‘Rather than look at differences let’s share our similarities,’ declares the cosmopolitan chanteuse, Melisa Le Rue. The glamorous but earthy Le Rue is an artist who embraces the world. It’s an energy that jumps in the grooves of Melisa Le Rue.
In just four tracks, ‘Lost Soul‘, ‘Let’s Go’, ‘Life Is Beautiful’ and ‘Unite’, Melisa’s expressive, sinuous voice leads us on a mini-trip through human nature and its capacity for renewal, from confrontation to release. Her sound is personal and open, always pulsing atop electro beats that are by turn subtle, moody, trip-hoppy and, in the case of ‘Let’s Go’, seriously high spirited.
Le Rue starts her record with confrontation – with others and oneself. In the forceful ‘Lost Soul’, a modern blues for alienation, she sings:
Lost soul hunt me down like a fox
I don’t watch the clock I don’t tick the box
Lost soul I hate these borders
I don’t take orders you can’t afford this
“I’ve never fit easily into a category,” says Le Rue. “It’s a good and a bad thing. It has elements of loneliness I guess, but also a sort of freedom, to belong everywhere and nowhere. Travelling around and meeting other mixed race nomadic types; I know a lot of people today can also relate to these feelings’.
From a lost soul to the zippy, breezy ‘Let’s Go’, Melisa playfully captures the thrill of letting go and seeking adventure. The song comprises of simple chords and a poppy bounce, with lyrics that are in parts cheeky- ‘do it al fresco in the sun’, as well as social critique to ‘the men in suits how they prostitute their souls to the city so they can buy pretty girls’; finally inviting us to transcend it all, ‘give birth to new experience, see the world and feel it’s essence’.
On ‘Life Is Beautiful’ with its shifting polyrhythms and a reference to Oscar Wilde’s famous quote that we are ‘all in the gutter but some of us are staring at the stars’, the track becomes an incantation to positivity.
The closing anthem, ‘Unite’, is the fruit of Le Rue’s collaboration with her label, Micheck Entertainment. They arranged for Grammy award winning group the Soweto Gospel Choir to add their distinctively deep, ringing harmonies, and the musical director Diniloxolo Ndlakuse went a step further and added Zulu lyrics to create a beautiful call and response style bridge section:
And when you fall, I fall Simunye (We are one)
‘It was an incredible experience, hearing one of the world’s greatest choirs sing on a song that had started out as a simple acoustic that Adam and I had written. We witnessed their strength and dedication to both God and music, seeing them pray before they started singing, and going with them to church and around their hometown Soweto. Knowing that the same choir were one of Nelson Mandela’s favourites… I still find it all quite hard to believe!’ Le Rue recalls.
The breadth of Melisa’s open-ness to the planet’s possibilities comes from childhood. Born to an English Quaker father and Filipino Catholic mother, they fostered teenagers including asylum seekers from Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, opening the musical child to experiences and sounds from across the world.
The beats and attitude come from the city that made Melisa – London, and her musical team including producers Colin Emmanuel and Adam Nicholas. Though she grew up in the West Midlands, Le Rue gravitated back to London, where she was born. While studying philosophy and sociology at the London School of Economics, she got involved in the London’s buzzing live music scene. In 2007, as part of the 12-piece collective Latin Dub Sound System, Le Rue was performing at some of the UK’s most popular music spots, from KOKO’s to Glastonbury. She also connected with soulful hip-hop artist Yarah Bravo, (Oneself/ Ninja Tune) and performed with her venues and festivals across London and Europe.
Then life and love intervened; Le Rue moved to Dubai and started to explore the new cultural crossroads of the Middle East. Working with The Fridge, a warehouse venue, music agency and cultural hub, positioned her within a grassroots creative community. Le Rue was busy singing jazz and soul as well as her own material. She found top collaborators, including Bulgarian producer/ keys player Stoyan Stoyanov, Syrian singer Zeina Aftimos, and her husband, Lebanese bassist Rami Lakkis; creating a regional buzz with appearances on FOX and Dubai One TV.
‘This is my debut – but I’ve been doing this a long time’, she laughs. ‘I just hope to create good music, and write songs that can uplift people, because we’re surrounded by so much negativity. We need more good energy. I’m just trying to push it out there.’
By Vivien Goldman