Spotlight: How COVID-19 Is Impacting Ethio-American R&B Singer Mélat’s Career

“I was working with a couple of dream brands. All my plans were erased," says Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Mélat of Austin, Texas. (Photo Credit: ShotByPha)

DJ Booth

Last year, I met Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Mélat in Austin, Texas, during the annual SXSW Conference and Music Festival. The soulful singer, who is from Austin, caught my ear with a set of arresting R&B tunes performed during Audiomack’s Leaders of The New School showcase.

The quiet power of Mélat’s voice and the poetic language of her songwriting made for a memorable performance. Mélat, 31, felt like an artist who belonged on that stage. For that reason, she was one of the first artists I thought of when SXSW announced on March 6 that they would be canceling the entire festival in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. At the time, the choice felt surprising, but little did we know what was to come.

“I had everything mapped out!” Mélat exclaims over the phone.

Now, a month-plus into social distancing, Mélat has been processing the experience by writing songs, watching shows, making Zoom dates with friends, and working out.

As a musician who quit her job as a Marketing Automation Consultant in 2018 to pursue a career in music full-time, there have been obvious setbacks and plenty of money lost. Yet Mélat has her health and is grateful for this slow-down period to be deeply attuned with her thoughts and feelings.

“I found myself with all this time,” Mélat says, “but over the past couple of weeks, it became like, ‘Oh, now I have time just to take my time with the craft.’”

During our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity and following below, Mélat’s quarantine clarity shined through. We discussed her journey and the music she’s working on while at home, the makings of a follow-up to her 2019 album, After All: Episode One. The new music sounds inspired, and so does Mélat.

DJBooth: How has COVID-19 and being quarantined changed your weekly patterns?

Mélat: Every week has felt like charting a new course. At first, it was like, “Oh, okay, this is weird. I don’t know what to do with myself.” Then the next week, I was like, “So what am I going to do for the next month?” And then the next week, it was like, “I don’t know what’s happening. Why did I choose this career?” It makes no sense at this point [laughs]. I’ve gotten to a point recently like, “Okay, this is life for the foreseeable future. So let me just take a step back and focus on doing what I do best.”

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