1- Hello Joe, can you please tell us a bit about you?
By training, I’m a computer programmer, currently employed as a Senior Software Engineer for a major financial company on Wall Street. This certainly pays the bills but does not feed my soul. Music is what gives me the energy I need to accomplish everything I can accomplish in a day. As a result, I feel the need to sing on stage at least once a week or risk deep depression. I’m also a songwriter because it’s a lot cheaper than seeing a therapist. ☺ I also act and turn my original children’s songs into children’s books. My job allows me to live comfortably, but my artistic pursuits allow me to love being alive!
2- What are your focus areas and why?
I guess I sing more than anything, but I’m not sure if that’s an area of FOCUS, or just what’s readily available for me to express myself. Songwriting requires inspiration and time to concentrate. Acting requires going on auditions and for roles to be available. My children’s books require an illustrator, which has been on hold since my niece Sam retired, and the next illustrator among my nieces and nephews aren’t quite old enough yet. Singing I can do wherever there’s karaoke or an open mic. I’d love more opportunity to focus on things besides singing, but it’s a challenge.
3- Songwriter, singer, author, and actor, how do you find time for all of that?
I don’t sleep a lot. ☺ Seriously, it’s all willpower. I need to do all that, so if it’s finding time on the subway, on the weekends, or at night, I do it. Having a house cleaner also helps greatly. ☺
4- Tell us about your new song written project with iMentor, and what was the inspiration behind that work?
I could talk about iMentor for days! They quite literally saved my life.
I was working way too hard at my job and needed time to do something important for my community. I tried signing up for a program which only involved reading with young school kids at one lunch hour a week. I couldn’t even get away from my job for that, so I quit the day I was supposed to show up for my first session. This made me feel horrible. I luckily came across iMentor, which, at the time, wanted to get inner-city high school kids in New York to learn technology. Therefore, most of the mentoring took place over e-mail. I’m always on my e-mail, so this was less of a time strain for me!!
I never thought I was having a great impact during the school year, but I could see what a great impact I had at the end of the year!! Now iMentor is the most important thing I do with my time! It’s more important than any of my artistic pursuits and even my job!
So, as I often do, I sit around asking myself: “What can I write about for my next song?” It occurred to me one time that I should write a song about iMentor!! I thought the song would have a greater impact if all proceeds from the song would go to iMentor, which they do. Thus, “Climb High” was born! It’s available on all your favorite download sites (iTunes, Amazon, Napster, Rhapsody, you name it), and 100% of what you pay goes directly to iMentor.
5- What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered while working to launch “Climb High”?
While recording the song, I found my voice doesn’t quite fit into the R & B pocket I was trying to reach. It definitely does now after performing it live many times, but the big problem I’ve found is that people don’t buy music anymore. Even for a cause as wonderful as iMentor, people would rather listen to it on Spotify or YouTube or, even worse, download it illegally. It hasn’t quite been the stream of revenue for iMentor I was hoping it would be. iMentor has also not helped its own cause and won’t “endorse” the song. That part I don’t mind so much, but everyone would benefit if they played it at events and what-not.
6- Where do you think your work and songs are making an impact?
The most impact I’ve had as an entertainer is with children. They adore my Parker The Platypus series of songs and books, and I’m a huge hit every time I perform in front of an audience of kids! If I could get a legitimate publisher for my books, instead of going the vanity publishing route, I’m very confident they’d be best-sellers. This is because, without exaggeration, most children that do own the first book deem it to be their favorite!! Admittedly, I have to attribute this to my niece Sam’s illustrations more than anything else. She was nine years old when she first designed the cover for the first book without any direction from me and did an amazing job of interpreting the story on her own!! Kids love the fact that the book was illustrated by someone not too much older than them!!
7- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I have no idea. If the fates are with me, I’m a worldwide superstar for one reason or another. If they’re not, I’m still doing what I do, enjoying life the way most people don’t. Either way, it’ll be exciting!!
8- What can you tell young artists who are pursuing their dreams?
Do just that: pursue your dream, and don’t worry about the money or fame that might come with it. If you’re looking for the money or fame, it won’t come, because people can tell when that’s your primary focus. If you partake in an art form because you enjoy it, people will sense that, and appreciate your work more. Financial success and/or fame may or may not result from that, but you hopefully won’t care!!
9- What are you most excited about at the moment?
Honestly, the most exciting thing I’ve got going on right now (especially if you judge by the amount of Facebook Likes I get when I talk about it) is that I’ve lost 103 pounds, with only nine pounds to go to hit my goal weight of 197 pounds!! I’ve got more energy than ever to do the things I like to do and my health is worlds better!! I’m really proud of this accomplishment, and who knows? Maybe I’ll write a self-help book about how I did it and use my voice acting skills to record the Audiobook version!! ☺
10- The last word or final thoughts?
Just that people can check out my many activities on my Web site http://www.joemelillo.net, including the Newsletter link on the left to subscribe to my mailing list. I’ve hit #1 on the ReverbNation singer/songwriter charts for Brooklyn, NY a couple of times, and it’s thanks to my fans and followers!! Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@joe_melillo) and like the Parker The Platypus page on Facebook!! Thanks to everyone for making it this far into the interview, and I hope to hear from you and maybe see you out while I’m performing!!