AS SEEN IN GUITAR GIRL MAGAZINE ISSUE 6
Melia Maccarone is proving that her native Rochester rocks. Or, more specifically, indie rocks.
Though young, this guitarist and singer-songwriter from western New York has had quite the career; she was dubbed the named Best Female Rock Artist at the Indie Music Channel Awards in 2013, where she also received nominations for Best Rock Song, Best Rock Recording and Best Rock Video.
Photo by Ray Enzinna
Within just a few short years of embarking on her career in music, Melia has established herself as one of the most in-demand and recognizable female musicians on the indie rock scene today. For starters, her albums Soundproof Walls (2011) and Skeletal Remains (2015) were met with great approval. She’s even collaborated with the likes of The Offspring, Eve 6, Our Lady Peace, Twenty-One Pilots, Puddle of Mudd, Steve Vai, and Lita Ford.
What’s so appealing about her music? Well, a lot. It’s grungy, dark, fun, and furious. It’s hard to describe and easily indie – that’s what makes her unique. Her latest song, “Charge Like a Bull,” is a perfect example of what Melia continues to deliver: hard-hitting, punchy lyrics with some fiery shredding techniques. On her newest song, she tells us, “I wrote “Charge Like A Bull” because I was increasingly tired of people taking my kindness for weakness. I felt many people were trying to take advantage of me or put me down at the time. It’s about standing up for yourself and not letting people walk all over you. “
There’s no doubt that Melia rocks. But what many aren’t aware of is her business sense. Melia makes and sells her own jewelry on her website and Etsy (search “Melia Unstrung”), crafting the pieces out of her used guitar strings. Not only does she have fun doing it, but the proceeds go towards funding her next album. Leveraging creativity to fund creativity perfectly complements her individuality, her “do-it-yourself” approach to music, and her outlook on the mainstream music industry.
Tell us a little about when you first became interested in the guitar?
Well, I wanted a guitar, and my parents got me a guitar from Target I played it, but I wanted to do it the right way. I’m just that way, I’m super picky about stuff. I wanted to have lessons and not have bad form by teaching myself. I had been begging them and begging them for two years. I think they made me wait because they weren’t sure if I was serious. Lessons are expensive, so they just waited it out, and I just had to keep harassing them for two years. They finally got me lessons.
Do you recall that first guitar from Target?
Oh, yeah I think it was something ridiculous. I can’t even remember the name of it. It was really cheap, but it was fun. I just wanted to play, and I was just excited to play it. But all I really wanted – really, really wanted was lessons. Once I started taking lessons, I ended up getting an Epiphone. I eventually saved up enough money to get my first Gibson, which is my go-to one that I have now. It’s been awesome. I love guitar. Music has really saved me in a lot of ways. Now I have all of my guitars, and it’s made a big difference in my life. It’s so funny how big of a difference it is between the quality and finding my niche in terms of what I like and what I fit in. I really fell into the Gibsons and like Gibsons a lot.
Did you start on electric or acoustic?
Electric first and then I moved over to acoustic in my training. I do have a classical that I worked a little bit on. I kind of went through all the different genres with my training. I eventually had to get some other guitars so I can play different styles.
Today, if you want to sit down and just play, just to relax and unwind, what’s your go-to guitar?
I would say either my Gibson or my Taylor acoustic. I write a lot of my music on acoustic first, so a lot of times if I’m just sitting around either writing or just kind of messing around, I’m usually on my acoustic. Then if I really want to do a lot of lead stuff, a lot of shredding, then I would use my Gibson. It depends on what I’m doing that day to relax.
When you talked about music having saved you or having to get you through hard times. Is that reflected in your music?
Yeah, I think so. A lot of the Soundproof Walls EP I had written when I was just starting out, so I had only been playing guitar for probably a year at that point when I started writing. I was bullied when I was younger, and some of those songs were written then. I think that it reflects in my music today because I think being bullied sticks with you. I do a lot of writing, and I think that I don’t know if I consciously think of it until it passes – you know after in reflection I can see in my lyrics kind of what I was writing about. One of my first songs was “Counterclockwise,” and it was definitely about bullying and feeling like an outcast. Soundproof Walls is similar. I had a lot of outlets to go to, and I ended up going to music. That’s where a lot of my anger might come out, or frustration or feelings come out.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s going through that?
It’s tough. Personally, I really needed music. But I think everybody is a little different; some people go through tough times and they either use outlets like sports or art or writing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be music. I wrote poetry before I started music. But I think everybody has to go through that awkward stage in life where you’re trying to figure out how to get through things alone. In some ways, everybody ends up finding their passion in dark times because you become emotionally connected to something. It could be anything, but for me, it was definitely music. I feel like if I didn’t have that to just listen to, I would have had a much harder time.
What is your songwriting process? How do you go about approaching a song?
I like when it comes to me naturally. I think those are the best ones. I rarely sit down and am methodical about it. Usually, a song comes to me when I’m driving, when I’m in the shower, or when I’m trying to sleep, and I can’t. Usually, it’s at night, something will come into my head, whether it’s a melody or even sometimes I just think of a phrase. I’m like, “Oh I would like to use that phrase.” I’ll write it down and then when I do get a melody in my head. I go back to the little phrases or lyrics that I’ve written down. A lot of times it’s just writing down lyrics or ideas and then when I get a melody in my head, I go back and go through it. Or sometimes it comes all together, to be honest with you. Which is kind of nice. Like Soundproof Walls. I had the idea Soundproof Walls for a song, but the rest of the lyrics formed themselves naturally once I start getting the melody in my head.
You’ve mentioned before that you would practice for up to eight hours daily. What’s your regimen like these days?
When I was younger and in school, I would practice two hours to three hours a night. Then on the weekends, I would try to do four hours and then when summer came, I did like a whole methodical list. “Okay, I’m gonna start at six in the morning and go until six at night.” I would teach at night or I would teach on the weekends. I was kind of adjusted around my schedule. But now that I’m working full-time, so it’s a lot harder to do. However, I do try to get at least a couple of hours of practice in. I think if I were to include all my writing with it, it’s at least three hours a day.
What’s your full-time job?
I teach at a school and privately in my spare time. I also have an accounting job. I try to stay as busy as I can between all of my jobs, including making jewelry.
What’s the most important lesson or tip that you give your students?
I just make sure they’re reading music, having fun, and enjoying it. A lot of times, I have parents that want me to get tough with their kids to make sure they take lessons seriously. Unfortunately, this approach ends up turning them off to music, so I try to have an even balance of work and play. I had a really mean flute teacher when I was younger. I quit because she was just too nasty. I try to be as nice and fun and compassionate, but mix a lot of the real work in. Otherwise, you’re just not gonna get better if you don’t do it the right way and you don’t work at it.
Where are you performing these days?
I’m still performing and going to New York and New Jersey. My next show is at a place called Roxie’s. I’ve been playing around more in New Jersey and New York City. I went to Toronto for a little bit and trying to go as much as I can around here while I can with just bringing my band.
Tell us about your band.
I’ve got Jimmy Whitaker on guitar, Angelo Merak on bass, and Eric Wheater on drums. They’re really amazing people to work with. I write songs, they play them as is. We all have a lot of fun with covers and just being on the road is a lot of fun with them. I’m really grateful for them. Obviously, musicians aren’t the richest people in the world. If I had a lot of money, I’d love to bring everybody to Europe and just tour Europe. That would be my end goal. But right now, we’re just traveling all over the East Coast.
Are you currently recording any new music?
I am writing for my third EP, and I’m hoping to get back in the studio soon. I just want to mention that Skeletal Remains was really special because I ended up doing it at the Magic Shop, which is in New York City. It was featured on the documentary “Sonic Highway” Actually, Bowie’s last album was done there. When I was recording Skeletal Remains, Bowie was there two weeks later. It was really special that he was there. My producer, Kevin Killen, actually worked on his album and won a Grammy for it. He worked on Skeletal Remains. It was just a special time because I had never been in that studio. There are just so many legends who walked through there, and Kevin was just so fun to work with. For being a Grammy award-winner and having worked with Peter Gabriel and Shakira, he was the most down-to-earth producer I’ve ever worked with. I would love to work with him again.
Any advice you would give to anyone, particularly young girls, wanting to break into the music industry?
Just make sure you really stand your ground and go for it. Anything that you want to do in life, you’ve gotta just go for it. You can’t be afraid to fail. There will be ups and downs. Try not to listen to anybody trying to bring you down. It’s just like anything in life really. I think being a girl makes it hard. With certain things, like with the MeToo movement, it’s a great movement. It’s gonna help a lot of young girls that are entering the music business or any sort of work environment. Know what you deserve, don’t ever sell yourself short.
Melia Maccarone Guitar Gear
Epiphone Les Paul Standard Blk
Gibson Les Paul Custom Purple Widow
Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverburst
Gibson Flying V White
ENGL Powerball 2 head
ENGL Pro 2×12 cab
ENGL Z9 Footswitch
BOSS / TU-3 tuner
MXR /Analog Chorus
EarthQuaker Devices /Afterneath
EarthQuaker Devices /Space Spiral
Voodoo Lab /Power Plus 2 power supply
GHS Boomers 10,11,12
Sinister Guitar Picks – Melia Signature med blk/purple
Spectraflex Cables Purple
Editor’s Note: Since the publishing of this interview in Issue 6, Melia has recently been endorsed by PRS Guitars. Read about the endorsement in the press release.