Image credit: Rona Lane Photography
Lilith Merlot makes music to connect with herself and others, plumping the depths of her creative being and coming out the other side with something soulful to share with her listeners. Recently, she shared a new work, a 5-track EP titled Shades Of Blue, a composition that stretches across the gap, the rift, that has formed between two lovers. The project represents a process, a cathartic unpacking that helps Lilith process personal challenges, a process that she hopes will also help listeners find solace in her music.
RCRD LBL introduces Lilith Merlot:
Stream / Download: Lilith Merlot – Shades Of Blue EP
Growing up, who was your biggest musical role model and why?
Alicia Keys, because I thought she was such a great singer, and I loved that she also played the piano. My favorite albums are her first two albums. The songs on there are such a great mix of groovy, uplifting tracks and ballads about heartbreak and other difficulties. I spent so many hours singing and playing her songs and trying to copy her ad libs! It definitely shaped me in a way.
Your new EP touches on themes of heartbreak. How do you think music has helped you to process life’s difficulties?
Music has always helped me to feel comforted and not alone, and also it helped me to dream and drift off. When I feel a little sad and I listen to music that comes from the same emotion, I feel understood and connected. It is such a relief. And music can also be so uplifting and energizing, when I need a little badass energy I will play ‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo, and I feel like I can do anything. Great way to start the day!
What are some of your earliest memories of music?
My earliest musical memories are of my mom (who was a classical violinist) playing with the orchestra. I was 4/5 years old and I would listen to their rehearsal in an empty concert hall. I just remember how big everything was: the stage, the hall, the massive sound that came from all those instruments. It felt so exciting!
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
When I get inspired I usually feel a bit restless, as though I have to get something off my chest. So when I recognize that feeling I will sit behind my grand piano at home and start playing around with some chord progressions, and I improvise vocally until I find a melody that sticks with me. First, it’s all gibberish, and then slowly the right words come. When I start writing, I often have no idea yet what I want to write about, but those first few words that come intuitively will set the tone for the song and what it’s about. The first verse and chorus are always quite easy to write, but I find the second verse and chorus the hardest part – that sometimes takes months! When I am writing all I need is my phone to record my ideas, and my green leather notebook to write it all down.
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
Both are so good! I loved creating all the songs in the studio with my producer Serge Dusault. Playing around with a song and trying different things until it all finally comes together is magic. But so is performing in front of a live audience. I initially write all these songs to help me navigate through feelings and just life basically, but I don’t want it to end there. I want these songs to help and maybe comfort others as well! Hopefully, these songs will let people know they are not alone in whatever it is they are going through, and there is no better way to connect with an audience than performing live for them. To me, studio work and performing live have one thing in common: if you are doing it right, you lose the sense of space and time for a moment, and that’s when the magic happens.
What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?
It was not so much a response to my music, but a response to my voice at a time when I really needed it. I was studying Jazz vocals at the Rotterdam Conservatory when I was 19 years old, and I felt very insecure at the time. About my voice and my capabilities. Because of all the studying and the pressure, I had lost my joy in singing and it even changed my tone. Then one day, we had a masterclass by American singer Renée Neufville (who worked with the RH Factor, Roy Hargrove) and all the vocal students had to perform a song in front of her: In A Sentimental Mood. I sang, and for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed it. Afterwards, her feedback was that I sounded just like a Merlot, she thought my voice was so warm, deep and round. That gave me back my confidence, and years later I decided to use Merlot as my stage name.
If you could put together a radio show, what kind of music would you play?
Anything that moves me! It would be a lot of different genres, like Classical music, some soul and Neo-soul, Pop and Jazz and definitely some RnB.
Name five artists and their albums who would appear on your radio show
Nina Simone – ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’
Yebba – ‘Dawn’
Amy Winehouse – ‘Frank’
Jeff Buckley – ‘Grace’
Lizz Wright – ‘Salt’
What would you like to achieve with your music? What does success look like to you?
If I could just spend my days creating music in the studio and making albums and playing it live on tour to connect with people that would make me very happy. As long as I love what I create, and there are people out there who resonate with it and get something out of listening to it, that is a huge success to me. Also, I would love to play through Europe, and it would be wild to play in the States and Asia for example. Of course, I want to reach as many people as possible!
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