Singer-songwriter and Iowa native Melanie Devaney is celebrating her return to the Midwest from both the East and West Coast with a regional tour. On Saturday, Sept. 12, she made a stop in Saint’s Rest Coffee House in downtown Grinnell. There, she exhibited her personal brand of singing, describing the trials and triumphs of love and other aspects of life with the accompaniment of her phenomenal acoustic guitar skills.
“It’s been really great being back here,” Devaney said. “There’s such a strong sense of community in Iowa and you really get the sense that people take care of each other.
“As far as music goes, there’s a lot of things happening here right now in the Midwest compared to when I left eight years ago,” Devaney added. “There are just more opportunities to perform. I feel like all the midsized towns are having a Renaissance. You have coffee shops like [Saint’s Rest] and breweries, wineries, more town festivals, more farmer’s markets.”
Based on the reactions of the crowd, she was warmly welcomed back even though she might have been a stranger to a few of Saint’s Rest patrons.
“I hadn’t set out to see her but her connection with the crowd really brightens up the morning,” said Thomas Auen ’16. “She really connects with the culture even though she went out for a while. She retains that charm and puts that into her performance so it’s relatable.”
Her frankness on the origins of her songs, her presence and jokes engaged audience members regardless of where they were from. The audience listened attentively, applauded after each song and laughed with her about her “country song life.”
From the early age of four, music, mainly piano, was a part of Devaney’s life. She initially went into college as a piano performance major after spending the summer before recharging her love of making music after a hiatus in high school. Two years later, she switched majors to creative writing and literature, set on being a novelist. That changed when she got a guitar.
“I went to a couple of open mic nights. I was living in Florida at the time and people were actually asking me the first or second time when I played if I already had an album out,” Devaney said. “I also had an interest in acting, so what I get to do now, it’s a combination of all the things that I really love: music, writing and a little bit of acting.”
Along with stage presence, she has really developed her sound.
“I like the way that she plays guitar because it’s rhythmic, so [it] has a percussion quality,” said Ania Chamberlin ’19. “There’s this quality that’s kind of swingy, like R&B, but pure. I’ve never heard her before, but it’s the kind of thing that I would add to my music collection.”
Devaney has ambitions of becoming a published songwriter and continuing to grow her fanbase, all while self-managing and promoting. She remains positive about her prospects.
“Writing a song is like solving a puzzle, and to solve a puzzle in such a way that everyone gets it would be really gratifying,” Devaney said.
For more information on Melanie Devaney and her music, check out her website, www.melaniedevaney.com.