In this first local feature, where I meet and talk to local artists who are making waves in the business, we’ll meet 16 year-old Melisa Sawtelle who is on her way to becoming the “first” Melisa Sawtelle and she agreed to give the Guardian Liberty Voice an exclusive interview. During the interview the subject of Mandy Moore came up. A friend and colleague of mine who listened to Melisa perform her song on YouTube, called Sweet Revenge, said that she could be the next Ms. Moore.
Melisa was flattered to hear this and she revealed that she has been compared to the singer before. It did not take long, however, to see that this young artist is not going to be the “next” anything. She is busy making impressions in the entertainment world and will be making a name for herself and not have to rely upon comparisons to existing stars.
For example, on March 6, 2014 Nigel Lythgoe was in Las Vegas doing a pilot for a new singing show for CBS. Around a 1000 enthusiastic audience members sat in and watched the show being filmed; three times throughout the filming the chap who “warmed-up” the crowd, Mike Hammer, asked if anyone could sing.
Mr. Hammer, who usually works over at the 4 Queens Hotel and Casino, had asked the crowd twice if anyone in the audience could sing. Melisa and her father had been out speaking to one of the contestants in the singing competition, a good friend whom she has worked with before, Angelo Molineri. The first lady who responded to Mike’s call was perfunctory, nothing to write home about here. The second “volunteer” was a lad who only wanted to mess about on stage with a microphone in his hand.
The third time that Hammer put out the call for singers from the 1000 strong audience, Melssa Sawtelle, and her father were being moved closer to the stage. Once the request was made, Ms. Sawtelle’s hand went up and she was invited onto the stage. Mike handed over the microphone and with no warm-up, or practice notes, this 16 year-old performer belted out some very, very impressive lyrics, a cappella and received a very enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Sadly, there are no photographs or cell phone recordings of the song as the staff working for Mr. Lythgoe were adamant that all such devices had to be turned off and no pictures of any kind were to be taken. But those who were there on the day witnessed a display of confidence and talent that has been earned by working in the business for over 11 years. I would also like to point out that this enthusiastic response came from a crowd who had been “held captive” for hours and whose overall enthusiasm for the pilot was waning.
It was this performance by Melisa Sawtelle that prompted me to ask for an exclusive interview about her journey on the way to becoming the “first” Melisa Sawtelle.
Melisa seemingly has it all. She sings, writes her own lyrics, acts and models. Her first acting gig, that she can remember, was for a local credit union commercial at the age of 5. In all, Ms. Sawtelle has worked on three commercials, four films and, most recently, in the Ally Sheedy 2014 vehicle Sins of Our Youth .
In the Sins of Our Youth she worked with some of Hollywoods newest and brightest. Joel Courtney from Super 8 and The Between, who, according to Melisa, was brilliant to work with; Lucas Till from X-Men: First Class; Mitchel Musso from Hannah Montana and who played DJ in Monster House; Bridger Zadina from Iron Man 3 and Terri and Dani Knights from Mr Murphy, who incidentally was a finalist another singing competition X Factor USA.
By all accounts it was a brilliant experience and one chronicled with lots of pictures of Melisa and her co-workers on the project. One amusing moment came while filming a classroom scene. When a short break was called, all the principals in the film – the big “names” like Ally Sheedy et al – were being brought out drinks. Melisa jokingly asked for a coffee and Bridger Zadina, being a true gent, ordered her one from Starbucks. When the liquid libation arrived filming shut down immediately so that Melisa could get her coffee.
Speaking of films, she auditioned recently for two short features and is waiting to hear the outcome. Another fascinating project was the work she put in on a Bollywood film shot in Las Vegas – Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu – this particular film was a real family affair as her brother and sister also appeared in the movie. As well as the Bollywood movie and Sins of Our Youth , Melisa has appeared in Stand by Me, The Black Mamba, and This is my dream.
It should also be pointed out that in most of these acting ventures, Melisa’s brother and sister have also appeared in them. It could be said that this is a family business that got its start with great grandfather Edwin Sawtelle who was a famous organist during WWII in Hawaii who released a lot of records which were, in those days, 78s. So it could be said that performing is in her blood.
But it isn’t all just about acting. Melisa sings, and writes her own lyrics, she has appeared at the San Gennaro Feast three times and for the last one she was also the MC who introduced all the acts. She performed as a contestant at the Above the Belt singing competition, which is Las Vegas’ only high school singing competition – she and her friend Angelo sang, separately. Both placing quite high in the contest. She will be competing again this year as well.
She performed for the charity Horses4Heroes Las Vegas. This organization was created in 2006 to honor military personnel, veterans, firefighters, las enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians. Horse4Heroes also provides horse-riding activities for other nonprofit organizations as well as domestic abuse victims, at-risk youths and children.
Apart from all the local competitions that she has participated in, and Melisa’s chance to sing at the CBS pilot on March 6th at the Love Theater in the Mirage Hotel and Casino, she also sang for another network pilot. Jenny McCarthy was going to be doing an American version of Cilla Black’s long running English television show Surprise, Surprise. NBC shot a pilot in the Planet Hollywood Theater, the Americanized title was to have been Surprise, Melisa and her family attended the taping of the pilot. In between filming of the scenes, Melisa was asked to sing to host Jenny and around 1,500 audience members.
This is someone to keep an eye on and watch her career grow and grow because this young lady is the “whole package” singing, acting and modeling. You can find her in IMDb and she has her own website both of which have been linked below. Take a moment and take a look, you can see her latest song Sweet Revenge which will be made into a music video quite soon.
Melisa has also worked for Redken twice as a model in a back-to-back set of shows. This young lady has been working in the industry since she was five, although as her father pointed out, she did start earlier than that. With all those performances and her focus on singing songwriting and acting, she continues to take lessons in order to perfect her craft. Ms Sawtelle will soon be making her mark as the first Melisa Sawtelle and not the next anyone; by the way, this exclusive interview allows the Guardian Liberty Voice, and me, the bragging rights of, “You heard it here first.” Watch this space.
By Michael Smith