A rebel with a cause

A rebel with a cause

Melissa Ratley kicks off Thin Line Festival at Dan’s Silverleaf on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

A rebel with a cause
February 17
12:55 2016

Tyler Hicks | Staff Writer

@MightyasaPen

In between bites of a Harvest House BLT, Melissa Ratley lamented the lost days of George Strait, Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire.

It’s the day of the 26-year-old singer-songwriter’s opening Thin Line Film Festival performance, and even as she discusses the past and present of country music, she looks ahead to the future.

Among a bevy of “bro country,” Ratley is intent on bringing back the style that inspired her to pick up a guitar.

She was born in California, but her family relocated to the Dallas-Fort Worth area two months after her birth. Her musical career, Ratley said, began when she was 6 years old. At her first grade talent show a young Melissa took the stage to belt out “You Are My Sunshine.”

At 16, she began experimenting with songwriting and said this is where the work for her first album began.

“You have your whole life to write your first album,” she said.

So while she didn’t step in to the studio and hit record until 2014, her first record, entitled “A Lonely View,” encapsulates nearly a decade of her life.

During this time, Ratley spent time at three different universities and two radio stations. Radio, which she got into to because she “just needed a job,” stole her away from music for two years.

But Ratley never strayed far from her first and only love.

Melissa Ratley kicks off Thin Line Festival at Dan’s Silverleaf on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Melissa Ratley performs at Dan’s Silverleaf. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

“I was never going to be happy just playing music,” she said. “I was only going to be happy writing and performing it.”

Victor Gann, owner of the independent label Evia Music, said he knew Ratley had made the right call when he saw her perform in a hotel lobby. She is currently signed under his label.

“She had no band,” he said. “But she had songs, vision and drive.”

His label, which is committed to local artists only, snatched up Ratley because of the respite she offered from typical country fare, which he calls “bad pop.”

“There’s a group of people out there that like the stuff from the ’80s and ’90s, and we’re a big part of filling that void for them,” guitarist Nik Woods, who plays with Ratley, said.

While Ratley continues to craft music enjoyed by droves or country purists, she said her goal is always to “have a conversation with the audience through [her] music.”

Now, she’s delving into work on her second album, which will continue the style that producer Jason Rochester calls “stripped-down, true country.”

But first, Ratley will take the stage at 9 p.m. tonight at Dan’s Silverleaf for Thin Line. As usual, she said she will strive to give her best performance possible—a performance worthy of Denton.

Ole Miss may be her favorite of the three schools, but Ratley said she is proud to play at venues in a city that is “a great breeding ground” for artists of all kinds.

As she looks at the sun-soaked Denton Square from the wooden table outside at Harvest House, she smiles at the possibilities that lie ahead for her.

“You can go to any corner,” Ratley said. “And you’re going to find something that inspires you.”

Featured Image: Melissa Ratley kicks off Thin Line Festival at Dan’s Silverleaf on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

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