Melissa Polinar: going beyond the genre

Editor’s note: Known for her distinct soulful vocals and passionate musicianship, Melissa Polinar originally began composing songs at a young age in Nashville. Her unique vocals, coupled with her heart-bearing lyrics, have allowed her to garner recognition by Questlove, Mark Kibble and India.Arie.

Melissa Polinar will be appearing at the San Gabriel Lunar New Year Festival on February 10 in the Mission District. We spoke with her to learn more about her music.

ISG: Could you describe your sound? You’re known for your acoustic ballads, but would you say there’s a genre (or a combination of genres) that best describes you?

MP: I would say, the overall blend of genres are acoustic/soul/pop. I’m not entirely just one genre and I touch on so many if you really want to dissect it. I don’t want to be completely boxed into one.

ISG: How did you get into music, and later, the music industry?

MP: Music has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I grew up singing, then I took piano and violin lessons. I picked up the guitar for fun as a teenager – then I ran with it. So cumulatively, I’ve always been interested in the music world. My first official entry to the industry was when I got signed as a songwriter by a major company when I was 18.

ISG: What gives you the greatest joy in music? Is it the songwriting process, performing live…?

MP: I would say all of the above. Singing and performing were part of my journey early on, however, songwriting and arranging came later. But at this moment of time, they’re all on equal grounds. I don’t prefer one over the other. Each process brings out a different part of me – so holistically, I prefer doing all of it. The greatest joy for me is to overall dive into a creative process then share what I came up with to the world.

ISG: In contrast, what have been some of the more difficult aspects of being part of the industry?

MP: I think creative industries are always difficult. It’s very seasonal.

Sometimes it’s crazy busy and other times, not so much. And the toughest part is that you really don’t know when one season meets the next. You have to be really creative even in finding and creating opportunities. Also, the music industry as a whole does not have a lot of Asian-American representation, as well. There are few-and-far-between of us who are truly doing it full-time, being recognized by the industry, and making a name in the mainstream market.

Hopefully this will change in the near future. I don’t know what needs to be done for this change but I, as a creative, am planning to keep creating and sharing my art.

ISG: You have a very successful social media following – particularly on YouTube. How did you use these outlets to express yourself creatively? Do you find these to be the best medium for interacting with fans?

MP: YouTube was a huge tool for my music to have a reach I never thought it would. I found a lot of my fanbase there and to this day, many of them still follow me but now mostly on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I haven’t posted on YouTube regularly for the past few years but I recognize how essential it was for my growth and reach as an artist. Interacting with my fans is essential not only for my career but also for me, personally. It literally gives me that extra boost of encouragement to keep going – especially when it gets tough. As an independent artist, I’d always highly recommend getting in touch with your fans and supporters.

ISG: How do you think YouTube has evolved for artists?

MP: I think the evolution of an artist shouldn’t be reliant on a social media platform – whether it be YouTube, Instagram, etc. Artistry should come from personal direction, conviction, authenticity, and sincerity. Social media should always remain as “media” – they’re tools for artists’ work and not the other way around.

ISG: What can festivalgoers expect when you perform on February 10?

MP: I’m bringing my guitar, my songs, and voice. It’s always a pleasure to share my heart and I hope they enjoy.

You can watch Melissa Polinar perform on February 10 at this year’s Lunar New Year Festival. If you’re on Facebook, be sure to RSVP here.