On Episode 194, I'm joined by singer-songwriter Mercy Bell, who released Golden Child, her latest EP, this past August 6. During this conversation, we talk about some of the characters, themes, & late night qualities within Golden Child, how short story fiction has influenced her writing, growing up in California and Massachusetts, her love for '90s country music, and how she wrote the anthemic "All Good Cowboys."
This episode's presenting partner is Desert Door Texas Sotol, The Blue Light Live, and Charlie Stout Photography.
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Thomas Mooney 0:01
Hello, welcome back to New slang. I'm your host and music journalist Thomas Mooney. We're kicking off the week being joined by singer songwriter, mercy Bell, earlier this month, August six, to be exact mercy released golden child. It's such an interesting and rewarding set of songs. These have been some of my favorite to unpack and explore from this past year, which this conversation with mercy was really no different. It's so insightful, and I absolutely loved hearing stories behind some of those songs, and why and how she's gotten to this place as a writer and artist. These songs they live, and they breathe on their own merit. But all the commentary and thought that she provides in this is just that additional context for the stories that are being told here. And the points that are being made. I just love a lot of the declarations made on this album. It's exploring a lot of parts of the American experience that aren't necessarily always represented in American culture. As I point out during this conversation, I feel like her cutting the Springsteen song at Atlantic City is mercy really just saying that these stories and these folks that she's writing about that they are a part of this experience, they have ownership to these American folk songs to anyway, we talked about golden child and the creative process at length on this one, and I think you're gonna enjoy all the things that mercy says during this one. Today's presenting partner is our pals over at Desert door Texas Soto. If you've been listening to new slang for really any amount of time, you'll know that desert door is one of my all time favorite premium, high quality spirits. If you haven't, or aren't sure what exactly a sotol is, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that's going to up the game on your liquor cabinet. For starters, the best reference point that I can point you to is to think about a tequila or a scowl. Do you feel that Western desert that text is ruggedness? Okay, Soto is like that, but a little bit more refined, smooth and fragrant. It intrigues the palate and offers these hints of vanilla and citrus, there's an earthiness that often sends me right back to my transpac isn't far west Texas routes. There's plenty to love about desert door. For me, it all starts right there. a close second is just how versatile desert door really is. You can go full highbrow and experiment with concocting a variety of cocktails that call for muddling fresh fruit sprigs of time sticks of cinnamon, it's perfect for that world. If you're a little bit more downhome. If you've just rolled up the sleeves of your denim Wrangler button up, it's perfect for that as well. If you just design something that short and sweet, it hits the mark. Every time does a door is genuine and authentically West Texan. It's inherently West Texas. They harvest Soto plants out in the wild and are knowledgeable conservation lists at heart. That's obviously something incredibly important to me. They shine a light on what makes West Texas special and unique and worth preserving and keeping it safe from exploitation. Right now, you can find desert door all over Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, and there's budding numbers in places like New Mexico, Arizona, California and Georgia. Best thing you can do is to check out desert door.com to find where desert door is locally. Again, that's the desert door.com. Okay, I promise that we'll get on into the conversation with mercy here in two seconds. But first, if this is your first time listening to Newsline, I think it'd be a wonderful idea if you hit that subscribe button. This line is available anywhere and everywhere that you listen to podcasts, Spotify, Apple podcast, Google podcast, Stitcher, and so on. Just hit that subscribe button wherever you prefer to listen to podcast. Just a couple of Fridays back I announced my debut book is coming out this September. It's called a Lubbock way. It's a collection of short stories, thoughts and insight on the Lubbock music scene circa 2015 to 2017. Right now you can pre order it over in the merch store. Currently, this first edition is going to be limited to 500 copies unless really like a miracle happens where I don't know 10,000 people order the book or something I'm trying to manifest hopefully, one can hope right? But what I'm saying is that even though 500 sounds like a lot, it's going pretty quickly. So go ahead preorder one right now while you have the chance. Speaking of which, plenty of other cool stuff in the merch store that you can get as well go ahead pick up a T shirt, a coffee mug something all right those links as well as ones to the new slang, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Patreon and so on will be in the show notes. Okay, let's get into it. Here is mercy Bell
As I feel like I've started every one of these damn podcasts off with is the natural places to start is obviously you have golden child out just last week. And yeah, let's start there. I guess like this is like probably my first proper introduction to you as an artist. And I just really liked a lot of the character development on this EP, in these songs I really liked. How I don't know that there's something that you do that I find really intriguing as a as a writer, and that is like, sometimes, like you're really, really just, you throw out something to describe someone or a situation. And it's just like, you're capturing the, the the scene or that person in a really, really kind of like, matter of fact, way or even like in a blunt way. But then also, you will describe something in a way that makes the listener really have to think about what you're saying at the same time. If Yeah, and I really liked that, that balance, if you will. Obviously, that's something that, I don't know, if you're intentionally trying to do that. And you're consciously thinking that thinking of that as you're writing a song or anything like that, but yeah, that's what I guess like, is that something that you've noticed in your own writing or, or, or anything, or that that's been intentional, or that you've wanted to work on as an artist?
Mercy Bell 6:32
Yeah, so um, I originally started writing. Like, I studied briefly, I wasn't like an English major or anything, but a lot of short stories, prose and poetry. And in that realm, in that world of short stories, so like a huge influence of mine is Flannery O'Connor. And she's, you know, this really epic, Southern Gothic writer, and everything about her was to describe what you see, but there's like a whole world of an iceberg underneath it. So it's like, I don't know how to describe it without going into like, literary terminology, but it's kind of I'm trying to think of a I'm trying to think of like a really obvious it's the idea of show me Don't tell me, you know, but it's like, what are you showing? You're showing? I don't know, I guess I'm I haven't you're the first person to ever asked me this. So I haven't had to like explain it since probably like, my college days. But yeah, but it is completely intentional. I really only describe people if I can also, if there's something seething underneath seating might not be the right word, but something percolating underneath there too. So it is 1,000%. Intentional?
Thomas Mooney 8:05
Yeah, I think like maybe the, the even just like the way you start off this, the very first song, that first slide. It's so jarring. And I think like a lot of people think of like easing into a record. And they're there is just like that line, of course, plan being a Gatorade, another Walgreens on a Sunday. Like, it's just, we're in it. And yeah, something really, really refreshing about that, where it's kind of like a bold move. And not just like, even for a record or anything like that. But like just as for for a line in a song. It hits you in a way that you're like, Okay, well, let's, let's try and like figure out who this character is. And yeah, no, I don't know. I think that's a refreshing aspect of your writing.
Mercy Bell 8:52
I mean, I'm gonna give a little background like, so when I wrote that line. I was thinking about, you know, without I mean, obviously, it delves into, like a really personal realm of things for a lot of people. But like, I was reminded at this time, I was bartending. And the night before, this woman was like, I had to cut her off because she was like, so drunk, and I had to cut her off. And like, the next morning, she came the next day she came in, I was also bartending, and I was like, hey, how's the rest of your night? And she was like, I don't really remember it. But I did have to go buy a plan B today. And I was like, Yeah, and I like, like, if I knew what happened the night before, right? I knew how drunk she got and like, and so for me, it's like, sometimes you don't need to explain the entire 10 paragraphs of what it is. It's like, there. It's a shorthand, I think, and like anybody that's ever partied too hard or done things that they were like, Oh, that was not like the best decision, you know. Yeah, it's like That's the thing. It's real life. It's stuff. It's stuff that my friends and I talk about all the time. So like, why shouldn't that be in a song? You know, and when we were writing that song, it was at this really great Writers Workshop here in Nashville, with this amazing songwriter named Bonnie Baker, she was hosting it. And I got paired with these awesome writers sumiko, sprinkle, and Cameron Newby, and we were talking about how we all grew up, like being the perfect, the perfect kid. And we all had our different like reasons to have to do that. And to do that, sometimes it was because of our own neuroses and our own personalities, whatnot. But it's like, when you make a mistake, we beat ourselves up so much. And we're not realizing that everybody makes mistakes. And it's not even a mistake. Everybody is wildly diverse in different you know, because like some of the things in this song are not, there's nothing wrong with being gay, obviously, I'm gay. But you know, there's nothing wrong with being, you know, you know, needing reproductive rights or things like that. There's nothing wrong with any of this. But it's stuff that we all hide so much, you know, but we but it's real life. And it's, it's we talked about it all the time. If all if I had so many friends here in Nashville who were like, gay dudes from small towns who were the quarterback on their football team, and they tell me that Oh, yeah, I was the quarterback in homecoming king, but I was really like a closeted gay and tormented and hated myself and wanted to kill myself. And it's like, this is the real stories people have told me. And so I was like, fuck it. I want to make an album that talks about all this real stuff, you know? So I definitely just rambled. So I understand why you gave me that preamble. Yeah, but also like, I hate preachiness. And I think if I was to make a song that was like, we should all be allowed to be whoever we want. I mean, like, I wouldn't listen to that. So
Thomas Mooney 11:55
the Kumbaya? Yeah, yeah,
Mercy Bell 11:57
I'm, I don't even listen to that. So why would I expect anybody else to listen to that? And so I was like, I think it's better just to tell True Stories of things that I have. My friends and I have lived, you know, so that's it. And strangers also, like that's basically what this album is. Yeah, yeah,
Thomas Mooney 12:16
there's a, I want to unpack a lot of what you what you just mentioned there, because that's one of those things that I have written down here is about how, okay, let me I guess there's probably like three or four things I want to talk about but with this first one, first thing first, and that's a you're taking like if we go back to that first line, you're taking like a situation that I'll there's a lot of songs out there that are about bad decisions, or not necessarily as you said, not necessarily bad decisions but decisions where you know, you drank over the last night and you don't remember what what happened necessarily exactly a lot of songs like that this one right here as he said, like you just kind of you captured that feeling that that feeling of even just a The Hangover Enos if you will, in and just like a couple of seconds, and I think that's like such a great way of just capturing that, that the essence that that mood of the song go on.
Mercy Bell 13:20
Thank you going forward, though,
Thomas Mooney 13:21
like what I what I really I guess I've feel like you tap into with this has been and I guess in a relationship to the the addition of Atlantic City by Springsteen on here is the I think we all kind of think of Springsteen as capturing America, right? Just the small town American dream, if you will, or like the breakdown of that dream. And Atlantic City is very much like, even though it's a quote unquote, newer folk song, it feels like, right, like rooted in, you know, tradition. 1000s of years, right. And what I think like you do with that the like that edition of that song, specifically, I think, helps show that like, a lot of these characters are in that same world, if you will. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I guess like my my question off of that is, I'm guessing like that was intentional as well, just to show that these realms are the same room that yeah, these characters, these people who are feeling like their black sheep from small towns are still in that same world as your traditional, quote unquote, traditional characters of American folk, if you will.
Mercy Bell 14:45
Absolutely. I mean, I would almost go to say that that song inspired the album. I love that song for years, and I have I've dabbled with covering it a lot, but it wasn't until The pandemic and I just saw how much everybody was struggling. And that song has always resonated with me, but it really resonated last year. And I, you know, I grew up on the coasts, so like California and Massachusetts, and I grew up in Massachusetts and I've really working class town that really just has, it's like a it's like a fishing town. It's called New Bedford, Massachusetts and it Springsteen's Music has always made me reminded me of that of New Bedford, which is where, you know, I partially grew up. And so every time I hear that song, I was like, so when I first heard the band's version of it, I was like, this is like a country western Southern song, but it is such like a Northeastern gritty, working class industrial vibe, which is where I'm from. So and I love that because people my last album, people always ask me about the country aspect as like, I'm not you guys are picking up on country and that I tell stories, and it is one of the last remaining genres of music where people told stories, like explicit stories, because folk music sure people do that. But folk music can be a lot of different things, right. And for me with this album, I was like, I want to do what Bruce did at Atlantic City, I want to write a very specific song, songs plural, about normal people who are struggling and still trying to find the joys and pleasures and a reason to live in everyday life. And I wanted to include Atlantic City in there as like, as like, Northeastern aspect, because I know that there's a lot of people like it's a Midwestern heartland album. And I'm like, it's not really actually because like, I'm not from there. But, like, a lot of it. A lot of the album is can happen anywhere, you know, I mean, that's where I grew up in New Bedford and parts of San Diego, right, like, but I'm not going to argue with people. Like if they want to do that, then it's whatever they want it to be. Right. Um, so like, I added Atlantic City, there is like a homage like, and it inspired. It kind of inspired the whole album, honestly. To bring it together. And, you know, I don't know if that answered it. I'm, I might not have had enough coffee for this yet.
Thomas Mooney 17:28
No, I think it does. And I find that I don't know I just find that really, really interesting. The I guess like your commentary on where specifically like that Nebraska record is because yeah, people will just like fight about the the regionalism of where that Yeah, were made like the the the overall intentions is not necessarily where that region is, but regionalism in general, you know, but yeah, I grew up in West Texas, and there's moments in that where you feel like, Oh, I know that person. Even though like this, these people may have, you know, Springsteen was probably running about someone that he had an idea of, yes, somewhere far from West Texas or wherever. Right? But like there's there is that that prototype character? Wherever?
Mercy Bell 18:17
Right, exactly. That's funny West Texas, and my girlfriend is from out there. Where she from? She grew up. She grew up in, shout out to grace. Hi. She grew up in Hobbs, New Mexico, but her family all lives in Lubbock So, area. Yeah, yeah, that's where I'm at right now in Lubbock. Right on totally. Right on.
Thomas Mooney 18:41
This episode of new slang is brought to you by the blue light live here in Lubbock, Texas. Blue Light has long been the heart and soul of the Lubbock singer songwriter scene, and has been a home away from home for some of Texas Americana, country and rock and roll's finest over the years. Talk with 99.9% of the Songwriters who have come out of Lubbock and the panhandle at large over the past 20 years. And they'll point to just how integral and necessary the blue light is, with live music and touring slowly but surely coming back spots like the blue light are getting back to their usual ways as well. That means music every night of the week. Do you want to see that schedule? Well, I've got a few options for you. One, go to their socials and give them a follow that is at blue light live on Twitter, at the blue light live on Instagram. And of course by just searching the blue light live on Facebook. They're consistently posting that week's lineup of shows as well as those heavy hitters that ought to be on your calendar that are coming up on the horizon to check out blue light lubbock.com as well. There they have the full schedule, the cover charges, time, any of those specials that may be happening while there Go check out their merge page. They have a wide range of hats, koozies, hoodies, sweaters, beanies, jackets, and so much more. You can of course, get all of your merchant age, when you go see your favorite band, take the stage at blue light, just ask the bartender and they will get you all set. Speaking of which, that's another great way of seeing who's playing there. Just go to the blue light. It's at 1806 Buddy Holly Avenue here in Lubbock, Texas. And of course, again, that is blue light, loving, calm. I'll throw a link into the show notes to maybe I'll see you there. Okay, let's get back to the show.
Yeah, have you been out here?
Mercy Bell 20:45
I've only I've driven through it too, cuz my like to go to California. I'd like drive that way. And my cousin lives in Dallas. So yeah, I've crisscross the country a bunch, but I haven't been out with her. So I am headed out there probably in February. So yeah, fun. Exciting.
Thomas Mooney 21:07
To show you all the I don't know. I'm gonna try and make fun of Hobbs here. The Walmart parking lots are something like
Mercy Bell 21:14
Well, I know she went to Texas Tech. So she's gonna have to show me her alma mater, Alma Mater, Oklahoma. I can't Yeah.
Thomas Mooney 21:22
Yeah. So we'll have to cross paths at that point. Yeah,
Mercy Bell 21:26
sounds good. Let's do it. Yeah, let's go.
Thomas Mooney 21:29
Going back to the the songs though. These characters. Yeah, I guess like, you know, I feel like this is maybe this is one of those weird places as far as just being like a, as far as like, my observations from being just like a white guy, like a white, straight guy. And that is like, maybe, or mainly why I'm half Mexican, it doesn't really matter. about like, Oh, these are interesting characters, because like they are from parts of pockets of America that aren't necessarily being talked about on the radio, they're not like, these characters aren't being played. They have other songs on top 40 country or something like that. Right? Is that like, I don't know. Is that like, on purpose? Yeah. No, not necessarily on purpose. But is that something like, Where? Are we like, describing these characters as interesting or eccentric? Or like, vulnerable just because of that? Or do you feel like those these characters like, does that make it where they're almost like, you know, not real? Oh, that makes sense.
Mercy Bell 22:44
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Are they? Are we looking looking at them as like, like, oddities as opposed to human like that? Yeah. Yeah. For me, I went about it. Like, every song kind of started with something really personal. So there was a song about shame. You know, there's a song in there that deals directly with some brain breakups and addiction type stuff that I have dealt with, and that people that I love have dealt with. But then instead of like, I've done that on my other albums, where I just kind of like write a journal about how I feel about heartbreak. And I was like, that's really boring. And for me now, you know, so I just wanted to flesh it out and turn it into characters that were not me, you know. And that is kind of every song on this album. comes from a really personal place. And then I was like, the other co writers came from their personal place for them to and they were like, well, we don't want it to be about us. Even though it's about us. Does that make sense? So every single one we just happen to like, you know, and one of them we have it be a middle aged lady, who's, you know, chain smoking cigarettes, and I would really like to go on a yacht with, you know, really definitely would love to go to the beach with her. That's the hustle. She's my hero. She's my heat number one here on the whole album. But yeah, I actually love these people. And if they, when I originally was making the album, I thought I was going to call it happy hour and my idea was gonna be like, a happy hour of bar regulars that you see all the time and you know, but then it was like, my, my sister, Rosie was like, you really gotta call it golden child. And I was like, Yeah, you're right. You're right. So
Thomas Mooney 24:43
yeah, that's okay. So like, I do love like the, I don't know the context of thinking about it calling it happy hour because I one of the things that like you, you'll see within a lot of the songs is like the mentioning of like, I guess like late night supermarket aisle type of Yeah. And yeah, like, it's like this The Happy Hour aspects but like, I almost feel like these are people that I've not necessarily even run into at a bar. But like, at, again, if we're gonna go to the Walgreens example. Yeah. Like looking for something that we're like at a bar, almost like you're kind of like, oh, we're in this same like, glow of like, Okay, this is we're having fun at Walgreens at like, you know, sometime in the early early morning, late night. You're almost like, Oh, you didn't see me here. Please don't tell.
Mercy Bell 25:47
Yeah, exactly. Especially buying the plan B. Yeah, exactly.
Thomas Mooney 25:54
Yeah, so like, that's like the I don't know that. I I find that a little humorous in some respects is like, where this is like the the shame of the of life is like shopping at Walgreens.
Mercy Bell 26:08
Next morning. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. All right, like you're on a road trip. And yeah, I mean, the other title of this could have been Walgreens. I think every single character in this could have gotten something there. So
Thomas Mooney 26:22
yeah, that now you need the the Walgreens sponsorship.
Mercy Bell 26:25
Yeah, I'm here for it. I shop there quite often.
Thomas Mooney 26:29
We can get you a cut out cardboard cut out. I really love that sewing the record right there by the front somewhere.
Mercy Bell 26:37
That'd be great. With every novelty item mentioned in it. Walgreens roses, Gatorade, Plan B. Yeah.
Thomas Mooney 26:45
bagged for you.
Mercy Bell 26:48
The Mersey Bell special? Yeah,
Thomas Mooney 26:51
I want to go back to what you were talking about with creative writing. And you mentioned journal, journaling. Yeah, in here. I feel like I think I've read somewhere that you do a whole lot of that, as far as I do. You know, writing? Maybe I don't know if it's on a daily basis or anything like that. But how much of that helps? I guess like, set the palette or set the stage, if you will, for your songwriting, how much does that inform the way you're able to? I don't know if you're plucking lines or anything like that, from what you're writing beforehand? How much does that inform, I guess your your songwriting
Mercy Bell 27:36
a lot, I would say it's probably the number one thing I do other than just constantly staying in home. Like, as I'm washing dishes, I'm just always singing and sometimes it turns into a hook. But I am always writing, I just always have a notepad or journal or my phone. And if something if I think of something that might be a good line, I write it down. I do write, I have boxes and boxes of old journals that I've had for over the years. And I don't always do it just for creativity. I do it a lot for kind of just like mental health and decompressing. But, yeah, I've been journaling since I was a kid. And a lot of it is just gibberish and nonsense. But there's a lot of catharsis and kind of clarity that comes from doing that. So I have found it's probably one of my number one. resources for writing songs. And the more I journal, the more songs I get. So yeah, it's really important. And sometimes the only thing that comes out of it is like a line, which then turns into the rest of the song. And that happens pretty easily if I can get that like one line. So like even with golden child, I threw out it was on the spot. So I do a lot of on the spot writing too. If it's a co write, I there's a level of kind of flow and adrenaline that really helps with that. But yeah, I definitely threw out that plan being a Gatorade because I had remember, I remember somebody had said that once to me one of my friends. You know, and I remembered it, I just remembered it. So yeah, like sometimes it's just journaling, just like writing down things. Of note, you know, I recommended if anybody feels stuck in their life creatively, whatever your medium is, whether it's painting or photography, or dancing or whatever, I really recommend journaling or like kind of getting your inner thoughts out onto paper or a collage or to get it out of yourself and nobody else should see it. It should just be for you because you need to feel that
Thomas Mooney 29:47
this episode is in part brought to you by Charlie stout photography. Charlie stout has long been a great buddy of mine. And for as long as I've known him, he's always had a good eye. A good eye for eye Ideas for lines in a song. And notably, an eye for what makes a great photograph. Yes, we're gonna roll with that tried and true cliche about a great photographer, having a good eye. But it's cliche for a reason, more often than not means it's true. Right now, I want you all to head on over to Charlie stout.com. To get an idea of what I'm talking about. While you're at it, go give him a follow on Instagram and Twitter at Troy stout. Right now he has about 50 photographs for sale on Charlie stout calm with a vast majority of those being landscapes and sky shots of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, the American Southwest, if you will, a lot of cacti and clouds, windmills and open roads, sunsets and stardust. he captures a lot of what I love about West Texas, and these dry arid climates. That's mainly that vast emptiness that can really make you feel small, the depth and the way and the intensity, it's all in there. Right now he's doing a special on his prints. Each week, he releases a new photo. And for one week, only that photograph is at a special introductory rate. For just $25, you'll get an eight and a half by 11. That's just about half off the regular price. For 75, you can get a 13 by 19. And for 110, you can get a 17 by 22. After the week, they go back to regular prices, which are still an absolute Still, if you ask me. Also just a pro tip, keep an watchful eye out on his Twitter. He's consistently posting one offs, errors and randoms on there that are for sale that are in the flash sale variety. Again, that is at Troy stout for Twitter and Instagram. Head on over to Charlie stout calm, grab a sign print, buy a record, get yourself some major sounds and some nature shots. Alright, let's get back to the episode.
Right. That's okay. That's something interesting right there. Yeah. We're in such a society where we have to share everything.
Mercy Bell 32:14
You really don't I mean, do I
Thomas Mooney 32:17
feel compelled? At least what I mean, as far as you know? Oh, sure. Yeah, I'll see you on Instagram. I need to do this. And that that's an interesting thing to some things to just keep for yourself.
Mercy Bell 32:29
Yeah, I think that you deserve to practice in peace. For real like, I think, I think that you do. So my, my, my two of my siblings are really wonderful artists, illustrators, and they do that for a living. And they're younger than me. And they used to just draw all the time as kids like, and they would just fill up every ounce of spare paper with test scribbles. And they're hilarious. And to me, like as somebody who can't draw, I thought it was like the coolest thing and I was like, Can I can I put this on the wall or whatever? And they said, No, those are the ugliest. We're just getting the uglies out. And I was like, that's freedom and liberation right there to practice to rehearse to like, you know, athletes get to do it all the time. They get to they get to train and they'll do micro movements, with like, resistant. I just came back from MMA practice. So like I'm fresh off of that, like we did the exact same form. My trainer, his name's Luke Sanders, and he was like, you just got to get you got to get the punch down the right way. You got to do it. I think he was quoting Bruce Lee. He's like, you got to do it 10,000 times to do it once. And I was like, yeah, and so all that to say is like you we all deserve. Artists deserve to mess up not even have to practice in peace and get out these crazy ideas and get it out and figure it out. And if that's journaling, if that iPhone memos if that's the uglies, if that is 3000 photos on your iPhone to do it, you know if that is dancing in your underwear at 3am do it.
Thomas Mooney 34:07
Yeah, that's, I love that right there. Because so one of the I guess one of my big things with with, especially with art, and specifically with songwriting is like we often romanticize like the process where it's like, we think of artists as you just did it perfect the first time. Like, that's the I think one of the main things as far as like, it's just God given talent. And, you know, I woke up and I just did it. And obviously, like, that takes away all the the work before the Yes, of getting to that point. Yeah. And yeah, like allow yourself some of that freedom of practice. Because,
Mercy Bell 34:51
Thomas Mooney 34:52
you know, no one wakes up and is I mean, I'm sure there are people who can wake up and just, they are just naturally great at writing. A song or something, but you know, all of this takes work. All of this takes the the practice, and like, even, you know, I'm, I don't necessarily journal I do just write a bunch of stuff. Because I think that like, that gets you to the point of where maybe you are ready to, to whatever it is that you need to whatever your task is, if it is writing a song or something in our or for my example here, when I'm writing an article, or writing something about somebody, I think like you have to, like, get to that point where you're, it's where is it where it does come easy, where you're not thinking about all of the, the, the things that you've been working
Mercy Bell 35:46
on? So it's Yeah, it becomes muscle memory.
Thomas Mooney 35:49
Yeah. And and I don't know, I think like sometimes artists or we get the idea that like, that, not necessary, or like, I'll be a writer whenever I'm a writer,
Mercy Bell 36:01
for Yeah, I think that. Yeah, I think the idea of not being able to mess up is is dangerous. And I mean, that's what my whole first song is about. But it's like, we messing up isn't even the right word. It's like It's like, freedom to play and freedom to practice. And I definitely stealing a lot from two of my icons, like Esther Perel has a therapist, and Elizabeth Gilbert, who's an incredible writer, they both stress a lot. And then in the need for curiosity, play and mischief in everything you do. And in especially art, and creativity, it's like, it doesn't need to be consumed. You don't need to do this to consume other things. Like you don't need to, this doesn't have to go on Spotify. This doesn't have to this, if you're gonna, if you're gonna write something, like you just said, you're gonna write something, do it for the joy of it, you know? Yeah, and it's practice. And it's practice. And that's practice and play and curiosity. I don't even like to use the word, messing it up, you know, it's just practice it's rehearsal, is you can't just come up, you can't just read Hamlet once and then put it on the stage at the Globe Theater, you have to rehearse it for nine months, you know, like, you have to have, I remember, I did theater for quite a while in high school and in college, and they always said, like, if you have a bad dress rehearsal, you're gonna have a great performance. And I think that that's just one thing where I really relish having had a lot of training in different art forms, sports, things like that. It's like, everybody else lets you rehearse and practice. And we, for some reason, in, in this world of like, songwriting and whatever thinks that it has to come out perfect. The first and then like, That's ridiculous. You know, it doesn't have to be, you know,
Thomas Mooney 37:59
yeah. Like the, the sandbox element.
Mercy Bell 38:02
Thomas Mooney 38:03
I remember. Like, I used to, like love as a kid. Like computer games, where you're like, city building and stuff like that, like, Yeah, kind of stuff where I guess like, there was always like a, quote, quote, unquote, like a campaign element of like, you know, this is a the campaign of doing that. I always just loved the free build, like this. Yeah, box thing. And I think like, a lot of things would call it sandbox. That's right. Yeah. Yeah. And that, to me, that was like the, I don't know, this is, um, now that I'm thinking about it. As a kid. I almost loved like more, setting up play versus actually actual, like playing something. Yeah, it's like, I don't know.
Mercy Bell 38:48
Yeah, yeah. Cuz it's more, it's more liberating. And I remember thinking about this. It's like, it's like, um, I remember learning Spanish. And my Spanish is still pretty bad. But like, I remember, remember, like, trying to speak it. And I really don't care about messing up, or making mistakes or not doing things perfectly. So like, I'll just go, I'll just go balls to the wall with it. And I remember somebody being like, Oh, you actually try it even. And I was like, Yeah, my Spanish is bad, but they're like, I actually try it. And so many people are like, afraid of messing up. And it's not because they're just like, egotistical. It's because there's such a culture of like being shamed in this country, at least, from making us quote, unquote, mistake. I was like, how are you gonna learn anything if you don't get to try it? You know, it's like, maybe that's because I grew up as like, I'm part Filipino. And I grew up in a very multicultural world. So it's like, you just see people like doing their best to communicate all the time. And so I mean, I don't know that just translates to me to art. Try it. Let's just try it. curiosity.
Thomas Mooney 39:56
Yeah. I agree like it. There is a You know, there's, you get those like those, uh, butterflies at like, Oh, am I going to fail? You know, or like, whatever the case the first time you do it and a lot of times, you know, I think a lot of that is clearly rooted in childhood. Yeah, I was like, you know, were you cheered on? Or were you like told like, you know, you're a loser because he didn't do it the right, yeah, or whatever. But I wanted to go back and like a couple of other questions about some of your other songs that are on this. And one of the songs that really, I gravitated towards was and this is something that like, I feel this is an older song of yours. And that's all good cowboys. Well, yeah, it's like that song. I guess you originally recorded it in 11. And then you revisited it for yourself titled, can you can you go back and like, talk a little bit about, I guess, like the evolution of that song, and the words rooted and all that stuff?
Mercy Bell 41:06
Yeah. So, um, my granddaddy, my grandfather, who was one of my main babysitters growing up was from Georgia. And so he was like, old school Southern guy. But he was my babysitter, and he loved cowboys. So like, cowboys were his like, every, like, everywhere you looked in my house, or like, wherever he, you know, is living at the point, which is like cowboy stuff. And and so as a little kid, there was that mythos of the cowboy. And I grew up in San Diego, until I was 12. And so I moved to the east. And we drove across the country. And I remember that just being like this, like, pivotal experience, just like being so heartbroken of like leaving everything I'd ever known. But at the same time being, like, full of wonder, like driving across the country and heartbroken at the same time. So I was just like, what is this? So, like, for me for a very long time, and sort of until now, I kind of had this feeling of like, not having a home, even though that's not true. I've had many homes I'm incredibly loved. It's just one of my neuroses, that I'm working on in therapy. But um, and for me, my mom always mind her nickname for me was cowboy. Because like, I was just always on the move. And so that, that was kind of weird, like that iconography came from. But when I wrote that song, I was still struggling with my sexuality. I hadn't come out of the closet yet. And I was really worried that I was not going to be accepted. Which I was ultimately, I mean, there was some hardship, but I mean, I'm very accepted. But I was really worried. And that's a song about like, being loved for who you are. And also, you know, not being loved for who you are, and just constantly moving to like, find a place where you are loved. So that's kind of where that came from. And then, as over the years, like, the more I play songs, certain songs, like the more it grows with me, and the more it like, gains meaning and that will always have an incredible amount of meaning to me. So yeah, I mean, that was kind of an esoteric description of it, but I don't know. Did I answer your questions?
Thomas Mooney 43:36
Yeah, no, no, no, like I that's, I felt there was a lot of that in there. Yeah. What what I think like what you do, though, what I love about like, you kind of borrowing the language of like the mythos of the cowboy as you as you go about because one of one of the things I always love about and if you look at like any cowboy, it doesn't matter what when the the cowboy movie is out, or any of the art related to a cowboy, it's always about, you know, the frontier closing. And it could be like the quote, unquote, beginning of the frontier, but it's always like, well, the West is already been conquered or some shit like that. Yeah, that's something that like, is always you always return to, I guess, in a lot of like, cowboy culture kind of stuff. But yeah, you know, the, I think like in you know, a lot of people always will talk about how we'll know like, the frontier is never, like, closed, like, there's a frontier. And always, I think you you, I don't know, I love like that, I guess like that bridge between a lot of that language and your own story and just kind of feel like that. Where is home? Where is the, you know, that frontier? Where is Yeah, we're all that like mixes together, you know?
Mercy Bell 44:54
And the funny thing is like, and this goes a little bit more, but everything I do is kind of like rooted in so My dad's in the family is like New England like Old School New England and also Scotland like they came over like not too long ago from Scotland so like that's like its own ancient culture, which I don't know maybe I'll do a sea shanty album next who knows, you know, we can go into like Celtic, New England music. It's gorgeous. It's very sad but it's very gorgeous. I just would need to find like the right instrumentalists. I'm sure that they exist. But But my my, my mom's side of the family. So my granddaddy the southern side, the burqa altars are all from Georgia. And like Southern and then my Filipino side. My my grandmother right after world war two went to school in Minnesota and there's like this gorgeous photo of her. It's like beautiful she was so beautiful, like beautiful Filipino lady like looking out over the Badlands and the Dakotas. And I just remember seeing that photo as a kid being like, She's so badass and she would carry it like she survived World War Two on the run in the mountains in the Philippines and like surviving occupation, you know, of the invading armies and stuff and she as like a as an adult. I mean, as my grandmother like, she worked at a jewelry shop in like a super fancy part of San Diego. And she was a gun owner and she was a crack shot and she would disappear for hours at a time and be like, Where did she go? Where did my grandmother go? My Leila is like so that Filipino word for grandmother's Lola. But I couldn't say it. So it was Leila. Where do you live though? She'd be out the gunray just like tiny, gorgeous Asian lady. I put a crack shot, you know, who could probably put a lot of these NRA guys to shame and I was just like, like, that's my grandmother. And then her dad, my my grandma, my great grandmother, my great Lola, which is a grandfather and Tagalog was a mining student, a mining engineer in Colorado in the 1920s and 1930s. Like, he was a frickin cowboy like Deadwood, like that's some dead wood stuff. And then he brought he went back to the Philippines, and created these like minds that save tons of people's lives from bombings during World War Two. And it's just like, I come from a long line of really intrepid mofos like to be honest, like, that's it. They're all really intrepid, they're really brave. And my granddad he was like in the Air Force. And he left Georgia and he went, flew across, you know, he ended up living in the Philippines and meeting my grandmother and like, so I come from a world of these people who can't sit still, you know, and it's like, there's so many clashing clashes around word, there's so many vibrant images of people who just keep going, keep going, keep going. And even though even on like the, the my dad's side, like, they're like, there's a great grandmother who's like, in the frontier of Saskatchewan, and like in the woods and like, like, it's a bunch of people just surviving, you know, like, whatever history is throwing at them. So, yeah, like, I know, that's a lot. But it's really hard to explain how much my family history and the stories I grew up with. Influence everything I write, in terms of the mythology and iconography and stuff, so symbolism.
Thomas Mooney 48:33
I want to break one more time to talk about our pals over at Desert door and offer up a quick Thomas Mooney, cocktail minute, as I've said, probably 100 times by now, by no means am I a seasoned mixologist or bartender, but these have been some of my desert door go twos. For starters, let's just go with the tried and true ranch water, popped the top off the topo, Chico, take a good swig. Now pour in some desert door and top it off by throwing in a few lime wedges never fails. This one. It's so simple. It probably doesn't even count. But again, pretty foolproof. do the exact same thing. But get you a Mexican Coca Cola. I guess you can go with a regular one. But you're really cutting yourself short if you don't opt for the Mexican import variety. All right, here's the change up you've been waiting for. Desert door sangria. This one is prime for when you have company coming over and you aren't wanting to just be over there making six different drinks at a time. What you'll need is some desert door. Obviously, a bottle of red wine, honey, boiling water, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, some cinnamon sticks, a couple of apples and some time sprigs. I know that may sound intimidating, but trust me it's worth the prep. And honestly, it's pretty easy. For starters, get you up Punchbowl, add that honey, those cinnamon sticks and the boiling water together. Now you're going to want to stir that all up and let it cool down for about an hour. So remember patience is a virtue. Once that's done, add some desert door and stir vigorously. Now add the one the cider and the vinegar and continue stirring until it's equally mixed. Now slice those apples up and toss them in. Put in those time sprigs as well. Now you can pour that over some ice and you have a modified sangria chef's kiss. Anyway, those have been some of my favorite go twos as of light. And remember, desert door is as versatile as vodka and more refined, smooth, complex and intriguing than tequila. It's rich and balanced. And whether you decide to keep it simple or want to experiment desert door is that perfect Texas spirit. There's plenty more recipes over at Desert door.com as well check out the show notes for a link. All right, let's get back to the episode. I think that like you know that that's one of those things where he just kind of gets ingrained in a family as far as like that that mentality what I hear and a lot of that right there is I guess like the the idea of like the the quote unquote, like the second sons if you will, because you know, like the first son takes over the the family business or the whatever if we're going to go back to you know, the right era literary Right. Yeah. And like often like, you know, the the kids after we're the ones who went out to the, you know, the edge of the world quote unquote, yeah, exactly. And like I feel like that is there's a lot of that in there was your
Mercy Bell 51:50
Oh, yeah, that would be my whole family on both sides. Yeah, exactly. Like, on both sides. Like it's just it's just my whole childhood was growing up hearing about all these people who just never sit step still even now today people are like, Where are you from? And I'm like, that is a complicated question. That is very complicated. Yeah, so yeah, I mean, and I even as a kid I gravitated towards pardon me Johnny Cash you know, because he's this outlaw who sings from his heart and mind speaks his mind and his was a badass You know? And like to me that it to me that and he's haunted but he like overcame his haunted miss you know, to you know, and that to me that was he was one of my heroes from a very young age so i don't know i mean, i definitely definitely relate to kind of like the outlaw me so it's also so not that I'm that I'm pretty boring. I go to bed really early when I'm not bartending so and my partying days are over the Lord. I can't
Thomas Mooney 53:03
like the Johnny Cash thing is like there's like that incredible balance of being the the epic, badass, right? Like telling these stories, but then also at the same time being like, you know, sharing off both I guess like that, that harden edge, but then the vulnerability behind it. Like I'm, yeah, I'm human to kind of
Mercy Bell 53:27
Yeah, and like he died after June died because of a broken heart. I mean, I don't know. That's just like the mythology and I'm sure that country music people will be like, That's not true. But like, that was what like the image that came to mind. Right. So and if you get corrections, I accept the corrections. I'm not googling things live as we speak right now. But yeah, I just I love juxtapositions and the Walt great Walt Whitman quote of like, do I contradict myself? I contradict myself. I I am dang it. I forget what the rest of the how the rest of the quote goes. I contain multitudes. Yeah, and I love that it's just like, you don't have to be either or, and I actually shun that cuz I am, like, we're all i, from a very young age had to grow up, realize that I am a lot of things. I'm not white. I'm not completely Filipino. I'm not Eastern or Western. I'm not Southern as in the United United States. I am. Then I was like, Oh, I'm not gay or straight. I mean, I'm bisexual. See what I'm saying? It's like, I don't get the choice of being one thing. So I don't know. I kind of and it's once you get over like the difficult aspect of it. It's incredibly liberating. And I just really want everybody else to feel that way. I want everybody to just get more free, honestly.
Thomas Mooney 54:51
Right. Yeah. Like, people aren't in this like binary code. You're not a zero. Yeah. And I'm sure like there's been a lot of Throughout history forever, but like, specifically here, I feel like we, you have to like, or you feel pressured to cut out all the nuance of a person.
Mercy Bell 55:10
Yeah. And that's so boring. It's such
Thomas Mooney 55:13
a like, I don't know, like, because like Twitter is very, very, the beauty of Twitter is that it's limited characters. But then like, you, what I always hate is like when you say something, and people just generalize what you're saying and point out like, well, there's this exception you're like, yes, yes. There's always exceptions. And this isn't like the rule. This isn't like the rule to what I'm talking about. Right? Like, allow, allow a little bit of nuance and what I'm trying to say,
Mercy Bell 55:43
yeah, you know, honestly, a lot of that world of culture of just like, debate it like that level of nitpicking, and debate goes against everything you learn in relationship therapy, like any and I have been in ever kind of therapy. And one of the big things that they teach you in like relationship therapy, like, like any kind of relationship, like getting to know other people is the level of grace and listening, you need to extend to somebody else. And what they've gotten is like to say, assuming positive intent. And I know that people are like, Well, you can't always Yeah, but it's like, if you really want Are you trying to win a debate? Are you trying to foster healthy relationships? You know, and it's like, so to me, learning how to listen to people has been one of the biggest things I've ever done. And listening means to like, not just always looking to tear somebody else down, you know? Um, so, I mean, that's, it served me a lot. But as a bartender,
Thomas Mooney 56:37
for sure. Oh, absolutely. And as a songwriter, because, you know, I always think like, empathy is probably the, the best quality to have as a, as a songwriter. And, you know, I think like, what a lot of people, a lot of people do is, they don't listen with. With that in mind. You're just even if like, you're not trying to win the debate, you're almost always you have to teach yourself to not just like, wait for your turn to talk. Oh, yeah. And I think a lot of times, even, it's just, I don't want to say it's a struggle, but I think like you all, I have to, like remind myself, to even in like a situation like this where I'm like, don't think about like, what you're gonna ask next. Like, just listen to what they're saying, because you're gonna miss something, even on a very, very basic journalism, interviewing someone or kind of way. But,
Mercy Bell 57:33
I mean, I think I think it's a fine line that, that, that you? Yes, we want to listen in a way that isn't interrupting. But you also, there's a moment when you feel like you connect with something and you get excited. And I think there's a beauty in that also. So I think it's like, as it's the balance, it's those like, micro muscles of life that that we really have to focus on. And like learning how to healthily listen and also, you know, validate and react and like, also assert ourselves like, they're all very important life skills. So I think it's not something you can actually just kind of sum up and like a cool meme or a tweet. Yes. It takes a lot of hard work. You know, they have whole programs and therapeutic modality modalities for this shit, so. Yeah. Which is? Yeah, I mean, I just, it's just like, I just everybody just like embrace the nuance y'all.
Thomas Mooney 58:29
Yeah, exactly. And I wanted to ask about, like, your your, you know, I love 90s country. You talk. I'm assuming like, you're you're around my age, which would make you like a 90s kid.
Mercy Bell 58:46
Yeah, I'm so I'm 36 Okay, yeah,
Thomas Mooney 58:48
so I'm 33 and I that's okay. That's something right there where I feel like most people like this is going to be my nitpick criticism, and it's going to be a small one. Most people who think they're like 90s kids. I'm like, No, you can't be like born in like 95 and be
Mercy Bell 59:03
a 90s No.
Thomas Mooney 59:07
But so anyways, I feel like you're very much grew up in that time when there was that 90s explosion where you know, even if you if you're talking about you know always on the move kind of being a coast kid living out in LA and in the upper North East 90s country I feel had to be accessed accessible for a lot of folks regardless of where you are from where maybe like country was more of a southern or an Appalachia or West Texas or a Texas thing in in previous iterations of country. Do you feel like that like it was it was easy was was 90s country accessible for you, even if you weren't, you know, always like wearing a cowboy hat and Wranglers and boots and you know riding a horse this Cool quarter.
Mercy Bell 1:00:01
Yeah, I mean for me, I liked it because like, I have always been a pop feed I love pop and I when the thing I like about 90s country is not what country purists like about 90s country, I like it because it is crossover and mainstream. And it is these like great pop hooks and it is shanaya be you know, and fade till and like it is crossover it is quote unquote, watered down. And I'm sure country purists are gonna yell and scream about it. But it's like, that's why I like it. I love pop music. But it's also really great lyrics. Like, you have fancy like that. Rebus song fancy, like, it's so good. And it's so catchy and Poppy, but it's also so dark and like, brave, you know what I mean? So it's like, I just, that's why I love it. I love you can have a moment where it's like, this super great cross in my dream of dreams would be a day where they're like pop songs on top 40 that are doing these brave, intense, specific lyrics, you know, I mean, and some people they're going in that direction, like sia, for sure is and like, or was I don't know where she's doing these days. I think hip hop gets as close as we can, you know, get there. I don't even know what I'm saying. But like, that's the thing is like, I love that because it was so mainstream and crossover and yet it was bringing this kind of like witticism and this kind of like lyricism that a lot of pop music doesn't have which I love pop. I love pop, but I also love lyrics. And it has been a lifetime of trying to reconcile the two. Someday I'll do it.
Thomas Mooney 1:01:46
Yeah, 90s was like, as far as what country we were at. Like, it was just like the right balance of that those pop sensibilities? Yeah, like the, the smart, clever lyrics that were that just, you just felt like, oh, like, that was just so perfectly worded. No, it's not too many words. Not like enough, like a just like the right balance of like, what was happening there? Yeah. And
Mercy Bell 1:02:11
it's not like 15 verses, which is like, I love folk music I have, I have spent a lot of time in folk music, but I can't, I can never be like a real folk singer, because I can't remember all the 15 verses of The Ballad of dying Sally or whatever, you know what I mean? It's like, I can't and like that. I don't think that song exists, but maybe I should write it. But like, that's the thing I love about it. And so whenever people are like, I'm not a country purist. I come from a pop background for real. It's just that it's like, country music. The lyrics are so great. They're so great. And as like a writer, as somebody who studied short stories and prose and poetry and stuff, like it is so irresistible as somebody who grew up with a southern grandfather, who granddaddy who spoke a lot like the way that these songs are written like it is irresistible to me. So, but it's like, that's the pop element of the 90 stuff that I frickin love. It's just, I love pop music and like that, I love mixing things and turning it into a mush. So the Dixie Chicks are like my number one or the chicks are my number one favorite band of all time up there with auba. So it's like and you know what they did? They just went full. Full sin.
Thomas Mooney 1:03:31
Absolutely, yeah. Yeah. Natalie. Love recruits loving borns. Yay, girl. She was a that's always it's I don't know, it's so weird. I don't have to go in the route of like, stupid people burning records here. Back in the day. I still think there's probably people out there like, blah, blah, blah. But yeah, I always loved just how they're, they're one of the I love bands there. You feel like you you're growing with them at the same rate. And usually they're a little bit older than you. And that's like, what? There's more attached to that. But yeah, the great pop since the great like, growth, like at one point like you just kind of I was like, Oh my gosh, like the Dixie Chicks. Or the chicks aren't? Yeah, like their moms now you know what I mean? Yeah, yeah. about like, you know, adult things and even when they were like in their 20s like, there was always that feeling of like, you could feel like that transition of that. Not not a girl or not, not a teenager, not a woman. Yeah, it was just like that. That great balance of trying to find what what you were or like who yeah
Mercy Bell 1:04:44
gonna be and they're their album home is like probably my favorite album of all time. And it it it's, it's like it's a folk masterpiece to me because it it does what great folk music is supposed to do. And it also like kind of interesting. The world the world at large to Patty Griffin who is my number one hero you know the incredible folk musician and songwriter. And like just Oh, it's perfect like I can listen to that top to bottom beginning to end forever and all time. Amen. But yeah, I mean there's my All hail the Dixie Chicks the chicks, although the chicks
Thomas Mooney 1:05:28
top of the world is yes.
Mercy Bell 1:05:31
Yeah, no, no that song has the lyric that that I wish I wrote when she's like I pretend to be sleeping when you walked in in the morning to whisper goodbye work go to work in the rain. I don't know why I don't know why that's all she needs to say. And you know everything about this frickin couple. how long they are alone. Together, they are lonely. And it's like you are looking back at the rest of your life and like everything you need to you need to know. I don't know why Why did you do that? Like, but we've we've we've all been there where we're like ignoring somebody we're supposed to love. You know, and it's brilliant. She Patty Griffin is a patron saint like incredible. So
Thomas Mooney 1:06:12
yeah, no, she's she's absolutely wonderful. 1000 Yeah, he's like that. Like, that's like that's one of those records. It's on the shortlist of if I could just see an artist play a record. That one that yeah, that's on the shortlist. Yes. I've seen her one time here in Lubbock. And it was just, like, amazing. Yeah, it was one of those. Again, this is like a modern cultural thing of like, trying to like, Oh, I need to capture it versus just living it. And I just kept telling myself No, just like, let it be right here. You
Mercy Bell 1:06:48
just exist. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, yeah, I saw her once. And it was like, I was just like, jaw dropped the entire time. And she did. She played one of her newer albums that I don't know as well, but I was like, instance it better. It's Patti. So Patti, I love you.
Thomas Mooney 1:07:06
Yeah, that's the one thing I hopefully she is listening to this.
Mercy Bell 1:07:10
Patty. We love you.
Thomas Mooney 1:07:13
But uh, yeah, I absolutely love her. I love I've loved this conversation. Right here. Yeah,
Mercy Bell 1:07:20
a good one. It's been fine. I got it feels like it doesn't feel like work or anything. It feels like I like
Thomas Mooney 1:07:30
alright, that is it for this episode. Go check out golden child by Mercy bill, visit our pals over at desert or the blue light live in Charleston photography. Go pre order the Lubbock way, the collection of wallflower vignettes by me, and yeah, I'll see y'all later in the week for more nice light.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai