Idol Week Friday: EXCLUSIVE Behind-The-Scenes Backstage Pass – Murtz Jaffer Interviews Brian Melo

Brian Melo has had quite a ride on Canadian Idol and it has definitely been one hell of a rollercoaster. As the competition starts to thin out around him, Melo has only picked up momentum and now could even be considered one of the the favorites in the competition (that is of course, if you forget the fact that he is from Ontario, a province noted for not voting hard after Ryan Malcolm’s win in the first season). This was actually one of my favorite interviews of the week because while he is soft-spoken and one might even say ‘mellow,’ I thought that that his musings were particularly interesting.

Murtz Jaffer: Are you ready to rock and roll?

Brian Melo: Ready to rock man.

MJ: Many people, including myself have said that you are the best singer left in the competition and yet you have been in the bottom 3 a couple of times. What do you blame that on? Is it just the fact that you’re from Ontario and Ontario never votes?

BM: I don’t think that’s what the case is. I think it’s a mixture of everything. I’ll go and I’ll perform and there’s a lot of great singers in this competition. I don’t know, I think it might be the same situation as Greg (Neufeld). With Greg, I am convinced that people just assumed that he was safe. And just kind of backed off from voting. I don’t know if that’s the same thing for me but who knows? It might be Ontario, it might be regional voting, I really don’t know but I really don’t concentrate on that so much. I just focus on my performance and then the rest of it is out of my hands.

MJ: When we were back at Trinity for the Top 22 shows, I remember I walked past your parents’ car and it was like the funniest thing I had ever seen…

BM: (Laughs).

MJ: Here you have this rock and roll and edgy guy, and you walk by their car and it says ‘VOTE FOR OUR SON BRIAN MELO’ everywhere. How great have they been in the whole process?

BM: They have been amazing. I couldn’t ask for better parents. They have been really proud of me and they have supported me throughout this entire process, even before this was happening. They knew that this was my dream and this is what I wanted to pursue and they are backing me up through this. No matter what happens, they’ll be behind me and supporting me.

MJ: I kind of find that you are building momentum as the competition goes on. Do you find the same thing? Do you sort of find the same thing? That you are getting stronger every week?

BM: I think so. I feel I am really starting to be more of myself on stage. There’s a couple of performances back in Top 22 that I feel I could have done a bit better. Just as far as comfort level, it took me time to adjust to the lights and the camera and just the whole TV aspect of it. It’s getting to the point now where I am not even really focusing on that. I am just focusing on pleasing the crowd and if I can please the crowd then it will translate to the camera. That’s basically been the biggest difference for me. It’s a comfort level on stage and before I used to go on stage and nerves used to get the best of me and I am now more anxious to just get out there and show everybody what I have to offer.

MJ: This week is Pop/Rock week. Did you automatically know what song you were going to do and how does that work? How far in advance do you sort of know what you are going to sing and prep?

BM: You get about a couple of weeks advance for each theme. I had a couple of ideas but I wasn’t too sure. They give you this cleared list. Usually from that cleared list you can have a good idea of what you want to perform and I am doing Live this week. I am just a huge fan of Live and apparently on the forums they are doing polls of what Live song they think I should do. I don’t know. I just think it would just be a good chance to show people my performance skills. It should be fun this week.

MJ: How do you prep for a song? I’d imagine it starts on Wednesday after the results. And that’s when you know what you are performing next week. How do you prepare? Is it listening to the song? Playing to it?

BM: Once results are over, the next day you prepare with the workshop with Debra Byrd and Marc Lalama. You basically arrange your song to however long the song is that week (this week is 2 minutes) so I’ll do that and I’ll focus on the songs and get the lyrics down. Then, what I like to do (performance-wise) is just get the headphones and walk the stage a few times. Basically feel out the song and what I want to do. That’s pretty much what I do. It’s kind of a routine for me each week.

MJ: See, I always thought that you guys (because you don’t want to forget the lyrics), I always thought that you would have the written lyrics in front of you and try to memorize them. I find now that most of the contestants prefer to listen to the song. You think that’s obviously better right?

BM: For me, I do. If I looked at the lyrics too much, I’d feel like I was thinking too much. I’ll listen to it, and then I’ll just leave it and then I’ll just try to just forget about the lyrics and just keep the lyrics rolling in my head. That’s pretty much it. For the most part, the songs that I have been doing, I have known pretty well so lyrics haven’t been that much of an issue.

MJ: When you guys come out on Monday, it seems like everyone is prepared and ready to go. Can you tell me more about the people we don’t see? The Byrd’s and the Marc Lalama’s, and the JD’s and the Orin’s. How important are they in what we see?

BM: They are the whole backbone of the show. I was just like some people at home. I was really naïve when I was watching the show. I thought that they just go on stage, they perform their songs and there’s really nothing to it… but everybody, like Byrd and Marc Lalama, they haven’t just been supporting us with the songs but they have been mentors to us through this whole thing because they are just pro’s at what they do so that’s been great and just, I don’t know. It’s just basically one big happy family here, as cheesy as that might sound. It’s true. They all gather around behind you. JD, the stage manager, he really tries to help you out. Joan (our director) really tries to make you look as good as you can…

MJ: On camera?

BM: Right, on camera. And even the camera guys and the band… everybody. Allie, all of them. They just really help you and prepare you for what’s to come with all this madness that surrounds you.

MJ: Now one of the things that I wanted to ask you about was obviously they are obviously putting a focus on artists this year. Do you ever find that you disagree with any of the advice that you get. Like, ‘no, this doesn’t look right,’ but you think that it looks right? Or do you generally find that you are on the same page as everybody?

BM: For the most part, you are on the same page and the good thing with Canadian Idol, the end result and the last choice is always up to you. They always give you the options. There might be some things with sound choice that they might think might be more accessible to the voting audience. To me, what I find works for me is just following your gut and I don’t know. Sometimes if you think about the voting too much, and you go on stage, I don’t think I would really give an honest performance. I am just doing the songs that I would do if I was playing in a theatre or in a club at home. I think if I do that, it will get me a long way.

MJ: How important is the practice before the live show because I am sure you couldn’t perform the way that you do without all of these workshops and rehearsals.

BM: Practice is everything, honestly. Practice makes perfect and just like with the rehearsals that we are doing today, I had a few ideas as far as staging went and it just takes a couple of times because it’s not just like you are performing in front of the theatre. You are performing in front of 2 million people. So you really have to know what works best for the camera. For example, my first couple of takes today, I wanted to really rock out with the band so I mean I was turning around and not really looking at the camera. I kind of lost focus with the crowd and having Joan and Mark and all those guys come up to me and say ‘maybe try this and that and just adjust’ and then that’s when you’re going to give your best performance for sure.

MJ: What is it like workshopping with all these huge musical acts. Rihanna, the guys from Queen, Maroon 5? How important are they to the whole thing?

BM: It’s been amazing. Especially the workshops we have done so far with Enrique and Queen. It’s been great just to have that one-on-one time with them and I mean they are all pro’s and what they do and they have all sold millions of records, not because it’s just a mistake. They have the talent. As far as Queen, it was honestly one of the best days of my life because I am such a huge Queen fan and just to be on stage with them and performing with them and just to get the feedback from them was second-to-none. It just helps me believe in what I am doing. If I have pro’s saying, ‘you know what? You’re great, you’re the real thing.’ That just verifies that I am going in the right direction.

MJ: A lot of people asked me to ask how long you get with the guest talent. Do they come in and run through the whole song with you a couple of times? Is that how it goes down?

BM: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. You’ll probably get 20 minutes to a half hour with them. You talk with them a bit. You go through the song and then you’ll get some constructive criticism from them and that’s pretty much it. But all that time that you spend with them is very very valuable. I learn quite a bit from them.

MJ: I was reading your CTV bio and something stood out to me like as soon as I saw it. It said that one of your favorite shows was The Black Donnellys. I saw that show when they did the Upfronts and they premiere all the new shows and I watched that one and I was like ‘this is probably the worst TV show that I have seen in my entire life!’

BM: Really?!

MJ: You could not pay me to see a second show! So when I saw that on your bio, I was like, ‘he actually likes that show?!’ You gotta tell me what it was about that show.

BM: That kind of mobster sort of thing. I am a big Donnie Brasco fan.

MJ: See, I like that, but I thought that was like a poor man’s Donnie Brasco.

BM: It was. I don’t know what it was. I just know that I was hooked on it when it came on and maybe would have cheesed out a little bit if it was still on air but the episodes that I have seen, I thought it was great. I love the story behind it. Tommy Donnelly, the good brother kind of going bad right? Just trying to help his family out. I thought it was a pretty good show! I am a big Entourage fan now.

MJ: Yeah, that just came out in Canada. Have you had a favorite performance so far?

BM: Favorite performance? I was really happy with the performance I did two weeks ago. When I did Queen, I really connected with the lyrics and I just felt that I could give a really honest and emotional performance and I thought that I really did. Being in the bottom 2 after that performance, I was a little upset. A little bit. It just comes with the territory, but it doesn’t take away what I do on stage. I was really happy with it.

MJ: Do you think you will win?

BM: I don’t know. I think I have a 1/6 shot like everybody else. The odds are in my favour. I feel I can perform just as well as anyone on this show and hopefully I will get far enough and hopefully enough people will vote for me to win. I feel I could win. I feel I could represent Canada well. I just have to wait and see what happens.

MJ: That’s perfect. Thank you so much.

BM: Okay, thank you very much.