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Melonie Cannon fires away

By Dan MacIntosh, October 2004

Melonie Cannon is the daughter of the famous writer/producer Buddy Cannon, but now that she has released her self-titled debut album via Skaggs Family Records, she's beginning to make a name for herself as a solo artist.

Cannon's new music is more acoustic and bluegrass-y than some of the slick sounds her dad (who also helped produce this release, by the way) helps create for artists like Kenny Chesney.

So it's only appropriate that she also spells her first name a little differently than most other 'Melanies' in the world.

"My mom said that my dad had a girlfriend one time named Annie, and that she really loved the name Melanie, but it has the name 'Anie' in it, so she wanted to change it," Cannon explains over the phone with a giggle.

Her name's spelling may be rare, but it's not completely unique. In fact, Cannon recently met another woman on the Internet with the same name spelled exactly the same way. She jokes that there's got to be a song in there somewhere, but unlike her dad and also her sister (Maria Cannon-Goodman), Cannon is strictly a vocalist - not a songwriter (yet).

"I'm not saying that I never will," she says about songwriting. "I've just never tried my hand at it. I've always been a singer and really focused on that. That's really been my art. I don't ever want to be the kind of person that starts cutting the wrong songs just because they wrote them. I've always been kind of scared of that. I see people do that, and it does a lot of damage to their careers sometimes. So you have to be careful with that. I don't want to be an artist that people write with, just because I'm an artist."

If Cannon does eventually begin to write songs, her sister Maria, who helped write "Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo" for Tracy Byrd, has placed dibs on being her very first partner. "She told me that if I write with somebody else before I write with her, that she's gonna kill me," Cannon says.

Cannon started singing in the studio when she was only 14, so now that she's 31, she's been a professional singer for over half her life. She recalls her first demo session with Dean Dillon as being a rather innocent experience.

"I just knew him as Dean," she says now of the songwriter. "He was just my dad's friend. So I just went in there not scared a bit. I just went in there and did my thing. Actually, I met Kenny Chesney that day. He (Chesney) didn't even really know my dad at that point. They didn't build a relationship until years after that. I think all three of those songs got cut - I did three of 'em for him that day. That's a pretty cool thing."

Cannon only got truly serious about becoming a singer after a brief stint in the army.

"I was pretty wild," Cannon admits. "I was a rambunctious teenager. My dad was an alcoholic the first 15 years of my life. He sobered up about the time I started to be kind of a wild child. He really started paying attention to what I was doing, which made me rebel a ' whole lot more. He was there - but he really wasn't there - for all of my life (up to that point). Then all of a sudden, he wanted to know what I was doing and where I was going. I wanted his attention and his approval, and I went about it in all the wrong ways. And finally, I realized I was running with the wrong crowd and hanging with the wrong people."

Although she was also working in the music business while living this self-described wild life, something deep inside told her that she'd need to straighten out her life first before she could seriously make a go of being a professional artist.

"I figured that I could probably get me a record deal and screw it up for myself real quick. Or I could take and moment and get myself together personally, spiritually, mentally and physically and really be able to handle what was coming. I think God puts you on a path, and - for whatever reason - that's the path He put me on. I did the army thing, and it didn't work out, and I was home within a year-and-a-half. And I think that my life really started at that point."

Generally speaking, folks join the armed services to be all that they can be. But everybody also has personal reasons for making such an extreme life choice, as well. For Cannon, this experience had more to do with what the service did to her inside, than with any particular sort of career training.

"I joined it for the discipline," she states simply. "I wanted to learn what the real meaning of respect for other people was. And that's what they taught me. I was only there for a short period, but it really taught me life lessons in a short period of time. I learned a couple of really quick lessons over three weeks in boot camp. I learned what it meant to respect people, other than just you. I learned that there were more people living in the world than me. And I think that half the things I did as that wild selfish teenager, I probably wouldn't have done if I'd had the kind of respect for other people around me that I have now. That I gained by joining the army. I don't regret this experience, and I wouldn't go back and change it for nothing. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

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