Q’s With Adam Mersel Of First Access Entertainment: How The Young Manager Is Taking Bebe Rexha To Pop Stardom

Gibson Hazard
– Adam Mersel of First Access Entertainment

Before rising to pop stardom with her young manager Adam Mersel, Bebe Rexha established herself as a quality songwriter for the likes of Eminem, Selena Gomez and Nick Jonas.

Adam Mersel of First Access Entertainment began representing Rexha just after she had recorded a part on the hit “Me, Myself & I” for G-Eazy. After that, Rexha found a series of hit singles in a number of genres and what Mersel refers to as standout “moments.” That repertoire included collaborations with Florida Georgia Line (Their “Meant to Be” is the No. 2 song in the country right now), Nicki Minaj, Louis Tomlinson, Martin Garrix, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz among others.  

Her live highlights include a breakout performance and hosting a gig at the 2016 MTV EMAs, opening shows on international tours with Katy Perry and Bruno Mars, and a spot in the chorus backing Kesha singing “Praying” at the 60th Grammy Awards.

Now Rexha has figured out who she is as an artist and is giving fans a much-awaited first album, due out June 22. Mersel took some time to talk to Pollstar about how he helped Rexha get to this point in her career, a new act he is excited about called Jack & Jack and lessons learned from the late Jordan Feldstein.

What can people expect from Bebe’s debut album?

I think Bebe’s at the point in her career where she really understands her voice, who she is, what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. So she’s written a full-length album.… We’re trying to put out a cohesive body of work and these two songs are going to be a special introduction to that chapter.

Why didn’t you crank out the album when she blew up with “Me, Myself And I” and the EMAs gig?

To us, the business now is a game of moments. The moments can be songs, visual, performances, whatever it is, big moments carry really far. We’ve been in a position where we’ve always been a part of big moments in this business, things that have been really sticky and culturally moving.

A lot of those moments have been on television and they’ve been in highly visible [spaces] where she’s been able to show what she’s got to a lot of people, which has then translated to fans wanting to come out and see it in a larger scale.

How have her stints as openers, sometimes for stadium-level acts, helped her even as she has been headlining in clubs?

We’ve had Ellie Goulding, Bruno Mars, and now Katy Perry, three top artists [who] really believe in Bebe as a performer and they’ve invited her to perform not just in front of big crowds but stadiums around the world. It really opened her eyes to the global touring scene.

Bebe is a professional, she’s a star and she adapts to any environment she’s in. We’ve had a very strategic plan of her own touring versus when we go and support something that’s meaningful. She’s the ultimate pro. The fans love her in all different sizes (of venues). That’s a testament to how much she’s grown. She can kill a club show. She can absolutely destroy stadiums in Mexico with Bruno Mars and everything in between.

Bebe Rexha
Photo by Michael Loccisano / Getty Images for Turner
– Bebe Rexha
Bebe Rexha performs onstage during the AT&T Block Party at the NCAA March Madness Music Festival at Hemisfair on March 30, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.

So what’s next for her in terms of touring?

She’s going do a large scale tour in the summer or early fall…. Top of next year, we’re scaling up quite large. 

How is life at First Access Entertainment?

In 2015 I joined up with Sarah [Stennett, co-founder/CEO] and it’s been one of the best experiences in my life. … I’ve taken a real leadership role here at First Access, and we have an incredible worldwide staff of A&Rs, partnerships ambassadors, tour marketers, financial analysts. It’s an amazing group of people and I’m very proud to be a part of the team.

Where did you come up from before your gig there?

I did a brief consultancy with Dr. Luke at Kemosabe … [before that] I worked with Jordan Feldstein, may he rest in peace. He gave me my start. Jordan is the reason I’m here.

He gave me a shot, my first management job, and I worked for him for years. We did “Blurred Lines” together, we did Sara Bareilles’ campaign for “Brave.” He taught me everything I know. It’s been a hard couple of months.

It sounds like you really appreciate that time with him.

It’s not really about me. Jordan gave so many people a first shot. In this business, there is no incredible executive, A&R, or manager that wasn’t given a shot by someone. Jordan always took care of everyone around him and he was really, really understanding of young executives. He was willing to mentor and give real responsibility.

During those years, he really empowered me to sit on the front lines and really just grow under him. It changed my life and I think about him every day still. At some point in every day I think about what Jordan would do, or how Jordan would handle this situation or how Jordan would take care of this person. He’ll stay with me forever.

Tell me about Jack & Jack

That’s an act that I’ve been chasing for a couple years. I was really a fan of a record they had out called “Like That”.  I understood what you could do with an act with such a built-in base that was actually musically gifted and hadn’t reached their full potential yet. I wanted to be the one to come and show them that they could make serious, legitimate music and really turn heads. They could take themselves from social stars to credible musicians. And that’s what they’re doing. 

It’s brought the writing LA community out in full force. They’re working with the top writers and producers and the debut album is pretty profound and pretty surprising. They’re a huge priority for me. And Carly. Masse. Eric Wong. Masse signed Shawn, and the boys are best friends with Shawn. I think we all understand the blueprint for how you can truly break digital acts credibly in the music scene. … 

These two boys are truly gifted musically. They’re writing, producing themselves. They’re creating real records. I’m not into the “scaling” business, where anyone with followers ‘Eh, just throw a song on there.’ These kids are the real deal and that’s what the world is starting to see. 

What is the short-term goal? 

The consistent flow of steady, quality records. That’s what I care about. I don’t really care about followers – although they grow [them] consistently and they are so good about their base and their digital following –  I just want to put out good songs. My short-term goal is having in the studio as much as possible, just creating and crafting quality records. 

With the boys they’ve had the fans locked in, but now it’s about the discovery of their musical gift and credibility and its going be that way. With Bebe it’s a visibility game, with Jacks it’s a musicality game.

With Bebe it’s about bringing the people to the music, with the Jacks it’s about bringing the music to the people. …

Especially with those two acts, I think the most important thing in this business is quality music and releasing it in a way that is right for each specific artist. And growing their live following, we’re in a business where the live is more important than ever. 

Making sure that there’s growth in that space, not only in the bodies in the room, but in terms of the show, in the musicality and what you’re putting out there [is key]. Some of the best acts the last couple years have been able to make sure their voice and their point of view comes across live. That’s something that, as a young manager, I’m really stressing with all the clients.