Aug. 15, 2012 - Issue #878: Snap Turns 30
Sun, Aug 19 (8 pm)
Block 1912, admission by donation
Rising from the Saskatchewan prairies is a jazz-fueled, soulful voice able to silence the noisiest of crowds.
That voice belongs to Melanie Hankewich, or Belle Plaine as fans know her, a true prairie girl from Fosston, SK who began her foray into jazz while attending Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. However, it would be some time before she made the move to performing. Hankewich's focus shifted to sound recording during school and she took a job at studio in Calgary after graduation. It paid the bills, but didn't fulfil her, and she decided to wait tables instead.
Hankewich eventually enrolled at the University of Victoria in environmental sciences, but dropped out soon after and started singing again. She soon caught the travel bug and ventured down under to Sydney, Austrailia. Amidst serving in dingy pubs, she rediscovered her desire to be a singer.
In 2006, she returned to Saskatchewan and settled in Regina. Hankewich was drawn into the fold of the city's small, yet welcoming arts community. She took a job as a lighting technician at the Globe Theatre, and while she was close to the action, she wanted to be the one performing. In 2010, Hankewich made the decision to leave steady hours and paycheques behind to pursue music full-time.
"I really believe you need to do something you love in work," she says. "I'm more of a live-to-work person than work-to-live, so being a musician suits me quite well ... It's certainly a little bit precarious in terms of life decisions, but I'm also very happy that I'm able to do this and sing for people as my living. It's very rewarding."
When Hankewich made the decision to pursue life as a musician, she gave herself a trial period of two years. After the release of her album Notes From A Waitress in January 2012, inspired by her travels and time spent waiting tables, there was no turning back. Two years came and went this May.
"I sort of look at it in packages, so I've done two years and now I figure five years," she says. "I'll make a decision after five years if this is the way I want to continue my life."
However, life on the road doesn't mean a rockstar lifestyle. Hankewich maintains that she tries to stay level headed, avoid partying too much and even squeeze in the occasional run. She also does all her own bookings, which keeps her on her toes.
"There's always something new, so sometimes it's great and it's all surprises in the best possible way and people are really supportive, and sometimes it's a bit of a struggle," she notes, adding less-than-desirable venues and small crowds in new cities can shake a person's confidence, but she keeps going nonetheless.
Whatever the next five years bring, things are off to an encouraging start for the songstress. Hankewich has gathered a loyal fan base in the western provinces and made her first mark on the eastern markets this summer as part of her first national tour. Now, she's ready to for the western leg of the tour and the chance to perform for the fans who have supported her from the beginning.
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