Super World Interview Time: We didn’t mention yurts when we spoke to Friede Merz

Hi Friede, thanks so much for doing the interview!
Thanks for having me back 🙂

When did you first realise you had a talent for songwriting?

When I started playing my own songs in conservatory concerts and people told me they felt most connected with everything around them when I sang my own tunes.
I started writing songs when I was about 14 but never really thought anything special of it or shared them with anyone. Which seems kind of ridiculous considering I had been making music all of this time.
But I didn’t really feel comfortable with the idea of sharing my thoughts and feelings for a long time. But it just got to a point where this became a better way for me to contribute as an artist, compared to interpreting other people’s thoughts as a singer.

I loved your bitter-sweet song “Soho”, it made me nostalgic for the many years I spent in London, were you happy with the reception it (and you) received?

Very much, yeah. It was the first release under my name, that was a big deal. I didn’t really know too much about Spotify playlists until then. So when I found out it got into the most important one, the New Music Friday Playlist, and then found out what that means I was psyched!
On the other hand I was and still am sometimes kind of shocked how after releasing 3 singles and 2 EPs by now some people are just like: ‘yeah, yeah. But when is the album coming out?’ As if it didn’t take any time or effort to produce and release music.

Tell me about your relationship with London.

London was the first metropole I visited. I was 11 years old and spent one summer night swimming in the Trafalgar Square well with people around me singing and dancing. That was a magical moment for me.

All the way, from the south German village I lived in then to London, we were listening to Beatles songs we had selected and recorded from Vinyl onto cassettes.

Arriving in this colourful and vibrant city and strolling through the Piccadilly Market all by myself with those songs on my ears made me feel so free and alive… Ever since London had been a place I could trust and a source of inspiration for me, somewhere I can always come back to.

It’s fair to say that “Daisy Lane” is an altogether darker affair than Denmark Street, why the change in mood or would you agree?

I recorded “Denmark Street” and “Daisy Lane” in one session and the idea was to basically have an A- and a B-side of a record. Which is also how I put the music out now on Vinyl. All those songs were written in the timeframe of 3 ½ years or so, but there is no chronological development in the songwriting in terms of darker or brighter. It’s more like it’s always both and everything in between.

The guitar playing on “Albion” is outstanding, how long have you been playing? Are you self-taught?

Thank you. Yeah, the guitar is the only instrument I’m self-taught on. I studied voice, piano, and drums and wanted to have an instrument where I would have to rely on my ears and my instinct alone. I accidentally bought a really good vintage Dreadnought, the same model that Elliott Smith played. The effect of that on my songwriting and how I perceive music, in general, was enormous. But I’m sure that’s also because songwriting on guitar is generally different from songwriting on piano.

The video looked like it was great fun to make? Did you find it easy to assume the various characters?

Haha, it wasn’t as easy as I thought! I did everything about that video myself: gear, location, concept, direction, make-up etc. I had planned everything through… except getting into character! That always took a few shots before I felt like I was getting close to the idea I had in my head. And I noticed how relieved I felt once I finally got out of a costume and rid of a wig. The make-up part I loved though, especially the Drag make-up! Luckily friends of mine taught me a little bit about it. The techniques are so different from regular women’s make-up.

What are your thoughts on Brexit?

Brexit happened around the time my grandmother was on her deathbed. As Trumps presidency gradually got less and less impossible she said: “I’m so glad I won’t be around when all that happens.”

So it was first and foremost the realisation that major changes for the worse can happen within a finger snap. And that the world order as we know it is crumbling.

I did an article on the influence of Brexit for artists from the UK and artists visiting the UK. For that, I interviewed quite a few people and realized that a future for me in London was getting less and less realistic or possible for me as an artist from abroad. It kind of took that decision off my shoulders but it hurts me to see that artistic exchange will be even more difficult than it already is.

When did your musical journey begin?

In my mother’s belly when she was practicing her Beethoven sonatas.

What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?

I don’t remember. Maybe the Brahms Rhapsody op.79, no.2. My dad played that one a lot and I remember being absolutely fascinated with it from the moment I heard it first.

What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?

It’s always the latest one I’ve written. I have to be in love with it in order to explore it.

There is a real mix of styles on the new EP – country, experimental, jazz, rock…where would you say your musical heart lies?

In all of those and more. In creating the right sound for that moment in time and space, with that group of people onstage and in the audience, with the resources, you have then and there. Or in other words: I really don’t give a fuck about genres.

What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?

Elliott Smith because he was the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place. And because he keeps inspiring me to become a better songwriter and more wholesome musician.
Then there’s always good old J.S.Bach. He was a revolutioner and a traditionalist, a nomad and a settler at the same time. His music, as well as his biography to this day, is both touching me and knocking me off my feet. Of the people I actually physically hang around with I’d say Alexander Tsitsigias. He never fails to inspire me with the straightforwardness and generosity of his omniversal genius.

What’s the music scene like in Hamburg? Can you recommend any local artists?

It is small but awesome and super supportive! My favorite band since teenage days, Schrottgrenze, is located here and so many other great bands… You should definitely check out Emily-Mae Lewis and the band Alle Sagen Nomi.

What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?

None. Everything I wanna say I say or either work on saying it better. But don’t get me wrong: my personal Spotify playlist named “Songs I like a lot” has more than 800 songs in it…

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you recently?

Breaking my foot in a stupid accident and watching my body heal itself and adapt to every daily change. That was super inspiring and bizarre at the same time.

What sound is December? What colour is January?

Pftsch. Almost black blue.

What’s the best phrase you’ve picked up in another language?

“Kit ’n kaboodle ‘n the kitchen sink.” I just love the way it sounds. Actually that whole lyric from Captain Beefheart’s “Lick My Decals off, baby” is fantastic!

What’s your idea of success?

Realizing that money is just another form of energy and involving it in the flow or the balance we are all looking for.

Have you ever played golf?

Not really. Mini-golf, once or twice when I was little. I found it really boring.

Which of these activities are you most likely to be found doing: (a) making a soufflé, (b) tinkering with a motorbike, (c) doing the ironing, (d) putting up shelves? 

(b) if you trade the motorbike with a pedalboard 😉

What question would you like to be asked that you never are and what would your answer be?

Artists in the music business are being accused of being not political enough. I think that is partly because the interviewers aren’t asking any political questions. You just proved to be an exception from that with your question about Brexit. And this very question here is brilliant! There’s actually a bunch of questions I can think of:
Is there a responsibility of artists to be political in their work?
What are your thoughts on feminism in western music education?
What’s in your opinion the best way for musicians to connect apart from facebook?
What are the pros and cons of a governmental support for artists in Germany compared to the one in France or Denmark?
Etc etc…

Does the path of excess lead to the palace of wisdom?

If you don’t destroy yourself on the way there, it is an option. But not the only one.

Finally, what is your animal spirit?

Interesting you should ask. In an 8-piece band I was part of we were playing this game and I could unveil the animal spirit of everyone around me. But I couldn’t do it for myself and neither could the others. My guess is a tiger, that’s also my Chinese zodiac. But weirdly with something of an owl in it.

Friede also provided this intriguing photo for our gallery. Class!

 

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