Band Name: Sleuth

Person Interviewing: Melissa Condo

We caught up with Melissa from Sleuth for an interview on her latest Album and here’s how it went.. 

Sleuth is me, Melissa Francis, a female indie singer-songwriter from southwest Victoria, Australia. I am also a wife, a mum to 3 young kids, and a performance coach. Musically, my sound is best described as soul-driven – I write dark jazz and funk style music, often with trip-hop or electronic beats, and quirky alt-pop tunes. Lyrically I’m usually dark and bitter-sweet, exploring the various psychological perspectives from my own life.

As a song-writer I had a pretty big 2019, releasing my debut ten track original album ‘Umbra Anima’ in January, and also a collaborative funk album ‘Fly By Design’ in August.

Song name: Empty Room

Music Genre: Electronica

When I asked you to help me decide which of my songs to try and promote next, I remember that you described Empty Room as an ‘experience.’ That was a huge compliment for me to hear, because that’s exactly why I wrote it.

Empty Room takes the listener inside my personal journey to a time when I was feeling extremely frustrated and angry. I’d tried to convince a potential colleague that I was a decent person – they had openly condemned me to others, viewing me as competition, and had completely stonewalled me for months. Yet stupidly I’d kept trying, and kept getting shut down repeatedly in the face of their ‘solo show’.

I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see the same potentials that I could, or see that my intentions were good – the truth was of course that they just didn’t want to!

This song came from the ultimate realization that I couldn’t do anything about their lack of belief in my character or vision, despite having given up so much of myself to prove ‘there’s somehow sunlight breaking through’.

On a private note, I am someone who resonates strongly with the story of the Phoenix rising from the ashes, never destroyed by the fire, so much so that I have a huge Phoenix tattooed all over my back.

This song is for me as much a declaration of finally understanding the game that was being played, as much as a cathartic expression of rage, war, and victory.

Empty Room draws really vivid musical images for the listener. There are elements of decay, ennui, sadness and gloom initially – piano is used against a darker almost industrial electronic beat with distorted bass to show restrained feelings of anger and resentment. Whispers of shadows, and layers of harmony help to give greater dimension to the idea of a forgotten and lonely, bare room. Again piano is used over the trance progressions of the song as it develops to show the splashes of ‘sunlight’ dancing on a cold floor.

The chorus lyrics “I’ll light you up” is my defiant challenge to shine in spite of others’ insecurities. In life there will be some who hate you and who are intimidated by your brightness – so blaze all the more brightly.

I live in a coastal town in a South-West Victoria. As well as an administrative day job, I spend my time juggling writing with my hubby who is also a musician, and mothering my three young kids.

Who have been the most influential in your music and why? 

Artists like Jeff Buckley, Aretha Franklin, Trent Reznor, Tori Amos, Chris Cornell, Amy Winehouse, and Faith No More were huge influences on my music growing up. I think this was partly because of the way they used their voices as instruments, and also because of the emotional identification I had with what they were writing. The lyrical pictures were a bit quirkier than typical pop, and the sound was usually a bit edgier in most cases. It really appealed to my tastes as a listener and also a musician.

When did you know that this was the right path for you?  When I met my husband, who’s also a musician, and music stopped being something that I had to ‘compete’ with. My husband was very encouraging, and helped me celebrate being a ‘creative’ again, after I’d had quite a few years not playing music or writing anything. I’d say about 5 years ago I started believing in myself enough as a singer and writer – even though I’d been singing since I was about 3 years old!

What do you like most about what you do? 

I live that it’s genuine and authentic. There’s something about being able to live with passion and creativity everyday that’s just indescribably fulfilling. I will never stop now!

What do you most hope to accomplish with your influence? 

I love that my kids get to see me following my dreams and producing art in the world. Some people that have heard my album as complete strangers have shared with me how my songs have made them feel – that is a huge compliment to me to know that what I’ve written and sung has resonated with people. If I can just keep writing like that, then that is the greatest measure of my success for me – that I am authentically being seen and heard and can share through my music.

What is the biggest obstacle you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle I’ve faced has been trying to force my way into a scene – I have a self-belief that sometimes gets in the way of practicality. I tried for about 3 years to get recognized by local circles musically – and it was really hard work and a constant uphill struggle against egos, and lots of other things. I have learnt the hard way that some battles are not worth fighting, and that the best approach in a lot of ways is to sit back and let those closest to you (who have preconceived ideas of you already) change their mind in their own time.

So I took what I was doing elsewhere, to people that were prepared to receive it on my terms – and was so much more fulfilled that way! And amazingly, the more localized bookings have now come, and my summer is looking crazy! It’s an old saying ‘you catch more flies with honey’… it’s taken a while but I’ve finally learnt that I think!

What do you want people to remember most about you and your career?
Lots of things I guess!

That I was genuine and authentic. That what they heard was fearless and real, as well as vulnerable.

What are you most looking forward to this next month? 
The start of all my summer gigs at the end of November! It’s going to get really crazy from then, so right now I am rehearsing and also writing my 3rd album. I’m hoping I can get it planned out so that next April after all the summer stuff is over, I can get it recorded properly, and released shortly after that.

Website & social media links:
Instagram: @sleuthmusic11
Twitter: @sleuthmusic1