Rising Music Star Melissa Lycan of Nordic Daughter On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

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… Touring is an art form, make sure you are taking time to enjoy the experience, don’t rush it, think of it as a working vacation until the music pays for itself. Even then, make sure 2–3 days a week are full of adventures and fun. Stop and smell the roses, pine trees or anything else your senses desire. Make that process fun for everyone because touring is stressful and typically where I see bands breakup is on their 1st or 2nd tour. Break bread and laugh with each other, make this a magical experience so it translates to the stage!.

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Melissa Lycan.

Nordic Daughter is more than just a musical project it is an experience in variety, acceptance, love and logic. The musical concepts behind the music build a sense of intimacy with the audience that can only be described as genuine and authentic. The vocal stylings of Melissa Lycan are unique yet classic and the songs she delivers are heart felt and blended. The project Debuted in 2016 at the Oriental Theater after years of working in the music business the members chose to write the first versions of the songs ready to be produced in the studio. The Band released the first EP “Forgotten” in 2017 and the second Album “The Path” in Nov 2018. In 2020 Nordic Daughter released three singles all around the challenges people face as they go on their heroes journey! The 3rd album is in the works and is destined to release in Spring of 2023. The band has performed with artists like Lita Ford, Trapt, Cold, Stitched up Heart, Jack Russell and Great White, Lost Point and Michael Morrow, selling out venues up to 500.

Nordic Daughter’s main focus is to tour the world teaching children how to write music as an outlet for their own voices. Interested in playing large benefit concerts, performing a fully choreographed show for fans all over the world and giving as much of their hearts and minds to the planet as it can handle. Get ready for the fiercest of all warriors, NORDIC DAUGHTER!

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up moving around a bit. Alaska is my homeland, so similar to Norway or Sweden. When I was 4 we moved to Ignacio, Colorado to the Southern Ute reservation. I was able to learn first hand about the challenges of another culture, my friends were diverse and wonderful. I still stay connected to my best friend as a little girl. My mom was ambitious and my father was always searching for the whys. Growing up I attended bible study every Wednesday and church on Sunday. My parents were my world, they were foster parents, gardeners, hard workers and my father a deacon. I remember him as he worked on his sermon once for the following Sunday, watching him talk to himself in the mirror was funny to me but I do it all the time. They made me into the hard worker I am. I grew up with homework at the dining room table, family dinners every night, conversation about our day, reading before bedtime and a constant standard to be the best version of ourselves. Yet as high as we can soar, this is how far we can fall.

I began piano lessons when I turned 8 and when I was 9 we moved to Durango, this was a safety net from things I have yet to talk about from my childhood, not far, but a bigger life was in my future. This was when I said goodbye to childhood friends and began my journey into puberty. I had my first “boyfriend” when I was 13 and my first heart break. This was also the year that I had my first job, saved my first $1000 and lost my first friends, like most normal kids. We packed again for another promotion, this time to Colorado Springs. Over the next 6 years I saw the most challenging parts of my life unravel, which I will get into another time. For all intensive purposes, my childhood was what I thought was normal, until I began recognizing that certain things weren’t normal but that is a story for the expose’.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I,

I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” — Robert Frost

I have walked a crooked path to this point. While I have always loved singing, my self-confidence was always lacking and I was down on myself quite a bit in my youth, because of my past traumas. Panic attacks in large social settings began by the time I was 25. When we spend over a decade of our lives judging ourselves and self loathing, it is difficult to break free from the habit. I possessed arrogance in spades, which helped me survive the lack in confidence of my 20’s, but it did nothing for my authenticity, team work or leadership skills. I was blinded by my abundance of talent and a limited perspective, raising two kids and doing my best to keep things together, while being convinced that I just needed to find the right medication. Life was just a routine and I was just going through the motions.

My husband entered stage right during this transitional phase of life and he gave me so much emotional support to peel my own onion, remove pharmaceuticals from my daily routine, and forgive my family, allowing personal growth to flourish over the next few years. Flourish it did. We ran concerts, screen printed merchandise, promoted bands and even did 4 years of Rocky Mountain LocalPalooza, a 10,000 plus festival in Civic Center Park. We were thriving, but I needed more contacts and began attending classes in Music Business. Going back to college at 30 helped me start healing the damaged ego and I received a Bachelor of Music Business in 2012. Managing bands over the next 4 years helped me to reignite my passion for music and allowed me to use my skills to help others. I’ve toured the midwest and west coast as a band manager and found a new love for being ever on the move. I began composing music when I was 16. Jason and I had written and sung our vows on our wedding day, but had never written another song together until this point.

4 years into our marriage, we were fighting all the time, we had to take a 6 month break to see if we were going to divorce, during which time, we came back around to what brought us together in the first place, MUSIC! During one of the lowest points in my life music saved me again. The songs became therapy sessions and the music embodied the emotions that went with the lyrics. After two years of writing and plucking away, we had our first EP “Forgotten”. The rest is just magic. I wouldn’t have come to music without my husband. He is the driving force behind each melody and is the backbone of the entire mission in the songs. Music is in my DNA. While the road may have been winding the music has been calling to me my entire life. It has been a shelter in the storm and it has been the storm, but I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything. Advice for the beginner, just be brave enough to answer the calling and wise enough to reach for opportunity when it presents itself.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Most interesting story involves our first violin player “Mia Asano”, whom is now a Tik-Tok sensation. She blew up when she left for Berklee College of Music in Boston. She is huge now and our first two albums feature her on violin. She has played live with Herman Lee and Dragon Force in Boston and with Lindsey Stirling at 1st Bank Center in Colorado. She even mentioned us in her last cover interview with Performers Magazine.

Her senior year of high school, we completed our first tour and it happened to be the summer before she left for college. We took 4 weeks and travelled the west coast, playing some crazy spots, paddleboarding Lake Washington, jumping off cliffs in Fall City, and playing a backyard punk show is Orange County. Instead of picking just one thing, I pick the entire tour experience. That tour set the stage for all of our other tours. We sold enough merch and had enough guarantees for us to break even. One morning on that tour we were staying at a hip camp spot in Dallas, OR and there was a little herd of goats that roamed the farm we stayed on. They rushed our camp looking for scraps of food and other items to munch on, thought the llama was in fact the ring leader. So we spent our breakfast petting and feeding goats before we explored the terrain for videos.

This also happened to be the day that we discovered Fall City, OR. It was a small town with a huge waterfall. We stopped to check it out. As we stood there enjoying nature, 5 or 6 kids ran past us jumping off of a 40 foot cliff into the still water below. We looked at each other and our daughter, 17, blurts out “I want to do that!” Finding a safe place to approach the plunge was another story and we worked our way to the opposite side of the cliffs to reach a lower vantage point. Finally we settled on a spot that was 15–20 ft above the water and all of us took turns jumping in. It was blissful as the cool water pulled me under and then released me back into the freedom of the surface. These memories keep tour life interesting and break up the monotony of the grind. I hope to do this tour route again soon so I can experience Oregon more intimately.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My biggest mistake that I made was using the wrong spotify promoter, there is such a thing. We worked with a group for about 8 months and they were doing a good job from what we could tell. Unfortunately, after we increased the reach 6 months in, they must have done something shady, seriously not sure but our 2nd album The Path was pulled off of Spotify in 2019. Apparently the person we were using was using a bot on the last round of promo we purchased. Never use a promoter if they guarantee followers or spins. This is a big red flag that we didn’t know about in the beginning. I recommend you do a ton of research before you make choices about promotion, use someone that others have used that has a track record of success.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We are finishing the last song for the 3rd album “Perception” right now and are already starting into the 4th album “Nordic Sun” where we are taking a more tribal approach and featuring more Baritone from Jason’s vocal tool belt. This is pretty exciting for us. Not many artists get to a 3rd album release, let alone a 4th. We are also finally shooting a few videos this fall and are finalizing a new product offering, the Keynote Concert for corporate events and conferences called “The Songwriters Collaboration: What Team Work Sounds Like”.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Art is such a personal representation of emotion that the more diverse a genre or industry becomes the more perspective we gain on human nature. That goes for every style and genre of music and every business in every industry. Diversity pushes each member of a community to make space for other people that may not look or think like them. It sets an expectation of inclusion that builds more approachable leaders and staff, while also recognizing that intelligence and creativity are not limited to a set demographic. Culturally diverse industries will continue to have the most creative products, the widest reach and the most positive PR as this cultural evolution continues. I’ve seen so much diversity on Netflix, though I don’t see as much in music. I watched an Indian film last night “RRR” subtitled in English and loved it. I still don’t see much diversity in Country or Hip/Hop but would love to see more unique cultural representation in both of these markets.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Don’t over saturate a market or you won't sell tickets. ~ When we first start out, we just want to play live. Most of us will do anything we can to get on that stage, because we do it for the love not for the money, at least genuine artists do. I watch bands all the time book more than 2 dates a year within a given market, which will cause a reduction in attendance in that market and a negative relationship with the venue and eventually you will drop off the booking list. We learned early on that numbers don’t lie.

Build a merch Booth. ~ Bands often forget that half of their income is in the merchandise. When we first started we had no merchandise. We left money on the table every show for the first year. Whatever your guarantee, ie. if you are guaranteed $800, expect to sell 50–100% of that in merchandise each show, ie $400-$800 in merchandise. Don’t leave that money on the table it will change the velocity of entry for your band.

Save all of your income for the first year for recording an album. ~ This is a business and if you pay out the money to members, you won’t have anything to spend on recording and then you must collect money from personal budgets to pay for it. Each member should be willing to do this as long as they are part of the royalty process. We did not do this the first year and have been paying for our studio time out of our pocket ever since.

Piggyback…It’s ok to pay work-for-hire musicians if you don’t want to get caught in a royalty war. ~ Jason and I opted to own the project as the song writers and pay for everything ourselves, from writing/recording the music to live performance. We paid each member for their studio time as a session musician and a work-for-hire. In addition, we paid guarantees to each player of $100 when we started and set the bar for booking at $100/player. This is a collaborative work around. Pay now or pay later if the music hits. Everyone has preferred pay now. We avoid legal issues this way and can keep the project moving if someone needs to step out because of LIFE!

Don’t play for free ~ I have been asked to play a four hr set for free before and learn 20 new songs in the process, DON’T DO IT. People that don’t play music don’t understand the work that goes into a live performance. As a musician you must value yourself first if others are to value your time. Performing for free dilutes the market for everyone and leads to desperation as a musician. You have the right to ask someone to guarantee something. Especially when it is a paid event or in a restaurant. These businesses must view you as another business not just as an artist. Asking for money is scary but you are worth it and you won’t be sorry you drew the line in the sand.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Touring is an art form, make sure you are taking time to enjoy the experience, don’t rush it, think of it as a working vacation until the music pays for itself. Even then, make sure 2–3 days a week are full of adventures and fun. Stop and smell the roses, pine trees or anything else your senses desire. Make that process fun for everyone because touring is stressful and typically where I see bands breakup is on their 1st or 2nd tour. Break bread and laugh with each other, make this a magical experience so it translates to the stage!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would inspire a movement to help implement global education, health care, and energy access for all humanity. We all have a right to an education based upon fact not fiction. Respecting a cultural difference does not out weight human rights. We have the ability and resources to provide free solar energy, food, internet and clean water technology to all people. Commerce cannot be at the expense of a populations basic survival needs.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One of the people that has given us the biggest opportunities is Elan Schwartz of Bands 4 Bands Entertainment. He has booked the band on numerous gigs that helped grow our fan base in Colorado. We were actually both promoters in the Denver music scene back in the day and our collaborations turned into a dear friendship over the years. He is the one who booked us direct support to Lita Ford at the Buffalo Rose in 2019. It was our Tour Kick off. It was amazing and the show sold out. That opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without Elan nor would Great White, Cold, Trapt and many others. He has been such a big supporter of our music. Thanks Elan!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

When I was assaulted at 16, I went through serious mental health challenges. Sometimes the shear will survive is the only thing that pushes us forward. In our darkest times of life, it doesn’t matter how wealthy, talented, educated or intelligent we think we are; we are all equal in depression. In that moment of undoing, we all stand at the edge of that precipice, deciding to exit or set the stage for our next act. We face our mortality, our failures and choose hope, thus we persist another day. You never know when you will turn the corner to see the grand tapestry that was waiting just out of sight. This too shall pass.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I would love to have lunch with Stevie Nicks. Her ability to engage an audience is timeless and I adore the collaboration of sounds that came out of FLeetwood Mac. She took on the role of embodying the divine femine during the sexual awakening in the 60’s and continued to inspire young women for the last 60 years. We are performing at this year's Witchfest at Elitch Gardens in Denver…hint, hint! *wink* Stevie!

How can our readers follow you online?

Please follow-us on social media @NordicDaughter or you can find all of our happenings at https://www.nordicdaughter.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Photo Credit: @DaveIngrahamPhotography

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Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.