In conversation with Melissa Endean
If you are anything like me (read: near my elderly age) you probably equate feminism with Gloria Steinem and/or Gloria Bunker-Stivic (all in the family) with a bit of Billy Jean King mixed in for good measure. Thankfully many more women and men have taken up the torch in recent times, shedding light in dark corners where human rights are sadly still lacking, even here in North America. Stepping up to shine her own light on violence against women, is top 20 Peak Performance finalist, Melissa Endean.
If you know our history, you know Ms. Endean is a Raver from way back, and wow we’ve had some times! Now I am super thrilled to be writing this for her in hopes that you will check out her new music and look into supporting her cause. It is a true artist that can use their powers for good, and I always ask the question; “Is it an artist’s responsibility to use their voice or fame to speak up about injustice?” and with Melissa, the answer always comes back a loud and resounding “YES!”.
I was fortunate enough to squeeze in a few questions during this busy Peak prep time (video recording, benefit planning etc etc), so Melissa – thanks for finding some time to chat! First off, I am super curious about Boot Camp, which all the top 20 artists have to attend. I watched on Twitter and Facebook, and wow, it looked just like summer camp, but cool and with music! What were best and worst parts for you?
No problem! Yes, the best part of the Peak Boot Camp was meeting so many amazing people who are working towards the same things in the music industry; who are doing the same things. There was an instant connection among all of us- we instantly became this insanely happy, dysfunctional family! With so many artists in one spot, you’re going to have a lot of strong & quirky personalities, and it was amazing because everyone just embraced that. I think we all got to be our truest selves at the camp, and it was amazing. The worst part was definitely saying goodbye and knowing that these people that I grew to care so deeply for are now also in competition with one another-and that sucks, because I really and truly want each and every one of the top 20 artists to succeed. That being said, I think all of us have just fallen in love, and we’re all rooting for each other and will place the friendships we’ve made far and above the ‘competition’ aspect- and I think that says a lot as to who these people truly are.
I mentioned off the top a few names that I equate with feminism. It’s a heavy subject that I know some people would just like to wish away, like anything heavy, I guess it can make people uncomfortable, especially when they believe to be a feminist means you have to ‘hate men’. I know you are really working hard to shine your spotlight on the topic of violence against women on your Peak Performance platform, so give me your best and worst of this aspect of your life; being a modern day feminist in our climate of ever evolving gender roles.
Hmm, well I think the best part about being a feminist is waking up every morning knowing that for every terrible thing I hear on the news, for every heartbreaking moment of oppression that we encounter, these things are being counteracted by this amazing movement, fronted by the most amazing people who are fighting each and every day for the equity of all oppressed groups. I am surrounded by people who have devoted their lives to fighting injustice- which is an incredibly powerful and brave thing to do- and to be able to consider myself a friend of these people, who I have the utmost respect and admiration for- it’s just a huge honour. The worst part of being a ‘feminist’ is having people assume that I am angry at the world (and at men!) because of my beliefs- I’m actually an incredibly optimistic and happy person! What people don’t understand is that as a feminist, I am angry at systems of oppression, NOT men, and that I believe in the true equality of ALL people, regardless of gender, race, religion, body type, ability/disability, sexual orientation…the list goes on.
Well said. I’m curious to know if this label has influenced your song writing in any way. How you write songs, or the content of your songs; I can recall getting emails with mp3s attached of songs you wrote in your dreams, do you still do that or are your songs and especially your lyrics written with more direction now? How has it affected your voice as an artist, carrying such a heavy flag in front of you?
Interestingly, my songwriting process has not changed at all since coming out as a feminist. Actually, a number of the songs I am playing now were actually some of the first songs I ever wrote. The difference is that now I have the courage to play them. When I first began performing my songs publicly (at a tiny little open mic in Kamloops!) ALL of my songs were highly political- and it was my goal then to be an artist who talked about social justice issues in my music. But after moving to Vancouver, and really trying to break in the music industry, I developed a real fear of being seen as “too political” or of isolating myself by talking about subjects perceived as “taboo”. I was also really closeted and not fully comfortable with embracing my identity as an LGBTQ community member or a feminist, so I sat on some of these songs for a long time. Now that I’m older (and hopefully wiser!), and with the support of some really amazing communities behind me, I’m confident enough to know exactly where I stand as an artist. The only thing that has changed in my songwriting now is that I am writing from the heart, writing for myself, instead of trying to “sound” like someone else or be someone else. And I still write songs in my sleep, in the shower, on the street….all the time, I’m one of those weird people who is constantly writing. It’s a bit annoying really. Lol.
Ok, let’s take a break from heavy and get a bit lighter with some Melissa Endean triva. When are you happiest?
I’m happiest when I am speaking about social justice issues and I am happiest when I am able to do that through music. Just in the course of this project, I’ve really become much more confident in who I am as an artist, and at first I was really afraid of being labeled as a ‘hyper-political what-have-you’, but after putting it out there, I’ve had so many people (men and women!) come up to me and say that they were incredibly moved by the message they heard in my music, and that they really believed in what I was trying to do. And there really is no greater compliment, as an artist, than to hear that someone connected with your music on a very personal level.
What is your favourite thing?
My favourite thing….hmm that is a tough one! There are so many things I love and my favourite things change all the time… brown paper packages tied up with string? Haha. I think what I love the most right now is spending time with the amazing women in my life-from the women I have worked with at WAVAW, to the women in my band, to all the women I’ve met through the PPP- I just love all of them so much. Just knowing all these incredible women who are working so hard for their passions every day, I can’t tell you how happy and inspired that makes me. Outside of the ‘lady love’ (which I have oodles of!), I also really enjoy lemon yogurt (like meringue pie, but yogurt!?? AMAZING!), taking long walks in autumn sunshine, and spending time with my cat.
What was the last thing you prayed for?
I only ever have one prayer that I ever put out to the universe, and it’s always been the same. I just pray that all people, including myself, can find a sense of peace and happiness. It’s simple, but that’s all I really hope for in the end.
Ok, I could have ended nice and tidy on that last question, but because I am a HUGE Johnny Cash fan I feel it is my duty to as you about recording Johnny Cash songs at the actual cabin in Nashville with Chuck Turner!
Haha, well it really was an amazing experience. I always have been a fan of the “Man in Black”, so to go to his recording studio in Hendersonville, and not only record inside the very walls where he recorded his last album before he died, but to remake his hit songs in my own way, while playing his old Martin guitar…it was just an incredible. There was soul beyond reasoning in that place. It was like you could feel his spirit lingering there. It was a beautiful place, and the music we made was beautiful. I feel so incredibly honoured to have been invited to record there. Afterwards I went to his grave, and just… wow. I think the thing that tripped me out the most was that this man has been so incredibly influential to music, and yet there I was, at his grave, and knowing he was under my feet and just bones… it kind of gave me the creeps. I started thinking about the meaning of life in a cemetery in Hendersonville at the foot of Johnny Cash’s grave, while a thunder storm rolled over head…. I couldn’t decide whether I felt deeply connected to the great circle of life or absolutely certain that the whole “dust to dust” thing was alarmingly literal. Like this man was larger than life… and it was just so final and strange. (Cemeteries creep me the hell out. I hope I’m never buried in one. I’d rather just be tossed to the wind!).
Hahaha, ok well, consider that documented here then! Wow, now that’s a once in a lifetime experience, nice one. Thanks for taking a few minutes to chat, good luck with the contest!
Thanks so much Jenn!
Watch for more news on the Peak Performance Project , and follow along with Melissa on all her social media.
Peak Performance Project: http://peakperformanceproject.com/
Melissa Official Website: http://www.melissaendean.ca
Melissa’s Upcoming Shows:
Oct 2: C.A.R.E Initiative (WAVAW) @ Vancouver Community College
Oct 3: C.A.R.E Initiative (WAVAW) @ Vancouver Community College
Oct 6: Music video shoot (location TBA)
(MuchFact Video- “i could be your boi”)
Oct 8: CJSF Radio @8PM
Oct 11: WAVAW Fundraiser w/Lydia Hol – Doors open @8
Oct 12: Cafe Deux Solelis w/ Natasha Bouchard Doors open @8PM
For press inquiries please contact:
Lisa Wartur firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by http://matiatheodosakis.com