2012 SMAF Artist Profile ~
Melissa Mitchell and Rik Nielsen
Melissa Mitchell is a lifelong Alaskan, a mother and a committed social activist. Her remarkable voice and compelling life story embody the spirit and struggles of the people everywhere. As a songwriter Melissa is focused on honesty, connection and community. It is not an exaggeration to say that her personal integrity shines through in her music. Melissa’s exceptional talent is obvious to anyone who hears her.
She has performed with artists like Michael Franti & Spearhead, Mason Jennings, the Indigo Girls and Greg Brown. She recently opened for Jewel in Anchorage, Alaska and elicited this comment from her fellow Alaskan: “(I was) so impressed with my other opening act, Melissa Mitchell. She was a great guitar player! She was confident and commanded her guitar- I love that! And her voice was just sweet and strong”.
Melissa grew up in the small town of Kasilof, Alaska. Her musical dreams were born at her first solo performance in the 3rd grade when she sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to a stunned audience of children and parents. Singing and writing poetry became an outlet and escape from a sometimes tumultuous and often lonely upbringing. As an adult she has been compared to Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Adele, Alison Krauss and Norah Jones, among others., In 2005 she became a volunteer for the Arts in Corrections Program at Folsom Prison in California and on Thanksgiving eve of that year performed in a nationally broadcast concert with Michael Franti. It was the first live concert at the prison since the 1968 performance by Johnny Cash. Working with the “Boys in Blue” was a life changing experience for her and over the years Melissa has gained a deep understanding of how important the creative arts are to the process of emotional and spiritual renewal. She still dreams of hearing her songs on the radio but also recognizes the deeper purpose of her gift and is choosing to make a difference. She is truly one of the great singer/songwriters of her generation.