TIDAL Rising Artist of the Week: Meet Alice Merton
If you happen to run into a woman singing to herself in the dairy section at your local grocery store, you might just be witnessing Alice Merton at work. The singer-songwriter best known for her breakout track “No Roots” finds her mind clearest while pushing a shopping cart — and she could be doing so practically anywhere. The nomadic musician has moved 12 times in her 24 years and still doesn’t really call anywhere home.
“I sing to myself so much in supermarkets,” Merton told TIDAL when she was in New York in June for a performance in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. “I feel like if they were to look at the security cameras, they would see a very strange person humming … I could spend an hour in a supermarket and just stare at the different products and think of melodies.”
All that shopping has certainly paid off for Merton when it comes to songwriting. “No Roots,” initially released in 2016, grew from a European phenomenon over the years, earning Merton a #1 spot on Billboard’s Rock Airplay chart in February of this year. She was the first solo woman to do so since 2014, when Lorde hit it big with “Team.” Now, Merton, who has always insisted on doing things her way, is poised for an even bigger coupe: a full-length LP that could earn this week’s TIDAL Rising musician even more radio play when it drops early next year.
Merton is used to being the new kid in town. According to Rolling Stone, her father is a mining consultant, which kept their family on the move over the years; she has lived in Germany, Canada, England and America over the years, and still splits her time between various locales. Despite her seeming rootlessness, Merton sustained a passion for music that first sparked when she took in a performance of Swan Lake with her kindergarten class. “I was just so fascinated by the music,” she recalls. “I think that’s when I started falling in love with classical music and musical theater.”
She wrote her first song, “Little Lighthouse,” at 16 after her family moved to Germany from Canada. In a sense, that early effort was a precursor to “No Roots.” As she describes it: “It was just about finding a home and hoping that that lighthouse would kind of guide me.”
Only a few years later and “No Roots” turned out to be a surprise success in the manner most true artistic successes are: it stood out among mainstream radio, a kind of bluesy, chanty invocation of homesickness that stood in sharp contrast to Ed Sheeran’s woozy “Perfect” and Maren Morris and Zedd’s poppy “The Middle,” also on the charts at that time.
“A lot of the labels that I was talking to told me that I needed to remix the song or that I needed to take out the guitar — or that I needed to make a rockier production or more poppy production,” Merton recalls. “And most people just said it wouldn’t work on the radio because it was so different from what the radio was playing.”
Merton took that feedback with the proverbial grain of salt but, in the end, decided to start her own label with her manager Paul Grauwinkel and released “No Roots” on her own. Thus, Paper Planes Records was born and “No Roots” made its way across the world. She’s currently on Mom+Pop records, which released her No Roots EP this year.
“I think the first time I noticed [the song on the radio] was in Germany,” Merton says. “I was on my way to the airport in Berlin, and it came on. I was in a really, really big hurry. And I got in a taxi, but just before that, I stepped in dog poo. I was really, really mad because I knew I was going to be on a plane for quite some time, and I didn’t have time to change my shoes. So yeah, the morning started out really badly. And then when we got to the airport, my song came on the radio. And I was just so happy. Like all the anger, and, I guess, the dog poo thoughts just disappeared with the nice happiness of knowing that my song was being played. So that was really cool.”
Over the course of this week, you’ll find out more about Merton — our TIDAL Rising Artist of the Week. Stay tuned for an interview, playlist and some decided un-dog poo thoughts.
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