Natalie Mering, better known as psych-folk singer-songwriter Weyes Blood, has been feeling “really great” since the release of her critically-acclaimed fourth album Titanic Rising earlier this year.
Not to say it wasn’t a journey to get there. Her first album, 2011’s The Outside Room, was a self-written and produced compilation of experimental weirdness released via the label Not Not Fun. It featured six songs, which all felt distant and were filled with spooky, graveyard-esque sounds — it was innovative, and for a second maybe it felt like the future of music was going to be experimental, DIY noise. “I was like, ‘We have to deconstruct music so far to the point where it’s not music at all,’” Mering says with a laugh now.
Mering was proud of The Outside Room, because that was when she’d realized that she was capable of producing. “A lot of people imagine the music they want to make and never make that leap because it’s so terrifying to expose yourself to the world,” she says. “So putting out that record was kind of like a malformed lump of clay, which was a big accomplishment for me.”
No matter how she shaped her clay, there was always one common factor: her voice. “It came naturally to find out what I did best, which was to write songs and sing well,” she reflects. She knew there was raw potential there, but deep down, she knew it would be a while before she wrote a song that truly touched others. “[The Outside Room] was really made for a small percentage of people — and I was into that.”
Titanic Rising on the other hand, not so much. Mering is well-aware that the world is officially burning, so this album is meant to send a message to, well, one hundred percent of people. “I knew that shit was going to hit the fan at a very young age,” she says. “When I was twelve or thirteen, when everyone was driving SUVs and I was just starting to do reading on things…I could just feel this sense that the boomers had really failed and the generation coming up was too small to change much in the ways of politics, which I think is something we’re still seeing now.”
Mering continues to reflect on life before the Internet, when alternative music was mainstream. Apparently, things began to take “a strange, capitalistic direction” when artists like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were ruling the world, and she has been dreading these changes for so long, she now actively makes it her job to stay positive and have hope, no matter what.
“I do get continuously disappointed and shocked, but I learn how to assimilate that into my message and what I’m trying to do. I want to help people and change the world,” Mering says. “And yeah, it’s not easy — I still get down — but I try to encourage other people not to.” While on the topic of hope, she continues, “I think [hope is] all we have. It’s important to be grateful for what we have and how it’s still good for a lot of people right now. It’s changing fast, but you have to catch the moment while it lasts. There’s no point in not having hope.”
Mering adds that she’s surprised more musicians aren’t doing the same. “I do sometimes feel like I function within an echo chamber and I’m just kind of preaching to the choir. I think everybody’s pretty confused, because it’s so colossal. It’s difficult for people to wrap their heads around emotionally. So that’s kind of my goal with my music — to create something that is an emotional, personal, human reaction to something that is so big and beyond our understanding.”
Nearly every song on the record addresses similar topics — whether it’s the world bursting into flames or the urgency of online dating — amid lush soundscapes. “Running on a million people burning/ Don’t cry, it’s a wild time to be alive,” she sings of an apocalyptic universe on “Wild Time” over a bed of rolling drum fills, acoustic guitars and deceivingly beautiful keys and melodies. Mering could sing about the end of the world, and her reassuring voice would still have the power to make listeners believe everything’s okay, and that’s exactly what she wants. Back in 2011, she felt it’d be a while until she wrote a song that touched people; now, she has several songs that touch people. “Wild Time” is one of them.
From the very beginning, it has always been a solo journey. Mering has never really had any partners-in-crime or bandmates, or anyone really to help her back in the early days. At the time, she was the only one who knew what she was capable of, which she’s finally grateful for now. “If anyone had thought that I was hot shit or fabulous, I wouldn’t have worked as hard,” she says. In fact, it’s her nearly decade-long, humbling process that made it so that she got in touch with music for the right reasons. “I’m grateful that I didn’t get thrown into the limelight at 19-years-old,” she chuckles.
Now, Mering has people who truly believe in her. “When you know whoever is footing the bill for the studio really cares about your music, you can really feel that, and it opens you up more in the creative process,” she says of her newfound resources (she’s now signed to Sub Pop). “In my past experiences, I had a lot of limitations, so I was constantly trying to fit my ideas into something that was affordable or something that I could physically do. Having access to different musicians now is really inspiring.”
Mering even made her television debut on Late Night With Seth Meyers earlier this summer, which was “nervewracking and great.” Regarding the artists that late-night talk shows usually feature, Mering says “times are changing,” recalling previous collaborator Father John Misty as one of the last indie artists she’s seen perform on Saturday Night Live. “It’s interesting to feel like I got to crack into something like that.”
And she’s looking to dive into that world even more, by finding artists who are mainstream but could still work in her vein. As Mering looks to her future, she half-jokingly cites Kanye West, Adele, and friend Lana Del Rey as artists she’d love to work with someday. “Trying to see where I would fit into that whole scheme of things is really interesting,” she says. “I think some of the most innovative and exciting music is being made in the world of hip hop right now.”