Despite what his name might suggest, Ladd Mercer is the typical SoCal gent minus the surf stereotype plus the skateboarding. Mr. Mercer breaks down in interview format, his diverse musical style, his stint in China and all thangs Cali bruh!
Ladd Mercer, what a truly unique name you have! Comments please:
You can thank my Mom’s creativity for the name. I’ve met one other person with the name Lad, but he only spelled it with one ‘D’. It’s funny, when I order food at a restaurant I always have to repeat myself when the cashier asks for my name, and nine times out of ten it’s still spelled wrong when they give me the receipt. Some winning examples are ‘Lado’, ‘Vlad’, and one time someone had the audacity to hand me a receipt that said ‘Blad’! My friend Thomas was with me during that one and couldn’t help himself by telling me, ‘You’re Blad to the bone!’
We met in Shanghai, China when we possibly played a show together, either that or I was at the bar judgingly peering over my warm Tsingtao at your performance. What made you decide to leave the SoCal suburban life and move to Shanghai?
Cheers to the warm Tsingtaos! Man I miss Shanghai, can’t wait to go back for a visit!
I’m actually originally from Indiana, and before Shanghai I had just graduated from Purdue in West Lafayette, IN. What prompted the move was a combination of support from my family to experience life in a foreign country, as well as the attraction of having a market research internship in China instead of selling insurance in Indianapolis or Chicago right out of college.
After the “finding yourself” adventure, you settled down back in Californication. Why the move back home and it was because of the taquerias amiright??
It was solely for the taquerias!
Haha but yeah, by the end of my time in Shanghai I had lived and worked there for 3.5 years, not making much money. I was burned out from the population density and not advancing in my ‘work’ career as much as I’d hoped. My wife (whom I met in Shanghai) and I talked it through and we agreed that going back to the States was the logical post-Shanghai plan.
My wife’s Shanghainese, so us moving back to my rural Indiana roots wasn’t gonna work for a city girl, plus I didn’t have any job prospects lined up. I’d always wanted to live in California ever since going on a family trip out West when I was a teenager. I reached out to some extended family who were gracious enough to let me crash at their place in SoCal while I got myself back on my feet after leaving Shanghai, and I’ve been in Thousand Oaks ever since!
Like you said earlier, the skating didn’t really pick up until a year or so after I was living in Cali. One day my wife saw a skateboard in the trunk of my car and she asked if I could do any tricks, so I clumsily fumbled my way through a kickflip, and the spark of landing back on the board ignited my obsession ever since. When I skated as a young kid in Indiana, all I had was a sidewalk to cruise on. Here in Thousand Oaks I’m 20 minutes away from four great skateparks, so I lucked out with where I ended up. Now that I’m skating more, I did some research and found out that Shanghai ironically has some amazing spots, so I’m definitely packing my board on the next trip back!
I always assumed you were an acoustic rock musician cover kinda Ladd but when you sent your newest LP it was a well produced hip hop album! Can you describe your musical background, influences and how you got that dreamy voice of yours?
Well first of all, thank you for the kind words! It means the world when a fellow human recognizes the quality of the work that goes into these labors of love.
My parents raised my sisters and I on music. Some of my early childhood memories include dancing in the living room to Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ with the volume cranked. My Dad had a ton of vinyl records and a turntable with a whole sound system set up in the house, and there was a drumset in the basement with guitar amps, PA speakers, and microphones that us kids would use from time to time.
Thinking back, I never really sang much because of being so nervous to perform in front of people. Plus, my twin sisters sing amazingly (they performed an intimately arranged acapella duet version of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Breakaway’ in a middle school talent show and left the audience awestruck), so I didn’t really invest much energy into performing music until I was in college.
Sophomore year in highschool is when I found out I could sing decently. After I first heard Panic! at the Disco’s debut album ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’, I was immediately drawn to Brendon Urie’s powerful voice. I loved all of the songs on that album so much that I‘d sing along at the top of my lungs alone in the car. I could hit some of the same notes as he did, but I was still too nervous to sing in front of anyone, so I’d only sing along to songs I liked in private.
Throughout highschool, I went head to head against my fellow symphonic band mate Nick for first chair baritone auditions every year, and he always had the edge on me. Our competitive nature got us both qualified for all-state band senior year, along with a trip to Europe in a jazz band. As fate would have it, I ran into none other than Brendon Urie in Paris during this trip!
At Purdue, my roommate/track teammate Jake taught me how to play barre chords on acoustic guitar, and one drunken night at his apartment he spontaneously started playing the riff to ‘You’re So Last Summer’ by Taking Back Sunday. When it was time to come in with the vocals I just belted out the first lyrics, ‘She said don’t!’. In that moment, there was an unforgettable, indescribable fusion of energy that formed between Jake and I while we just rocked out playing that song. I attribute that experience as the catalyst that motivated me to start performing music live as a solo act and writing original songs more seriously.
In Shanghai I joined somewhere between 5-10 different bands that all unfortunately dissolved. I met so many great people in those bands, including Killer the guitar god and the homie Greg from Utah in the band Lycoris, and Hank and Femi in First Hand Look. I didn’t really take the reins as the leader of these groups, because I had my own solo projects, and I focused more on trying to improve on things like my guitar playing skills or harmonizing skills.
Now, it’s been about 10 years to the day that I started performing live at open mics and writing original music. Throughout that time I’ve been influenced by those bands and artists I mentioned earlier, and I regularly listen to all music genres, which mainly come to me as suggestions from friends and family. Right now there are about 1,000 songs I’ve saved on Spotify that I shuffle through on a daily basis, and as I scroll through the list I’m seeing Nirvana, Hank Williams, Lana Del Rey, Post Malone, MF Doom, Kacey Musgraves, Cursive, and Black Sabbath.
I consider myself a late bloomer in terms of becoming a singer-songwriter, so the few times I had the opportunity to meet other artists or producers or event promoters, I always felt out of place with so little experience compared to them. I decided that instead of spending all of my energy trying to get in touch with all the ‘right people’ in the industry, it’d be better to learn how to produce music on my own, and in the process develop a stronger foundation for my songwriting skills.
To your point about the switch from acoustic rock to a hip-hop type sound from my newest ep Introvert, it’s a combination of having that freedom to produce music I like and being influenced by the variety of artists on my playlist. Up until the last couple years or so I was recording and performing songs and covers with just acoustic guitar. I think that had to do with me feeling like too much of a beginner to really try anything else, especially something like hip-hop/rap music where you can sound really cringe-worthy if it’s not produced well or executed properly.
Started writing/performing music in college, influenced by artists ranging from Hank Williams to Lana Del Rey to Black Sabbath, and found out I could sing by listening to Panic! at the Disco in highschool
In five words or less, sell us on your newest musak.
Can you inform us of your future plans music-wise and general tips on life?
I’ve got new music cooking in the oven as we speak, and my goal is to have more features on the next project, including returning appearances from my wife and sister. I’ll keep you in suspense about the vibe and genre, but I will say that if you liked Introvert, you’ll be pumped to listen to what’s coming next.
Tips on life? Have fun with it, don’t be a dick, and always create!
Listen On Spotify: Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6P75MrzZfbETOlM7ZPfSpH?si=6MHqWVrjR9S7HmdLjmcejw
Listen On Apple Music: Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/ladd-mercer/1451647012
Instagram: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laddmercer/