“‘Melissa’s special’ — that should be your opening line,” said Bill Bragg at the weekly open-mic night at Casa DiLeo in Rehoboth, where Melissa Alesi is the host. “She’s opening for The Band Perry at the Freeman Stage, you know.”
A lot of people who know Alesi think she is special, including Patti Grimes, executive director at the Freeman Foundation.
“The first time I heard Melissa at our Locals Under the Lights event, I thought, ‘Wow!’” said Grimes. “She has such an authentic way of expressing herself and a soulful approach to her singing that is engaging and humbling. She has been a very good partner. So when we were asked about an opener for The Band Perry, we thought of Melissa. As a singer-songwriter and a local, I think it’s great that the audience will get to enjoy such a supreme talent.”
Alesi is a true local. She attended Lord Baltimore Elementary School, Selbyville Middle School and Indian River High School. In seventh grade she auditioned and was selected to sing in the Delaware All-State Choir, an honor that continued through high school.
“Each year, you get to rehearse for two days and on the third day is the concert,” said Alesi. “It is an amazing, magical experience to be singing in the midst of so many quality voices.”
Alesi credited Indian River’s retired and renowned music teacher Mark Marvel for being the reason she plays guitar.
“I was interested in piano, but Mr. Marvel pointed out you can take a guitar wherever you play, and he started giving me a few lessons,” she said.
Alesi graduated from the University of Delaware, with a degree in applied nutrition. Since 2007 and throughout her college life, she has played and sang professionally, and she knew that performing was how she wanted to devote her career.
Now, she plays five to six days a week — both solo, as well as with Lauren Glick — at venues that include the Crabcake Factory in Fenwick Island, the Boathouse in Bethany Beach and the Lighthouse in Dewey Beach.
On her website, Alesi’s music is described as a contemporary fusion of folk, alternative and a bit of country. Most of her work is original, and all the words are heartfelt.
“I not only use my own experiences to write, but I try to put myself in another’s position. A lot of material on my last album, ‘Lie Again,’ is about what a friend was going through. It also helps me to learn life lessons when I am able to reflect on both my own experiences, as well as the things that I’ve seen others go through,” she said.
The album “Lie Again” is also connected to Alesi’s performance at Locals Under the Lights. Coincidentally, appearing that night two years ago was one of Delaware’s favorite musical sons, Johnny Neel, who formerly played with the Allman Brothers. Neel heard Alesi and was impressed.
“Meeting Johnny at the Freeman Stage resulted in him inviting me to Nashville to record my third album in his studio,” said Alesi. “I am so fortunate and grateful to have worked with such a talented musician and kind soul.”
An indication of how good a singer song-writer Alesi is is that, when she asks her fans what they would like to hear — a cover or an original — they invariably shout out, “One of yours.”
Bob Crabb is a fan of Alesi, a participant in her open-mic nights at Casa DiLeo and the owner of the Back Porch Guitar Shop in Lewes. He knows most of the area’s musicians and does a lot of their acoustic and electric guitar repairs. He has even made a guitar for Alesi, as well as guitars for Jake Banaszak and B.J. Muntz from the band Lower Case Blues.
“Melissa is special in four ways,” he said. “She is an exceptional guitar player with an outstanding finger-picking style; she has incredible vocal range, a large body of original work; and on top of that she is a most gracious and giving human being. She encourages young musicians and gives tips on nutrition and fitness; she’s truly one of a kind.”
Alesi will open for country music group The Band Perry on Aug. 17 at the Freeman Stage in Selbyville. Playing with her will be percussionist Zach Coffman from the duo The Stims. (For ticket availability, visit www.freemanstage.org.)
Alesi was warming up backstage when she was given the news that The Band Perry’s show, originally planned for early July, would need to be postponed. She said she understands the need to put safety first and supports the Freeman Stage’s decision to postpone that show.
The Band Perry “are a great band with their own unique style, and I’m very excited and grateful for the opportunity to open for them,” Alesi said.
Alesi said she plans to play several selections from her latest album, “Lie Again,” as well as a few from previous releases. If you see her reach for a beverage during the show, it will be hot water with lemon — her standard whenever she sings.
To learn more about Melissa Alesi, listen to tracks from her album or see her schedule, go to www.melissaalesi.com.