MeLyn Thompson grew up with the voices of her mother and grandmother echoing throughout a church hall in Chattanooga. When she was nudged to step out and perform her first church solo, she realized that music was far more than just sound; it was an expression of her soul. It wasn’t until college, when she taught herself how to play guitar, that she began to write music of her own. After a number of recent performances in association with Jazzanooga, MeLyn decided to pursue music as a full time career.
When did you pick up the guitar?
MeLyn: I started playing guitar in college. I wasn’t that great at it, but I took one classical guitar class and then just taught myself how to play. It was easier for me to learn how to sing and play together with the guitar than the piano, and I love how travel-friendly the guitar is.
Whose music inspires you?
MeLyn: Whitney Houston is my all time favorite, but I also look up to Jazmine Sullivan, a jazz artist, because I feel like we’ve been through similar life experiences. Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Brian McKnight, Anthony Hamilton. The list goes on. I can appreciate good musicianship, even if it’s in another language because if it’s the right song, then the music will express what the words can’t.
How did you get involved with music in Chattanooga?
MeLyn: I attended school here when I was younger, but focused more on sports growing up. It wasn’t until I came home after college that I started writing music. People eventually started asking me to partner with them on creative projects and I began to be featured by groups like Jazzanooga and Noontunes, which got me out of my shell.
What does your creative process look like?
MeLyn: My writing starts with the heart. If something stands out to me while I’m journaling, I’ll write it down and put a tune to it. Sometimes I’ll have a music snippet stuck in my head and record it on my phone and go back to it later. It can be difficult to translate what I have going through my head to what I want to convey on guitar because I’m still learning new chords and styles of playing. I would love to collaborate with local musicians whose style matches mine and have their help getting stuff out of my head and into a recording. Eventually, I would love to be able to produce my own music too because it’s hard to find musicians to play music the way you want it played. I am building a home studio with the good equipment and software.
What are your career goals for this year?
MeLyn: I want to get more organized and reprioritize my life. I love music so much, but sometimes I would rather sing karaoke with friends all night rather than work in the studio on a song. Learning how to focus and become disciplined is high on my priority list now because I want to take this from being a hobby to a business.
Since I began pursuing music as a career a little later in life, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. I want to continue playing music and maybe expand to Atlanta or Nashville and make a name for myself.
What advice would you give fellow musicians who want to make this their full time gig?
MeLyn: I would encourage people to never give up on your dreams. When you have a gift, some people will like it and some won’t. And that’s ok. Keep using it anyways.