Profile: Merce Lemon (2020)

“You think you love me. Well, look at me now.”

With those simple words, softly cooed over a carefully plucked sequence of acoustic guitar notes, Bloomfield-based singer/songwriter Merce Lemon’s got you and got you good. The song expands, ever so slightly, with the addition of a restrained bass and a wash of guitar – but it ends before the story even begins.

This is the fourth song off Ride Every Day, a reissue of two previous Lemon releases that the Pittsburgh label Crafted Sounds announced earlier this month and will release March 14. The song originally appeared in 2017 on Ideal For A Light Flow With Your Body, which was recorded while Lemon lived in Seattle and borrows its title from tampon packaging.

“It’s hard for me to listen to that now. It was a very specific time in my life: being alone in a new city, being a sad 19-year-old,” says Lemon, who legally changed her name from Merce Pierce when she was in the 10th grade. “You feel how much you’ve grown since then.”

“I can barely listen to it without cringing,” she laughs, “though I guess that’s not a great way to sell it.”

Lemon, a bike messenger and sometimes-barista, has grown tremendously and might be on the cusp of something big. She’s currently seeking a label for her new LP and hopes an upcoming performance at SXSW will help buoy her ambition.

Moonth, the new album, it’s all over the place,” Lemon says. “I don’t want to say, ‘There’s a song on there for everyone.’ But there’s a lot of different genres.”

When performing solo, Lemon owes a lot to emotionally vulnerable singer-songwriters who came before her, from Liz Phair to Cat Power’s Chan Marshall to former Pittsburgher Shay Park, whose songs elicit a similar feeling of twee innocence. But she pulls no punches when it comes to, um, uncomfortable topics. (She sings a song about a yeast infection, for example.)

She also is no longer a “solo” artist. In her band, she is backed by her father, Greg Pierce, on lead guitar; Alec Ebeling on drums; and Jim Lingo on bass. Sometimes, when Noa Lipsky’s in town from Denver, she sings harmony. 

Lemon likes playing in a band with her father.

“He’s a fucking shredder,” she laughs. “He loves playing the music [and] we both are stoked to be playing shows together. It’s so chill and all my friends are like, ‘Your dad is SO COOL!’”

Connor Murray, who runs Crafted Sounds, said there’s something special about Lemon. Once she has the spotlight, it won’t move off her.

“Merce, her father, the other members of her band – they are all great people with a great dynamic and they honestly inspire me to keep doing cool things,” Murray said. “Ride Every Day is just me trying to shine a light on her. Where does she go from here? The sky is the limit.”

Lemon will celebrate the reissue of her first two releases with a live show March 14 at 8 p.m. at Babyland in North Oakland. Silver Car Crash and Totally Miguel also are set to perform.  – Justin Vellucci, Pittsburgh Current, Feb. 11, 2020

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