Sipping on Honey Jack for the first time a few months back, a light bulb went off in singer-songwriter Madeline Merlo’s head when someone she was with commented on the drink, describing it as “strong” but “sweet.”
“As a person, I feel like you should be strong but you should also be sweet. It’s OK to stand up for yourself but you can also be kind about it,” says the rising country music artist.
Merlo continually finds herself drawing on personal experiences for her songs, and that exchange went on to inspire her new single, “Honey Jack,” released last week.
Merlo penned the song while in Nashville, Tenn., with the help of “two amazing women,” Jesse Walker and Stephony Smith.
“We just had a blast writing the song and laughed the whole time. When we were picking songs for the new round of music, “Honey Jack” always was at the top of my list. I just felt like I’m 21 and I’m young and I really wanted to show a fun side of me,” she says.
These days the Maple Ridge-based artist has been spending more time in Nashville, which is home to her label, Open Road Recordings.
“I do most of my writing and recording over there. It’s just where country music lives, so it’s a really inspiring place to be. I’d love to move there if I could. I’m trying to make that happen sooner rather than later. It’s amazing. But there’s also a lot of talented people in Canada as well so when it comes to writing or recording... I kind of like to have a bit of variety,” she says.
Merlo is currently back in the Lower Mainland to perform at the PNE Sept. 4. She’s also been busy with a project entitled Decades, a Throwback Thursday (#TBT) video cover series on CMT.ca. Over the course of two months, the artist will be releasing a weekly video on the site. Each video will see her perform a well-known song by an artist from the 1940s and beyond who has inspired her.
“Old music is such a staple of what I do and I’m such an old soul and love it so much — I have a young fanbase and I’d love to show them some of the songs that I grew up listening to. I think your playlist on your iPod or whatever really explains who you are and the type of music that you love to listen to, and for me I love to make, so I take inspiration from old artists and new artists and all genres,” she says.
As of this week, Merlo has released four covers: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Shania Twain’s “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” Magic!’s “Rude” and Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” included.
She also just wrapped up filming Country Crush, a country movie-musical. She plays aspiring singer Nancy and saw a lot of herself in the character, even though her onscreen character was a tad “cooler.”
“She can fix cars,” says Merlo with a laugh. “She really, really loves music and is willing to work really hard and do anything she can to do it. I get that desperation,” she says.
Madeline Merlo performs at the PNE on Friday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. as part of the Mosaic Music Series. For details go to pne.ca.