Me: When did you first start singing?
Melissa: I may have started singing while still in the womb. I have always loved singing from the time I was itty bitty. I still remember the first song I had in my head @ just 3 years old, having a fisher price tape recorder, dancing around the coffee table to the Beatles, taking an actual Beatles record for show and tell in Kindergarten etc...
My friends used to joke that maybe I swallowed a canary because I often had a song in my heart and was often singing. I am the type that always has music playing, even in my kitchen, bathroom, sometimes even when I am walking back from the car on my Mp4 player.
Me: What did your family do to encourage you?
Melissa: It's really a hard profession, the music business, that has had to overcome a lot of false stigmas over many generations. Despite all that, I was blessed to have my Dad as a constant motivator for me to sing @ the country club, sharing my live recording of "I will always love you" by Whitney Houston when I was a teenager, he also assisted with me putting together my first demo and was supportive of my majoring in music in college, as long as I wasn't a Performance Major. He wanted me to have more than that to fall back on. And my mother's sides of the family comes with a deep spiritual legacy, where Christianity and song found rich harmony together. My mother also took me to my music lessons. I feel like I have much to be grateful for here.
Me: Who are your musical inspirations?
Melissa: I have so many musical inspirations. It's a very vast array. I love melodies and Top 40 music. I have also listened to a lot of K- Love. Some of my inspirations are Kari Jobe, Plumb, Toby Mac, Crystal Lewis, Jars of Clay, Mandisa, Whitney Houston, Leona Lewis, Beyonce, Mariah, Chris Tomlin, Matthew West, & classical influences i.e. Sarah Brightman, Jewel's Ave Maria, Mozart & Bach; to name some that come to mind.
Others include: Switchfoot, Lecrae, Warren Barrenfield, Colton Dixon, Francesca Battistelli, Hillsong United, Allure, Celion Dion, U2, Mary J Blige, Sarah Bareillis, Tori Amos, Taylor Swift, Bella Ferraro's (Birdy cover), Sarah Mclachlan, Usher, David Guetta, Neyo, Bruno Mars etc.
I am also a fan of many indie artists/bands and strive to be an advocate for them. Great music that is untouched by manufactured hands is amazing and has a very special place in my heart. I LOVE Soundcloud, good quality music and the community there etc...
Me: Where would you most like to perform?
Melissa: I'd love to perform @ a large well respected venue i.e. Harvest Crusade, The Dove Awards, K LOVE Fan Awards, Grammy's or Madison Square Garden orTimes Square. It might also be pretty cool to perform on TBN, or @ the Crystal Cathedral.
I am trying to stay open to where and what I am called to do. Whether it's a small venue like a convalescent home, a humble church, or a larger venue, I am trying to be as flexible and open as I can.
Me: Who would you most like to open for?
Melissa: I have been thinking about that a lot. That is a very difficult question for me. I have a lot of love and respect for other artists and their artistry/vision etc.. I especially have great respect for commerical songwriters to meet all the qualifications of radio and the industry. Any of the above influences would be amazing, but if I can only pick one I'd like to open for Switchfoot. Their songs on the Walk to Remember soundtrack changed my life and I love their harmonies, strings and songwriting.
Me: Aside from singing and songwriting, you are also an author. Tell me about your published works.
Melissa: I just released my first self-published book. It's a motivational/inspirational eBook. Being an entrepreneurial musician has developed a lot of character in me since it's such a tough industry. I wanted to encourage, inspire and help foster encouragement among other musicians to keep working hard, grinding, and keeping the faith when things get tough. The book consists of 365 of some of what I feel are some of the best motivational/inspirational quotes. Of course these include some scriptures in there as well. It's a combination of the two.
The book is Free on my website @ www.melissafleckenstein.webs.com By signing up you will be on my mailing list and I will keep you in the loop with exclusive content such as early releases etc... The title of the book is called "Keep The Blaze Returning" which underlies the concepts and purposes of the book that I spoke of. It is a direct quote from a lyric from my song "Turn My Darkness Into Light."
I plan to re-release the book on Amazon in the future, but like I said, subscribers get the original early-release now.
Me: How has your faith helped inspire your music and writing?
Melissa: I believe most of my songs were given directly to me from the Lord. So many cool things have happened. Each song has a personal story. Working for free and on one limited income to do this was pretty tough and took a lot of faith. However, God would give me lyrics and songs to comfort me and meet me exactly where I was. The immense sacrifices that my husband and I made, to continue on this path, have tested our faith many times. A lot of that came right out into the songs. I believe it was all for a purpose for others though. At the time I just wanted to know why God was allowing and not allowing certain things, but now that I am on the other side of it all, I see how much sense it all made. He was refining me, preparing me, giving me strong roots, and developing character within me for everything that I'd face. Some of that has led to writing the eBook, songs, and brought a lot of positive things to fruition.
I also believe that Christians should be loving and try hard not to judge other people. I am really big on that. Giving people freedom and taking great care to avoid, what many refer to as the Pharisee spirit.
Me: What’s your “go to” Bible verse?
Melissa: That's another tough question for me since I mostly grew up in the church. I have a Bible that my grandfather (who was a very well respected prophet and pastor) gave to me. In there are tons and tons of highlighted verses that I added over the years. I turn to them. I also like books like Beth Moore's "Praying God's Word" because for whatever you may be going through there is usually one or more scriptures that have comfort or an answer. This book categorizes them and will take you right to the gems for various specific setbacks. Used the right way scriptures can make a huge difference if you are right with God and have the faith. They can protect your mind, change your situation etc...
It took me a long time to figure this out. God has secrets and reveals them when we really search for Him.
If I had to narrow it down to one, I guess I would pick Mark 11:23-24.
Me: Where do you see your singing career taking you?
Melissa: I am open to whatever God wants me to do. I'd love to be a successful recording artist, possibly tour, have my music on the radio etc... The main thing that has always been very important to me is to work really hard to put out more high quality choices for Christian music. Growing up I always had wished that there was more and more Christian music that resonated with me. However if God just wants me to solely be a songwriter and only perform every so often I am also open to that. I believe that being a performer and being a celebrity/public figure brings it's own set of challenges. I am not sure I'd want that, but I know that either way God will meet me in my path as He's always done as long as I continue to surrender it fully to Him.
I'd love to also have an opportunity to become successful so that I can bless others and be able to do more philanthropic work to change the world.
Me: Finally, what advice do you have for other artists/writers?
Melissa: When you put God first everything that is supposed to happen falls into place. Fight for what you want, even if you can’t see it yet, still believe it and work toward it until it comes to fruition.
Keep practicing your skills as consistently as you can to build and keep those muscles. What good is learning if you can't apply it? Keep yourself accountable until it becomes automatic. No matter how good you are or how much you know, in music there’s always a higher level that you can reach.
Surround yourself with those who are getting the results that you want and those who know more than you and have credibility.
In terms of writing, nearly every single detail is a major decision and should be treated as such. Don’t take it lightly, especially when you have the power to make something good, great, and something great, excellent. Don’t compromise or settle until you believe it’s your best work. Try to be objectively hard on your own work, improving evaluation process so that when other pros etc...encounter your work you have a better chance of providing others, customers, the industry, artists, what they all want/need etc...
To illustrate this: I am currently devising my own checklist for the cumulative knowledge that I have learned thus far. This has been on my heart for the past couple months and I am collecting data from various sources to be as thorough on this as possible.
Find out who you are and what your voice is in the world and go for it. You have more power in your voice and decisions than you might think and you can change the world and add value to this world, just don’t give up when you face resistance.
Finally, whenever possible, Colossians 3:23 should be more than just a verse in the Bible, but a pillar to writing your own music.