Up-and-coming neo-soul artist Kristen Merritt paired up with NYS Music to create a summer playlist for fans to enjoy, leading up to the release of her debut album on Sept 14.
Detroit native turned New York local, Kristen Merritt has taken advantage of the creative energy the city has to offer. Since 2019 she has released an EP and various singles all leading up to the formation of her debut album Joi. The latest release from the artist is the single “I Don’t Think About You,” which is the second taste of the upcoming album after “I’m Done” was put out this May.
“I Don’t Think About You,” has a little bit more of the flavor that you’ll see present throughout the album. I say that because “I Don’t Think About You” is a little bit more of a love song. While “I’m Done,” is a love song in a way, it’s a breakup song, love was there at some point.” said Kristen adding, “Generally, the tone of the album is love songs that explore the different parts of love. Whether it’s beginnings, endings, something in between, just to describe how it feels to have love and to carry that love for someone.”
While writing this album, Kristen went about it the same way she goes about life, “I’m very hype as a human being so I like to bring hype to everything that I’m doing. In addition to being hype, I’m very “go with the flow.” I hadn’t always been this way– and don’t get me wrong, I like the list, but for the most part, I am pretty free flowing and so I carry that into my writing process as well.”
“I will hear a melody in my head, sometimes that melody is on guitar and sometimes that’s a vocal melody. I’ll go ahead whether it’s vocal or guitar and record it in the recording function on my iPhone. Then I will freeform, stream of consciousness, let the thoughts flow. Then after the fact, I’ll go in tweak some metaphors, make sure things make sense, and make sure that there’s a story within what I’m expressing.”
For specific songs and their meanings, Kristen always makes sure to focus on storytelling and the emotional weight, “On the smaller, micro level, different lines that hit me emotionally like, “Wow. Okay, that that came from a deep place, a vulnerable place.” Then on the macro level, when there is a story being told, and it feels like it started, in a way that is going to pique someone’s interest, and ended in a way that didn’t have to be completely resolved, that still felt like there was some level of finality then I know that I have written a good song.”
This summer NYS Music and Kirsten Merritt have teamed up to give the people a “Summer Jamz” playlist to fit everyone’s newly liberated and fully vaccinated plans. Filled with songs like “Feels Like Summer” by Childish Gambino, “Toothache” by Topaz Jones, and of course Kirsten Merritt’s own tracks.
“What I ended up doing to create the playlist was going through my liked songs on Spotify and any song I found that immediately brought a smile to my face I added it to the playlist. I have about maybe 300 songs on my liked songs so I made sure to comb through. The ones that really stood out to me where I loved this song, I loved the way that it feels, or the lyrics, or the message it imparts. I added that to the playlist. I wanted to share good feels with everyone.”
While it is technically a summer playlist, for Kristen at least, that is just a state of mind. And that state of mind is put on repeat, “You could blame it on me being a Taurus. One time I saw a Zodiac thing that said, “Taureans, we love playing the same song 15 million times. You never get tired of it.” That is true for me. Where often I will play the newest songs that I’ve added because I’m so excited about that and then occasionally I’ll shuffle through. Unless it’s a colder or a rainier day outside I generally go for higher energy music and then if it is one of those other days I might do a little bit more chill music.”
As a growing artist, Kristen has been setting and making goals for her various works, “My biggest goal now– you know if you had asked me this a year ago, it would have been to release more music. So, that’s what I’m doing now and to get more comfortable with releasing music, because previously, while I felt there was an expectation and a standard that I was holding myself to with releasing music. It was good and I liked it, but there was a level of enjoyment and joy, if you will, that I hadn’t yet accessed in terms of feeling comfortable releasing music. At this point, that’s not the case with this album. I feel very excited to release the album.”
At any level of performing, getting in front of a crowd can be intimidating. Despite that feeling, Kristen can’t wait to give it another go, “Previous to the pandemic I was working on doing some sets with open mics and gigs like that. And while I was pretty comfortable, I was getting much more comfortable with my instrument because I haven’t been playing guitar for too long. There was still just a part of me that really wanted to be present in those performances. It may not come off as it but I feel internally stilted in a way that I want to tease out and untether a little bit.”
“Moving forward, I want to work on having fun at the live performances and feeling really present. So whether it’s busking in Washington Square Park, doing a gig at a small cafe, or all the way up to a larger venue. Having bandmates accompanying me, I want to enjoy performing. My work moving forward is allowing myself to be open and have fun with it.”
“I’ve been very fortunate that the first song, “I’m Done,” got added to some Spotify playlists and I’m hoping the same for “I Don’t Think About You.” I want to let people know that I’m so happy that I’m getting to meet people digitally, even if it’s digitally for now. Being able to have my music out there and hopefully affecting people, whether it’s positively or negatively, I’m open to all types of effects just as long as it’s there. “
The next single “Breathe,” is except to hit all platforms in late July or early August, while the album, Joi, will drop on Sept 14.