Artist Name: Merlot Embargo
Song Title: Head Above The Water
Genre: Indie Pop
Release Date: 8/19/2018
Merlot Embargo – Head Above The Water
We’re Merlot Embargo; a collective of humans from Los Angeles headed by singer/songwriter and guitarist/producer pair (and wife/husband) Scarlet and Geoff. We write and record out of our home studio and perform throughout Southern California. In December 2014 we walked away from a nearly fatal automobile accident and left the scene wondering what we’d have regretted if we’d been killed. The answer was immediately obvious: not pursuing our own music. This brush with death unleashed a flood of drive and creativity that propelled us to form Merlot Embargo and leave our creative stamp on the world.
Discuss the relevance of social networking to music.
I’m sure most of us know that it’s the main way small-time artists can get heard! But more importantly, we think it’s a little more personable. There are opportunities for more of a real connection with fans. There are so many conversations we’ve had with people who’ve encountered our music that just wouldn’t have been possible in a traditional big label paradigm.
Go into detail on why you decided to choose music as a career.
I mean, what other choice is there? Music is what gives us life. Expression of ourselves through song is one of the most satisfying things we could possibly do. We just have to figure out how to make money at it!
Brief us the feedback you are getting from fans on your music.
I think most of our fans connect with our music on a lyrical, emotional kind of level. Yes, there are cool parts and hooks and grooves and stuff, but at the heart, our music is about the stuff of life that’s worth singing about: loss and love and apocalypses and finding your way and sticking up for yourself. But really we’re sort of a singer-songwriter pair at heart. It’s the stuff that makes you feel something that our fans are into.
Tell us how you record your song.
We record almost everything in our home studio – it keeps the cost down and we’ve been happy with the results. That means we have to wear a lot of hats though. In addition to being the songwriters, producers, arrangers, and musicians, we have been learning how to be audio engineers as well!
Tell us the story behind the song.
‘Head Above The Water’ is a song written for a close relative of ours who was going through some hard times. When you’re hurt and crying and broken you often have to just keep going. Life can really beat you up sometimes and drag you down. So we wrote an anthem to inspire this person to keep on keeping on.
State your musical skills.
Scarlet’s been singing since almost before she was walking. She plays a bit of guitar and piano and writes on both of those instruments, but her real talent is her voice and her writing. She’s got an uncanny knack for melody. Geoff’s the more accomplished instrumentalist of the two, but he’s not quite as creative as far as raw melodies go. He plays many instruments, but guitar is where he started and feels most at home. He’s the producer and arranger as well.
Tell us how long it takes to complete a song from the start.
Really it depends on the song – some are written, polished, and recorded in a couple of weeks. Others might sit on the back burner and take a year or more! ‘Head Above The Water’ was somewhere in the middle of that. A lot of times a song will go through a major feel revision or two before we settle on a final style. Sometimes it just happens organically and sometimes we scrap something that we’re just not happy with. With ‘Head Above The Water’, it kind of evolved slowly. It was originally more indie rock and a little less soul/pop.
Go into detail on how you develop your lyrics and melody.
Scarlet is our main songwriter and Geoff is more of the producer and arranger. Usually, a song starts with a little nugget of a melody that popped into her head, often in the car, and she’ll quickly capture it on a phone or something so as not to forget a potential gem. Lyrics tend to come a little later, and they tend to be a little more work. There’s also a bit of massaging both of them before we get something we’re really happy with.
State your five favorite genres of music.
Folk/country – the stories, the honesty, and the realism. Love folk instruments as well, we play a little banjo on some of our songs.
Good old-fashioned rock – nothing gets you energized quite the same way as loud drums, chunky guitars, and a gritty, intense singer.
Jazz – this is where Geoff cut his teeth and got serious about music. Love the improvisation aspect and the extended harmonic structure.
Holiday – we had another band that exclusively did Christmas music, so it’s dear to our hearts.
And of course, wispy singer-songwriter – Nothing connects with us emotionally like someone singing about real stuff about which they care deeply.
Describe the chemistry between you and your fans during a live performance.
We’ve got a pretty relaxed stage … it’s not a polished show, but a little freer… We’ve definitely changed our set a few times when a fan shouted out a request! Sometimes we feel like it’s more of a conversation with our fans than a structured one after another setlist.
State your artist’s name and elaborate on it.
Merlot Embargo – yeah we have a history with Merlot. Well just leave it at that! 😬
Discuss your rehearsal.
Usually, it consists of trying to remember our lyrics and musical breaks and hits!
State your favorite musical instruments.
Guitar of course. Can’t get anywhere without that. Love throwing a little banjo in a recording though. On Head Above, there’s also a Moog Synthesizer playing a lead line towards the end of the song – love that thing too! Also, we love strings and horns!! They don’t make it into every song, but they really are a nice touch and can take a song into new territory. Arranging for small sections like those is really fun, too.
Discuss your personality in full detail.
Scarlet is the classic artist personality. Geoff’s the classic musician nerd. We really do complement each other and form a great team.
Discuss your music career.
Well it’s really just beginning, isn’t it! We’ve got some music that people seem to like, so we’ll keep writing more of it until we can’t!
List your musical work.
Don’t Look Back (album) – 2016
Another Thing Coming (single) – 2017
Let the Light In (single) – 2016
She (single) – 2018
Georgia (single) 2018
Share your memorable experiences with us.
A few things stand out – for one, the car accident was horrible. But life-changing and the inspiration to start doing what we always wanted to. The birth of our daughter and being parents has been epic. Definitely, one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences, and it continues daily.