Musician Melody McArthur offers some notes to aspiring Indigenous artists

Musician Melody McArthur.

by Deena Goodrunning

(ANNews) – Melody McArthur is an Indigenous indie musical artist who lives in Edmonton. Her music which spans a variety of genres has won multiple awards and many of her songs have charted on the Indigenous Music Countdown. In addition to creating music McArthur is also a lead cast member for the musical Bear Grease, which toured in Canada and the United States in 2022. McArthur embarked on her first solo live tour in 2022, where she performed at a couple sold-out shows. She is currently planning for her next live performance at the University of Alberta on January 27, 2023.

In an interview with Alberta Native News in January, McArthur spoke about her journey with music, and gave some advice for aspiring musicians.

McArthur said she grew up in a small hamlet in rural Alberta. McArthur is Nehiyaw, but she has family members who are Métis. This led to her attending Métis talent shows and festivals as a youth which is where she gained her first introduction to performance and audiences. When McArthur got older she attended the University of Alberta, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. At this time McArthur wasn’t taking any courses related to music. During her second last year of university she started to feel unwell in many aspects of her life.

“I came to the conclusion it was because I was not paying any attention to this creative side of me, this outlet that I used to use for expressing, right?” McArthur said. “And I had all these songs written; I had them in a journal and stuff. I just decided: I think now’s the time for me to take these songs to a producer and start working on them. And that’s what I did.”

The producer that McArthur sourced out was Tomas Brabec, from Octavo Productions. “He really helped me develop song writing and understanding the studio and production and distribution of my music. He helped me figure out how to take that music and put it on the Internet for people to access. So like iTunes – and I’m pretty sure this was even before Spotify became a thing but that’s kind of how I got my first initial starts [in music].”

Musical inspirations for McArthur span an eclectic range of genres because she listens to and likes all kinds of music. Shania Twain, Rihanna, Ariana Grande and Wu-Tang Clan are some of her musical inspirations. Dream collaborations of hers include Drake and Derek Miller.

McArthur explained that her music making process has changed over the years because her music style has also changed. She pointed out that developing her current style has taken a lot of trial and error and time. Her first album was a country album, but her current music is described on her website as pop-inspired R&B.

Initially McArthur started out making music with just her and her guitar. But, nowadays McArthur works with many different people who help influence and develop her sound. She said that when people step outside of their comfort zones and are willing to work with other people it can result in very interesting sounds.

A lot of the people that McArthur works with will create beats for her music or pitch beats to her that they already made. McArthur then creates melodies based off her chosen beats and from there a song will eventually form. She said that it helps with her inspiration to do activities like taking walks in nature while creating the melodies. “I tend to just hum all the melodies first, like creating the sounds of how the song will be sung or what kind of chords will be used here.”

McArthur gave three pieces of advice for aspiring Indigenous artists. She first explained that the entertainment industry in general is a very long game. “If you’re trying to be successful in your field, it is a business – and you are the business and it’s attached to your art. One of the best things you can do is networking, networking, networking and getting to know people and making sure that they know you and they know your art and they know your music.”

The next piece of advice McArthur had for artists was that they educate themselves, whether that means taking online courses, attending conferences or learning about and applying for opportunities like the Canada Music Incubator. McArthur attended the Canada Music Incubator program and she recommends it. “Don’t be shy,” she said. “Attend things – and the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become.”

McArthur’s third piece of advice was that artists do their inner work and work on their traumas and healing. “Work on your healing, because with success comes a lot of flak too and a lot of hard times and a lot of people that say whatever they want to you. That can be difficult to deal with.”

McArthur seeks to uplift the Indigenous community and to challenge systemic barriers. She said she really enjoys helping others. In addition to her musical career, McArthur also works as a contractor writing Gladue Reports for Alberta Justice.

McArthur offers an annual mentorship program, the Mason-Victor Mentorship. It’s a program that McArthur runs and it can be completed virtually or in-person. Past mentees of the program have been Lena Daniels, Mandee Rae and Harrison Villebrun who goes by the stage name BUNZ. Any Indigenous solo or duo act across Canada can apply for the mentorship.

During the mentorship McArthur aims to educate her mentees about the music industry and give them as much knowledge as she can. The purpose of the mentorship is to empower and encourage her mentees. It’s also offered at no cost.

McArthur will announce the mentorship on her social media this summer and she encourages artists to apply.

More information can be found about Melody McArthur at her official website or her Facebook page @Melody McArthur Music.

Deena Goodrunning is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.

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