Spotlight: Meet Meleni Smith

Meet our Music Industry and Artist Relations Manager Meleni Smith.  Meleni has been active in the music space for over a decade.  Her pathway to profession has seen her wearing many hats from songwriting and performing to working behind-the-scenes in artist development and A&R.

Making music has been the fuel that has taken her around the world and back again but helping young artists carve out their own spaces in music is what has proven to be most inspiring.  Meleni heads up our Artist Development programming which includes weekly workshops, our Spotlight Unplugged Instagram Live weekly series, and the bi-weekly Open Mics where young artists get to showcase their talents in front of a panel of music industry experts who offer them constructive career advice.

We caught up with Meleni to learn more about her career in the music industry as well as her role with Music Forward so far.

You’ve worked with some big names in your career, how has that come about and how did this path lead you to Music Forward?

I’ve been a creative my entire career primarily working within the music industry as an artist/songwriter.  I’ve released several projects under my stage name, Polly A while also writing for notable artists such as Alicia Keys, J Cole, Selena Gomez to name a few.  After giving birth to my son, Prince, I wanted to pivot a bit and do something where I could utilize my creative skill set while also being of service to my community.  I felt working with Music Forward would be a great fit!

How did you get your start in the music industry?

I’ve been a performer since I was eight years old but it was after moving to New York City to  attend Columbia University that I decided music would be my chosen career path.  I was signed to Columbia Records straight out of college after performing around NYC and circulating my music around the industry. 

How have you seen the music industry evolve and what changes are you most excited to see happen?

Nowadays, artists have so much opportunity to own their artistry and curate experiences for their fans in ways unavailable in the past.  Thanks to all of the social media tools that exist, artists can speak directly to their audiences in unprecedented ways.  Artists can create entire albums in their own homes and distribute music without needing a record company to support them.  Artists can create spaces for their voices in ways they never could before which is truly exciting.  

What do you love most about your role (so far)?

I love being able to have a real impact in the lives of young artists.  I love being able to push and ignite the fires within them.  I love being able to be another voice reminding them that everything is possible with hard work, focus and dedication.  I know firsthand how vital it is for an artist to feel seen and valued in order to stay inspired so I’m happy that I can be that voice when needed.  

How do you feel being an artist helps you to support young people in your role?

Because I know exactly what they’re going through and what the path of an artist really looks/feels like, I can better guide/serve them.  By having this perspective, I’m able to help them in ways someone who hasn’t gone down this path possibly couldn’t.  They have the benefit of learning from my successes as well as my mistakes.  

How does music move you?

Music is life for me.  It’s like breathing air.  I couldn’t imagine a world without it to be honest.  It can be a time capsule at times as well as the ultimate comforter.  Music is everything in my world. 

Growing up who or what were some of your inspirations?

Marvin Gaye and Prince are my two favorite artists of all time.  But I’m a music head to the core.  I listen to all genres from jazz, to reggae, to classical to hip-hop/R&B to pop.  I just love and live for the entire artform!

What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you want to be?

Visualization is key.  Your imagination is a powerful tool and can literally be used to craft the life you want to live.  Meditating and envisioning your goals and having the courage to believe you are worthy of all that you desire is literally the secret to life. 

What piece of advice would you give to an artist first entering the music industry?

Focus on being the best artist you can be.  Spend as much time refining your tool whether it be your voice, your pen, your instrument or all of the above.  Don’t use people.  Focus on building relationships because that’s what will sustain you throughout your career.  Your talent and the relationships you nurture will be your holy grail.  That’s it. 

Check out Meleni’s latest music video for her newly released single “Chosen” at iampollya.com.


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