Melissa James has been singing since her school days but it wasn’t until she hit her 30s that making a career out of music became a serious option – so serious that the former Mill Hill resident is releasing her debut album later this month.

“I’d sing in a couple of assemblies at Copthall Secondary School in Pursley Road,” Melissa remembers, “and it was always something that I enjoyed but I was always told I needed to have a ‘proper’ career, so it was more of a hobby. But it was always a secret passion.”

Her musical career was born when she went to the University of Sussex in Brighton to do media studies. She got a slot at the campus bar’s weekly Sunday night jam session and started doing other gigs around Brighton. “But even then it was still ‘now I should go back to doing the serious thing’,” she says. “After university, I started working straight away, in magazines, but in the evenings I’d go to open mic nights and acoustic nights all around London. The fire never completely died out.”

After a stint in Paris, Melissa and her partner moved to Kingston upon Thames and began a family. Her singing coach encouraged her to use the time while her two children were small to start writing her own music and then she met Ross Lorraine, who became her writing partner.

“We gradually started building things up together. It got to the stage where we thought it would be nice to record these – but it took another couple of years, it’s been a bit of a journey! But it feels like it’s happening at the right time.”

The result is Day Dawns, an album that is already earning Melissa a dedicated following around the small venues of London and in the jazz music press.

“Once I started writing I seemed to have so much to say,” she says, “it was like I had a fire in my belly. And I get such a buzz from performing songs I’ve written and seeing people’s reactions to them.”

There is an album launch party at Green Note in Camden, which is already sold out and operating a waiting list. “We’ve got lots of other gigs planned and eventually we plan to do a tour round the country. I’ve had such a positive response from people at the gigs so far,” she says, “it’s been quite amazing.”

Day Dawns is out on Monday, June 25 from SlickerSounds. Details: