WEST ORANGE, NJ — Back in 2015, then West Orange High School senior Melody Ector received the Faculty Scholarship Award for her plans to study popular music at the University of Southern California; at the time, she had no idea she would wind up playing venues like Coachella with King Princess, but that’s exactly what happened.
“When I graduated from WOHS I was already planning to go into music,” Ector said, crediting WOHS fine arts teacher William Farley with helping her along the way. “I had a lot of help from Mr. Farley because he gave me many opportunities to play piano and accompany the choir, so from that I was able to grasp what kinds of music I wanted to do and the type of musician I wanted to be. … My plan from the start was to pursue a career as a pianist/keyboardist and I graduated from USC in May.”
While at USC, Ector studied the music that shaped much of today’s popular sound, including Muddy Waters; James Brown; Stevie Wonder; Earth, Wind, and Fire; Chaka Khan; Led Zeppelin; and the Beatles.
“From there, I got heavily invested in learning about synths, playing parts and figuring out the best way to execute them in a band. I sing background vocals sometimes, but I mostly play piano and rhythm guitar,” Ector said.
Ector currently lives in Los Angeles. She met King Princess, aka Mikaela Strauss, through the pop program when Ector was a sophomore at USC and Strauss was a freshman, and the two instantly became friends. When Strauss signed with Mark Ronson’s Zelig record label, she asked Ector to play keyboards in her band.
“King Princess is considered pop music, but with lots of influence from classic rock. I personally love the style of music because she’s a great musician and the songs are intricate and fun to play. She’s a great songwriter,” Ector said.
King Princess has been touring regularly since 2018, when the band’s first single, “1950,” debuted.
“We toured all last year while I was finishing up senior year so at one point it was really hard,” Ector said, adding that she would finish a show and return to the tour bus to work on homework or write a paper. “You get used to being on a plane four times a week and traveling just becomes second nature after you do it for a while.”
King Princess has toured many major cities in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, England, the Netherlands, Germany and France. They have also played Coachella, The Governors Ball Music Festival, Glastonbury and Boston Calling, and have even more festivals on their schedule.
“Performing in these large venues and festivals is like a giant high. I don’t get nervous; I get really anxious to go on stage … the anticipation before the show kills me,” Ector said.
For now, Ector plans to continue touring with King Princess and other bands that need keyboardists. She also plays with a band she started, MOTHER, an all-girl band with musical influences ranging from rock to jazz. The band members met at USC and play locally around Los Angeles.
“My dream is to become a musical director for a house band on TV shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ or ‘Saturday Night Live,’” she said.
Photos Courtesy of WOSD