Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Check it!

Written by Josie Schoel
Rue Melo has a great voice, great style, and a great sense of rhythm. Rue—which is French for, "road"—grew up in Paris and was brought up by her Parisian mother and her Uruguayan father. Simply put, she grew up surrounded by music and art. Her mother is a ballet dancer and actress, and her father is a musician who played with such internationally acclaimed acts as the Gipsy Kings. Her youth was so filled with dance and song that it became an intrinsic part of her, and despite the fact that she considered, momentarily, being a lawyer, music refused to let her go.
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Rue Melo has a great voice, great style, and a great sense of rhythm. Rue—which is French for "road"—grew up in Paris and  was brought up by her Parisian mother and her Uruguayan father. Simply put, she grew up surrounded by music and art. Her mother is a ballet dancer and actress, and her father is a musician who played with such internationally acclaimed acts as the Gipsy Kings. Her youth was so filled with dance and song that it became an intrinsic part of her, and despite the fact that she considered, momentarily, being a lawyer, music refused to let her go.

And thank god it had such a strong and steady grip, because last year she released her self-titled debut   album, with assorted beats that show off her diverse background—from Paris, to moving to the Bronx at age ten, and then later to LA. All this and more are all very much alive in her music, which is so eclectic, that it's hard to really pin down. But why would anyone want to pin this one down? Check her out at www.ruemelo.com and prepare to be totally wowed.

Josie: Hey Rue, how are you?

Rue: Hey, I'm good thanks.

Josie: I’ve read a bunch about your background, how your mother was a French dancer and your father was a singer and guitarist. How did this shape your current career as a musician? Was there ever a point, as a child, when you tried to reject this musical background?

Rue: I always had a very real idea of what pursuing this career meant. Being directly exposed to the struggle of it all by both of my parents just made me an insider. Besides that, the constant exposure makes it hard not to fall in love with it. I did go through a phase where I wanted to rebel and attempt to veer away from what was expected from me. I thought about being a lawyer…probably because I'm so stubborn and can argue for hours!

Josie: Ha! I bet you would be great. So, you sing in many different languages—English, Spanish, and French…sometimes all in the same song. Did you grow up speaking all three of these languages in your house? Do you have a favorite language to sing in?

Rue: It depended on whose house I was at. If I was staying at my mom’s or at school, I spoke French. If I was at my dad's, he spoke to me in Spanish, and for the most part, I responded either in Spanish or French.

Josie: Oh, that makes sense. And when you moved to New York?

Rue: Once I moved to New York, I learned English and spoke all three for a while. I don't really prefer any particular [language] for singing, but I do feel like being in the US for so long and having had experienced so much here, I can best express those emotions in English. I do love singing in Spanish, and I get more emotional when I take myself back home with the French.

Josie: Your music seems to be a conglomeration of so many different genres, from Latin to pop to hip-hop to reggaetón. Do you ever find that people are trying to pin you down to one genre? How do you respond to that?

Rue: I've actually never had that problem. It's been more of an issue figuring out what [category] I fall into, but we've come up with our own genre [for that]. We like to call it "urban pop." Anyone can join—you just have to speak street and embrace where you come from. It’s really universal, something everyone can relate to at some point in their lives…and that's why we do this, isn't it? To relate!

Josie: [For sure!] Can you tell me a little about the rest of your band? You’ve got Claudio Tomasello on guitar, Bryan Bush on bass, and Idris al-Mutazz Tate on drums—were they a formed band before you or did you find them and put everyone together?

Rue: Those are my boys. [They’re] like big brothers. I can tell you they're the most talented musicians I know. Bryan and Idris, I've been working with for about three and a half years. My manager Katrina and I had decided that performing to a CD track was just not going to cut it. We needed a band, and Katrina remembered Bryan and Idris from previous projects and introduced them to me. The first time I met them we wrote "Can't Deny" together. Claudio we actually found through a friend when we were looking for a guitar player. He had just moved from Italy to pursue a career in music. We had some auditions, and he was such a breath of fresh air for us. He fit right into our little family; we knew right away he was our guy.

Josie: That’s so awesome when it works out like that! [What about] lyrics—do they come before the music or is [it] the other way around? Do you write the lyrics and then share them with the rest of the band right after, or do you try them out on your own for a while first?

Rue: The process is never the same—it just depends on the moment I get inspired to write. Sometimes it's in the middle of the night in total silence, and I just get a melody in my head. I also love just having the band or one of my producers, Bernd Bergdorf, to start playing something [for me to] jump in and freestyle to/over. That's definitely my favorite way…and the one where I feel the most creatively free.

Josie: The “Check It” video is awesome! Did you actually have a car in the studio? Was that your first video?

Rue: Ha, ha…funny you ask! We were actually going to use my friend’s truck (which we ended up using in the "This Is My House" video), but couldn't fit it in the studio through the doors. Idris ended up having a friend tow over the car we used from Long Beach because it wouldn't start…AND it was raining. That was our first big crew-big budget-multi location video. It was so much fun!

Josie: [The way women are represented in rap videos is such a controversial topic. It seems like a lot of the floating critique focuses on the fear that the women who perform or star in these videos have little artistic power or control of how they are portrayed.] Do you have much sway in how you are presented in your videos?

Rue: As far as how I'm presented, I always play a major part in coming up with the main concept. We all really put our heads together and go over every single detail so [nothing] ever [gets] left out. I do my own hair, and with the help of our do-it-all tour manager Norma, we pick out the clothes. It's all very hands on--the way I like it.

Josie: It seems like hip-hop and rap has always been really male-heavy. Do you find it tough being a girl trying to break into a male-dominated industry? Or is this something you can actually use to your advantage?

Rue: It's time for the ladies to step in and give the guys a break. There are definitely a lot of amazing female artists on the rise if not already pumping up to the top. The people want it! [Ladies] definitely have an advantage of standing out in the sea of men, but it’s easy to get lost if you're not shoving your way to a clearing.

Josie: What female singers inspire and influence your music?

Rue: I love Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, and Aaliyah. I am very influenced by Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Mercedes Sosa, and Janis Joplin. The list could really go on forever…my girl Mala Rodríguez is holding it down. Check her out, she's fierce!

Josie: Good picks! Thanks so much for chatting with me, Rue.

Rue: Thank you so much for taking the time out to find out [what] Rue Melo (me) is really about. All the best, much love and peace.
 
Photos courtesy of Rue Melo.

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