from 2012 to 2015, after I broke up with my last boyfriend, I was like, ‘Alright, well, I am just going to date now. I am just gong to be single in New York, and I’m just going to do my thing.’ And I remember towards the end of 2012, like in 2013, I was like, ‘I’m killing time with these men and these different people in my life ’cause I’m bored or I want some company or I want a free meal.‘ Or you just want to kick it with somebody, and be like, ‘You’re alright. I’m not really feeling you like that, I don’t love you, but sure.’ So I just wrote that song “Killing Time” because I feel that was a concept that led to an awakening for myself where I was like, ‘No, you have to preserve who you are and who you choose to spend your time with.’ You can’t just kill your time. You have to live your life and make every moment count.

What else can we expect to hear?
Another song coming out is called “I Tried.” That was the first song that I wrote for the album, and it comes from a place of when you get to the point where you’re like, ‘Well, I tried being good and I tried doing all these things, so I might as well just give into the darkness.’ Everything is about thoughts or moments of clarity for me. That made me want to share, so this album is very different in the sense that I think people are going to be shocked to hear how conversational it is, how personal it is. Not every song is a huge ballad, which is what most people expect from me. There is a lot of use of range on this album—low, really high—that I don’t think people have heard from me. But it’s just a vibe. I worked on the majority of this project with only one producer, so we really curated this [in a way] that feels like a story.

What is the ideal guy for you?
Someone who allows me right away to feel very comfortable about being myself. I’m like a guys’ girl, so to speak. I’m not one of those girls that is overly conscious about being a type of girl for a guy. I like someone who can make me laugh, feel comfortable, crack jokes with me. Our sense of humor is on the same level, that’s very important. Also, confidence, not cockiness. I like a guy who knows how to play around with me because I’m a bit of a tomboy. And I like an assertive man. I am a very strong woman so I like a guy who knows how to maneuver with me and move me without it being this competition of power. If a guy earns my trust and he is in control, I love it. Then I don’t have to think about being in control. I have to be in so much control of everything in my life as a woman today, in general, so I love a man that can come along and make me feel at ease.

Switching gears a little bit, I know you’re a part of the Hope on Wheels organization, which helps out kids with cancer. How did you get involved with that?
It’s an amazing organization that has been doing amazing work for 17 years. It’s fighting the battle against pediatric cancer. I learned so much in the process of philanthropy in this area of charity because I really believe that children are the little lights of the world. They are just so open and the closest thing to God, in my opinion. They are the most innocent versions of ourselves and we can learn so much from them. When you think about a child who is fighting or thinking about their mortality or their life at six years old, seven years old, three years old, that’s just heartbreaking. The beautiful thing about children’s pedriatic cancer is that there is an 8 out of 10 survival rate. And so when I was approached to lend my voice, do some events for them and sing for these kids, I felt it was really important because [of the] high success rate they have already. If we just bring a little bit more attention and a little bit more push to get people more involved, there can be 100 percent success rates for these kids. And cancer is one of those things that everybody on every level has been affected by, but specifically working with the kids has been really inspiring and really humbling for me.

What have you learned from working with the kids?
It just gives you a different outlook on life when you see these kids fighting for their lives everyday. It makes you appreciate life a little bit differently. It makes you want to do a little but more because they are the future so it’s been wonderful meeting these kids, performing for them and visiting different cities with the organization. Hyundai is doing a lot of amazing things and I’m happy to be an ambassador for it.

Lastly, what makes you feel awake?
Love. And I say love not just in the sense of a relationship that you’re in love, but the feeling of what love is. Love is the purest emotion we feel from the minute we are born and I feel like love is the foundation for everything. Everything tangents off of love, even the opposites: hate, fear, anger, whatever it is. Love is the foundation. Anytime I see love, I feel love. It surrounds me it’s everything. I have it tattoed on my body. It is everything that I think makes me feel alive. Self-love everything. It always boils down to love.