Alice Merton: This Cross-Continental Artist Doesn’t Need Roots

Alice Merton
Axel Schmidt / AFP / Getty Images
– Alice Merton
Many people would prefer a place to call home that they can go back to visit and remember the days of their childhood.

But that’s not the case with Alice Merton, whose breakout single, “No Roots,” has already launched her to the top of the German charts since it was released in December 2016. Merton, who in the past has lived in Germany, the U.S., Canada and the U.K., wrote the track to take pride in not feeling like she had a permanent home.
“I was feeling very lost and sad because I didn’t really feel like I had one place that was my home, so I came up with the idea of having no roots,” the 24-year-old singer told Pollstar. “I wanted to make it a very upbeat song and every time I sang it I wanted to feel happy and I wanted to feel kind of liberated and not upset at all the moves I’ve had. I wanted to think about it as a privilege that I had all those experiences.”
With a burgeoning career and plenty of tour dates on the horizon, Merton’s lack of a perceived place to call home might be in her favor. Now that she’s gained fame in the European market, the singer-songwriter is poised to break in the United States and is already booked to support Vance Joy on the first leg of his tour kicking off May 15 at Sprint Pavilion in Charlottesville, Va.

The tour hits large theaters and amphitheaters around North America, including Pittsburgh’s 2,300-capacity Stage AE, Detroit’s 4,800-capicity Fox Theatre and Boston’s 5,000-cap Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.

“[Joy]’s manager [Jaddon Comerford]reached out to us and asked if we wanted to come out on the tour, so we said yes. It’s cool because we can kind of do the tour dates between the festivals that we are doing this summer,” Merton explained.
Born in Germany, Merton moved to Connecticut when she was a toddler, then to Canada, and then back to Germany, all while learning to sing and play piano. She also lived in London after graduating from high school in Munich.

With each new city came a different genre of music that Merton obsessed over.
“Moving around opened my eyes to a lot of different types of music,” said Merton, who now calls Berlin home. “I think it’s more of the music that I listened to that gave me a different influence at each place I was living in. In Canada I was listening to a lot of The Alan Parsons Project, Starship, and a lot of classical music. When I moved to Germany I was into a lot of indie bands and I fell in love with The Cure. When I moved to England I was listening to a lot of English artists like Tom Odell. That all kind of played a role.”
She says her vast array of influences informs her music and makes it unique. And that’s evident just by listening to any of the tracks off her No Roots EP that dropped in the U.S. on Mom+Pop earlier this year.  Each song is driven by thumping bass grooves and Merton’s commanding vocals.  
“What makes her stand out … her songs are dominated by her vocals. She has a ton of character and that’s something that’s missing right now,” said Paradigm’s Mike Marquis, who books Merton with Matt Galle. “She makes music that appeals to a rock audience as opposed to a pop audience, but there’s still plenty of pop influences. It’s a fine line to walk.”

Alice Merton
Frank Hoensch / Redferns
– Alice Merton
Marquis discovered Merton when he heard “No Roots” on a Spotify playlist and immediately reached out.

After Merton founded her own label, Paper Plane Records (Merton said other German labels called her music “too different and people wouldn’t want to listen to it or play it on the radio”) with her manager Paul Grauwinkel, she decided to take Marquis up on his offer and expand into the U.S.
“We signed her really before she had anything else in the U.S.,” Marquis said. “We put on a promo run for her and she came over here and we really hit it off. She’s a really hard-working person and very sweet and very committed to her artistry.” What’s most challenging about breaking Merton in the States, Marquis said, is bringing her over to North America while her partners in other countries demand her attention as well.
“The song is a hit in a lot of other territories that are demanding her time. So deciding when the right time is for festivals or different things in different parts of the world has been a bit of a challenge. But she and her team and all the labels involved have been very accommodating. She wants to break in the United States, that’s a huge goal of hers. She sees it as one of the most important markets,” Marquis said.
As of now the plan is to work with Merton’s labels to ensure she gets radio play while keeping her on the road. Marquis said it’s all a matter of finding the right people to work with.
“In the U.S. she is with Mom+Pop who’s done a really great job in making her a priority and then having a really strategic, well-thought-out plan,” Marquis said. “Her team is approaching different partners in every territory who have the same amount of commitment of the project as opposed to working with a major label where you can end up with a partner who is not as invested as somewhere else in the world. They have been so focused on finding the right people on the ground, and that’s the most important thing.
“Part of our philosophy is to have the shows be sold out and not skip any steps. When you’re a young artist on her first big tour, people are going to want to see her in intimate rooms. So we are booking the tour smaller but that is a strategic decision,” Marquis continued.
Besides the Vance Joy tour, Merton is also playing several festivals, including Governors Ball in New York City, BottleRock in Napa, Calif., and Firefly in Dover, Del. Then she’ll return to Europe for a couple festival dates, with plans to play smaller rooms in the U.S. in the fall.