Over bubbles, Melo B Jones spoke to Helen Herimbi about sipping, situationships and The Start

Melo B Jones is sitting daintily. Her lithe fingers are interlocked over a knee covered by a long, flowing skirt. When we meet, the 28-year-old singer who was born Boitumelo Mpye is getting ready to release her debut EP, The Start.

The weekend before our meeting, she is on stage at TONGHT, a party hosted by Maria McCloy, DJ Kenzhero and Jones’ independent record label boss and DJ, Kid Fonque.

There, she performs a song called C&L.

She sings about being on her second glass of demi-sec and being strung along. By the end of it, she has the grown and sexy crowd singing along with her: sipping slow/we gon’/po’ uuuuuuup.

A few days later, we find ourselves sitting upstairs at a champagne bar in Johannesburg that has fake grass on the floor and empty chafers on tables. “Champagne is my poison when I’m feeling myself the most,” she giggles.  It’s also a celebratory drink, I offer.

“Yes,” Jones exclaims, “because it’s been forever since I’ve been promising everyone a project.” The Start, released on June 30, is a five track EP that sees this boombaptist – as she is commonly known – traverse boombap beats, tinges of trap and of course, soulful melodies and sing-raps. There’s the ultra sensual Another Level, which is reminiscent of Jill Scott’s writing style.

“Even though I go about composing in a boombap style,” Jones explains, “I am still very much a contemporary woman so I get influenced by a lot. The sample on Another Level is a song called ‘When You Smile’ from that Motown era.”

Then she smiles widly and says: “the coolest thing about that sample is it’s the same sample used on one of the first songs I ever wrote – a song called Show Me. I realised that years later and it’s so cool because it weaves the music together and feels full circle.”

There’s also an ode to her “bestfriend” – her mom whom Jones refers to as Mamzize, which is also the title of the track. Perfect Girl calls out shady friendzoners but C&L – which appears as a clean and explicit version on this EP – is the song that stands out. Jones tells me C&L, which stands for Champagne & Love Songs, was based on a true story.

“Situationships,” she sighs, referring to when two people don’t know or discuss if they’re in a steady, monogamous relationship or not. Then she laughs and says: “So we were out – the two of us and a friend of his – and everything was cool. Then, you know how catty girls are. There will always be a marking of territories.”

“So, we’re chilling and this girl comes up and hugs my situationship-at-that-time guy and [excitedly] goes: ‘hey!’ Then she looks at me and goes: ‘hey.’” Here Jones’ eyes turn into daggers and the way she says that “hey” is as dry as a Provita.

On the song, she clearly is feeling herself and even dares the listener to call the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department on her. We laugh about this brazen line.“The story is true but obviously some of the characters in the song become [hyperbole] characters so it’s like when I write songs, I get to be the superhero that I always want to be in real life,” Jones says.

“Because in real life, I would have just been like ‘aaah my gosh,’” Jones fake-sobs. “Through my music I get to be badass.” Her sentence is punctuated by the sound of a bottle of Graham Beck being popped by our waiter but Jones continues.

“I get to be in total control,” she says. “So that’s also why I like writing because I can always rewrite some of my behaviour into something I wish I would have been brave enough to be in real life.”

Although she doesn’t always see it, recent events have shown a courageous side to Jones. She quit her daytime job to focus on music. “It’s been a year now and I do not miss it. Not for a second. But I miss the money,” she throws her head back and laughs.

By now, Jones is still sitting daintily but she’s taken to talking with her hands and it’s clear that delving into her musical journey sets her more at ease than just ticking off the PR talking points prevalent when an artist releases new music.

“It’s been interesting because it’s been both tough and really cool because I didn’t know I could be this person. It’s exciting because I get to do what I love and find out exactly what that means.”

“This year has taught me that I romaticised it a lot,” she nods. “I thought I’d wake up, go to studio, go to a photoshoot, come home. It has not been like that at all! I’ve been waking up and going: ‘ok, so this is my day, what can I do with it? Let’s call somebody and see if studio is available. Oh, it’s not available? Let’s go to the gym then.’”

“I’m also grateful for this because it’s been a lot of understanding what this dream is going to mean for me. It sounds weird but it’s been good for me and my growth.”

Having already worked with the likes of Crazy White Boy and appeared on X Factor SA, Jones is no stranger to the music scene. But in some ways, The Start feels new. “I named the EP that because it’s the start of everything,” Jones tells me. “There’s a term – bedroom artist – and I’ve been that for half a decade. I’ve been promising myself for all those years that this is the year I’m going to start. So it’s The Start also because of that. To say: this is where we begin everything.” It’s a great start.