Mel Monaco Ready to Make Things Better
The year 2020 was shaping up to be a seminal period in the life of Niagara singer/songwriter Mel Monaco. For the better part of a decade, the talented and highly driven performer had been working hard to meet her goal of writing, recording, and releasing five albums by the age of 30. With the November 3, 2019 release of her fifth recording – the full-length album Catching Ladybugs – Mel the prodigious planner was all set to take the show on the road, the natural last step in a whirlwind 10 month cycle of writing, recording, and promoting the release.
Then came COVID-19.
“We had a very busy 2020 planned,” said Monaco, a 2019 St. Catharines Arts Award Emerging Artist recipient. “We were launching into an exciting season of performing, promoting the record, and continuing the momentum toward more music. When it hit, everything stopped. People were scared. I was definitely scared. Nobody knew what was going on. I wasn’t sure what to expect moving forward.”
Like the majority of Niagara-based artists, Monaco had to cancel all live performances, forced instead to reconsider what a career as a performer might look like given the uncertainties surrounding social gatherings and an entertainment industry hit hard by the pandemic. That meant some deep soul-searching and a possible acceptance that the career she had worked so hard to develop might become just another victim of COVID-19. Thankfully, Monaco found the inspiration she needed to channel her creativity back into her music.
“I thought I lost it for a little bit there,” said Monaco. “I thought I was never going to be able to write again. Everyone was scared, but I knew I had to get over that fear. I had to adapt and realize, yes the world had changed. I had to reimagine and reinvent, and consider what the future was going to look like. I definitely leaned on writing and it’s what got me through.”
Some of the results of that writing strategy can be found on Monaco’s new EP, Better Not Bitter, which in true Monaco fashion is being released – along with her new calendar and signature Mel Say Rose All Day wine – at a stylish live performance event September 25th at 13th Street Winery. That EP and its first single, “I Choose to Believe,” are affirmations of a positive attitude that emerged during the lockdown, as Monaco took stock of all the blessings she had enjoyed during the previous decade of her career.
“The pandemic was good because it gave me time to stop down and recharge and get in touch with my music,” she said. “You kind of go on autopilot when you’re constantly moving forward with new music. When everything was forced to stop I had to remember why I got into music. Ten plus years ago I’d go play coffee shops. Nobody was paying me to go perform in coffee shops. I did it because I loved it. When you get involved in the industry, I had to operate it like a business, but I had to remember that my job is more than the business side, it’s about releasing music. To me that was finding why I got into music in the first place and I found it.”
With renewed energy and a laser-sharp focus on developing the music, Monaco and her collective of bandmates set to task giving shape to her lyrics and the music found on the new Better Not Bitter EP. The first song “I Choose to Believe” finds a fuller, richer, vocal styling than some of Monaco’s previous work, along with a stripped-down sound purposely designed for her band to be able to deliver in a live setting.
“I definitely feel more in my element,” said Monaco, who is also planning to release three full-production videos to accompany the songs on Better Not Bitter. “I don’t put so many limitations on myself. I’m not so afraid, whether it’s a sad song or happy song. Both are cathartic. There’s a lot of emotion and passion behind these songs. It’s why I connect so well to the lyrics on this EP. Normally, months after a release, I would have emotionally moved on. These songs ring true to how I’m feeling today. These songs still resonate. I’m still trying to learn to believe.”
While Monaco acknowledges that the COVID pandemic had a drastic impact on her promotional plans for her last album, Catching Ladybugs, there’s no lingering disappointment as she emerges with her new EP and long-overdue live performances. After all, it’s why she chose the title she did for the new release.
“I chose the album title simply because I want to be better and not bitter. There are so many things I can look back on and say, well that didn’t work out, especially with the pandemic and all these forced decisions everyone was forced to make. I feel much better toward what happened. I’m celebrating 10 years of Mel Monaco, and I am focusing on the positive because I think that’s what’s going to get people through. You can learn from the past. I think that last 10 years just prepared me to be able to roll with everything.”
Join Mel Monaco as she celebrates 10 years with a live performance September 25th at 13th Street Winery. Tickets are $35 and include her new CD, her new calendar, and a bottle of her new wine. Tickets available at MelMonaco.com and 13thstreetwinery.com. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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