Meet The Dream Team: Jazz Singer Chris Melville

Wedding singer Chris Melville is set to croon as our Win Your Dream Wedding bride walks down the aisle.

  • Story by As told to Philippa Prentice

Wedding singer Chris Melville is set to croon as our Win Your Dream Wedding bride walks down the aisle, and we couldn’t help but wonder:

When did you discover you could sing?  

My parents had a large and varied record collection, and a number of instruments, so my brother and I had music all around us as kids. I've sung since I can remember. My earliest memories of primary school in 1970s Hamilton are of auditions, shows, concerts, choirs and plays. I think I learned quite early on that I could hold a tune and that made me happy, so I naturally followed that path and took every opportunity to perform. 

I also remember as a very young boy making up rhythms and re-harmonising tunes, singing all the instrumental parts to songs like "Don't Worry Be Happy". In the '80s I found I could use a twin tape deck like a multitrack recorder, overlaying different vocal tracks, and I spent hours and hours singing bass and drum lines into the microphone so I could improvise over the top. I discovered jazz when Mum brought home some cassette tapes of Bill Evans and Chet Baker, and I had an instant affinity with it.

How would you describe your voice and style? 

Someone once called my style ‘blue-eyed soul', a term I understand means 'white' folks singing 'black' music. I struggle against race-based references, but the truth remains that I'm most inspired and influenced by soul, jazz, funk, R&B and hip-hop. By contrast, listeners say I sound like Michael Bublé, Harry Connick Jr and Frank Sinatra. But I don't usually describe my voice – I just sing! 

Why is live music well-suited to weddings? 

Live music offers an immediacy and human quality that connects with family and friends on an already emotionally charged day, and it adds real value to a celebration that a CD or MP3 player can't provide. It also offers something for guests to focus on in the room, so they feel at ease.

What should a couple consider when choosing the right artist for their celebration? 

The artist needs to add magic and joy to the wedding celebration. Every couple is different and finds that magic in a different way, so the artist needs to fit in with the couple's view of how it's going to be created and shared.

Can you work with a couple to devise a customised set list? 

I like it when couples ask for a special song for the walk down the aisle or first dance. It's great to add that personal touch to your celebration. Some couples trust me with my own song choices on the day, and others like to try to redesign the entire song list into some kind of '80s dance mash-up. That's when I gently suggest they call a DJ...

I'm fortunate that my style of singing can cater to both old-time love songs and newer music. Recently I sang at two weddings on one day; for one the aisle song was by Ed Sheeran, and for the other I sang a song from the 1942 movie Casablanca. No problem!

Have you done or seen anything extra-special or unique at a wedding in terms of live music? 

I love it when guests prepare a musical surprise for the newlyweds – that always galvanizes the party! Kids singing and dancing adds a cute touch, ukulele songs are always beautiful, and sometimes grooms get up and sing and play guitar for their brides. Anything that's heartfelt from a guest or the wedding party is the best musical gift ever.

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