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Interview: Melissa

On the 30th anniversary of her debut single, "Read My Lips", debuting on the ARIA chart, the pop star looks back at how her music career began

Interview from May 2021

On the ARIA chart for the week ending June 9, 1991, E Street actress Melissa Tkautz debuted at number 41 with her debut single, "Read My Lips" (released under just her first name, Melissa). Five weeks later, the soap star-turned-pop star was at number 1. Thirty years later, Melissa tells Chart Beats about the launch of her "whirlwind" recording career, and in the full-length interview reveals what she thought of "hands off my detonator" and the single she always hated.

Happy Anniversary! Does it feel like 30 years since "Read My Lips"?

Thank you. Can you believe it? I honestly cannot believe it’s been 30 years. Where the hell has that gone? It’s crazy!

What are your strongest memories from that period of your life?

Just being really busy, but it was such a creative, exciting time because I had the best of both worlds — I was acting, I was singing, all the film clips and photo shoots and events... I’m not sure whether I stood back and said, “Wow, this is incredible.” When you make it to that level, you think it’s going to be like that forever, but everyone has hot and cold periods. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to sustain somewhat my career through the years — I’ve always worked and had singles out. It might not have been to the level of E Street and “Read My Lips”, but times are different now. We’ve got social media and different platforms for celebrity. Back then, you had Channel 7, 9 and 10, and they gave you your Australian celebrities.

Was a music career part of your plan when you joined E Street?

No. I’d always sung and had singing lessons as well as my acting lessons, but I never thought I would have a singing career off the back of E Street.

What did you think of the idea to work a song into your character’s storyline?

They were going to get somebody to do a voiceover to sing it, and I said, “You know I’m a singer? Why don’t you let me sing it? That’s going to be ridiculous. I don’t want to have somebody else’s voice dubbed over me. Let me do it.” Then, when they got the song from the two writers, they said, “You know what, we should release this,” just as a passing comment, and sure enough they did. Nobody had any idea it was going to do as well as it did. Nobody. Not even the writers.

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Melissa on Chart Beats

And what did you think of "Read My Lips"?

At that age, I was into grunge and heavy metal, so I didn’t think much of it, to be honest with you. I was either into really heavy dance music or grunge and heavy metal. So pop music wasn’t my thing. I knew it was a good song and I knew it had a good beat, it just wasn’t my kind of music. I was looking for the remix, the underground heavy beats version. But I did grow to love it very much, and I loved performing it and I still love performing it now. It sums up that era so well. It bring back memories from E Street and that whole time.

How was it for you being in the recording studio?

It was very daunting because I’d never been in a recording studio before. Back then, I had no say and there were so many things I wanted to say but I kind of wasn’t heard. I was this young kid who couldn’t talk properly — I was so nervous and scared, like, “OK, what do you want me to do now?” It wasn’t until a couple of years later when I found my voice and I knew the things I wanted to do and didn’t want to do that it became more of a pleasurable experience being in the studio. I could say, “I don’t want do to that,” or “I want it to sound like that.” I found my voice very quickly and you have to because when you’re putting yourself and your image out there, you need to stand behind it. You need to be proud of what you’re doing and like what you’re doing, otherwise you can’t sell it. You can’t fake it.

Did you see the fact that other soap stars had put out singles as a pro or a con?

It didn’t really matter. I guess it was accepted more, coming off the back of Kylie Minogue releasing music. I was the next one after Kylie really and then everyone else really followed, from what I can remember. It wasn’t really something I thought of.

Was there more pressure with “Sexy (Is The Word)”?

Yes. I think the guys who wrote “Read My Lips” were under a lot of pressure to find a track that was going to be as good.

 

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