From singing in New York bars to Word's Top Female Singer in just a year.

She loves performing live and always succeeds in communicating with her

audiences to the point where they refuse to let her leave the stage

The child who lives her life on stage

by Phil Symes

"Gosh. Is that so? Wow. I'm so pleased. I can't wait to come over now."

Melanie was more than surprised when Disc informed her over the phone that readers had voted her World's Top Female Singer in this year's Valentine Awards.

"I didn't think I was that well known over there. I've only had one hit and not a lot of people have seen me in concert."

When you think about it the result is quite astonishing. This time last year when Lulu was being crowned pop's Miss World, Melanie was unknown to "the masses."

It wasn't until April and the release of "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)" that her name started to slowly become known. But even then not enough people admired her to give her a hit. It wasn't until "Ruby Tuesday" that thousands publicly proclaimed their love for her by placing her high in the chart. At the same time her "Candles In The Rain" album started selling well.

So it's really only within the last four months that Melanie has "gotten to the people," but during that short time she's really made an impression. Some could say, I suppose, the win is a fluke and only came about because she was in the chart at the time the poll took place. But I don't think that's so. All over the world Melanie is achieving similar success. And I'm sure after she's played a couple of live concerts here her acclaim will be even greater. A live concert by Melanie is not like any other concert. It's a state of mind; an experience. She has an incredible knack of communicating with every person in the audience and making them feel they're losing a good friend when she leaves the stage.

"At one concert I did, Carnegie Hall, the people rushed up to the stage as I was leaving and some were crying. One girl was crying, "Melanie, please don't go." It was really frightening and I started crying when I left."

Being able to sing to an audience is very important to her, and she explains:

"If all your living is done on stage your life depends on it."

Her aim when she goes out on stage is to make contact with the people; make everyone feel as though they know each other and they know her, and she invariably succeeds. The key to her success is her apparent total lack of self-confidence and audiences always feel very protective towards her. Even though she's been singing to audiences for a couple of years, and she's hardly ever had a rough time with an audience, she still feels nervous when she goes out on stage.

"I always have fears about going on - I never know what's going to happen. I get violently nervous and feel as though I'm going to be sick. In the studio it's really comfortable; everybody's smiling for me. On stage I can't tell whether they're smiling for me or not. But as soon as I have an audience listening the music just flows out of me."

She says the bigger the audience the more nervous she gets. And tells of the worst case of stage-fright she suffered:

"It was at Woodstock. I had to follow Ravi Shankar. And he got a standing ovation and they didn't want to let him go. There's nothing like going on after the audience doesn't want the person before you to leave. Oh God. I started crying. Looked up and said, "Please take me out of here. I don't want to be here anymore." I was scared of being in such a place - with so many people."

She says she prefers playing to a city audience because

"So far it's the cities that have been more exciting. Audiences in the country are more relaxed, which is nice, but I prefer frenzied audiences. I really feel that my audiences are city people."

She lives in the city and finds it offers her a lot of inspiration for her songs. She refers to "Citiest People" and "Uptown and Down" as two which she was inspired to write by her environment. She says she WOULDN'T live anywhere else.

"I like to go camping. I like the country, to have a couple of days away from the city, but I always have to go back. I think the city is the place where all the changes begin and I also feel that it is the most desperate place. If you're aiming for peace of mind the city's not the place to go. But if you want life the city's the place. I'm always getting new ideas from the buildings and the people."

Her main talking point at the moment is her new album "The Good Book", which she's just completed and is very happy with.

"On it I've done a Judy Collins song, "My Father", Dylan's "Sign In The Window", Phil Ochs' "Chords of Fame" and eight of my own songs. The track I'm most pleased with is "The Good Book" which I did with a folksy group, the Pennywhistlers. It's a very different sound and came off very well."

Other tracks on the album which should be released in Britain in April are "Babe Rainbow", "Saddest Thing", Nickel Song", "Isn't It a Pity", "You Can go Fishing", "Birthday of the Sun" and "The Prize".

"I didn't think it would turn out too well because I was rushed into it, but now listening to it I think it's as good as "Candles In The Rain", I hope everyone likes it.

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