After years performing as the front man of different rock bands in New York City, Thiago de Melo awakened to his own spirituality, reinvented himself and emerged as a recording artist with the intention of giving audiences music that transcends drama and offers something uplifting through the medium of popular songs.
The result of this is manifested in his debut solo album “Home, Family & Roots” – a colorful collection of eleven songs that succeeds in integrating his native Brazilian influences with American pop, jazz, gospel (and at times even hints of rock and reggae) cohesively into one wholesome fusion piece.
Opening tune “The First Time”, Portuguese sung “Menina Linda” and title track “Home, Family & Roots” will quickly fill the listener’s mind with sensual images of tropical forests and beaches.
While “You Get Me High” and “More Myself With You” bring us closer to the heart of American easy listening.
In the glorious “Prayer” and the sensitive “A Bird’s Song” one gets a deeper insight into Thiago’s spiritual self – its universality and its connection to the natural world; both driving forces to the artist’s songwriting.
Having written all the songs for the album, Thiago de Melo sheds a light on his creative process. Flying to Brazil to meet long-time collaborator and friend Lucas Zanatta – who provided arrangements for 9 songs on the album – Thiago explains that just making music wasn’t enough:
I understand that everything is energy vibrating at a certain rate therefore having a certain quality. That includes sounds, words, thoughts… songs! – and the emotions we put into songs.
Songs are energy. Some affect our body and mind positively and some negatively.
When I set out to write the songs for this album, I put Lucas and myself in an oceanfront apartment in a very quiet town in southern Brazil.
There, I suggested we establish a ritual for ourselves – which he gladly accepted. We would wake up in the morning, meditate, drink some erva mate, eat something light and jump in the sea – setting the tone for our day. Then, when it was time to compose, we would set up our gear in a clean and organized room, I’d light up a candle and incense, hold his hands and pray passionately to receive music that was beautifully powerful; healing and uplifting; yet had the simplicity and form of mainstream popular songs.
The ritual itself was a personal choice, but what is most important is the principle we followed – the principle of making music consciously! In other words, making it with the awareness that there will be people receiving it, making it part of their lives, making it part of their minds.
I wanted to make music that touched people positively and deeply so.
This human element present in Thiago’s philosophy extends itself to his choice of production. When recording “Home, Family & Roots” – which had the singer himself wearing the producer’s hat – he was emphatic about having a real band with real instruments. No artificial sounds were allowed.
The album was recorded using all analog gear at the Clubhouse Studio in Rhinebeck, NY. Paul Antonell, the owner of Clubhouse and also head engineer and mixer for the album, suggested the tracks be burned on tape. He also suggested the drummer should play without a metronome, relying on his “feel” to lock the band in. Thiago embraced these ideas enthusiastically and ensured the recording would capture the fine chemistry the band had playing live by doing that as well when recording in the studio.
A core group consisting of Thiago de Melo on vocals, Rubens de La Corte on guitar, Al Marz on keyboards and piano, Jim Miades on bass and Gary Burke on drums was established to record all the songs live as a unit.
The final product contains more voices, instruments and people that were added to this initial live track separately, mainly because ideas were emerging on the spot. Yet that real-time, five-piece nucleus created ahead of time – Thiago explains – not only nicely supported the additions to it, but also was essential to retain their joy experienced during the recording.
Having this core live performance was key to capture the feel and the magic that was happening there. We had the perfect balance between having too much or too little time to get the job done. So we were focused, but we were also really relaxed and having a lot of fun.
There was a tangible good vibe all around the studio. With everyone sleeping on site and with Christine making us all organic meals everyday, we really had that family energy going on.
The days of making this album were some of the happiest in my life. I feel blessed and enthusiastic to be able to share it with the world.
When the final mix was achieved at the Clubhouse, the music made its way to New York City to be mastered at Sterling Sound with Grammy Award winner Ted Jensen. The result was as expected: a full-body sound with diamond brilliancy.
My most challenging task in the making of this album was not the writing, the singing or the production. It was my job as a guardian.
I knew from the beginning that the music had a special purity about it and my job was to protect that purity through all stages of production.
Once “Home, Family & Roots” was born, it needed to be clothed.
Thiago headed to Canada to work on the album’s art with Eli Horn and Lexane Rousseau from Fivethousand Fingers Creative in Montreal.
The listener who chooses to acquire a physical copy of the album will certainly have a visual treat added to his listening experience.
A circular-shaped dance of colorful elements that saintly beautifies the white background it is placed on, could not be more perfectly aligned with the style and approach to the music and therefore stamp the cover.
When the package is unfolded open, the elegance of its design is revealed with further colors and flowery elements accurately representing the refined nature of the album.
I am into the idea of a recording album having a physical embodiment that is the artistic extension of the music. So the same approach I took with writing and recording the songs I also took with the creative process of this art. I couldn’t have found better artists and people in Eli and Lexane, as they were so receptive to my huge content of ideas.
I am driven by truth and being truthful – and that can be a very vulnerable process. While with music I can express myself directly through my voice and my songwriting, keeping the creative process private if I choose to; with art I need the hands and minds of talented artists who are willing to channel my creative fire.
So I just took everything that was inside of me and put it out there for Eli and Lexane. And they were so skillful in taking that all in, integrating it and translating it into the art form we see on the album package.
But the story doesn’t end there. With a message inside the package, Thiago de Melo dedicates the album “Home, Family & Roots” to his wife Christine de Melo, who is artist manager and executive producer for Thiago himself and record label Sunnyheart Recordings.
Christine is my greatest blessing. She is the inspiration of so many songs and muse of so many dreams. She is that beauty ideal for me.
But she’s also an inspiration in real, practical ways. She’s a warrior and worked hard to make this album a reality. “Home, Family & Roots” – and possibly my entire career – would not have been possible without her help and support; which was part of every stage of my accomplishments.
With all the romance, artfulness, humanness and devotional elements of “Home, Family & Roots” noted and praised, one must still regard these aspects as extensions to the center point of it all. And that is, of course, the artist himself.
Thiago de Melo comes as a breath of fresh air to a music industry that has yet to experience a prevalence of the grace and consciousness he so naturally brings.
Thiago captivates with his subtlety, disarms with the softness of his voice and ultimately wins with his honesty.
To listen to “Home, Family & Roots” is to listen to music that is meaningful and yet so simple. On “Simple Pleasures”, for example, one is immediately transported into Thiago’s living room. We get a picture of real life and it’s undeniable he is being truthful.
While many records today are produced with much energy spent to make it “hooky”, Thiago put his faith on “beautiful”, “healing” and “pure” – not setting out to make a drug, but to bring forth medicine.
So Thiago de Melo is benevolent, yes. But it is essentially the refined and sensual quality of his voice that pulls us into his musical offering. There is something to his tone that is just victoriously soothing. Seemingly opposing textures like silky and raspy; earthy and airy; even masculine and feminine; find themselves dancing elegantly through the artists versatile singing. Such diversity expresses itself luxuriously in Thiago’s extensive vocal range.
The wealth in Thiago’s voice is the result of years of practice and experimentation unbounded by one specific genre. Yet ultimately, he concludes, his training did not mold his singing, but gave him the opportunity to open new pathways from which his voice could flow from.
The true voice is the sound of the soul. My instrument is my soul. My training, then, is to build skill and strength in remaining connected to it and then being truthful to this connection at all times.
The soul is infinitely wealthy and capable. There was a certain singing style that “Home, Family & Roots” called for and so I did what it called for. But I have more in me and I want to express it in the future. The singing journey fascinates me.
I’m not too concerned about sticking to any one style, but to follow beauty and happiness – which, again, is about that connection.
With a great start to his journey as a solo artist, Thiago de Melo comes to light with the promise to get his name pronounced right by the non-Portuguese speaking world –
(“chee – AH – go”). With the friendliness and sunshine provided by his album “Home, Family & Roots”, he is bound to get it done.