Written by Ashley Friedman
Dear Mercy Collazo, I loved throwing the word “F*&^” or “S&^%” around with you, I loved the realness, I loved the, “I am who I am, you either accept me or you don’t attitude,” but most of all, I love how unfiltered and down to earth you were. In a way, it was almost like I picked up the phone only to talk to someone I’ve known for years and we just wanted to catch up.
Mercy has the talent and personality to succeed in this industry. There’s a difference between being cocky and knowing your self-worth. Mercy is one of those people, as she should be, that knows her talent, but at the same time, realizes that rising to the top will always be a continuous process. She’s not just a musician, she’s a businesswoman and that in and of itself, is one of the hardest lessons to learn and stay true to in this industry.
Her musical influences growing up didn’t include your basic top billboard playlist. Okay, yeah, maybe Madonna, but who could resist? The artists that Mercy listened to “sang with feeling, they were multi-instrumentalists, they were fucking crazy, they were full of anger, and they were the shit” as she puts it. Artists like Fiona Apple, Björk, Amy Winehouse or Erykah Badu, one of Mercy’s current favorites right now. “The whole entire album [Mama’s Gun] is amazing. It’s dope, it’s poetic and the beats are so bomb. Right now, Erykah Badu is like my holy shit. I want you.”
Mercy’s first live performance was at a rehab center. No, it’s not your traditional, “I played in a cafe in my hometown” story, but it’s unique, it’s real and I love every bit of it, especially if you went back and re-read that line just to make sure you read it right.
“Long story short… I actually got taken out of school very, very unexpectedly…” says Mercy. “My mother one day was like, ‘I’m taking you out, it’s not like you like to go to school anyways. We’re moving to Ontario…’ Me, being the cool kid I was, I [said], ‘fine… change my life.’ She totally kicked my ass [when] she was like, ‘I’m taking you out today.'”
Soon after, and right before Summer hit, Mercy found herself having a conversation with her Grandpa. He says, “‘listen, out of all the kids, out of all my grandkids, you’re the only one that I see that treats this guitar with respect, I want you to have it.” At the time, Mercy thought, “Perfect, I’ve got nothing better to do than to play the guitar.“
Mercy’s brother, who had been in rehab at the time, caught wind of her picking up and playing the guitar and told everyone in the rehab center that Mercy was going to come and perform for them.
“My Mom’s all like ‘Mario wants you to bring your guitar…'” Reluctant at first, Mercy pretty much said there was no way she was doing it, but then later goes on to tell the story of how she played for all of the addicts at the center. “I was obsessed with Harley Davidson, so I had like Davidson boots on and torn jeans. I was like a want-to-be Angelina Jolie.”
Despite picking up and nailing the guitar at an early age, sometimes sitting and playing a garage for 12 hours at a time, Mercy tells me, “Music was an outlet and it was just one way for me to get out all the anger I had. From 18 to 25 I was like, ‘I’m good. It’s going to happen. I don’t need to plan anything,'” and then goes to say that there were many opportunities that came her way.
From signing with a popular record label and having it fall through, to people being interested in developing Mercy for years, she comments, “I was young and I was kind of stupid. So, I took it seriously about three and a half, four years ago. I put myself in the Musician’s Institute, I started writing more music, I started surrounding myself with people that were in the music business and it was my saving grace.”
A few years after, Mercy signed to OG Records, a digital record label founded by hip-hop legend Too $hort and tech mogul Vinny Aslin. “I feel like everything happened as it should have. I met him [Too $hort] randomly. I was on a date in Newport, he came up to me, I was already drunk. I sang in his ear, he gave me his number, I go into his studio, I start getting involved with his people… [I am] writing music [and] he starts seeing that I’m dedicated,” says Mercy.
Fast-forward to a year and a half to two years later from the day she met him, Mercy adds, “[Too $hort] comes up to me and says, ‘listen, I’m doing this [OG Records] and I want to sign you.’”
“For Indie people in general, you’ve got to have your list together, it’s easier for you to get signed when you have everything together because the labels or whatever it may be, they don’t have to do much work. It’s just about putting you out there and making sure you have the right promotion.” When she signed to OG Records, Mercy finally felt that she was organized enough to confidently sign to a label.
“Organization, knowing who you are, [and] sticking to your guns,” are Mercy’s words of wisdom for up and coming musicians. “If you are an indie artist and you have your music done, you know your image, you know exactly where you want to go… none of that matters if you don’t have a plan and a list of ‘this is what I need to do by this time, this is where I need to go,’ she says. “Nobody’s gonna fucking help you out except for you. You gotta be organized and handle yourself as a business person…”
Mercy is constantly writing music and says that she is in the studio “anywhere from two to four times a week… even if it’s not going to be on the next album, it could be on the next two or in another two, you know?” Her drive goes hand in hand with her motto, “Failure’s not an option,” something that she has tattoed across her arm.
“In a way, failure has been great for me because it has taught me to be better, to learn from my mistakes, [and] also to never give up.” At the same time doing something that scares the shit out of you is also a motto for Mercy, “I feel like that’s where the biggest rewards are, that’s how you make muscle; You have to tear it, you have to push yourself, you have to be uncomfortable and I kind of feel like that is my life right now.”
When it comes to live performances, Mercy says that although the fans may be there for her performance, she also equally enjoys watching the crowd for her own entertainment. “[The fans] are my show. There’s always one person that thinks I’m funny and we’ll be laughing out loud… And then there’ll be another person that’ll be like, ‘I can’t believe, she just said that.’” Mercy then reminisces on a time when someone yelled out from the crowd, “You didn’t play “Beat Still!” “Beat Still” was a song that Mercy wrote after watching the 1994 classic film Pulp Fiction.
“There’s this scene where Uma Therman is looking like perfection. She’s in a room, she just did a line of coke and she’s about to die,” says Mercy, “…In the midst of all this, [there’s] such a beautiful backdrop [with] the way the music is playing; It’s a beautiful song that you would never ever believe that somebody is overdosing in the background.
“[‘Beat Still’] is a song that’s beautiful, like that Pulp Fiction song, and dramatic. I start off very slow, and I grow into a crescendo where it literally sounds like somebody [is] dropping my voice down a fucking water well.” Watch a live version of Mercy Collazo’s “Beat Still” here. “That is one of my most favorite, favorite, favorite songs to play because people get into it,” she says. Side note: Yes Mercy, I have officially seen Pulp Fiction 🙂
As for what she wants people to take away from her music, Mercy says, “I want them to feel inspired. I want them to get excited, not only for the music, but the kind of artist that I am, which is different, unique and going to be around for a really long time. “
For Mercy, success in the music industry isn’t about having the money to spend on fancy things like diamonds. “I’m very, very simple, I’m very blessed and I’m grateful,” she says.
“…as long as I can put out my music, have a big fan base, write for other people [like Lady Gaga, Meghan Trainor, Erykah Badu] and write for myself and constantly be doing music,” then that would make Mercy the happiest.
“I am really looking forward to the day when it does happen for me and I start getting a little bit more exposure, you know? [I would] meet all the new people that come in on like the third or the fourth album and they’re like, ‘holy shit, she has all of these albums before. I’m going to check them out’ and that will be like a new discovery and that’s awesome. I love that…”
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