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Collinsville Singer-Songwriter Bubbles Up on Local Scene

By Carl Wiser Staff Writer

Melanie Champagne performing at Milkweeds in the Collinsville axe factory.

COLLINSVILLE – Melanie Champagne started playing open-mic nights at LaSalle about 10 years ago when she was a freshman at Bristol Central High School. Now, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter has released four singles, has a seven-song EP on the way, and is a fixture on the local music scene. She still plays LaSalle, but also shows up at venues like The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown and The Sounding Board in West Hartford.

Champagne listened to Taylor Swift and other pop singers when she was growing up, but her tastes changed when she started taking lessons at Bristol Guitar with owner Brian Burgess, who died in 2021.

"He had long, grey hair down his back, missing half his teeth... the coolest guy ever," Melanie says. "Because I took lessons from him, I grew up playing The Beatles and Neil Young."

After high school, Melanie went to CCSU, where she majored in music education for two years before switching her major to art education. "I realized I didn't want to be leading a choir or something of that nature," she says. "I was taking art classes on the side, and going into the art department, it was like, 'Oh, this is where I'm supposed to be.'"

Melanie has been teaching art at Glastonbury High School since she graduated from CCSU in 2022. She now lives in Collinsville and often performs on weekends. "I love teaching. I love working with kids," she says. "But I'm trying to put more love and energy into my music because it's really what makes me happy.

Her first four singles she recorded in Avon with Asher Condit, her "musical mentor" who now lives in Nashville. Her upcoming EP, Circle Back, she recorded in her bedroom and on a beach in Rhode Island using a MacBook and two microphones she borrowed from friends.

"The songs are really scaled-back," she says. "I wanted them to sound like they're homemade and held together by masking tape. After moving here [Collinsville], I spent a lot of mornings waking up at 3 a.m. to drive to Watch Hill to see the sunrise. I'd bring this beater nylon guitar with me, and I wrote a lot of the songs there while I was on the beach.

Some of them are live recordings on the shore. The songs are really reflective, really dreamlike. Etherial. It's some of the best music I've ever made, and it feels the most "me."

Melanie in Collinsville. "It's amazing. I can ride my bike everywhere, you see everybody in town," she says.

Melanie has found Collinsville very welcoming and a great place to be a musician. "For a good portion of the summer you can hit LaSalle, you can hit the outside stage [for the Music On Main concert series], and you can hit Crown And Hammer," she says.

She's gotten a lot of support from LaSalle's open-mic night hosts Conrad Doty, Patti Wilion, and Eric Paradine, whom she calls "one of the best guitar players I've ever met."

Says Melanie, "It's like family. They've known me since I was really young."

She's also been showcased in the axe factory, performing at a community event hosted by Milkweeds hair salon, and at the Luna & Lotus healing center. "Something I love about this town, there are so many female-run businesses that are up and coming," she adds.

Music is very much a means of expression for Melanie. "It's very cathartic," she says. "I'm able to take my life experiences and make them into songs. It's therapeutic. I'll come to realizations. I'll write a song and say, 'Wow, I didn't know I felt that way.' I think the thing about being human is, we're all a lot more alike than you'd think, so other people might resonate with how I'm feeling."

Here's where you can find Melanie's music and find her on the socials.

Some other singers Melanie recommends:

Stage Name

Melanie's real last name is Michaud. She explains how she came upon her stage name.

"When I was in high school I received an art scholarship that allowed me to take art classes at the Hartford Art School (UHart) over the summer. I took film and drawing. One day we were wandering the art buildings and we found a room, the walls were covered in artwork from past students. On one of the walls it said 'Melanie Champagne.' It just sort of burned itself into my mind. A few years later I decided it would become my stage name."

Melanie outside the Canton Historical Museum


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