Performing on the Gobi Stage at Coachella on Sunday April 21st
By Noe Gutierrez
In 2017, her first alternative knockout single, “No Roots,” went to No. 1 and exploded into an international smash. With the breakout success of her EP No Roots, Alice Merton made the logical next maneuver and recorded a phenomenal LP. Her debut album MINT was released January 18, 2019 via her own label Paper Plane Records International.
After graduating from the University of Popular Music and Music Business in Germany, Merton founded Paper Plane Records International with her manager Paul Grauwinkel, while crafting songs alongside co-writer and producer Nicolas Rebscher. As a reference point, “No Roots” topped Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart in the United States, hit the Top Ten in 9 other countries, was streamed more the 300 million times and sold over a million units that ultimately helped her go platinum in seven countries. How does an artist outdo that?
In addition to seven Platinum Awards for her debut single in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Austria and Turkey, Merton has also won the Echo Award, EBBA Award and the Jugend Kulterell Prize for Acoustic Pop. You can see how tremendous it is to record what many are calling the ‘best of album of 2019’ so far!
Coachella Valley Weekly spoke with Merton about her first Coachella and the inspiration from MINT.
CVW: This is your first Coachella as a performer and spectator. What are you and your band looking forward to most?
Merton: “I’m really excited about our set time at 4:50 p.m. I’m thrilled! That for us, still starting out, I’ve been touring for almost two and a half years. It’s such a pleasure and a privilege to play on the Gobi stage. I’m very excited. I do have to admit I’m very nervous. I can’t wait to feel the crowd and atmosphere and see what it’s like playing at Coachella. It’s my first time and we’re very excited because none of us have ever played there so it’s going to be fun. I’m currently in Los Angeles just stepping out of rehearsal for the moment.”
CVW: Your music is, to me, is pop/dance/alternative in nature. What should Coachella fans expect from your set?
Merton: “I’m feeling pretty confident I’m really excited for our set. We just finished our European leg of the tour. We’ve had a lot of shows and practice. It’s gonna be a fun set. I’m really excited to show people the new songs from the album and kind of just let the songs flow into each other which is also a really fun thing and just have people dance I love making people dance and just having a good time with them.”
CVW: MINT is a significant album after the success of your 2017 NO ROOTS EP, which garnered you worldwide praise and several awards. What was the thought behind MINT?
Merton: “For me, mint has always been very calming and refreshing. When everything started happening two years ago, we started touring, doing interviews and playing many live shows, I would get very anxious and nervous the only thing that really would actually help me was mint. I decided to dedicate my album to the plant. It played such an important part in me being able to do all these things. At that the same time, I look at mint as fresh. It gives you this feeling that you can breathe. That’s how I felt when we put out “NO ROOTS” and the EP without a major label because I didn’t feel the pressure of having it do well. Especially because everyone said, ‘it’s very different and we’re not sure it’s going to work on the radio,’ that’s what I love about it as well, it has this metaphor of being really fresh and different kind of feeling but still feeling free at the same time to not have the pressure of everyone saying ‘it has to work.’”
CVW: The music on NO ROOTS and MINT is uplifting and danceable. Where does the music come from?
Merton: “There’s always gonna be a certain part of it that’s kind of coming from myself without me knowing it, just a natural kind of wanting to have people feel good after a concert coming out feeling energized and wanting to hear more. All the topics I write about, I want to turn it into something positive even if the message of the song is something that could be negative, I wanna still spin it. I like the contrast of making a sad song sound happy. That’s always been one of my mottos. It’s also important to take those messages and flip them over and see the positive side of it by making it ‘dancy’. It’s about saying, ‘you know what, life sucks sometimes but who cares I’m just gonna dance!’”
CVW: What is the make-up of your band?
Merton: “My band consists of three members and myself. We have drums, guitar and synths/keys. We always try to make everything very portable because we’re travelling from Europe so we take all of our equipment with us. There’s not too many of us. It’s the right size to be on stage and have a good time.”
CVW: Do you have any ‘in-between Coachella’ plans? Any artists you’re interested in seeing?
Merton: “We have a few shows midweek in Vancouver and Seattle. We’re kind of in and out. We’ll be at Coachella for three days. I want to see some of the other artists. There’s a French singer, Jain, who I’ve always wanted to see live but I’ve never had the time. I met her in Paris, which was wonderful. I haven’t actually met many of the people playing this year. It’ll be exciting to see the line-up. I’ll be in the crowd just watching as many performances as possible.”
CVW: What has it been like to own your own label Paper Plane Records?
Merton: “I really enjoy it. For my career, it’s awesome that I can have the control over that. Also, if I ever feel it’s becoming too much or I feel I don’t want to tour as much or I want to spend more time in the studio there’s no one telling me I can’t. There’s no one saying, ‘this is what you should do.’ Obviously, I get to work with really wonderful people who understand my vision but they also understand that I want to be doing this for a while. I don’t want to burnout after three or four years. I want to take it as it comes and really enjoy the process of making music and performing. I like it in that sense. It does create a lot of work. There are so many decisions that have to be made. It’s a never-ending process because you’re always planning things and having new people to work with. I also want to sign other artists one day to my label, work with them as well as a songwriter, and help them develop and figure out where they want to go with their career.”
CVW: I have a sneaky suspicion that you have enjoyed “getting it right” with the natural progression of your career.
Merton: “Even when we put out our music and didn’t have a label and we did it ourselves it was such a wonderful feeling. It was a feeling of, ‘wow, we actually achieved something,’ it makes it even more special. I remember when we had our first gold record in Germany, we didn’t have the money back then because obviously it takes a while to come in to actually spend on making really expensive gold records, It cost like 500 or 600 Euros a piece and so we made them ourselves. We literally sat there and ordered the parts that we needed but we were the ones to put it all together and then giving them to our partners and people we are thankful for was such a rewarding feeling. It was very ‘do-it-yourself’ but it made us feel we achieved something and that it’s actually worth something.”
CVW: You were born in Germany and lived in Canada and the United States. My presumption is that your life experiences thus far have had an impact on your songwriting process.
Merton: “Sometimes I think it happens subconsciously. A lot of the times I don’t actually notice what goes on around me but I think it still plays a very big role in my songwriting and in the production. Like being in Berlin for example, it has a very big techno and night scene with dancing and clubs. That really kind of inspired me. I don’t go to that many clubs. I don’t like being in really full places but I love dancing and creating music that is upbeat and makes me feel good. That definitely played a role when I moved to Berlin and played a role in the soundscape. The lyrics stem form a lot of my childhood memories. There’s a song called “Homesick” on the album that talks about what it was like living in Canada and growing up realizing through all the moves, I don’t really miss one place but I always miss people. I get very sad and emotional if I haven’t seen certain people in a really long time. The surroundings play a role but also the people who I meet through my travels.”
Catch Alice Merton on the Gobi stage from 4:50 to 5:35 p.m. on Sunday April 21st.