Singer/songwriter is charting her own course
By Bernie Schmitt
Melissa Sandullo made it to Vincennes just in time to plug in her keyboard, answer a few questions, and perform.
The Vincennes native is focused on building a fan base and sharing her original music with audiences throughout the Midwest. The singer/songwriter released her second recording, “Eating Shadows,” in September. Then she embarked on a tour of Midwestern cities, playing coffeehouses, pubs, breweries and restaurants.
“It’s work,” she said, “but it doesn’t feel like a job. I guess if you do what you love, then you don’t feel like you’re punching a time clock.”
The former Melissa Cary, a 1998 graduate of Lincoln High School, majored in music at Vincennes University, earned the title of Miss VU, and received voice training from Linda Tucker. She continued her studies at Anderson University, again, in classical voice.
“I did a lot of opera,” she said, adding, “I kind of hated it.”
She continued such study thanks to Tucker, who urged her to continue her classical training, to keep her voice in good shape as she continued singing into adulthood. She worked as a worship leader and directed musical programs at churches in Anderson after college, doing some of her own work along the way.
She married Evan Sandullo, moved to Terre Haute, and started her family. She vowed to spend time raising her three children, and put any kind of singing career on hold.
“Time slowed down for awhile,” she said. “All of my energy was devoted to raising my kids. I’ve only started writing and singing more these last two years.”
Her children are older now, so she felt she could revive her interest in a professional music career. She writes her own music and lyrics, and in September 2017 she was able to release her first album of her own original music. “Poets and Misfits” was a project she was able to complete thanks to a crowd-funded campaign via Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative endeavors.
“That I managed to raise enough money for that validated my choice to get back into music as a professional,” she said.
Along the way she and her husband moved their family to Indianapolis. Though Evan Sandullo has a career with Herf Jones, he and Melissa decided to plunge into an investment venture, buying two Books and Brews franchises, one in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis, the other on the south side.
“They keep us busy,” she said. “I take care of things day-to-day, but we also have two very strong managers for them.”
Books and Brews are tap rooms that feature craft beers, food, and a used bookstore and reading room. They sometimes feature live music, too. (See www.booksnbrews.com.)
“Evan and I had wanted to do something for years, but we couldn’t find a common interest, something we wanted to do together,” Sandullo said. “We found such a place in Indy and now we have two of our own.”
Things haven’t always been positive, and Sandullo sings about such times on “Eating Shadows.”
“For a time I battled mental illness,” she said. “This recent release came out of that journey. I think I am most proud of this — it’s the most personal.
“It feels different now, singing those songs, as I am a lot healthier now,” Sandullo said. “Singing them now is like a victory over when I first wrote them.”
She categorizes her music as “soulful, bluesy piano pop,” with inspiration coming from her life experiences. She had once signed with an artist resource group, but it didn’t work out. She is determined to find her own way and build her own audience, and isn’t pushing to land a recording contract with a major label.
“If I could ever crack the social media code I don’t really need a label,” she said.
She already has a number of fans, thanks to Facebook, and has built a fairly consistent business of performing professionally in Indiana and other venues throughout the Midwest.
“I would like to have consistent representation for bookings,” she said. “Performing is really only about an eighth of my job. I spend a lot of time planning, scheduling, and booking those performances.”
Her goal is to release a new recording every September. While Spark Jay Music helped book her Midwestern tour, she continues to chart her own course in writing, recording and performing.
“It was exciting to have experienced people booking me,” she said. “That was fun.”
She has a band that accompanies her at times, especially when she plays larger venues, such as the Hi-Fi, a Fountain Square Music venue in Indianapolis, known for booking national acts. She often plays solo, too, at restaurants or coffee houses. She performs every two months at the Union 50 restaurant.
“I have consistent work,” she said. “That’s a blessing.”
For more information on Melissa Sandullo, see www.melissasandullomusic.com.