Merton, Mint and Brussels Sprouts

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 cafĂ© 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 AliceNice! 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!
00:05 Alice::) 
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.

MintTrack listing


1. Learn To Live
2. 2 Kids
3. No Roots
4. Funny Business
5. Homesick
6. Lash Out
7. Speak your Mind
8. Don't Hold A Grudge
9. Honeymoon Heartbreak
10. Trouble In Paradise
11. Why So Serious

Universal Pop Discovery - Episode 2 -

This week marked the 58th Anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson "The Big Bopper."  February 3rd, 1959.  A tragic plane crash in an Iowa field took the lives of three of the biggest music stars of the period.  Their pilot also lost his life.  To pay a tribute some recent covers of their music:



2011 Buddy Holly cover by;
Stevie Nicks "Not Fade Away"



2004 Richie Valens cover by:
Wyclef Jean "La Bamba"
 

1972 "Big Bopper" cover by:
Jerry Lee Lewis "Chantilly Lace"




Now, hope you enjoy my Episode 2 playlist with some of the latest releases and other tracks you gotta check out...
(You can purchase and download any track at Apple Music)

Depeche Mode
"Where's the Revolution"

Written by Martin Gore, this is Depeche Mode's first release in four years and provides a taste from the upcoming "Spirit" album to be releases in March.  Speaks of the volatility in society, possibly reflecting the climate in the U.K. and U.S.  Enjoy..



A.R. Rahman, Arjun Chandy, Haricharan and Jonita Gandhi
"Azyhagiye"

Some of you may remember A.R. as spokesman for our Worldspace Satellite radio or as the composer of brilliant soundtracks.  This track, just released earlier this month is already #1 in India and it is truly representative of the global appeal of Bollywood. The track is a mix of Tamil and English. A.R. Rahman was a great voice for Worldspace and a brilliant talent.



Milky Chance
"Cocoon"

This is first single from Germany's Milky Chance forthcoming album "Blossom."  Their first global hit "Stolen Dance" topped multiple global charts including the US.


London Grammar
"Big Picture"

The British trio London Grammar released Big Picture via their Facebook page earlier this month.  Already charting in multiple countries. Big Picture features the lead vocals of Hannah Reid.


Digital Farm Animals (Featuring Hailee Steinfeld)
"Digital Love"
Digital Farm Animals is British DJ Nicholas Gale.  Digital Love is sung by American actress Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit/Pitch Perfect). The single Digital Love was released in Early February.

Universal Pop Discovery - Episode 1 - January 20

Episode 1 features music from Rag "N" Bone Man, Sia, The Weeknd, Amy Shark and Ed Sheeran. We all know there has been a lot of great music that continues to be made since UPOP left Satellite Radio and it's so much easier for us to purchase or stream great music now that labels have one global release date. (Something Scott Weimer, Zach Overking and I had been lobbying labels for since 2001!) Each Week I'm going to share some of the global tracks and artists that come onto my radar.  Some of them you may know, some you may discover and some of the tracks that I plan to share hopefully will come from your suggestions. I always appreciated and shared your songs and artist suggestions on UPOP.  So let me know what you have found and I'll share it with a few thousand of our closest friends.

For the first episode, gonna share some of the tracks from 2016 that you may or may not know and some cool new stuff too.

Rag'N'Bone Man
"Human"

Back in July, Rag n' Bon Man (official link here) released HumanBorn in the U.K., Rory Graham took on the name Rag 'N' Bone as the MC for his original drum and bass band in Uckfield, East Sussex, England after watching repeats of the 70s British sitcom Steptoe and Son. Human hit #1 in Austria, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland and has been certified Gold in Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. Very little terrestrial radio play in America. In March 2017 by his debut album will be released.


Amy Shark
"Adore"



You are going to like New Zealand’s Amy Shark. (official link here) Her latest single is “Adore.” In 2016 Amy won her first Queensland Music Award, taking the Best Pop Song for her song 'Golden Fleece'.



Ed Sheeran
"Castles on the Hill"


Ed Sheeran, from Halifax, Yorkshire released the single "Castle On The Hill" on January 13. The single debuted at number two on the UK Singles Chart, selling over 193,000 copies in its first week. 1/13-1/20. Sheeran also debuted at number one with "Shape Of You", making him the only artist in UK chart history to debut in the top two positions."Castle On The Hill" also debuted at No. 1 on the Scottish Singles Chart behind "Shape Of You". The theme of the single surrounds Sheeran's home town of Framlingham, and he reminisces tales of 'smoking hand-rolled cigarettes' and getting 'drunk with friends' at this place. The castle mentioned in the song is Framlingham Castle, and in January 2017, Sheeran was invited to perform at the Castle.  Ed's new album "Divide" (here) will be released in March. 


The Weeknd
"Starboy"


“The Weeknd (official site here) born; Abel Makkonen Tesfaye is the only child of Makkonen and Samra Tesfaye, who were Ethiopian migrants to Canada in the 1980s.  "Starboy" was recorded by the Canadian singer for his third studio album of the same name. It features French electronic duo Daft Punk and was written by the trio and produced by Daft Punk and co-produced by The Weeknd. Daft Punk was a staple artists on UPOP.  "Starboy" topped the charts in countries such as Canada, France, Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden. 


Sia
"Move Your Body"



"Move Your Body" is the fourth single from Australia's Sia seventh studio album “This is Acting.” “Move Your Body" was originally intended for Shakira, but was rejected.