A Not So Serious Conversation with Alice Merton
by: Ted Kelly
I’m at the only Pool Hall in Incline Village Nevada about 11 o’clock on a Friday night for some drinks with friends. The jukebox (YES! they still have a jukebox! Which can be programmed and paid for via app) is pumpin’ out eclectic mix of songs that ranged from Cypress Hill, the Killers, to Nikki Minaj / Sir Mix A Lot. So, you’ve got people playing pool and twerkin while shouting “my anaconda don’t want none…” can you picture it? Then “No Roots” from Alice Merton comes on, and the same people twerkin’ fifty seconds earlier use their pool cues as mic stands to sing the infectuous hook “I’ve Got No Roots” while jumping in unison. So when I caught up with the platinum-selling English born, German-based singer-songwriter during this portion of her sold out U.S. tour which has taken her from the Roxy in West Hollywood to Austin City Limits, DC, NYC, Boston, Philly and back to her “roots” in Canada then wrapping October 26thin Detroit at The Majestic, I wanted to get a sense of what musical and creative roots were the basis for the instant global anthem “No Roots” and a new album “MINT” which will be out in January 2019. “MINT” is ripe with hits and a new surreal video for her single “Why So Serious” that already has over 1.3 million YouTube views in it’s first few days. “Why So Serious” reminds me of the best video work from Flaming Lips and OKGo combined. Alice Merton toured the US supporting the brilliant Vance Joy, has been championed by Billboard Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, performed on Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show, James Corden's Late Late Show and Live With Kelly and Ryan.
Alice Merton- By The Numbers:
Alice is now approaching 130 Million YouTube hits
"No Roots" held #1 for 2 consecutive weeks at alternative radio,
#1 in Canadafor 8 weeks
#1 on the AAA (Adult Album Alternative) charts 5 weeks in a row.
No Roots also cracked the Top 30 pop charts, the Top 15 on Hot AC (#13) and The Billboard Hot 100.
The recent hit “Lash Out” broke Top 10 AAA Radio
Alice’s songs have gone platinum in 6 countries
Top 10 in 10 countries
261 million + global streams
#1 Spotify Global Viral Charts
8.9 million Shazams
2018 Teen Choice Awards Nomination in 'Best Rock'.
Here is what I learned about Alice's musical roots in Canada and Germany, her Paper Planes Records International music label, school band mates and what one vegetable she chose to throw some shade!
Ted Kelly’s Ten Minutes with Alice Merton:
10:00Ted:As a child in Canada and then Germany what are some of the songs and artists you remember hearing or your parent playing?
9:56 Alice:My parents listened either to classical music, Barbra Streisand or The Alan Parsons Project. That was really it, so that’s what I grew up on.
9:40 Ted: Then….?
9:39 Alice:At some point I discovered indie rock and loved listening to Panic at the Disco, Fall Out Boy and the Killers. But I still am obsessed with the 80s.
8:36 Ted: The Why So Serious video, which accompanies the new single opens with a middle aged nudist sitting across from you, to a hamburger guys sipping an espresso a street café bicycling creatures, fisherman, a costumed puppy, some street corner PDA, stunt dinosaurs, sumo wrestlers ribbon dancers, an elephant and a palm tree in mini coopers... Who found these characters for the video?
8:06 Alice:I found them. My imagination is a strange place.. haha.
7:56 Ted: Where was it shot?
7:50 Alice: It was shot in Berlin, and a fun fact is that all my favourite people are in this video, disguised.
7:26 Ted:Talk about your label Paper Plane Records International that your formed with your friend and manager Paul… Paper Plane is an interesting name. Would it possibly be a nod to M.I.A.? The reason I ask is because Paper Planes and M.I.A. were a staple of UPOP on XM and WorldSpace Satellite Radio as we debuted M.I.A. on global satellite radio, with her first US interview on our XM and Worldspace channels.
6:42 Alice: Nice! What a cool thing ! I do love that song, and it did play a role in the name finding, but more importantly I liked the message of a paper plane.
6:26 Ted:How so?
6:23 Alice:It shows that something so simple such as a piece of paper, can be turned into an object that flies and can soar, depending on how you fold it, not depending on how expensive the paper is. 6:07Ted: How does that fit in with creating your own music label? (that ultimately gained such global visibility Alice’s first single charted To 5 globally)
6:01 Alice:That basically describes our company and our thinking behind it. We didn’t have much money in the beginning, but we invested time and effort into the music and in the end watched it grow.
5:43 Ted: That first artist you have on Paper Planes Records has done pretty well.. any plans to sign more artists?
5:31 Alice: We will be signing artists very soon to the label, but we want to establish it a little more beforehand. I also want to make sure I have the time to invest in another artist, and at the moment I don’t with all the touring.
4: 52 Ted:What was the backstory to your writing Why So Serious?
4:44 Alice:I was asked in interviews if I think I was going to remain a one hit wonder. That really hit a soft spot, so I went into the studio, very angry…but then realised…whats the point? I don’t make music to satisfy other people, I make it for myself to realise how I feel and share these feelings with others.
I feel like we often get so caught up in our problems and we completely forget to look at the big picture! Which is pretty nice if you ask me.
3:44 Ted:In 2000 at Roseland I had a chance to ask David Bowie about his evolution of music and writing styles. He gave me a very similar answer. He said he realized that he had personal experiences and things thing to write about and different instruments to work with. Those creations were not developed with a particular audience in mind. If you weren’t doing music what do you think you would have been doing?
3:04 Alice:I would love to be directing movies or writing screen plays.
2:54 Ted:Your on tour gonna be playing through --- Tell me about your band mates, are some of your former classmates still in the band?
2:36: Alice:Yes my band is still from college. We all met in our first year. I asked Lucas and Bastian and Simon if they’d join my band. Unfortunately Simon left the band, but then we asked a friend of ours (Regi) also from the same college if he’d like to join us. Its really nice being with people you know from 5 years ago, because it’s a new adventure for everyone.
2:03 Ted: Recording Geek Alert: Was “MINT” recorded, Analog or digital? And do you have a personal preference, or do you think it matters at all?
1:53 Alice:There’s a bit of both actually. I won’t say which songs or which parts are which though :)
1:32 Ted:Congrats on the Border Breakers Award!, the international award for the success in reaching audiences outside your own country. You join quite a roster of talent including; Adele, Katie Melua and Tiziano Ferro, all three artists I had the honoring of debuting on satellite radio globally.
1:31 Alice: Thank you very much!
1:30 Ted:What do you think it is about you and your music has taken on such global appeal?
1:16 Alice:I honestly don’t know…haha. Maybe I'll figure it out one day.
1:01 Ted: What music styles do you like?
00:47 Alice:Everything except heavy metal.
00:42 Ted: Who are you listening to on your tour bus or while traveling between gigs?
00:29 Alice: I always listen to something different. At the moment I love listening to Tase Sultana, Lewis Capaldi and Fenne Lily. I love discovering new talented artists.
00:11 Ted:What else do you want to share that you haven’t been asked a million times?
00:09 Alice: Hmmm…I think you covered most of it
00:06 Ted: Hey!
00:04 Alice:I haven’t been asked if I like Brussels Sprouts.
00:02 Ted: Do you?
00:01 Alice:I don’t though.
Alice Merton’s journey mirrors her memorable hook from “Why So Serious” ‘I want to live with no regrets, I don’t want to care of what if’s, cause what if those things don’t last.’ Is that a lyric to live by, or what!? You can pre order the new Album MINT (from Mom+Pop) here.