Fresh off a sold-out show last night (Nov. 20) at Schuba's as she begins her first American tour.
She's based in Berlin-- and "No Roots" has been a hit in Europe since late 2016 but has been blowing up in America the last couple of months.
The singer wrote her breakthrough hit about "never being grounded to a certain place, but having your home with people who you love."
Struggling to adjust to her new life in Germany after moving from Canada at age 16, Alice Merton wrote her first song: an ode to homesickness titled “Little Lighthouse.” The burgeoning singer-songwriter, then in high school, was just beginning to branch out from a decade worth of classical music training, subbing arias for the sounds of The Alan Parsons Project and Regina Spektor.
“My first song... was basically just about finding my way back home,” Merton, now 23, tells Billboard over the phone from Berlin. “I just didn't feel at home in Germany at all in the beginning. That’s why I kept on searching for this lighthouse, I guess, which would take me back to Canada.”
But Germany wouldn't be the last move for the singer -- who in addition to Canada has also lived in England and America, and has moved between cities a total of 11 times. In fact, the nomadic lifestyle that led to Merton’s first original song would also inspire her recent breakthrough hit “No Roots,” which catapulted her to the top of the charts in Germany -- and now, as the singer inks a deal with New York indie Mom + Pop Music, beginning to trickle over abroad.
Released overseas in December 2016, "No Roots" was quickly picked up by blogs and music discovery sites like Hypemachine, climbing to No. 2. on the Spotify Viral 50 charts just before Christmas. The song spent seven weeks on Billboard's Germany Songs charts, peaking at No. 2, and has hit the top 10 on charts in Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland since April.
"I always wanted to do something with music, but to be honest, I never thought I’d be good enough," Merton says of the sudden attention. "There’s so much good music out there that still hasn't been heard. But I thought if I don’t try it, I’ll always regret it."
While the theme of wanderlust had been on her mind since "Little Lighthouse," Merton says that "No Roots" came together two-and-a-half years ago while she was visiting her parents in England. "I was on the beach, and I was just thinking to myself that I have no one place where I actually feel like I’m at home," Merton explains. "I came up with the idea of having no roots -- never being grounded to a certain place, but having your home with people who you love."
The rollicking, chest-thumping track itself reads like a roadmap, telling Merton's story through a marching drum kick, rugged bass and the chorus' chant of "I've got no roots, but my home was never on the ground." And while the track could serve as an ode to globetrotters everywhere, each line is as honest to Merton's experience as possible. Merton's favorite line, for example -- “I like digging holes and hiding things inside them / when I grow old, I hope I won’t forget to find them" -- isn't just a figure of speech. The singer-songwriter says she has left her mark in every city she's lived, whether through time capsules buried in backyards or secret messages carved into her wooden school desks.
"I love writing about things I know, and I like to be very honest in my music," Merton adds. "I feel it’s much easier to be honest or be myself in songs, when I’m playing. That’s why I felt: you know, I’m going to write the