German- Canadian- English singer/songwriter, Alice Merton, kicked off the first night of her North American tour at the legendary Roxy Theatre this past Wednesday night. There’s been a ton of buzz surrounding the up and coming artist since the release of her insanely catchy single, “No Roots” at the end of 2016.
What is most notable about the growing success of the song, (besides it’s contagious chorus and opening bassline riff, somewhat reminiscent to The White Stripes classic “Seven Nation Army”) is the fact that Alice Merton took a totally DIY route and self-released the single. The song was such a success -it reached number one on Billboard’s Alternative chart. Soon after, Merton released an EP in 2017 to tide fans over until her full length album was ready. Eager fans are still anticipating the release, but the wait is almost over. The debut album Mint, is set to drop on Jan. 18 via Mom + Pop. Merton and her bandmates teased the crowd with new material during the hour long set.
The packed house welcomed Merton, with delight, as she made her way on stage to “Hit the Ground Running” from the No Roots EP. The lively, upbeat tune had the fans in an instant frenzy. And what a perfect song to set the tone of the night. The lyrics seemed to make perfect sense while watching Merton, as she sings out “I’m going to hit the ground running, only waited for the marching drum, I’ll be ready when the moment comes” because her moment certainly has arrived, and she appears more than ready to seize it! I try to avoid using a blanket statement like “the next big thing” but Merton unquestionably has all the right ingredients for becoming a household name.
After the opening song, Merton jumped right into unveiling some of her new songs from the forthcoming album that included “Keeps Me Awake”, “Holes” (a song about music labels and not allowing them to change you) and “Learn to Live” (a song about Merton’s experience of panic attacks). They were all crowd pleasers and I noticed a few die hard fans singing along, already familiar with the lyrics.
She also played her better known tunes, including “Jealousy”, one of my favorites. It starts out as a slow, emotionally-charged ballad that transcends into a powerful, angsty banger. And who doesn’t love a song that makes use of some light percussion shakers before the shredding drums kick in? Sonically, this song (and a couple others), brought to mind the stylings of Florence and the Machine and I’m curious to see if Mint will garner Merton a similar success story to what Lungs did for Florence Welch.
Another new song, titled “Trouble in Paradise”, came to life because “Once I got into a big fight with my producer so I wrote a song about it,” Merton explained. She went on to tell the crowd that she showed the producer the song, because she feels like she owes it to whoever she pens a song about to let them know upfront it’s about them. Fortunately, there is no bad blood between the two of them, it was just a one off and they still work together. She told the audience, “He’s actually probably my favorite producer ever and his name is Nicholas.” Sharing this story seemed to be her way of thanking him publicly, as he has been involved in most of her recordings.
Merton slowed it down with a couple more new tracks. One was called “PCH”, which is about the magical views and dreamy drive along the California coast. “The next song”, Merton told the crowd, “is one of the earliest songs I wrote and it goes out to all the people who know how it feels to have a really bad heartbreak.” The song, titled “Honeymoon Heartbreak”, is a captivating power pop ballad, as impassioned as a Lana Del Rey song.
The energy was turned back up with the next two songs, “Speak Your Mind” and the anthemic, fan favorite, “Lash Out”. Merton danced and flailed her arms all about on stage, really getting into it. What a fun song! I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it’s used for some kind of empowering ad or maybe for a mascara company — the possibilities are endless with such an appealing tune.
Merton took time to introduce her talented band, which consists of Regi Drake on guitar, Lucas Heiby on drums, and Bastian Voelkel on keyboards, and briefly summed up how they met five years ago — having gone to the same college and she asked if they’d be in her band.
The next song was yet another new one called, “I Don’t Hold a Grudge”, which Merton explained was about a friend who ignored her for two years, then heard her song on the radio and finally called her to catch up. The crowd booed, someone yelled out, “What a dick!” I’m sure this ‘friend’ is kicking himself now, especially when he gets wind of the song he inspired her to write by, well, being a dick.
The last and most anticipated song of the night was the well known single “No Roots”. The song is about how Merton has moved 12 times in her 25 years and doesn’t have a place that she considers to feel like home. Though the inspiration behind the song is a bit gloomy, with lyrics like “I build a home and wait for someone to tear it down,” Merton finds a way to liven up the melancholy subject by performing it as a funky, melodic, and playful song. The crowd sang and bobbed their heads to the infectious chorus.
Merton thanked everyone for coming out and disappeared off stage for just a minute before coming back out for a one song encore. The new single, “Why So Serious” was the very last song of the night and it got everyone moving to it’s uplifting lyrics and cheerful melodies.
Alice Merton is a performer to watch out for. She’s got a remarkably memorable voice and writes heartfelt songs. And I love how she has managed to stay true to herself and not cave in to the pressure of becoming a manufactured artist. She’s the real deal, a raw talent and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for her.
Words and photos by Betsy Martinez