March 16, 2021

Read the full premiere on Flaunt.com!

Mallory Merk is only 20 years old and already living out her dreams on the daily. Born in Louisiana but raised in New York, the singer, songwriter, musician, model, and overall creative falls somewhere between high end fashion and picking up Backwoods at the bodega—exuding inner and outer beauty in all her endeavors.

Stressing that she’s a writer before anything, Mallory states, “Overall I love art, and love to fucking share my art with other people.”

Jumpstarting her career in the modeling world, Mallory made her debut with Kanye West’s Yeezy line at the young age of 14, before starring in the premiere campaign for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. But she’s far more than just a pretty face, it’s her down-to-earth personality and heartfelt ballads that audiences around the world can’t get enough of. She fondly remembers teaching herself how to play guitar at age 12, playing to the likes of Nirvana, Metallica, Alice In Chains and Sex Pistols on YouTube.

Fast forward to 2021, the new Warner Records signee unleashed her gorgeous new song titled “Just Because,” speaking volumes to the life struggles we all go through as humans. Society has a strange way of tricking us into thinking our truest and deepest emotions are wrong, and Mallory is here to remind you it’s okay to be vulnerable and broken. Just because someone is smiling, doesn’t mean they’re happy! So be kind to yourself and others.

To coincide with the premiere of the “Just Because” music video, Flaunt caught up with Mallory via Zoom to discuss her upbringing, biggest influences, modeling for Yeezy, the turning point in music, why “Just Because” serves as a new chapter, shooting the visual, studio essentials, love for fashion, goals, and more!

Photo credit: Jacqueline Kulla, @h8summer

Born in Louisiana, raised between Jersey and New York. How do all 3 places play into your sound and your life?

I was born in Shreveport, 2.5 hours from New Orleans. My birth family has musicians throughout. I don’t know too much about my birth family history, but it’s cool to know music’s in my blood. My grandfather played piano and backup instruments for artists like Elvis and a couple other ones back in the day. It’s  definitely cool because it’s a part of my history that isn’t too prevalent with how I was raised, but it’s in the family line. New York and Jersey being split between 2 households, my mom and dad’s, I definitely had different set ups to be creative at each place. My dad’s house was more a chaotic household. I have 4 brothers, we’d all play sports and do stuff together. I’d go in my room, be more secluded and write when I was in Jersey. Find myself emotionally and personally.

When I went to my mom’s house in New York, I’d run around and do shit with my friends. More fashion stuff and modeling, running around being crazy. It was cool to be raised between those 2 places. A balance between the city life of being crazy and having a bunch of other kids around you that also want to do art and music, then going to Jersey where I was the only one wanting to do that and looked at the world as a playground. It did give me a quiet break from the city and from all that noise, be able to write and be an emo teenager.

Who were you listening to musically that made you fall in love with it?

Definitely Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse are 2 influences that have stuck with me ‘till today. I was raised on a lot of classic rock just like any middle aged white parents listened to, like Metallica, Rolling Stones, KISS, AC/DC. I really have a high appreciation for classic rock and the live aspect of concerts. My parents both loved to go to concerts in their days, of course before Coronavirus stopped concerts. I was raised on that live music tip, then I found my own interests in hip-hop and pop music. I stuck with listening to like Amy, Kurt, some classic artists too.

At what point did you realize you could do music for a living? The modeling came first, right?

Yeah, the modeling definitely came first as far as work. I was able to do modeling to get some money and some opportunities that way. It’s still a passion for me to be in front of a camera and do shoots. I love fashion so that was definitely my introduction to the art world. I realized I could do music for a living when I was signed to a modeling agency, then I told them “I want to do music too.” I was making little songs in my bedroom, I wasn’t putting them out anywhere. I put out one little song on my SoundCloud, so many people gravitated towards it. I asked my agency “oh, could I be a musician? Do you guys represent musicians? I could do that.”

They didn’t discourage me, but they said “oh well you’re working as a model, so you want to keep doing that until you can sustain yourself as an artist.” Because being an artist takes a lot out of you, which I already knew. I said “okay, well I’ll do it then.” I started to save the money I was getting from modeling to go to the studio, that was happening for a good while. I was feeding them into each other, able to do music. One day, I realized I’m doing it. I’m releasing music, I’m making my own fanbase, doing what any employed artist would do. It only got better and went up from there. Now I have a deal with Warner so it’s a solidified career. I realized you’re your own boss pretty quickly. You want to be an artist, no one’s stopping you. You can do whatever your own capabilities are, whatever vision you want to have for your music. You want to have it everywhere, you want to post as much as you want to post. At 15 or 16, I wanted to stop modeling because I wanted to be recognized as an artist all around. Alright well that’s up to me to tell people I’m an artist, not just a model, or one box that people try to put you in.

How was it being involved in Kanye West’s Yeezy line? That’s amazing, and such a young age too. 

Looking back, I realize how life-changing all those experiences were. I literally didn’t really think much of it when I was younger. I was really excited to do the modeling jobs, but I didn’t really understand why they were choosing me. How do they even find me? How does this even happen? My parents and everyone around me said “oh my God, we’re so proud of you!” I’m like what the heck? I’m really thankful I had people around me saying “yes, go do this!” My mom was really supportive, especially when I got the Yeezy job. She called my grandma: “should I let her go on the plane?” My grandma said “let her go on that plane, even I know who Kanye West is.” It was so funny, there you have your answer. Obviously there’s something I’m doing right. I’m being looked at and respected like another artist, not just a random model. There’s some reason, because I’m not the skinniest. I’m not the prettiest, I’m not the tallest.

Yes you are! 

Oh thank you, but I’m talking about being a cool person and a good person.

Mallory Merk is your real name, were there any contenders for another?

No, I’ve never thought about changing it. My name is my birth given name, Mallory Merk. I used to want to be famous when I was a kid and a performer. My mom used to ask, “what’s going to be your stage name?” She’d always say “I’m kidding, you have a good stage name already: Mallory Merk.” I guess that’s a cool name. Late at night, I’m always thinking about my 3:00am thoughts. Would I have a stage name? Would I have another alter ego? Would I turn into Mallory? I’ve thought about being Mallory before, but then my last name’s so cool. I don’t know.

Fast forward to today, you just released “Just Because.” How are you feeling?

I’m really, really happy about this release, my proudest release thus far. “Just Because” is helping to solidify my sound, I really felt like I opened a new elegant new door with this song. It’s exactly what I want my future music to sound like, the feelings it exudes of melancholy and being as happy as you can in a crazy ass world. The emotions you’re showing aren’t always exactly what you’re feeling, because you’re having to put on a brave face to keep going and keep everyone around you not too concerned about you. Keep the ball rolling, we all have to do that as humans. The song’s a description of that.

You say it kicks off a new chapter of music for you, why is that?

First of all, I worked with this really great writer, Chloe, she’s really dope. It’s a new chapter for me because of the live aspect of the production, we had Dan Grech work on the mix and this really talented drummer play the drums for it. It all came together, a bunch of talented musicians working on a sonically good song. We weren’t worried about a song that would stick to a certain agenda or certain thing that’s popular right now. We’re really trying to make something true to everyone involved and true to what everyone was feeling right now.

“Just because you’re smiling, doesn’t mean you’re happy.” How important is mental health?

Mental health is extremely important for me because it’s a roller coaster we’re all on with our brains. We can’t get off, turn it off, or pretend like it’s not there. It’s hard because mental health really uproots everything you have going on in your life, it’s the most important thing you can preserve and attend to every day. You can attend to your job every day, attend to social media or even eating right, sleeping right. You can do all those things but if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, if it doesn’t feel right for you, it’s okay. That’s the first step to know “oh, I’m not feeling right. This doesn’t feel right” or “this does feel right.”

Listening to your own mind and not having an outside influence, letting other people in your life tell you what’s fun or what’s not fun. Tell you what you shouldn’t be doing, you shouldn’t find pleasure in that or you should try this. You need to listen to yourself, it’s really important. Mental health is different for everyone. A bad day and a good day looks different for everyone. It’s important, not just that we’re talking about it and checking on our friends, but also you’re honest with yourself. Know when you need professional help or when you need to take a step back and say “look, I can’t take it right now. I need to focus on myself or I need a second to really figure out what’s going on underneath.” If you don’t, everything will fall apart then you’re left even more lost. Listening to your own mind is really important.

What do you like to do for self-care?

Umm, I like to smoke weed. [laughs] I love to take baths. I’m into CBD right now too, it’s really dope. I take it in the morning under the tongue, CBD’s really good. I’m a self-proclaimed healer for myself at least. I love to feed myself good, put nice herbs in my body. Forage herbs, grow them and make teas. Anything to soothe your body and use nature to implement healing in your own body. I love nature, that’s my best self-care.

What is it you want fans to get from your story?

I want my listeners and supporters to feel my music is a friend. You can go listen and feel like somebody is understanding you, not judging you. When you want to be like “fuck the world, I want to be in my own feelings and my own head” and that’s okay. I want my listeners and fans to feel like they should find their true self and your true self is okay. That’s the main thing I want them to get out of my music: being yourself is never something to apologize for or be guilty of. If your people around you don’t love and support you, there’s always someone out there that has love for you. You have to find it. If not, you find that love within yourself.

Tell me about the “Just Because” visual. I know it was shot in Barstow.

Barstow’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever been, it was so weird. It’s halfway between Vegas and LA so you can imagine the characters. It felt like a twilight zone in the desert. It was really, really fun. I’ve never been to a proper pawn shop or liquor store in the middle of the desert, so that was really cool. We had a 60’s Mercury car so I was definitely living my 60’s dream. Everyone on set was really dope and fun. We had a great day roasting in the car in Barstow. It felt like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a little bit, it was mad fun.

Photo credit: Jacqueline Kulla, @h8summer

How would you describe your love for fashion?

My love for fashion is a love, hate relationship because I’m not a believer in capitalism, all this fast fashion and buy buy buy. I’m definitely not with that vibe, I don’t think the vibration of fashion should be like that. I think it should be more inclusive and more affordable for everyone. Growing up, I loved fashion. I worshiped fashion, the runways, models, designers. I knew archives, everything. Now I’m realizing as I get older, fashion’s really what you make it. Fashion to me now is what I want to wear: flip flops, shorts, funny ass big t-shirts, sandals. Why’s that fashion to me now? I don’t know, but it’s hilarious. Everyone deep down has their own fashion sense that meets comfortability, but expressing yourself of what you want to wear.

I definitely have a changed relationship with fashion, but I still love it to this day. I really wish it’s more affordable and more inclusive for everyone. I imagine a world where all of us are getting drippy, wearing whatever we want. You like Chanel, you want to wear Chanel? There’s a bag that doesn’t cost that much that you could get, or a blouse you can have for $100, $200, or $20. Fashion should be way more accessible, but I know that’d defeat the whole purpose and all the rich people would get upset. It’d be cool if everyone could wear what everyone else is wearing.

3 things you need in the studio?

Tea, some good smoke, notebooks and lots of writing utensils.

You write everything down?

Yeah, I definitely like to physically write things out and draw things out. I can’t read from my phone. I’ll maybe write lyrics on my phone, but I always end up transferring to the paper.

What can we expect from your forthcoming project later this year?

Expect very heavy instrumentation. I’m trying to rock the world, rock out a little bit. Showcase the live music aspect. Expect the unexpected always. Some cool psychedelic lyrics we can all break down as many times as we want, also listen to it without a care in the world.

Anything else you want to let the people know?

Even though all of us feel crazy right now, it’s okay. It’s revealing a new layer of creativity and truth in all of us. It’s a great time to find a new part of yourself that you didn’t know existed, even though it feels really scary. Recently I’ve been feeling like am I insane? Because I lost a bit of my social and society skills,  but all of that is BS. All of us can find new ways to live in this world, connect to each other that aren’t superficial because we’re realizing all that’s falling away. My notes shared everyone is go with the flow and like, just be true to yourself. Don’t worry about what society tells you to act like and what you may feel you have to act like right now because the world is up in flames. Love yourself and love your neighbor, that’s it.

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