We spoke to the emerging Bristol-based singer, songwriter and producer Mercy’s Cartel who has been making waves across Bristol venues since the release of her debut EP Vibes Cartel.
Since the release of her debut EP earlier this year, you may have seen Mercy’s name pop up an increasing amount with recent shows at The Gallimaufry, Thrift – in association with We Are Cow – and most recently at The Canteen supporting Noya Rao. She now has upcoming shows performing alongside Yasmin Lacey and Etta Bond as well as an appearance at Red Bull Presents Open House. Trust us when we say she’s worth watching. Mercy may be young but she holds the stage with ease, conveying a complex variety of emotions through her song writing and performances, a skill that reaches well beyond her years.
Mercy’s debut EP Vibes Cartel snapshots the singer, songwriter and producer after her 2017 hospitalisation and departure from University. Her single ‘Feel my Vibe’ creatively discusses substance abuse, youth culture and how to deal with ill mental health. This track was written shortly after Mercy went into hospital after experiencing the hate crime. “I was abusing substances heavily and severely depressed. I started to see myself in icons like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston – I think their lives were beautifully tragic but I didn’t want to end up that way. Bristol’s student youth culture is very problematic. So Feel My Vibe is me trying to stop myself going down a darker route.”
Her most recent single ‘6 Tears’ is a a happy melting pot of Afro Beat, Pop and R’n’b and the with the lyrics conveying defiance in the face of an unhappy, imbalanced relationship – a welcome soundtrack to anybody’s love life. We’ve had the whole EP on repeat since its release in September so we caught up with the singer to delve a little deeper into her music, its meaning and the creative processes behind it.
So earlier this year you released your debut single ‘Feel My Vibe’ which was followed up by a 7-track EP, what was going through your mind in the run up unleashing your music on the world?
I was going through a lot of pivotal changes in my life. I had just left a 5 year relationship, been hospitalised for suicidal depression and anxiety, and I dropped out of a Russell Group university. Basically, I walked away from a lot of guaranteed stability. I felt a lot of internalised pressure to make my debut project representative of my mindset and narrative. It was a crazy experience going from Soundcloud bedroom demos to self-releasing a cohesive project. There are so many aspects that come into releasing a professional EP that I underestimated! I was just excited to get the music out so I could move on to bigger and better things musically.
‘Feel My Vibe’ creatively discusses substance abuse, youth culture and how deal with ill mental health, was there a particular moment in writing or releasing the song that you found cathartic and helped you to overcome these past experiences?
‘Feel My Vibe’ was actually the first song I wrote for Vibes Cartel. You can still find the dusty demo on my Soundcloud! I was in the midst of my ‘rock bottom’, spinning out every day and I felt truly hopeless. When I wrote the song, I had been reading up on singers like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston who had amazing talent and potential but lost their lives tragically. It was like looking in the mirror and I really saw the same future for myself. It was the first song that I wrote that was vulnerable and truly opened up about my struggles. I don’t think I have overcome these past experiences but the completion of the writing process signified my self-awareness and desire to control my destiny.
In terms of creative process, how did you go about finding the sound for the EP?
My childhood consisted of going to church, playing in orchestras and singing in girl groups. All of these experiences feed into how I write and arrange my songs. My parents used to sing me Nigerian worship and folk songs (you can actually hear a folk song in the outro of Odds On). I drew inspiration from the group mentality in early R&B and Nigerian music so there’s a big use of ‘call and response’ backing vocals and catchy hooks. My producer, Outhouse, and I were very aware of not producing a typical R&B EP. So we tried to make each track a melting pot of my influences. I would say the sound the EP is mellow R&B with influences of Gospel and Afrobeat.
Your new single ‘6 Tears’ – which, by the way, I am obsessed with – is like a happy melting pot of Afro Beat, Pop and R’n’b and although it offers something completely different from ‘Feel My Vibe’ they are tied together neatly by your vocal style and lyricism, was it a conscious move for the two singles to differ in style?
I’m so glad you liked it! I was so scared to release it as I know the sound is quite different; that really warms my heart. Yes, it was a conscious effort. I have a really competitive spirit which I think comes from my love of Rap and Hip-Hop. I’m always competing with myself. I really want to continue to step up my songwriting and production game. This time, I really thought about the use of live instruments such as horns and bongos to add an authentic Nigerian element to the single. I wanted people to be taken aback by the style of the single and pay homage to my ancestry. ‘Feel My Vibe’ was more like my commercial foot in the door.
With a name like ‘6 Tears’ I’d guess the meaning behind the song differs from it’s upbeat casing, can you tell us a little more about it?
I basically got disrespected by someone I was seeing; I didn’t love them but to me, loyalty, honesty and respect are everything. I was so cut up about the pattern I had found myself in: being a maternal figure to broken men who can’t give me what I need in return. I cried about my pattern of behaviour in group therapy and my therapist made me finish the song so I could process it and begin to break the cycle. Its called ‘6 Tears’ because that’s all this person will ever get from me: a few Wendy Williams-style tears in therapy.
Where do you see Mercy’s Cartel progressing over the next year, what are your ultimate aims?
My ultimate aim is to be able to do music full time and reach wider audience full of like-minded supporters. The next year will be a stepping stone to achieving this goal. I see Mercy’s Cartel churning out music that is eclectic and brings something new to the U.K. music scene. I would love to be performing a lot more and collaborating with some great British creatives to make some great projects by the end of 2019.
When can we expect more music from you and can you give us a clue as to what to expect?
Outhouse and I are always working on new music so you can expect some singles to drop in the coming months. I’ll also be dropping my next EP, D.Y.E. (Doubt Your Existence), in 2019 so look out for that. Don’t try to predict what it’ll sound like – I’m determined to keep surprising people.
And lastly, can we see you performing anywhere soon?
I’m grateful to have some support slots coming up. I’ll be supporting Etta Bond, Noya Rao and House of Trees very soon! There’s more in the pipeline that I can’t announce on here. If you want to keep up with future performances, literally google me and follow me on all my socials. That’s if you can tolerate my goofiness.