Mercy Bell Plays A Home Town Show At Nashville Pride This Weekend
Nashville Pride is this weekend, Saturday and Sunday at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. This year’s line-up includes a wide range of national and local music from hip-hop icons Salt N Pepa, to alt-country artist Orville Peck plus Nashville’s Shelly Fairchild, Tayls and Mercy Bell. I recently caught up with Mercy Bell about what it means to play Nashville Pride plus the new album Golden Child, out now.
AnaLee: A new album and a performance at Nashville Pride tomorrow! How exciting, I am thrilled for you, Mercy! Can you describe what it means to you to represent Nashville’s LGBTQ+ community at this celebration?
Mercy: This is also my first main stage music festival performance! It is absolutely an honor. It feels incredibly fitting to me to get to perform for my community! It will be incredible to share the stage with Salt N Pepa and Orville Peck.
AnaLee: On your self-titled 2019 release your song, "Everything Changes” is in the film trailer and the end credits of the music documentary, The Sound of Us about your experience as a musician during Covid. Can you talk a little about your experience during the pandemic and how bonding with J.R. Bohannon during this time led to your new album?
Mercy: The pandemic really made me re-prioritize the creative and emotional connection aspect of music. It’s easy to get caught up in the business side of things, the adrenaline of that. But when shows and opportunities got canceled, I was given a lot of creative possibilities. To just make music for connection and for fun, to experiment. Playing live streams for fans was so healing, and taking these songs that I had written and re-imagining them as a concept album was a fun experiment I probably would never have done otherwise. J.R. Is great at experimental endeavors and really encouraged me to step out on a limb. It was so fun. I’m grateful I got the fun back into music. Unlike my other two albums, which are told from my POV, this entire album is told from the POV of fictional characters. But the experiences are personal and lived. My cowriters and I have lived all these stories. During the pandemic, as I quarantined, the thing I missed the most were the stories I would hear on tour and while I was bartending. Every song on this album feels like someone I'd have at my bar or at the merch table after a show, spilling their soul to me, and me feeling like I could relate to them. J.R. Bohannon and his amazing band took all these songs and gave them a raw Lucinda Williams feel, with some odes to Yacht Rock and Shania Twain and good ol' classic country.
AnaLee: Golden Child has been out a little over a month now. You recorded your vocals at The Bomb Shelter in Nashville while J.R. recorded his parts with his band and produced the seven tracks from Brooklyn. I know you’ve worked with Nashville’s Larissa Maestro before and she plays cello on the new album as well. Talk a little about the pros and cons of recording remotely.
Mercy: For me it was mainly pros! The only con was not having that camaraderie you get when you’re all together. The pros were that it really let me experiment. If we wanted to be responsible and socially distant, this was the only way I was gonna make music. It made me surrender control in certain areas that I used to worry about, and it allowed me to trust other people’s genius, like J.R. and Larissa. That element of surrender was so liberating and so exciting.
AnaLee: Except for the lone cover, Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”, the songs on Golden Child were written pre-pandemic for others to potentially record. I’m glad you ended up recording them as your voice and songwriting really shine on this album. I hear a little Joan Baez in your rendition of “Atlantic City”. Did bonding with J.R. over 90s country lead to putting these songs on the album?
Mercy: Yes!!! We had talked about doing a 90s country album and finally we said, “Well, let’s just do it.” The only reworking these songs needed was arrangements, which J.R. and his band deftly handled. The biggest leap it required was just saying, “Let’s just have fun and do it.”
AnaLee: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Mercy. I hope you have the time of your life playing Nashville Pride on Saturday! Do you have any other shows or tour plans on the horizon?
Mercy: I take Covid really seriously so planning a tour is incredibly difficult right now, especially since I bartend to make ends meet, and bartending pays more than most shows these days. But I am playing Artemis Fest in Madison on October 9, which has superb COVID precautions. Other than that, I have some other plans in the works that I can’t quite talk about yet, but keep an eye out and make sure to watch The Sound of Us documentary!