Mercy Sotire of Mercy’s Cartel discusses finding a “different kind of joy” during 2020, playing instruments in school and the art of basking in the present.
This interview started off how 2020 had been going, I had the wrong address to meet powerhouse Mercy’s Cartel and I wasn’t sure if it was even going to happen. But like her music, Mercy is easy and amazing when I meet her. Putting me at ease and bringing me into her world so effortlessly, that I feel like I've known her my whole life.
“I've been getting into one playlist that makes me feel good and forget everything”. Essex-born, Bristol based Mercy sings the hook from Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Captain Hook’ of her third EP Suga. As we reminisce over the music that has held us throughout 2020, Mercy speaks a lot about bringing joy into situations. Her energy is infectious as she answers the question about her last listened to artist; Dom Porter, her producer being one. “It's just a groove”, she says rhymically, discussing his November single ‘Honey’ with RnB singer Violet Jones.
Having started her journey with music in school, Mercy remembers wanting to learn to play the saxophone but the council had offered her the option to learn the double bass instead. “The council had told him [her father] that there were no black female double bassists at the time and that they’d pay for my tuition, so my Dad conned me into playing double bass”. Mercy started off classically trained but always desired to branch out in Jazz or Contemporary music, and she’s made that leap with her latest single.
She’s now moved onto the bass guitar “I’m bad though”, leaving the double bass behind and tinkering on a keyboard too since lockdown.
Mercy is serious about her sound, she tells me about making music constantly in her spare time whilst she was studying.
“Being a creative is difficult, especially when you’re balancing it with a full-time degree. It’s all-consuming; you can’t just clock out at 5.”
Having dropped out of her initial undergraduate degree in Psychology after her first bedroom demo ‘Nick of Time’ was played on a BBC Introducing slot, Mercy then went to pursue a degree in Songwriting and hasn’t looked back since.
Her latest single ‘Falling’ matches an upbeat backing track with punchy vocals. The single is upbeat and easy-listening but encapsulates harmonies which make you want to get up and dance. Mercy cites Kirk Franklin’s gospel choir as inspiration for her the track’s backing vocals. Produced by her longtime friend Dom Porter, the song was originally intended for another girl on her label but after passing on it, Mercy snatched it up. “I’m really focusing on songwriting at the moment. In the future I’d love to be known as a singer as well as someone who writes tunes for other people.” She talks about artists like Raye and Frank Ocean, both are amazing singer/songwriters who have worked with big industry names such as John Legend, Little Mix and Beyonce.
When I ask Mercy about her own favourite body of work she sighs, “I deleted it, all my songs sound better live. At the time I was in a weird contract,” (Mercy is now working with the independent label PolarFace and is much happier)
“They were meant to provide a mixing engineer but didn’t so Dom and I had to mix it all ourselves. The songs themselves were amazing, their essence was everything to me.” When I asked her if she’d ever re-record them she shakes her head. “Nah, I don’t want to be defined by them and plus I’ll be writing a 100 new songs anyway.”
But apart from the deleted tracks she’s saving all her new favourites for her upcoming EP, “I know that they’re boss, I don’t really listen to my work once it’s complete to be honest.”
Discussing dream collaborations Mercy lists powerhouse Mura Masa as number 1, and I agree that she’d sound amazing on a project with the Guernsey born producer and instrumentalist. “All the people I like have one thing in common, their production is really cool. Right now I love Ragz Originale, and I’m re-listening the Andre 3000 Love down Below.”
As our interview draws to a close Mercy is more reflective about her career so far, “I’m 24 and sometimes you just think you should’ve done things earlier you know?” But she’s quick to brush off fleeting thoughts and tells me that many of the artists she admires didn’t get their “break” until their mid 20’s or early 30’s. “Like NAO, she didn’t get signed till she was 27 and produced all the skeletons for inhale exhale (off her debut album For All We Know) on her laptop.”
“I've got a lot of experience now. And I'm really excited to see what happens in the future. I'm not a baby anymore. I think it's just like I’m not trying to rush it. I’m just making sure the music's the best that it can be at the current time.”
This interview was conducted in late 2020, all government guidance was adhered to.