Why She’s Amazing
Melissa Menago doesn’t want to be a princess. She wants to be more.
Philadelphia based singer and songwriter, Melissa Menago, is known by many as the lead vocalist for Rock group, June Divided. On “Little Crimes”, she embarks on her first solo record. With a combination of original work, classic covers and unique medleys, “Little Crimes” shows off her incredible songwriting and creativity to match her timeless voice. Whether it’s her original singles like “Traveler” or “Smoke Signs” that draw you in or her haunting rendition of “Hallelujah”, you will leave a fan.
Since its beginnings, June Divided has been quite the busy band. They’ve released an EP and a full-length album (with a new EP on the way), landed singles on commercial radio, shot two music videos, appeared on Vans Warped Tour and at SXSW, been seen on MTVu, NBC, The CW, and in Alternative Press magazine and snagged a handful of endorsements. The pace doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
In addition to her impressive music career, Melissa also teaches music classes and volunteers her time to have a positive impact on children’s lives through music.
We had a chance to ask Melissa a few questions. Something tells us that the impact of her music has only just begun!
“Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s always rewarding. You have one life.
If something is calling to you, go for it.” – Melissa Menago
Q & A
Q: When you were a young girl, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
A: I always loved music, but when I was really little I wanted to be an astronaut so I could fly. (I have always loved outer space.)
Q: What did people think when you told them that?
A: I think they were on board with it. My parents put me in gymnastics so I could kind of fly there for a while!
Q: Did people call you “princess” when you were a little girl and, if so, how did that make you feel?
A: I don’t really remember being called a princess. My parents were pretty forward-thinkers, and they always let me focus on my talents and skills. I was the oldest of three and loved being the leader. I do remember an older family member calling me “little dictator” or “little Caesar”, and I remember being proud of that, even though I knew they were joking about my bossiness. Even at a young age, I knew that I would take that over “princess” any day. I became the leader of a rock band, so I don’t think that surprised anyone, haha.
Q: How did you become interested in becoming a singer and songwriter?
A: I was always obsessed with songs and music. I wrote poetry when I was a kid, too. I think I just always had an ear and mind for it, which I got mainly from my dad. I would figure out every song I heard by ear on a keyboard. I remember being like, 8 or 9 and getting my older friend’s hand-me-down piano books. I wasn’t in music lessons at the time, but I would sit there and teach myself how to read sheet music. I loved how the notes on the page explained exactly what I was hearing. I think my parents saw me doing that and realized it was seriously time for music lessons.
Q: What did you have to do to accomplish this?
A: So much studying! I went to a performing arts high school for voice and piano. I also took piano, voice and guitar lessons on top of that after school. It was never a chore to me – I remember getting in trouble for always putting my math homework off to practice piano or guitar instead.
Q: Did you have a mentor or role model who inspired you?
A: I was lucky to have such an amazing voice and piano teacher, Geri Smith. She told me I should try writing songs when I was maybe 12 or so. She’s an incredible folk artist herself, so I still use everything she taught me. We still keep in touch. I teach music now, too, so if I’m at least half as influential of a mentor as she was, I’ll be proud of my work as a teacher.
Q: Did your family and friends support your aspirations?
A: Yes, 100%! My dad put a guitar in my hands when I was really young and taught me my first chords. He’s still always talking music with me. My mom has been my biggest supporter, and my brother and sister always come to my shows. My grandparents are too cool and always excitedly ask me, “How was the gig?!” Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends have done so much to support and cheer me on. I know many artists who don’t have a support system that strong, so I am definitely one of the luckiest ones. My family and friends believed in me before I did, and I can’t imagine doing this without them.
Q: Did you think about being called a trailblazer for choosing this path?
A: Well, compared to my friends who have 9-5 desk jobs, I definitely took the road less traveled, that’s for sure. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s always rewarding. You have one life. If something is calling to you, go for it.
Q: What motivates you?
A: Life motivates me to write. Whenever I’m going through something, or something interesting happens, a song idea always pops into my head. Other artists really motivate me, too. I’m always inspired when I see an artist doing something unique or hear a song that really touches me.
Q: Of what are you most proud?
A: Out of all the music I write and perform, I am most proud of the fact that I can teach kids and hopefully they can look up to me. Whenever I get a message from a fan saying a song I wrote helped them, I feel really proud. I could tell you my favorite songs I ever wrote, but I think it’s how people react to them is what I’ve become proud of the most.
Q: What would you like people to learn from you?
A: I hope my music lets people know that it’s ok to go through things. It’s ok to look at life in a million different ways, trying to figure it out. We’re all just trying to figure life out.
Q: What do you want people to know about you outside of your musical accomplishments?
A: If we’re talking hidden talents here, I can draw pretty well! I never do anymore, but I used to be pretty good. If we’re talking something a little more serious, I used to volunteer for the Special Olympics in Delaware (where I grew up), and I still interact with a lot of my mom’s students. She’s a teacher of deaf/blind and special education. Those kids are incredible and can teach you a lot in return.
Q: Given the choice, would you do it all again?
A: Yes, of course.
Q: Who do you follow on social media that shares your passion for singing and songwriting?
A: I have so many talented friends that I follow! Music is an amazing community. The best thing ever is to play a show with friends you love and respect.
Q: If you could eat lunch with one person, who would it be?
A: My sister, Kari. She makes me laugh like no one else and knows me better than anyone on the planet, and I don’t get to see her enough. There is nothing in the world like a sister.
Q: Which woman would you choose to have on U.S. currency?
A: Rosa Parks is a legend
Q: What advice would you give to a girl who wants to be just like you?
A: Being a musician takes focus and confidence. I always had the focus part down, but it took me way too long to find the confidence. Don’t be afraid to jump out of your shell. If you’re good at something, don’t run away from it. Being confident is way simpler than you think it is. You just have to trust yourself and don’t look back.
Bonus Question: What question would you ask the next Modern Day Trailblazer we interview?
A: Do you have a mantra or a saying that you repeat to keep yourself going?
- Melissa is a night owl!
- Her go-to karaoke song is “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins.
- Melissa’s favorite movie is Big Fish. (Second favorite quote: “They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true.” – Big Fish)
- She prefers vanilla ice cream but chocolate cake.
- Melissa’s favorite quote is “Fortune favors the brave”.