Mallory Merk Drops Explosive New Video, “Thorns”

Mallory Merk Drops Explosive New Video, “Thorns”

GEN V

Mallory Merk Drops Explosive New Video, “Thorns”

The emerging singer-songwriter on her creative process, working with Elan Bia and fencing when she was younger.

The emerging singer-songwriter on her creative process, working with Elan Bia and fencing when she was younger.

Text: Kala Herh

If you’re not already familiar with Mallory Merk, you're soon about to. The 21-year-old is on the cusp of stardom, with follows from María Isabel, 070 Shake, and Dominic Fike. Born in Louisiana, but raised in New York, the young artist has always been infatuated with music. She vividly recalls the days when she would spend her free time recording acoustic R&B covers on her mom’s iPhone and then releasing them on SoundCloud. And finally, in 2019, her years of determination and hard work paid off. She ultimately broke out onto the scene with her delicate guitar thumbs and candid lyrics about mental illness. Shortly later, she was signed to Field Trip, the burgeoning record label started by Zack Bia. 

Today, the singer-songwriter returns with a visual to her single, “Thorns.” Serving full '90s grunge, Mallory is seen rocking out with her guitar in the middle of the desert. The empowering track rails against the expectations placed upon women and serves as a modern-day protest song. And as true elsewhere in Mallory’s discography, the artist digs deep. “Thorns” is an intimate look into the artist’s psyche, shining light onto her lived experience thus far. "'Thorns' lifts you up with the strings and chorus of vocals from friends, and takes you to a freeing place," she elaborates. "It’s personal, like a letter, and I think that reflects what’s coming. All the thorns of a rose are where the best qualities lie, the essence of who we all are lie in our flaws and edges." And while the release follows her second EP, Counterparts and her debut EP, Strangers, it is also the primer for her upcoming project, also called Thorns. Out later this summer, we can expect more from Mallory very soon. 

For more from Mallory, read our chat with the singer-songwriter below. 

V: What was the inspiration for your latest single "Thorns"? Describe the conceptualizing/writing and recording process for the title track.

MM: On my last day of recording at the village studios I was feeling super elated and grateful for the two weeks I spent there, super happy with everything we had created so far, which will make up a lot of the next EP. We had two or so more hours booked so me and Dan (Farber) went into the live recording room where he started playing the opening guitar chords of “Thorns.” I immediately started writing, singing words out loud which surprised me because usually by that 1000th hour, the words either flow like a faucet or… not so much. After I had laid some vocals, Dan showed me a photo of a renaissance-era woman knighting a man with his sword and said that I reminded him of the song so far. We recorded what is now the first minute and 30 seconds and then we left. The original chorus was actually the now ending of the song. It needed that push, we knew we had something special. After a few days of listening back to the record in the crib, I just said to Dan I wanted to let go and just sing something you’ll want to scream from the mountains or a two-door convertible. We recorded the chorus, “Perfections never what I stood for, spliff hanging out the window of my two-door…” This theme of defining your truth, finding yourself, and rejecting what society narrates becomes the sentiment and title of my coming EP Thorns.

Photo by Random Dochtermann

V: What was it like working with Elan Bia on the visual for the single? How did the concept for the visual come about?

MM: Working with Elan, who is a friend of mine, actually was such an authentic and down-to-earth experience I can only hope to always have. Personally, I always had loved Elan‘s work as a director and on a personal level was able to share a love for good music and films. I wanted to allow the passion to come to life through the video for “Thorns.” I know some of his following will be surprised to see a video outside of his usual lane, and even for me, it was a new experience doing more of an acting and cinematic type of video…It felt like passing a threshold for both of us. The concept for the video came about when we were hanging out at the Field Trip studios in LA, talking about the message of “Thorns” being freeing but also making people feel kind of sad in a way or nostalgic, so we came up with the idea to have me revisit my old passion of fencing in a cathartic way. We drew that parallel with the rigid lifestyle of a first-chair violinist. Both characters have a fall from Grace and a fatal flaw, I lose my match and the violinist doesn’t pass her big audition. That represents how perfection might be what we want to strive for, but it’s more about finding the connection to your passion. You don’t have to be “good” or the best to do what you love to do.

Photo by Random Dochtermann

V: Can you talk a bit about how your fencing background came into play for this video and what it was like to merge two of your passions into one for the visual?

MM: Fencing was once my passion for the better part of my teenage years. I was playing the normal team sports and I wasn’t very good at them but when I drove by a small fencing club in my town and saw girls fencing boys with what I thought were swords I never really looked back. It became everything to me, I traveled all over the country and eventually acquired many medals and rankings – I even placed at Junior Olympics one year. I essentially chose my love for Music to pursue instead at 17. Merging my passion for music with my almost bittersweet end with fencing truly was very special for me and something that I never thought would come true.

Photo by Random Dochtermann

V: How does the single "Thorns” set the tone for the EP?

MM: “Thorns” sets the message for my upcoming EP like lighting at the end of a joint or an incense or a candle that you never want to stop burning. “Thorns” lifts you up with the strings and chorus of vocals from friends, and takes you to a freeing place. It’s personal, like a letter, and I think that reflects what’s coming. All the thorns of a rose are where the best qualities lie, the essence of who we all are lie in our flaws and edges. “Thorns” sets the live raw and epic theme and tone for the world of the EP.

V: What can we expect from the EP; what themes are you exploring? What stories do you want to share with the project?

MM: Lyrically you can expect deep cuts from this next EP, and maybe one in there for fun to let go of your inhibitions. The themes in these lyrics are about emotional pain, feeling different from the world around me, isolation, communication, connection, or lack thereof. I write about what held me back from love, from pain. Thorns is about hitting the same wall but then finally finding the strength to break it down.

Photo by Random Dochtermann

V: Sonically are there any sounds that you are playing with? What genre would you put this body of work in, if you had to label it?

MM: Sonically this EP I believe focuses on the true essence of my songwriting. I was kind of influenced by English rock bands like Arctic Monkey, The Verve, and Oasis. I wouldn’t know what to say about the genre but I definitely touch a lot more on rock in this EP and it’s definitely all live elements and a few tasteful synths. I’m so grateful to be working with the amazing musicians that are on this next project, from Dan Farber to 9am to Aaron Sterling on drums on “Thorns” and more to come. Thank you for taking the time to listen!

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