Interview with Singer-Songwriter (and New Zealand native) Bruno Merz
(Hey guys, as you might remember I posted the song “Nine Sixteen’ by New Zealand native Bruno Merz a while back. He is someone I have listened to for a while now, and I am happy to say that I interviewed him. He really is an insightful human being, as well as an amazing musician. I hope this interview inspires you to check out his music, he is someone that really deserves a listen. -Derek)
Derek Kortepeter: So what inspired you to do music? Was it a specific moment or song, or was
it kind of just a succession of events?
Bruno Merz: I think it was something that just needed to come out at some point. Music
really helped me in stages of growing up when it felt like nothing else
could. It was very therapeutic for me to play music and I would sometimes
sit for hours at a piano and play hypnotic melodies until I felt better!
The songs were sort of a natural extension of that…
DK: You’ve released two albums to date (“Through Darkness into Day” and “Departing
From Crowds”), and are currently in the process of releasing the third as
you complete the tracks. What would you say you’ve learned about yourself
artistically (or personally) over the time you’ve been recording these
BM: Plans changed a little bit from my initial idea to release them one at a
time – I’ve started working with an old friend to record a full length
album back in my homeland of New Zealand (*he did this interview in NZ btw)
We’re about 2 weeks into it and it’s sounding great. Very excited to
release this one. Through Darkness into Day was just a collection of demos
I released online as I had a lot of people requesting the songs. They were
terribly recorded! But they certainly capture my first attempts at song
writing. With Departing from Crowds I had a chance to make things sound
sonically better working with a producer in Amsterdam and using better
equipment. I still feel like that was a massive learning curve for me and
I’m already much more sure of what I want for this next album and won’t be
repeating mistakes I made on that one. I guess I’ve learnt slowly to trust
myself a lot more. I have quite a specific taste for sounds and I
tend to go with my own instincts now. I know that I would rather produce my
own stuff than have someone else do it. Mostly because I know very
specifically how I want things to sound.
DK: How is writing the new album and its respective songs going?
BM: Going really great right now. I hope people like it! It’s a collection of
songs I’ve written since the EP and it’s been a long time coming. We’re
re-recording 2 tracks from Through Darkness into Day which I think deserve
another chance. It’s a really relaxed process this time and I’m excited by
how things are sounding already at this early stage.
DK: The intimacy of your songs is one really distinct quality that gives you
uniqueness. How hard is to re-create that when performing live?
BM: It depends a lot on the venue in my experience. When it’s a good sound
system and the right crowd it can be amazing. It’s definitely possible to
do a very intimate set. I think sometimes even more than on a recording
sometimes as you can really connect to people in a way that you can’t do
when you’re physically not there.
DK: What would say is the process, if you can pinpoint it at all, of your
songwriting? Do you draw at all from personal experiences?
BM: The process and inspiration varies but I think most common is feeling very
strongly about something or someone that needs to come out in a song. I
helps to let it go or something. There are definitely personal experience
songs thrown into the mix. An idea or a whole verse or melody will just pop
into my head (love it when that happens!) and that triggers the rest of the
song. Sometimes I have to decipher what it is that needs to come out but at
other times it’s crystal clear. I have literally hundreds and hundreds of
melody ideas recorded on my phone but it’s usually a lyric idea that will
turn them into a song.
DK: I remember, a long time ago when I was a junior in high school, getting
“Nine Sixteen” on an Artist of the Week card at Starbucks (it’s actually
how I discovered your music, luckily I wanted a cappuccino that day!). That
song has been a part of my life for so long, especially now that I am about
to graduate University, and I know that other people were touched by that
track thanks to the download. What was it like being chosen for that
BM: That’s really nice to hear Derek and is exactly what keeps me wanting to
continue to write. It’s quite a funny story how that happened. My songs
were just sitting on MySpace and getting quite a lot of unexpected
attention, but I was feeling pretty disillusioned about it all around then
for some reason. I had decided THAT EVENING to give up on music and
concentrate on the illustration work I was doing to pay the bills. That’s
when I got an email from Starbucks. Kinda like a sign to keep going! I was
very excited and it was the first legitimate sort of recognition I’d had.
Still don’t know to this day how they found out about me.
DK: Since we are on the topic if you reaching global exposure, your song “For
You Now” was featured in the soundtrack to the film “Life As We Know It”.
How exciting was it to know that a song of yours would be in a Hollywood
BM: That was also very exciting! I didn’t quite believe it would really happen
when I was first contacted about it. It’s certainly given me a lot of
exposure and that’s quite hard to get for musicians these days.
DK: Can you talk about the whole experience of covering a Biffy Clyro song
for “Love Music Leeds”? I have struggled myself with mental illness (severe panic
disorder with depression and agoraphobia) for quite some time, and I just
think the mission behind the project is so beautiful (since, as a composer
and musician, I have seen how music keeps me and many other people in a
healthier state of mind).
BM: I’m sorry to hear that. They sound like terrible things to have had to
battle with. Hope things are going better now. I live in Leeds and was
asked with a bunch of other local musicians there to cover a song chosen by
someone with mental health issues that had helped them. Anyone that knows
my songs will know that I write a lot for people that need a lift out of
some kind of trouble so I straight away said yes as I thought it was a
great idea. I’d never heard the song before but it all went pretty
smoothly. I know how much music helped me through my troubled times and
want to make it my mission to help as many people as I can with music. It’s
amazing how healing music can be. They’ve made a great documentary about
the whole process which I hope will be available online sometime.
DK: Now, if I’ve read correctly, you split your time between the U.K. and your
home country New Zealand. What is it like interacting with both of those
music scenes, and how have they responded to your music?
BM: It’s weird, I think most of my fans live in the U.S. and other European
countries. In England they really like promoting local people that have
grown up there so I sometimes feel a bit in No Man’s Land. I think my
exposure in New Zealand is pretty tiny. I’m planning on changing that
though as it’s where I grew up and I do miss it there. I feel very lucky to
have recently got funding from New Zealand on Air to record a track and
make a video that they will promote through television etc. That should
help a bit. That’ll be one of the songs on this new album.
DK: What can we expect from you in the future?
BM: A lot more music a lot more regularly! Also I’m hoping to start touring
properly on the back of this new album. It’s taken me a while but I’m
finally seeing that this is what I want to do with my life so I’m giving it
DK: Anything else you want to say before this interview closes?
BM: I guess that I’ve learnt that every single person has something unique to
give to this world. Follow your passion to find it and trust that it will
all turn out for the best. There’s something very special that happens when
you hone in on your gift and decide for it – life becomes a lot lighter and
enjoyable. Also, thank you for these well thought out questions. It’s been
a pleasure answering them for someone who genuinely knows the songs.
Bruno Merz can be found at: