What is Country music?
For Melissa Ratley, that’s an easy question. It’s songwriting and singing. It’s simply playing for friends and family, or performing in front of a crowd, no matter the size or setting. Once you hear Melissa’s voice for the first time, you’re instantly reminded of neotraditional voices like Reba and Wynonna Judd, along with Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, and Kathy Mattea, and you can hear the songwriting influence of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Deana Carter in her songs. As Melissa puts it, music is power, drive and creating a symbiotic relationship with the audience.
Born in San Ramon, California, Melissa didn’t take long becoming a Texas girl when her family relocated to Dallas Ft. Worth two months later. After graduating high school in Carrollton, she thought she’d bring a little Texas to Ole Miss before eventually hearing the Red Dirt calling her back. She finished her college at the University of North Texas where she spent years pursuing another passion: radio. After some time as a DJ at a local Texas Country station, Melissa realized she should be behind a different microphone; her life belongs to the guitar, pen, and paper. Creating music has always been a part of her life. Melissa started tinkering with songwriting at the age of six; at that age she performed for her first time in front of others besides her mom and dad, playing a mess of chords at the 1st grade talent show for about two minutes. Songwriting didn’t become a serious passion of Melissa’s until she turned 16.
On Melissa's debut album from 2015, 'A Lonely View', a strong songwriting effort and neotraditional Country melodies are present throughout. The debut single, 'Say You'll Stay', featuring J.R.Byrd, features solid steel guitar and a hook that leaves you wanting more. 'The Outside' and 'Just Like Us' were co-written by Melissa's long-time friend and writing partner from her days at Ole Miss, Caroline Schmitz. Tracks like 'Alone' and 'Where We Are' take you back to the days where simple melodies, met with words that reach your core, meant something to every listener. The album debuted to a sold-out crowd at Dan's Silver Leaf in Denton, TX, and allowed her to strengthen her touring muscle both acoustically and with her band, throughout the country for two years.
According to Melissa, songwriting is a craft; it’s a muscle that needs to be stretched and exercised. Where others may find comfort or therapy in things like listening to music, Melissa does by putting pen to paper and watching the music come alive.
Melissa is independently releasing a new EP, titled 'These Moments' on May 31st. The title eludes to moments that have occurred in Melissa's life in the last few years - and some she's experienced through others eyes. Four out of the five tracks were fully written by Melissa; 'Fast and Free' was co-written by Melissa and Caroline Schmitz back in 2015, and tells the story of someone who wants to leave what they know behind, because they've done all they can to grow in their own town. For both Melissa and Caroline, it's quite autobiographical; Melissa quit her full-time job in 2017 to pursue music as her only full-time job, and Caroline left her home state of Mississippi for the first time in 2016 for Nashville, TN. 'Taken' refers to the moments when you're with someone who ignites a passion just by their presence. 'I Fall' is a self-deprecating tune written by Melissa, in the style of a two-step, on how relationships aren't exactly easy in her world. 'Can't Start Again' reflects on the parts of a relationship that were left behind by a significant other that don't make sense anymore, since that person left. The final track on the EP, 'Hard Livin'', is an ode to the moments that continue to bear weight on your mind, but are ultimately no good to continue dwelling on, in order to move on.
Many miles have been traveled, and many more will be conquered in the coming weeks, months, and years, but Melissa will always hold these things as a constant: “I want my songs to affect other people, to provoke thought. I want the audience to believe in what’s said. I don’t want to be just another face on a magazine cover, or a song that never get’s played. I want people to remember me. I want to relate to people and them to me. I’m human, I’m bound to error. This is a way of processing my life.”
Copyright 2016 Melissa Ratley. All rights reserved.