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Melanie Fiona making the most of chance to tour with Mary J. Blige

for Journal Register Newspapers

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Melanie Fiona says she loves to perform live. Period.

But the Toronto R&B songstress acknowledges that being on the road with a forebear and influence such as Mary J. Blige has made touring a little more special.

"Where Mary J. is a huge influence for me is what she's been able to accomplish in her career, especially in the genre of R&B," explains Fiona (ne Hallim), 29, whose sophomore album, "The MF Life," came out in March and has spawned the singles "4 AM," "Gone and Never Coming Back," "This Time" with J. Cole and "Wrong Side of a Love Song." "It's inspiring, as an upcoming female artist myself, to see another established female artist who has built a career based off of talent and vulnerability and storytelling and empowerment form basically sharing your truth and sharing your story.

"That is Mary J.'s biggest influence on me. It's just a testament to truth and honesty and having integrity to who you are and what you story is and why you make this music. Being on this tour with her I've been witness to see how it affect people -- myself included. It's just so powerful and so emotional every single time. It's inspiring me."

Fiona does see herself following Blige's trail, willing to show vulnerability but also putting forth a message that she's nobody to mess with, either.

"I'll take that all the way," Fiona says with a laugh. "You don't want to mess with us. I'm not afraid to speak my mind and say how I feel through my music. I know through my ups and downs I've learned great lessons about myself, and because of that I do have a little bit more fight and a little bit more strength to be able to take on whatever or whoever is going to come my way."

Melanie Fiona performs with Mary J. Blige and D'Angelo at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $55.47-$125.75 pavilion, $20 lawn with a $60 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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