JONESBORO — Using old VHS tapes and Netflix movies by mail, Melody Kiser taught herself to play the guitar she’d received for her ninth birthday.

The instrument was given to her by her brother, a violin player and vocalist. Her mother is a professional piano player and singer. Kiser comes from a musical family and chose to learn guitar because nobody else in the family played it.

“I played and practiced a lot,” Kiser, now 20, said. “It never felt like a chore because I loved it.”

When she graduated high school a few years ago, Kiser became a professional guitar technician, while attending Berkeley College of Music online to earn a degree in music business.

All the while, she continued to play and write music and lyrics. Kiser would occasionally sing her own songs, but said she really wasn’t comfortable with her own voice until she was about 15.

“Singing is a constant challenge, and it’s a really vulnerable place to be,” she said.

For years, Kiser compared herself to professional singers, believing she wasn’t good enough.

“I finally got past my comparisons and developed a style of my own,” she said.

Last September, Kiser decided that if she was going to make a go of being a singer and songwriter, it was time. She quit her job as a guitar tech and began making a name for herself playing in bars and clubs throughout Georgia and Florida.

She teamed up with Steve Rawls, co-owner of Real 2 Reel recording studio in Jonesboro to cut her first Extended Play record. Kiser said the album is a departure for her in that it’s a solo, acoustical and raw.

“I usually play rock music, so this is really different for me,” she said.

Kiser plays with her family’s alternative rock music band, called Kiser, which features her mom and brother.

A week ago she released her first music video and plans to debut her album in the spring. So far, Kiser said the feedback has been positive.

“I’ve received a lot of encouragement. I have really great friends, family and fan base,” she said.

Though the praise is encouraging, Kiser said there’s still an element of fear because the music is so personal and raw. Despite that, she said she’s going to keep going.

Her ultimate dream, she said, is to make a comfortable living playing music.

“We’ll see how my first EP does,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of support behind me.”

For the second time in as many years, Kiser will join singer Melissa Etheridge for the 2019 Melissa Etheridge Cruise in March.

For more information or to see concert dates, visit

Education reporter Heather Middleton joined the Clayton News and Henry Herald in 2002.

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