“Usually everything is a poem, and then I hear a rhythm with the poem, and then I turn it into a song.” Says Brooklyn-based poet and musician, Mel Chanté. Mel, who performed in the listening room today in honor of Black History Month, has an expansive and dynamic body of work centered around inspiration, self-love, and the power that we each have as individuals. Music and poetry were infused in her life from an early age — she’s been writing and playing piano since she was eleven.
“Sometimes my writing process is random, repeating a word or a phrase as it comes to me.” Says Mel. “I write every day in my journal because I just feel like it helps me get comfortable and release. And when it comes to music, it always comes as a dump, popping into my head and I’m just the hand writing it down.” She draws more inspiration from people who are really good with lyrics: J. Cole, Solange, Erykah Badu, to name a few.
This past year has been a challenge that’s pushed her outside of her comfort zone — changing the way she presents her poetry, finding new ways to perform, and being comfortable on video. “I’ve learned to be with myself and find joy in that. I think us being stripped of things actually made me realize the more that I had and what I can do with what I have.” Her creative outlets have shifted and transitioned on their own from the start of quarantine, focusing more on recording than on poetry, hosting two podcasts, and meditating and growing in exciting new ways.
She started her podcast, Vow To Self, when she first moved to New York and was fresh into the healing process after her dad had passed away. “I was writing letters to him and writing things down to myself to remember and things to help me feel uplifted and loving.” From there, her writing and affirmations grew a following on Instagram, and Vow To Self was born. Her go-to affirmation at the moment: “I am present. I am in this moment.” Mel has also written a book, Brown Butter, that was the inspiration for her visual film, “Shades.”
“I feel like as a black woman, or just being a black person, sometimes there’s this association with the color brown or that in contrast to white it’s not good. So I just wanted to write a poem and a film that beautified brown. Within the black community there’s sometimes tension between the different shades of brown, and so I just wanted to have a song that included all of them, and kind of create more of a sisterhood.”
Magnificent, Mel’s most recent single, is also paired with a stunning and emotional music video. It’s a self-love poem, written as a reminder of her own magnificence, of all the things she is and can be. The film follows her day of self-care, doing all of the things that make her feel good, confident, and grounded.
Mel’s advice to other young artists? “Believe. Believe in that dream that you have, that small voice that you have that says, ‘Hmm, what if I did this?’ We act based on our beliefs so if we don’t believe it, we won’t do it, and it won’t happen.” Find more moving advice, daily affirmations, and stunning music from Mel Chanté in today’s listening room performance, and all over the internet.