Music People

Emerging Talent: Between the Mumbles

How do you know when you’ve written a hit song? Andre Merritt was in the booth. He had just improvised a song about paranoia. If there was any doubt in his young mind, it was quickly erased by a soft voice in his headphones. Singing superstar Rihanna happened to be in the studio.

“Britney’s not getting this one”, she said. That’s how you know it’s a hit.

“Disturbia” was a smash hit, his first number one, and had the extreme honor of opening the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. Andre was in the audience for the performance as Rihanna electrified the crowd. Millions of music fans around the globe tuned in. It was a dream come true.

Riding a wave of recent success, Andre speaks about the future with confidence and refreshing candor. He and the Graffiti Artizts team are now producing their own material, transitioning from mainly songwriting to the production of a full-length album with long time collaborator Chris Brown, who worked with Andre on the hit single “Forever”. The move into producing will yield more creative control, but also more responsibility. Andre seems ready for it and confident in what can set his musical vision apart from the pack. He sums up his musical tastes saying, “I want to take Journey and Chicago and introduce them to Lauryn Hill. Ballads.” He is not afraid of using the word “weird”, trusting his own judgment to see (or hear) around the corner for what others might consider too eccentric. That musical foresight has already scored big with audiences with “Disturbia”, a brooding dance number that strikes an almost cinematic vision of an unnamed terror, advising, “the darkness is the light.”

Though much success has already come to this young man, Andre is acutely aware and unafraid of the challenges ahead. “I’m not gonna lie. It’s hard work. You wanna believe that people are gonna get you. You wanna believe that people are going to get your work, but a lot goes into it.” A mentor like Jay-Z can serve as inspiration, but the ever-changing technical and commercial elements of the modern music industry create a constant frontier for emerging musicians attempting to navigate the business.

Proving his bona-fide Angeleno status, the car is his refuge, funneling the energy of the city into his songs. Digital recorder at hand, he constantly records his adventures through the city, his thoughts, snippets of a burgeoning melody. He scours the recordings for an elusive melody happened upon at a red light, searching for, “that something between the mumbles.” That “something” is an enormous talent for cutting-edge songwriting as Andre continues his upward trajectory through the city.

– PIETZ PETERSON

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