Interview By Maya Carpenter
Tony-award winning and Grammy nominated artist, Melba Moore, knows a thing or two about what it takes to maintain longevity in the music business and overcome struggles. Her story was recently featured on Unsung as audiences watched the climactic turn of her career in music. The multitalented singer has a new single and an upcoming album called “Forever Moore.” After returning from the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival where her one-woman show “Still Standing,” was featured. Ms. Moore was nice enough to take time out of her busy schedule to share just a smidge of what her life is like these days. Check out what she has to say about the future of R&B music. Stay tuned.
Music Industry Changes
BrownVintage: Ms. Moore, thank so much for agreeing to do this interview. Let me start off by saying you are a legend in this business. How has the music industry changed for you?
Melba: For me, I kind of had to look at it from a business point of view, which means the whole world has to look at everything. You are part of the industry or economy, and if you don’t understand how that works, then your part kind of gets left out or misused or not used at all. People don’t realize it is an industry, and it’s a business because we market so much, we promote so much—We have to. We only show you what we want you to see. People say why doesn’t that person do well they are so talented. It’s because we have no clue that the business part is a talent too.
Melba: A whole new industry has spun. That’s different. Before you might hear the most popular song from one genre or another in a major department store but now they all have their own selections that they play. As I’m revamping myself, and saying gee if I wasn’t a legend, I could make a living doing a song played only in certain areas. That would be my market. I have my niche already made. My concern is to continue to build on it—to revive what may be broken, or rusty or not used and see what my part of the industry would allow me to do right now. And in that sense, I think it’s broken down now, and I will call it the independent.
Melba: And everybody kind of knows what that means. It’s more difficult in some ways because everybody is an expert—how do you tell the good from the bad. But I think since the audience is supposed to be the boss it’s up to them anyway.
BrownVintage: That’s true, and I know a lot of artists are taking that independent route now. Taking it and doing their thing. I know you have your own label so for you, with the change of the business, how important was it for you to establish and make that a platform?
Melba: It’s really important because if I don’t establish, protect and keep what I’ve done, I’m no better than the person who is just starting out.
BrownVintage: hmmm, yeah.
Melba: Even if you never heard my work before, if its presented with a person who’s brand new, I should at least be as good quality as they are whether it be in appealing to the audience because sometimes having the highest form of music or the most complicated or the most sophisticated is not what the race is about—sometimes it’s communicating to them, maybe on the simplest level. Whatever it is I better be able to do that because artists are playing just like me, and it’s not unfair so I have to compete. It might make it more difficult for someone who has a platform already or perhaps they have to build it again and now you got to start with everybody else. Since I know a few things, I should be able to do things more expeditiously. I should be able to not make so many mistakes as maybe some people coming out right now. I should be able to go back and reacquaint myself with those who already know me. There are a few things that I can do that a newcomer doesn’t know to do that yet.
Plays & Musicals
BrownVintage: You’ve actually had a very extensive acting career. Do you think you would ever mix the two like you’ve done in the past?
Melba: Well, I just got back from the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, and they gave me the theatre legend award. My play “Still Standing: The Melba Moore Story,” actually was the star of the festival so two things are happening, black theatre is blossoming.
BrownVintage: Yes, it is.
Melba: It hasn’t even begun to explode. Only within the last 10 to 15 years are we really starting to blossom and producing as well as telling our own stories. Compared to how many black people there are and how many stories there, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I’ve been developing this thesis—it’s my autobiography from the last 10 years. Now there is a market for it so I was a little ahead of the curve.
Melba: You don’t think I’m going to do a play without music do you?
Melba: So I’m saying I’m following the steps of Tyler Perry. My cultural background is different from Tyler Perry’s so my theatrical experience with people is going to be different but it’s the same between Aretha and Mariah Carey.
They are both different but they are going to both give you their songs.
BrownVintage: Ah, this is true.
Melba: So I don’t have to wait until someone auditions me or creates a piece for me to go to Broadway. I can do it myself now.
BrownVintage: And that’s what most people are doing. Because you have that creative freedom to do what you want instead of hearing from so many different voices saying what you should or what you shouldn’t do.
Melba: What I’m getting at is God is putting more information into the world.
Cultures are right on top of each other and right next to each other. We don’t have the distance between each other that we had before. We have the internet that connects us. You can pick and choose as far as audience is concerned. You also have direct contact with your potential market and you have access to developing that market. Doesn’t mean everything is going to be perfect.
Melba: I got to say TVOne has been very helpful to me. I wasn’t one of those who were able to come out with a big book or big movie about my life. Mine went another way. But, because Unsung has been on, there’s not another show like that, and I think there have been other biographies but not the way they’ve done them so people are gravitating toward it and of course it’s another new African American channel. Once again where we have control and complete say so in how we tell our own stories and we pay for it.
TV One’s “Unsung”
BrownVintage: Exactly, and that’s key. You’re Unsung was incredible. I have to say there are so many new things that I wish I knew about you before.
Melba: And I want to say Thank you to Cathy Hughes and the whole network because it made people interested. Not just to feel sorry or to feel happy because a lot of it sometimes sounds like a novel or fairytale rather than real life or they are kind of encouraged to go one way or the other rather than gain a keen interest.
New Album: Buzz & Expectations
BrownVintage: That’s true. Well, I do want to talk about your new album. I want you to tell us a bout the album and what to expect.
Melba: Well, I’m the executive producer and once again this is the first time that I will be in charge of everything, which means that I don’t have a record company or a big team to go out and get the producers and the songwriters. I don’t have a huge budget to sit in the studio to get it right, and I’ve never done it before so I have to go at my pace so I can learn as I grow so I can still stay in charge of my project because it’s really important for me to do that. Not so much as an artist, but as a human being. At a certain point, you have to be the grown up that’s in charge of your life.
BrownVintage: Very true.
Melba: I can’t do it like the big record companies do because they’ve already been through the pace and they know how to get the executive team together.
I have the first song it’s called “Love Is.” I’m also working with Dominic McFadden, who is the son of Gene McFadden of the team, McFadden and Whitehead, and I’m finishing a single with them called “How Can I Survive?” And it’s just really hard core—just sweeeeet R&B.
BrownVintage: And that’s what I’m talking about! I love it! What’s the inspiration behind your new single, “Love Is?”
Melba: My daughter brought me this song. I hadn’t spoken to my ex-husband in 15 years and, any kind of communication I had with him was through my daughter. I wasn’t looking for a song like that but it was interesting that she heard this song, and he [ex-husband] thought this is who I really was.
BrownVintage: That’s very powerful.
Melba: I don’t want to sing who killed somebody or who’s sleeping with somebody. I need to sing inspirational songs. They don’t have to be religious but they have to be positive.
R&B’s New Direction
BrownVintage: I think that’s what’s missing with R&B music. There needs to be a message and some inspiration behind what you’re singing. R&B has taken a different direction. How do you feel about R&B today?
Melba: I think what has to happen is people like myself, have to learn the business part of it and become successful at it so you hear it so you buy it and it has impact.
BrownVintage: So you’re saying they need to learn the business aspect first?
Melba: Well, that’s my position, and I’m saying that because I believe I’ve been faithful to God and He wants me to be successful. I’m looking gorgeous and on top of the world, and I’m out there with everybody else going to the same show as everybody else. I’m singing positive music and my music is at least as popular as theirs. God created all these avenues. It’s how we use them. If we believe that they should be positive are not doing what’s necessary to make it popular then how can we complain?
BrownVintage: hmmm. That’s a good point.
Melba: The avenues are there.
BrownVintage: They are. Artists are just not using it.
Melba: I know I’m not. I’m trying to be patient with myself. I’m getting the strategies and the monies and everything together. That’s what I’m working on.
BrownVintage: And we are glad to know that, which leads me to ask this question. If you had to do it all over again, would you?
Melba: I would do it all over again because I really feel I’m where God wants me to be. You’re not going get there without falling, without shame, without scandal—not if you follow Him. I’m trying to change my perspective since I’m given longevity.
Expectations for New Album
BrownVintage: Share with fans what they should be expecting for your upcoming album.
Melba: From the way it’s going now, I’m hoping by this spring. They can visit my website at www.melbamoore.com. I’m gearing up for a couple of TV shows. One is called “Instant Mom” on Nick at Nite and the other for the Disney network.
BrownVintage: Do you have any advice for other artists who are trying to reinvent themselves and artists who want to follow the path of R&B?
Melba: I know there is soul radio and satellite stations that play all the classic music, and I think the way to do it is to listen to them and be inspired by the ones who’ve touched you and mimic them. That’s what they’re there for. Learn from them. Start to compose yourself. Form your own band or your own group. And see what you can bring into this era. People do the same thing with any genre.
BrownVintage: Who are some of your favorite artists?
Melba: I’m amazed at R. Kelly’s ability to write, write, write and of course his singing is incredible. Mariah Carey. Mary J Blige. I can go on, we got a lot—we have a lot of great talent. I should qualify that too because a lot of it[music] is just soft porn in terms of content but people are just very talented, and I just hope to have people like you to continue to encourage us to use it for entertainment and recreation and just inspiring each other.
BrownVintage: This has been great! Thank you for speaking with me.
Melba: I appreciate you too. I understand the power of you connecting us to audiences.
BrownVintage: Happy to put the positive energy out there.
Follow Melba on Twitter @MelbaMoore1
Listen to Melba’s latest single “Love Is,” right here