Melanie Faye: From Guitar Hero to Guitar Heroine

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Photo by Marcus Maddox

AS SEEN IN GUITAR GIRL MAGAZINE ISSUE 6

Melanie Faye was born to play guitar. Residing in Nashville, she first picked up the guitar when she was 11 years old, and in just a short amount of time has gained notoriety on the R&B scene and has caught the attention of the industry.  

Photo by Marcus Maddox

Melanie garnered such attention after a video of her guitar skills went viral last year. Since then, she has played with artists such as Noname and Mac Demarco and was a featured artist at the NAMM Show. She’s also been recognized by major R&B artist SZA. Not only that, but she performed at the Ryman Auditorium (something many of us only dream about) and is now embarking on her first tour beginning in 2019. 

She was recently featured on the Fender website, demonstrating the “comfort and playability” of the Player Series Stratocaster where she tells us, “It’s a really smart buy for anyone looking for their first Stratocaster,” she says. 

Needless to say, she’s made a lot of progress in her 20 years. 

Yet it’s Melanie’s start as a guitarist that is truly unique, and emblematic of a fresh generation of guitar players. Her first “unofficial” guitar was an electronic game controller, which she used to interact with the music rhythm video game Guitar Hero. A passion for the instrument was sparked, as she’s since been driven by music. 

With a unique style, look, and genuine approach to music creation, Melanie is an emerging artist to keep your eye on. 

I read where you started out playing guitar on Guitar Hero before getting your first real guitar. I’ve interviewed several guitarists lately that started that very same way. What drew you to that game and the guitar? 

The sound of the music and the accessibility of the game. The guitar-shaped controller made me feel so enabled to start playing guitar. 

What music inspired you at the time you first began playing guitar? 

The music on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock inspired me when I first started playing guitar. At the same time, I was very obsessed with R&B and pop music, especially Mariah Carey, but was unaware I could play that sort of music on guitar. I thought one could only play rock, metal, blues, or country on a guitar. So, I sourced all of my inspiration from guitar music. 

Attending a performing arts school in Nashville gave you a very good foundation in jazz guitar. Can you share with us that experience? 

We did a lot of ear training at that school. So, I have a strong ear for music. I almost exclusively use jazz chords, but I still wouldn’t consider myself a jazz musician. Because of studying at that school, I came to the realization that R&B chords, neo-soul chords, and gospel chords are all using the same chords: jazz chords. When I found that out, I was able to play the music I grew up on and identified the most with. I also learned the history of guitar and modern music. A lot of seemingly different genres overlap and use a lot of similar structures because they’re stemming from the same source of music. For example, math rock and R&B are both stemming from jazz ideas and structures. The reason the genres sound so different is largely due to the visual perception as well as the role of the instruments in the music. 

Let’s talk about some of your guitars. What was your first guitar? 

My first guitar was an $80 ¾ size dreadnought acoustic I bought from the Music & Arts store. It was loud and smelled nice. 

When you decided you were serious about pursuing music and the guitar, what did you look for in a guitar as far as quality, comfort, and tone? 

I was always serious about pursuing music and guitar. I look for an effortless feel. I don’t like to fight my guitar like David Gilmour or SRV. 

What about amps and pedals? 

I like the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amplifier, and I like Jim Dunlop pedals. 

Do you have a “go to” guitar when you want just to sit and relax and play – no stress, no practice? 

I like my Fender American Professional HSS Stratocaster. 

You’ve had the fortune in your short career to work with some wonderfully talented artists. How do some of those collaborations come about? 

All of my collaborations come from social media. I just hit up whoever I want to work with via direct message, and we work out the logistics, and that’s it. 

Jamming with other musicians, covering other artists, and writing your own music, what inspires your choice of music?  

I guess I just do what feels right. I don’t think too hard about it. 

For your original music, what’s your songwriting process? 

It depends. I usually come up with a chord progression and a main melody on my guitar. 

What music are you listening to today? 

I listen to a lot of music. I’m trying to listen to the music of the artists of today and the artists that follow me. 

I’ve read comments on social media where followers say you inspire them to become a better guitar player. Did you ever think you would become a role model at 20 years old, and what would you tell them is key to becoming a better guitar player? 

I did expect to be successful but didn’t know when it would happen. The key is that there is no key. Just practice and keep being receptive to learning from others. 

On the Fender video we talked about earlier, you talked about advice and you mentioned being prepared for ups and downs and how you literally put blood, sweat, and tears into playing guitar. What’s the best piece of advice you would like to share with our readers who might be considering a career in music? 

I actually just started my professional career last year, so I’m a beginner trying to figure out the ins and outs of the business. So, I guess my advice is to be patient and pay attention and be consistent. 

Can you tell us about your upcoming EP Homophone, what we can expect to hear and when it might be released? 

You can expect to hear some nice jams, and I expect to release it in early 2019.  

Melanie Faye’s Guitar Gear 

Fender American Professional HSS Strat 
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III 
Fender 68 Custom Twin Reverb 
Fender Mustang PJ Bass 
D’Angelico Excel DC 
1979 Epiphone Genesis 
Various Jim Dunlop Pedals

 

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