Interview: Alice Merton Returns, Channeling Panic into Passion on “Vertigo”

Alice Merton © Sarah Storch (Paper Planes Records International)
Alice Merton © Sarah Storch (Paper Planes Records International)
Alice Merton dives into “Vertigo,” her first single in two years that surges to the fore with invigorating zeal, tempestuous passion, and dramatic energy.
Stream: “Vertigo” – Alice Merton

 




I think I’m just a massive fan of dramatic sounds and powerful songs. I love a good bass line, I love turning vulnerability into strength, and basically just experimenting with sounds.

Over two years after her radiant debut album MINT hit our ears, Alice Merton’s return is a welcome gift full of drama, vulnerability, and rip-roaring passion. A tempest burning bright with empowering energy and soaring melodies, “Vertigo” hits hard as Merton confronts some of her worst fears head-on, leaning into a panic attack in an attempt to better understand herself and hopefully overcome her inner demons.

It’s a refreshingly dark, dynamic anthem ready to inspire audiences and ignite the fire within.

Vertigo - Alice Merton
Vertigo – Alice Merton
Hands are sweaty
My heart beats heavy
There’s something out there
But I swear, I’m not ready
And I don’t really know where to go from here
The sounds getting louder
The floor starts shaking
Everybody’s feeling it
Why can’t I feel it? No
Why can’t I just let it go?
Cause all I can feel is vertigo
All I can feel is vertigo

Released April 8, 2021 via Paper Plane Records / Mom + Pop, “Vertigo” is a sweeping masterpiece of dark pop and rock from an artist who needs no introduction: An acclaimed German-Canadian-British singer and songwriter, Alice Merton rushed into the international spotlight with 2017’s debut single “No Roots,” further showcasing her talents with catchy, emphatic songs like “Lash Out” and “Hit the Ground Running” off 2018’s No Roots EP. Dubbed one of Atwood Magazine’s 2019 Artists to Watch, Merton released her debut album MINT in January 2019, and proceeded to spend the following year touring the globe and performing at dozens of festivals.

Described in a previous feature as “a bold, brazen statement of identity fueled by emotion and experience” and “a fresh burst of flavor radiating life, light, and passion,” MINT remains a moving and memorable record brimming with Merton’s personal stories, irresistible melodies, and enchanting hooks.

But Alice Merton has far more songs to sing and stories in the vault, and “Vertigo” (described by Rolling Stone as “supercharged”) opens an exhilarating new chapter – one that promises to dive even deeper, soar even higher, and burn even brighter than she did before. Fueled by fat, heavy bass guitar lines and driving, tight drum beats, “Vertigo” rises from an unsettled space to ring out with a strong, cascading chorus. Merton’s voice roars with dramatic strength as she exposes deep, visceral emotions in song:

Gotta get outta my head
Do something that I’ll regret
He’s dancing now with someone he met
I’m losing my sanity
Get rid of my vanity
All I can feel is, feel is
All I can feel is vertigo

“I wanted to return with a song that reminds me how much I love live performances,” Merton recently told Atwood Magazine. “‘Vertigo’ is so energetic and fearless in my opinion, and it really was initially meant as a live song to begin with. I feel the excitement and the highs I would get onstage every time I hear this song, so I felt like sharing that feeling because I knew I can’t be the only one who misses it.”

Alice Merton © Sarah Storch (Paper Planes Records International)n © Sarah Storch (Paper Planes Records International)``
Alice Merton © Sarah Storch (Paper Planes Records International)

Feverish and finessed, “Vertigo” rings out into the darkness as a beacon of galvanizing and empowering inner strength.

Alice Merton’s vivid reckoning with her own demons is an anthem for all to sing at the top of our lungs; an exercise in upheaval that can help us channel our own panic into passion. More akin to the sounds of Muse or PVRIS than any of her previous works, “Vertigo” definitively blurs the lines between alternative rock and pop.

It’s a rippling shock to the senses that’s already made shockwaves throughout the world: A week after its release, “Vertigo” was the #1 Most Added record at AAA and was also in the Top 5 Most Added at ALT Radio. The song has garnered over 700,000 global streams, and its cinematic music video – itself a dazzling experience to take in – has amassed over 550,000 views as well. This is what a successful comeback looks like – and Alice Merton’s 2021 takeover is only just beginning.

Atwood Magazine spoke to the artist about the emotions, ideas, and sounds behind “Vertigo,” diving into the depths of a song we are sure to be listening to all summer long. Read our full interview below, and stay tuned for more to come from Alice Merton!

This song captures a big part of my life, but sound-wise doesn’t shy away from the fears – it almost indulges in them.

— —

:: stream/purchase “Vertigo” here ::
Watch: “Vertigo” – Alice Merton



A CONVERSATION WITH ALICE MERTON

Vertigo - Alice Merton

Atwood Magazine: Alice, it's been a wild two years since we last spoke about your debut album MINT! Why return with “Vertigo”?

Alice Merton: It definitely has been a crazy two years that’s for sure! I wanted to return with a song that reminds me how much I love live performances. “Vertigo” is so energetic and fearless in my opinion, and it really was initially meant as a live song to begin with. I feel the excitement and the highs I would get onstage every time I hear this song, so I felt like sharing that feeling because I knew I can’t be the only one who misses it.

‘MINT’, MELODY, AND MEANING WITH ALICE MERTON

:: INTERVIEW ::

How did this song come about, and how do you feel it captures your artistry and musical identity?
 

Alice Merton: The song was inspired by a night out, just before the pandemic. I kind of had a panic attack before entering a club and realized I just couldn’t go in. I have a lot difficulties with crowded rooms and loud music ( ironic since I perform in them) but I’ve also had a lot of trouble dealing with other fears that triggered vertigo. This song captures a big part of my life, but sound-wise doesn’t shy away from the fears – it almost indulges in them.

This song captures a big part of my life, but sound-wise doesn’t shy away from the fears – it almost indulges in them.

“Vertigo” has this decidedly darker and intense drama to it. Can you talk about the emotions driving this song and why you opted for this massive sound?

Alice Merton: I think I’m just a massive fan of dramatic sounds and powerful songs. I love a good bass line, I love turning vulnerability into strength, and basically just experimenting with sounds.

You've talked about this song tracking the “long road from uncertainty back to self-confidence.” Can you share a little more behind those feelings, and what transpired to make “Vertigo” something that had to come out of you?

Alice Merton: I‘ve been quite insecure with myself for a while, and kind of developed a hatred towards myself for having all these fears and not understanding why I couldn’t just be normal. “Vertigo” shows that vulnerable side, but makes me feel empowered by being vulnerable and accepting myself the way I am, without rushing to try and be something I know I’m not. It took me a really long time to also realize what was actually going on with my body every time I started feeling the panic.

Alice Merton © Sarah Storch (Paper Planes Records International)
Alice Merton © Sarah Storch (Paper Planes Records International)

Hands are sweaty, my heart beats heavy, there's something out there, I swear, I'm not ready, and I don't really know where to go from here,” you sing in the opening line. “The sound's getting louder, the floor starts shaking, everybody's feeling it, why can't I feel it, no? Why can't I just let it go?” I hear this and I imagine an artist getting ready for the stage, but I'm also filled with the anxiety of confronting my fears and taking risks, and jumping into the deep end so-to-speak. What does it evoke for you?

Alice Merton: That’s basically where those lines stem from! I often feel very unprepared for a lot of situations I‘m thrown into. For a very long time I had to convince myself to go on stage and have a good time, when all I was really thinking about was if they could see how terrified I was, or what they would say if I had a panic attack on stage or threw up from the nerves. At some point though I realized I couldn’t continue like this, because I actually love performing, even if my body doesn’t always agree. So I did a fear therapy and it helped me enjoy the nerves and excitement before a show, rather than be terrified by it.

Their faces seem deadly
It just got messy
His eyes bloodshot
But he’s going in steady
And I don’t really know why I’m still here
And my head keeps pounding
My feet still hurting
I think I lost sight of
Where I was going
And I don’t really know where to go from here
Cause all I can feel is vertigo
All I can feel is vertigo

This song has such a strong, cascading chorus full of tempestuous energy and passion. Can you talk about your songwriting process and how you opted to rise the way you do?

Alice Merton: Honestly it was a very relaxed session with a producer from Canada named Koz. I loved working with him so much, but I especially loved how he was open to just creating something energetic and fun, rather than focusing on if it’s contemporary or not.

Gotta get outta my head
Do something that I’ll regret
He’s dancing now with someone he met
I’m losing my sanity
Get rid of my vanity
All I can feel is, feel is
All I can feel is vertigo
Alice Merton © 2021
Alice Merton © 2021

“Vertigo” feels like a fantastic way to start a show and tap into an audience's enthusiasm. Did your experience touring and performing your songs live influence the way you wrote this song?

Alice Merton: Absolutely, I would say for the music coming in the next few months, I always had in mind how it would come across in a live setting. It almost felt like I was writing for a live concert. I don’t want the songs to just live in digital formats, I want them to come alive and grow in a way that speaks to people and gets people excited to dance and sing.

Lastly, what do you hope listeners take from “Vertigo,” and what did you take from writing it and now putting it out?

Alice Merton: I hope people enjoy the next chapter. I just want to take them with me on my musical journey and perhaps challenge their musical taste every now and then by putting out songs that they aren’t used to hearing from me. That’s what I enjoy the most.

— —

:: stream/purchase “Vertigo” here ::
Watch: “Vertigo” – Alice Merton



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Vertigo - Alice Merton

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📸 © Sarah Storch (Paper Planes Records International)

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