Born: July 18, 1972 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
If you'd told Australian vocalist Melissa Forbes back in 1999 that in 2000 she would go to a Conservatorium to study jazz and contemporary voice, perform a Rick James song at her final recital and go on to graduate a University Medalist, she would have - in the words of Cole Porter - told you to get outta town! But that's exactly what happened to this former lawyer who'd let her dream of singing lie idle for almost a decade, before deciding that enough was enough.
During my time studying and then practising law, my only performance experiences were the Uni Law Review and the annual firm Christmas Parties. The thing was, I knew I performed much better on stage than I did on the receiving end of a contentious phone call from an opposing solicitor, says Melissa.
She finally plucked up the courage to audition for the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane, Australia after gentle prodding from her now husband, and was accepted. It was the first step towards a singing career.
Melissa was phenomenally successful at the Con. She won numerous awards, including the Conservatorium Medal for most outstanding undergraduate student, and received a standing ovation at her final recital, where she performed her own brand of jazz - a mix of jazz, soul and funk.
Melissa's influences range from Prince, Teena Marie, Sade and Rick James, to Chet Baker, Cassandra Wilson, Kitty Margolis, Ledisi, Rachelle Ferrell and Meredith D'Ambrosio. Whilst calling herself a jazz singer, Melissa is aware that it is a contentious label. Yes, she scats. Yes, she re-phrases. Yes, she re-interprets. She even writes her own songs. But her material is diverse.
When I first came to jazz I thought I had to jettison everything else I knew or felt about music. Growing up, I listened mainly to African-American music - soul and r 'n b - which was quite unusual for a white Catholic schoolgirl in a provincial town, let me tell you! But that was the music I loved. Ignoring that didn't feel right.
Now Melissa incorporates elements of soul, r 'n b, jazz and even folk into her sound. To provide an easy handle for people, she calls it soul jazz.
Melissa was awarded a Government grant to enable her to record her debut album, which is currently in the works. True to Melissa's musical philosophy, the album will cover a wide range of material, from Cole Porter to Michael Jackson. Her original material is quirky, intelligent, soulful and jazzified.
I've been writing for about a year now. It's definitely what I want to concentrate on in future. It seems so obvious, but I've realized that my true voice comes through in my own stuff.
She's been writing in collaboration with lyricist Jim Forbes, who also happens to be her husband. Sure, it's convenient! I say to Jim 'I'd like something here' and he seems to know just what is needed. He's also a lawyer, but like a lot of lawyers, he's got a few hidden talents.
Jim and Melissa are excited about Melissa's music and the future of their independent record label, Kitten Kong Records. I recently read a great definition of 'indie' by Bob Baker - Inspired, Non-traditional, Determined, Innovative, Empowered. That's us in a nutshell.