Songland winner Madeline Merlo has just released a fun and dynamic new EP, titled Drag, which finds the singer-songwriter working with some top country music stars, such as multiple Grammy-nominated Sam Hunt. The project’s title track, “Slide”, was written by Hunt and his longtime songwriting partners Zach Crowell and Jerry Flowers, but the trio brought in Merlo for a rewrite when they knew he needed some writing. a more feminine perspective. Notably, Crowel produced the project and Merlo co-wrote each track. Before Slides release, PopCulture.com got the chance to chat with Slide’s Merlo, his upcoming nuptials and how his big Songland “blows down the doors” on his career.
“They’re very successful together. It’s very clear that they work well with each other and bounce off each other,” Merlo said of his ‘Slide’ co-writers. . “Jerry, he played in Keith Urban’s band for 20 years. He’s the most musical person I’ve ever met.” She added, “These three people are so talented. I was so excited to be a part of this song.” Merlo went on to explain that the three songwriters “originally started it” as a track for Hunt. “They just kind of had this chorus melody,” she shared, adding that the trio ultimately decided the song would be “better suited” to a female voice, “and so I had to step in and finish the song, and write the hook, and do the lyrics and stuff.”
Merlo continued, “That was an amazing phone call to get. He was like, ‘Do you want to finish a song?’ ‘Yes, of course!’ So I’m really lucky and it turned out so great.” She then shared a bit of how the track evolved, explaining, “It was also one of the songs that…sometimes songs kind of fall and they fall on you and it’s like a day, boom, it’s done, over. This one went through different phases. We went back and rewrote it and changed this and changed that, continually tweaking, and that’s kind of their process. So that was me stepping into Zach’s kind of world and that world involves a lot of tweaking. So I learned a lot from all these people.”
While the four songs of Merlo’s Drag The EPs are incredibly eclectic examples of pop-flavored country, one other song certainly stands out…”Girl Where He Grew Up”. Discussing how the track came about, Merlo said: “That one is funny. I wrote that with Jon Nite and Nathan Chapman, and it was such a great day because we walked in and Nathan got this idea called ‘school’.” ” Behind this idea, Merlo said, there was: “I will teach you to love me. I will take you to school. And he said it would be a fun vibe. And I said, as a joke, the funny thing about that is you teach these boys how to love you and then you break up and then they’ll use all those skills and date the next girl and then you watch them be great for them. were like, ‘Wait, that’s so cool.’ And so it really happened from… I just gave them a blasé comment that’s so funny that they were like, ‘I’ve never heard that perspective.'”
Merlo continued, “And then everyone’s wheels started turning and I remembered Nathan, who’s brilliant, Nathan Chapman produced Taylor Swift’s first record. He’s definitely one of the writers and the most prolific producers we have in Nashville. And I remember him saying, ‘You were the girl where he grew up.’ And I was like, ‘Nathan, this is so good. This hook is perfect.’ So I mean what an idea and what a story to chew on. So that was just awesome to write.”
Elaborating on some of the feelings behind ‘Girl Where He Grew Up’, Merlo said, “I think I’ve definitely been that person and maybe I’ve been on the other side. Who knows? Other than the genre I think in a relationship sometimes someone is a student and sometimes someone is a teacher because you learn a lot. With every love you have, you learn something. So that song was so much fun to write because, again, there was so much meat on the bones to take and it turned out so good. I’m so proud of that as a songwriter, that’s for sure.
Drag comes two years after Merlo emerged into the limelight of her Songland victory, which ended with Lady A recording her song “Champagne Night”, for which she won a Canadian CMA, with Shane McAnally, Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood, Tina Parol, David Thomson, Patricia Conroy, Ryan Tedder, Esther Dean and Andrew DeRoberts. While many country music fans might think this is where his career began, Merlo had been writing songs and performing for many years prior. “I’m from Canada originally so I released music there and that market is amazing but unfortunately doesn’t really translate out to the rest of the world. So I released the music, touring and doing all these amazing opportunities and stuff that garnered a lot of experience.
She continued, “Then I moved to Nashville and it was like, okay, I want to do this here. I want to play in Japan one day and America is where anything is possible. I so I moved to Nashville about four years ago and was like, ‘Okay, I’m focusing on Nashville and I want to be a great songwriter.'” Merlo then revealed, “Songland was an Instagram DM from a casting director, which is so wild. I mean that’s the problem with the industry, it’s so difficult and then something like this happens and you’re like, ‘I don’t know what that means, but okay. Be brave and go.'”
Merlo went on to say, “I never could have imagined that I would get not just the win, but a number one song. I mean they never took a song from that show and didn’t have it. never aired on radio before. It was never even a possibility. I wasn’t like, ‘Well, I could get a number one out of this.’ So what a crazy amazing thing happened and it opened the doors I met a bunch of record labels and got to write with people I could only dream of walking into the room .with. So I mean what an amazing random opportunity that really changed my life.”
She also pointed out that Lady A “had another song on the radio at the time and took it down and put Champagne Night on. So for them and Big Machine, their record label at the time, to do that is huge .” Merlo gushed: “It’s Lady A, I love them all so much. I’m like, ‘Thank you guys because you took a chance on a song on this show that I wrote. It’s crazy. So I’m very grateful to them. They changed the game for me for sure.”
Finally, we couldn’t help but ask Merlo about her engagement, which took place earlier this year when her boyfriend, Nashville attorney Chase Fann, got down on one knee in a beautiful farmland proposal. “I got engaged in April, which is crazy.” She then joked, “It’s such a grown-up thing to do… It’s kind of weird. Even like, ‘Hey, engaged’, I’m like I don’t know. It’s too weird.”
Regarding wedding plans, Merlo explained, “We try. It’s hard. I also think that by nature I’m not a super type A person, organized with spreadsheets. I’m a bit more…I’m an artist, right?So…there are a lot of decisions and spreadsheets involved in making a wedding, so I lean heavily on the wedding planner “She’s a gift from the Lord to me. She’s got things more organized than me, but we’re trying. It’s just that there’s a lot to think about. It sure is a lot of work.” ” While fans will have to wait a bit to see photos from Merlo’s wedding day, everyone can listen to Slide right now, as it’s available on a number of streaming services, including Spotify and Apple Music.