Merritt Gibson: Musician, student, businesswoman

First-year College student to release debut album Friday

ae-MerrittGibsonPortrait-CourtesyMerrittGibson

“Eyes on Us” will be released Friday, March 30, and Merritt Gibson will be performing at Coupe DeVille’s Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Courtesy Merritt Gibson

Less than a year ago, Merritt Gibson had just graduated high school and was moving on to Grounds alongside the rest of the Class of 2021. Flash forward seven months, and she is now just days away from releasing her twelve-track debut album “Eyes On Us.”

Gibson has taken on a juggling act, balancing her studies — she is looking toward studying English and History — with tireless work toward achieving her dream of being a singer-songwriter. She goes from writing essays to writing lyrics, from midterms to calls with management and from sitting in class to performing, whether over livestream or live on stage. Her album “Eyes On Us” is set to be released Friday. On that same night, Gibson will perform live at a release party held at Coupe DeVille’s. 

Arts and Entertainment had the opportunity to sit down with Gibson to discuss “Eyes On Us,” her artistic identity and the ups and downs of her journey towards this moment.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Arts and Entertainment: Your first album is coming out this Friday, so how would you describe how you’re feeling right now?

Merritt Gibson: I’m very excited. It’s the culmination of the past five years of my life. I started writing the earliest song on it when I was 14 — most of them I wrote when I was like 17. I recorded it when I was 17, worked on it while applying to colleges [at] 18, and I’m releasing it at 19 … This has been the one constant in my life … being a teenager.

AE: The whole of “Eyes On Us” does have a teenage feel. Is that what you were aiming to do?

MG: Yeah. Honestly, it is the story of my teenage years … Everything on it is personal. I put little Easter eggs in songs, like little snippets or phrases that only I would really understand what they’re alluding to … Sometimes that’s more of a sophisticated take on things, like “Cold War II,” “Ghost Town” and “Area Code” sort of like the deeper songs. Then you also have the lighter, more fun tracks like “Lovesick” … I mean every teenager experience and life experience is not one-dimensional.

AE: That’s a unique perspective you get to take because you’re actually still a teenager. It feels, as an album, more personal.

MG: It’s crazy — like listening to a song or playing one. It puts you right in the mindset you were in when you wrote it. So if I play like, “Eyes on Us” for example, I am back in junior year after a tough breakup, thinking about it in the music building at my school and playing the piano trying to figure out the chords. I’m just transported back to that, which is kind of a weird feeling, especially when that was like, years ago, but it means that the performances can still be emotionally compelling and weighty. It’s not just going through the motions. You sort of relive it every time you perform.

AE: When you sit down and listen to the album through, there’s almost this ebb and flow of emotion and activity, from love to rejection, friendship to romance, ecstasy to frustration from song to song. Is that kind of storytelling something you seek to include in your songwriting process?

MG: Definitely. I mean songs in my opinion, they’re meant to be stories. Songs are an emotional story … like poetry that’s raised to this third dimension of timbre, melody [and] harmony — all of that. It’s enriched poetry that tells a story, and that’s always been my number one goal … And as far as the track order goes, it took me so long to figure out that order. I played around with it for months, literally ordering and reordering … There was just so much to consider … It makes for a more dynamic experience when listening to the album in order.

AE: Do you see any themes whether in lyrics or in composition of the music that you feel like are inherent to your songwriting? 

MG: I would say a constant would be self-awareness … deep self-knowledge is important to me, really trying to articulate exactly how I feel about something and not being cliché about it, using my own personal experiences and unique experiences to illustrate a common theme of life in general. And that’s like what songwriting is, it’s using just enough personal details to make it unique and interesting while still relevant enough to the population as a whole.

AE: What do you feel like you’ve learned from this experience over the past five years? What are some of the big takeaways from this first album release?

MG: One of the main ones is becoming a businesswoman because going into it, I was very much like, “Okay, I’m an artist. I’m not really that interested in the business side of things.” As the years went on, now I’m really into it. I read about trends and strategies all the time. I take pages and pages of notes every phone call … On the promotional side of things, it’s a weird feeling to put yourself out there so much, especially the past few weeks … I’m putting my name out there. I’m putting my music, my voice [and] my stories — the most personal things to me out there … and you just kind of have to let go of all that and be like, “I’ve come this far. I really want this. This is something I have to do.”

AE: Would you say there’s any like personal goal with your music that you’re trying to meet? Is there anything that you really want to happen?

MG: I want to take it as far as I can. I want to make it my main career, and tour and keep making records — grow my fanbase. I’m definitely in it now — for good.

“Eyes on Us” will be released Friday, March 30, and Merritt Gibson will be performing at Coupe DeVille’s Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The show is free of charge and open to all.

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