Mel Bryant and the Mercy Makers slated for ASCAP Music Cafe showcase at Sundance
Mel Bryant, bassist and singer for Mel Bryant and The Mercy Makers, has a diverse list of musical influences.
It includes everyone from Green Day to Joni Mitchell.
“I listened to a lot of pop punk growing up, because that’s what was ‘in,’” Bryant said. “The first album I heard from Green Day was ‘American Idiot.’ I really love Billie Joe Armstrong. I liked that he wasn’t afraid to take these political stances that would offend people, but managed to say what he thought in a very beautiful and poetic way.”
After discovering Mitchell, Bryant also searched for singers such as Laura Marling, and others who were inspired by Mitchell.
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“I also went back to old classic blues like B.B. King and people who were inspired by him, like Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers,” Bryant said. “I think these artists are represented in our music. We have a wide amount of diversity from song to song.”
Sundance Film Festival audiences can hear that musical diversity when Mel Bryant and The Mercy Makers — featuring drummer Brendan Bird and guitarists Connor McCarthy and Aaron Hicks — play Thursday and Friday at the ASCAP Music Cafe.
“We have folk-inspired songs that you can hear (in) how the guitar works or how the lyrics are written, and then we have songs that are pretty loud, angry and punk,” she said. “We also have songs that are all of sudden sad, and I hope people get that.”
Bryant’s joy of songwriting grew out of her self-expression.“There is something for me that involves writing something and getting it out, which is cathartic,” she said. “I’ve always been a social justice-minded artist, and I think music and art have a responsibility to capture what’s going on in the world and make a difference if difference needs to be made.”
Still, Bryant knows about the dangers of writing songs for the sake of success.
“It’s easy to get lost in the Nashville mentality of getting a whole bunch of streams or getting on the radio,” she said. “That’s been a struggle to me, so I want to find a balance of what I want to hear and what others want to hear. Because if I just play what I want to hear, I’m just talking to myself, and I don’t know if people want to hear that all the time.”
Song crafting is a welcome challenge, but the real trial starts after the song is done, Bryant said.
“That’s when you have to figure out how people are going to hear it,” she laughed.
Bryant’s songwriting also won the group the 2018 NewSong Music Competition grand prize, which included the chance to record a fully funded, six-song EP at Echo Mountain Recording Studios and release it via the NewSong Recordings label.
She also won a performance at the 2019 Arts Brookfield Summer Plaza Series in New York, as well as the ASCAP Music Café showcase.
“Our experience with NewSong was great,” Bryant said. “There were seven artists who were nominated, and all of us were so impressed with each other. It felt like we were part of a mini community that came together in that short time. It was a magical experience.”
The ASCAP Music Cafe performance marks Bryant’s Utah debut.
“This is a big opportunity and we haven’t played something like this before,” she said. “It’s a little overwhelming, but we hope to make people excited about the music we make.”
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