With a giant streak of flame red hair and inspirational words such as “invigorate” and “perseverance” tattooed on her arms, Melanie Eng isn’t difficult to pick out in a crowded coffee shop in Richmond’s City Centre.
But if you thought for a second the 29-year-old Hugh Boyd alumni was deliberately trying to attract attention, you’d be wrong.
On the contrary, the full-time sound editor and part-time recording artist is happy to beaver away on her own in a Vancouver sound editing studio, so she can quietly fuel her passion for a very particular kind of music.
She isn’t interested in chasing fame, or the big bucks associated with such popularity.
However, get her onto the subject of writing lyrics for her electronic pop albums — the second of which was released a couple of weeks ago — and Eng’s eyes widen and her mouth moves a little faster.
So much so, that she starts to open up on all kinds of things, no least what she dreams about when penning words of wisdom for her songs.
“I had a notebook to begin with and when words popped up, I would write them down,” Eng said during a coffee date with the Richmond News.
“And I would wake up in the middle of the night after dreaming and write stuff down. Then I realized I could kind of control my dreams, and I found out there was this thing called lucid dreaming, where you can actually control your dreams.
“You know you’re dreaming and you’re able to direct what happens in that dream. It’s really weird.
“It gave me a lot of creative ideas; I could be like flying in my dream and translate that into lyrics.
“There’s a song called Fantasy, with a very dreamy vibe. I’m in my own fantasy world, surrounded by fireflies and I controlled how they moved.
“When I was writing, it was great timing that these lucid dreams started. It’s weird, because I haven’t really had those dreams since I stopped writing.”
If you’re curious to find out what goes on inside Eng’s head during the night, then you might want to avail yourself of a copy of her latest album which, unsurprisingly, is titled Awake and Dreaming.
The album is a year-long labour of love for Eng and her producer friend Richard Vandop.
But it certainly hasn’t been plain-sailing for Eng who, after graduating from high school, went to BCIT for a part-time radio broadcasting course, before doing a year at Vancouver Film School, where the plug was pulled on the music component after she had signed up.
“They replaced it with video game audio and they wouldn’t give me a full refund, so I was kind of stuck with it,” said Eng, who lives in a condo near the River Rock Casino.
“I was the only girl in my class, out of 15. But I played roller hockey and floor hockey, and I was used to being around guys all the time and I get along with them just fine.
“I learned mixing sound into movies and TV shows, learned a little bit about animation, which is what I’m doing now.”
Thankfully, Eng likes video games and it wasn’t all bad, as it eventually helped land her a sound editing animation job with DHX Media, where she is now, having previously worked as a casino restaurant server and meter-reader for BC Hydro.
Away from editing sound to animation, Eng said she’s never considered music as a career, as “everyone always keeps telling me how tough it is etc. But I tried not to listen to that too much.
“I’m doing it because I love it; not to get famous or make money. If it so happens that I have a hit song, then great.”
As is the case with electronic pop, few instruments are actually being played; it’s all done via computer-generated sound.
And that’s OK, said Eng, when asked if it’s tough to get taken seriously as an artist.
“(Electronic pop) is more widely available now; there’s the Chainsmokers, for instance, so it’s not that hard to explain these days,” said Eng, who admits that a glass of wine during her writing phases aids the artistic flow.
And her inspiration? Easy – Juno-winning Canadian singer/songwriter/cartoonist by the name of Lights.
“I discovered her in Grade 11. She wasn’t even ‘discovered’ yet. I contacted her and we stay in touch. She tells me to go for my dreams. I’ve seen her 30 times in concert,” said Eng.
“She inspires me to just share my music, emotions and feelings with people and hope they can relate to it.”
Eng’s Awake and Dreaming is available on multiple platforms, including Spotify and iTunes.
Check out more on Eng and her album online at MelanieEng.BandCamp.com.