Recently, I was introduced to Melanie Winn, a Southern jazz singer who dazzles audiences weekly in her hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Ms. Winn is the owner of Lovey’s Jazz Café, a Christian venue, featuring delicious southern cuisine and a relaxing atmosphere. Come with me on the interesting journey I experienced as I became better acquainted with this versatile artist.
I started off by asking her about her early years.
“I am a native of Cincinnati, Ohio,” said Winn. “I have sung in the church all of my life. Although African American, I was raised Hebrew. I am the daughter of a musical Lifetime Achievement award-winning father Edward Hamner who sang with the legendary Golden Aires for over 40 years. My mother wasn’t a singer and was adamant about me and my siblings attending church. This is where I received my start and love for music.”
• E: “When did you know you wanted to be a jazz musician and what types of jazz do you prefer?”
“I was a ‘70s, ‘80s child growing up to Motown music when it was to me at its best’” Winn said. “Although my mother listened to gospel music faithfully, she allowed me and my siblings to listen to Motown music at the time. This is when it was safe to listen to different genres of music without a lot of the disturbing lyrics we hear in music today. In the sixth grade during music class, I remember my music teacher introducing the class to different styles of music. We listened to about five minutes of several different types of music. When we were introduced to the jazz music, I remember feeling the music coming from the speakers. I wanted more. Even as a child I knew what I heard was special. I didn’t know then what I was listening to but I wanted more. I began as a teenager listening to various types of music yet could not figure out why gospel music didn’t have what I heard in jazz. I listened to rock gospel, alternate gospel, and urban gospel—anything other than the traditional gospel music I grew up on. I listened not because I didn’t love traditional gospel music. I listened because I wanted variety. In the ‘80s I stumbled upon a group called Koinonia.
“This was the first introduction to Christian Jazz I encountered. I have been a lover of this genre ever since. I now had a place in which I belonged. When I would sing in church, my friends would say ‘Who are you singing to?’ So many people and friends would tell me that I sounded jazzy so I became defined by my listeners that was definitely my calling. My challenge was to do this yet sing for Christ.”
• E: “Exciting! I understand you recently established ‘Lovey’s Jazz Café.’ Please tell us more about that experience.”
“Lovey’s Jazz Café was an idea I’ve had and came to be several years ago,” said Winn. “For the first two years I reached out to several of my producer friends to help me find a path to getting my idea off the ground. Some said ‘you can’t have a Christian jazz venue without serving wine. Jazz goes with wine.’ One said ‘Christian jazz doesn’t exist.’ One of the producer’s finally said to me ‘Melanie the only way you are going to get your dream off the ground is that you have to do it yourself.’ Show us what you mean. This was a turning point for me.”
• E: “I also understand you feature a new band or musician every month. How do you discover local talent?”
“Most of the local talent reaches me through word of mouth from other previous musicians or through social media,” said Winn. “Ninety percent reach me through social media at our site. Lovey’s Jazz Café II or Lovey’s Jazz Café twitter.”
• E: “Have you ever performed with other renowned artists or is local talent more your thing?”
“I have performed with jazz artist Roland Greshem, Jr.,” said Winn. “He is a well-known Christian jazz guitarist and has performed here and abroad for over 30 years. I have sung on the same stage as Veronica Petrucci and Wess Morgan at the Bobby Jones’ Consortium of Gospel Music in 2012.”
E: “Who is ‘Lovey’s’ target clientele, and what makes it different from other cafes, i.e., what makes ‘Lovey’s’ so special?”
“Lovey’s target audience is to all music lovers; however, we want people to know that especially for the Christian jazz lover, our music venue is available to everyone,” said Winn. “Lovey’s is a Christian jazz venue dedicated to celebrating the gifts and talents of local Christian jazz musicians. We’re seeking to make a difference in our Middle Tennessee area as an alternative choice for jazz lovers and music lovers everywhere. This is a non-alcohol, nonsmoking event. In other words, this venue is family-oriented, so invite your family and friends for an enjoyable evening of great music and fun.”
• E: “So tell us, do you write your own music or do you employ someone else for that?”
“All of my songs are originals. I sing, write and create the melody for all of my songs. I did sing on a project titled ‘Soul Of The Matter’ where I did not write the songs yet sang five songs.”
• E: “What pitch is your voice, soprano or tenor, etc? And is your voice professionally trained or does your talent come naturally”
“I am an Alto vocalist. I have not taken professional voice lessons. I took one voice lesson during my early days of college. My gift comes naturally however I do believe taking professional voice lessons is not out of the question. As a vocalist this would be an asset to me. There is always room to grow and learn. I do plan to take lessons in the future.”
E: “Describe a typical day in your life, when you’re not working, i.e., how do you spend your leisure time?”
“When I’m not spending time at work, I am dedicated to my two sons at home,” said Winn. “I am a single mom and don’t have much time for leisure. From time to time I shop for small things, however I spend most of my time working and networking to find my next artist for Lovey’s.”
• E: “Any works in progress?”
“I am working on a new single titled ‘Closer To You.’ We’re hoping it will be finished this fall. I am currently working with Grammy nominated and Juno award winning producer Roger Ryan.”
• E: “Where do you see yourself five years down the road?”
“In five years I would love to have my own facility for Lovey’s Jazz Cafe and go into full time entrepreneurship,” she said. “At the present I am a student of Middle Tennessee State University planning to finish my Liberal Arts degree.”
• E: “What advice can you provide for other jazz musicians, especially our youth?”
“My best advice is to ‘do you.’ Everyone is made unique by God. Learn what you need to learn from others but maintain your individuality. Every musician that became great and well known became such because he or she did that one thing that no one else was doing.
“You have to believe in yourself. If you are waiting for someone to pat you on the back, you may never succeed. Know that God has your back and know that he believes in you. Just do you!”