Melinda Schneider is too young, really, to be a ‘legend’ but that is what she is – a performer since childhood, she will be familiar to all Tamworth festival goers. This year, fans will be treated to something different and special as Melinda brings her new show, Be Yourself, to the Tamworth Town Hall on Wednesday 22 January at 3 p.m.
Before becoming a mother to Sullivan a year and a half ago, Melinda had enjoyed renown and popularity performing the songs of Doris Day. This new show will explore – as the title suggests – Melinda herself.
‘I wrote the show with David Mitchell, who I wrote my Doris show with,’ says Melinda. ‘We sat down and it was very confronting for me, really. If you go back to your childhood and you think about all the things that have happened, good and bad, it is confronting. But I think it’s been quite healing and quite cathartic as well.
‘We’re just trying to make the show really entertaining and it is full of ups and downs, like anyone’s life. You know, I’ve been through a divorce, and you’re not a real country singer unless you go through at least one divorce. And I lost a baby when I was 26 and lost my dad to cancer. And then all of the great things – falling in love and having success in my work and all of the exciting things I’ve experienced over the years. It’s been a full life so far. This is the happy end of my life. I don’t think I’ll go through anywhere near the pain I did in the first 30 years … I know who I am now.’
Melinda has a huge back catalogue of songs to choose from – one of the challenges of writing the show must have been choosing which songs made it and which songs didn’t.
‘It was pretty hard,’ Melinda admits. ‘I just tried tochoose the songs that I knew people wouldwant to hear. The most well-known ones and the most popular ones, like ‘Story of My Life’ and ‘Be Yourself’ and ‘Sgt Bean’ about my dad, and ‘Dream Him Home’, which I wrote when my dad died, and ‘Wish You Were Here’. I actually posted on Facebook and asked all the people on my Facebook page which songs they’d like to hear. They may be a couple of songs that people will miss, but it’s a two-hour show, 28 songs – it’s a lot of singing.’
One of Melinda’s most distinctive songs is ‘It Takes Balls to be a Woman’, but it hasn’t garnered a guernsey in the show – yet.
‘It could very well have been [included],’ Melinda says, ‘because I have had to find balls quite a few times. But because this is the debut of the show, it will be really interesting to see how it’s received, how the mix of songs works, and it will be good to get feedback from the audience when I’m talking to people afterwards. So it may end up there in the future, because we’re going to tour this show. I had to stop somewhere. There are just so many songs.’
Young Sullivan will, of course, be with Melinda in Tamworth. As to whether or not she’d ever want him to join her in the music business, though, Melinda says, ‘I would never encourage him. I talk about that in the show, about how growing up in a showbiz family affected me, both positively and negatively. It’s not always easy for a kid growing up in a showbiz family and I only had one parent in showbiz – my dad was a policeman – but he’s got two parents who are entertainers [Melinda’s partner, Mark, is in the Choirboys].
‘We’re very conscious to just let him be a normal kid and not have pressure to go on stage performing. I performed from the age of three with Mum and recorded at the age of eight. It would have been very interesting to see what I would have done and what I would have focused on had I not been encouraged to do that. Even though Mum didn’t encourage me to be an artist but I was just always onstage. I don’t want to do that to Sully unless he wants to.’
Melinda has had 18 months off from performing to look after Sullivan – but it turns out she hasn’t quite been out of practice.
‘I’ve probably been singing more in the last 18 months at home than I ever have before because I’ve been singing Sully to sleep. I’ve sung him all sorts of songs since the day he was born, and even before.’
As Melinda returns to performing at Tamworth with her infant son in tow, she will take the stage at the Town Hall – ‘It’s a beautiful room and quite a traditional, formal venue, especially for this show’ – and also be part of a festival that she has been a part of for many years.
‘The spirit at Tamworth is the most amazing of any country music festival I’ve been to,’ she says, ‘and I’ve been to festivals in many parts of the world and I think ours is the best.’
While Melinda’s show will feature some of the downs as well as the ups of her life, it is clear that she’ll arrive in Tamworth feeling quite content with her world.
‘I’m in a happy relationship and having Sullivan has been the best thing that has ever happened to me,’ she says. ‘To have a happy home life and a happy work life, that’s success to me.’
Melinda Schneider plays at Tamworth Town Hall on Wednesday 22 January at 3 p.m. For tickets visit www.tcm.com.au.