Joseph of Mercury’s Music Will Make You Forget You Exist
When I first heard Joseph of Mercury’s voice, I freaked out thinking I had stumbled on a new Chris Isaak track I had yet to discover.
However, shortly after discovering that this track “Without Words” was only released this year, I was enamored. Joseph of Mercury is the musician bringing the old-school Sinatra-esque sound into modernity.
While operating with this crooner tone, a bit of mystery surrounds Joseph of Mercury’s music. It doesn’t seem to have a fixed aesthetic, which might be because he only has a few tracks out. While “Without Words” sounds like it stepped right out of a dreamy and luscious ’50s black and white film, “Find You Inside” incorporates a bit of ’70s groovy funk with a more modern flare.
Elusive and retro, yet completely captivating, he might as well be the male Lana Del Rey. So, we decided to interview him to find out who the guy behind this incredible voice is.
As a kid, what was growing up in Toronto like and where do you see that reflect in your music?
You know, in Canada, the weather is very variable and intense in terms of seasons. I think that push and pull kind of creates so much. There’s a real feeling to the summer and a real feeling to the winter, your behavior or your emotions are very commanded by your environment. I think also, it’s a young city. It has a lot of potential and talent. It’s not inundated with success though, even though there has been some. It’s not taken away from others being able to succeed, you know like the Weeknd and Drake. But at the same time, there’s room. There’s room to be a great artist coming out of Toronto and for it to be a rare thing, and there’s a lot of hungry people trying to be those artists. There’s a great energy for that.
Then how’d you get into music?
I grew up singing. My grandfather was really into the old crooners: Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, and he had a bunch of old records and stuff. I used to listen to those when I was younger. When I was older, I was put into singing lessons by my family, and that’s just where my voice sort of went. Later on in life I taught myself how to play the guitar and you combine that with the crooner vibe and you get Elvis, you get Roy Orbison.
Who’s been the biggest inspiration to you during this process?
I really like artists that are really trying to paint the world and create a mood with the music. You now, people who are writing songs that aren’t just songs. Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Rey and Kanye West, these artists create music that draw you into a different place. I’ve always thought that if you are successful as an artist, what that means is you’re creating a place where people listening forget that they exist. That’s when I know I’ve experienced great art is that I come back to myself because I’ve forgotten that I exist while taking on someone else. I’ve been so captivated with the expression of this other person that it sort of overpowers my own, and I love artists that come at it from that perspective.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your genre?
For me, when I write something, I don’t feel very held hostage by any one particular genre. I just like to give the song what I think it needs. There’s a very specific setting of my music, and when I write a song, a picture forms in my head and when it comes to choosing the sort of aesthetic, it comes down to me asking, “Does that instrument sound like it would be in that place?” or “What is making that sound?” or “Would that be there where this moment of the song is happening?” That frees it up to float between genres, the anchor becomes the songwriting and my voice and subject matter, and the vibe. Whether or not it sounds ’70s or ’80s or whatever, or if it has an entirely modern feel doesn’t exactly matter, they are all things I’m excited to play with or explore and I don’t feel like I’m not allowed to play with them.
From “Lips” to “Find You Inside,” how do you feel you’ve developed as an artist over the last few years?
“Without Words” came out a few months ago, we just dropped that. I hadn’t done anything in a few years. I went through some personal stuff that took me away from being a musician. I sort of had to shift gears for awhile and when I came back to music, that was one of the first songs I wrote, “Find You Inside.” It’s also one of the first songs I wrote on piano, and I had to find a new way to come at music again. Sometimes it’s just difficult to learn on a new instrument and it reawakens that process in you.
“Find You Inside” to me is kind of drawn to the subject of wanting and desire and longing for things you feel that you want or feel that you need, and when you don’t get them you sort of have the options to give into that, and say this isn’t for me or I don’t get to have this right now. You can wallow in that or sometimes if you’re lucky, it’ll motivate you just to try harder and be a better version of yourself to try and make yourself stronger. If you’re not getting the things you want, you have to make yourself undeniable, and this song to me is about the value of that. When you don’t get the things you want and that’s a powerful thing. It drives you to be a better person, makes things clearer and you more focused on making yourself that undeniable. There’s a part of you that sort of doesn’t want to get that because in chasing it, there’s a lot of value.
When can we expect a full album or EP?
Over the last three years, I have been working on a lot. There’s a lot of material in the project and the music has been shared with people. We have enough for an album, but it’s kind of feeling out when is the right time and how much to share. The interesting thing about working on music for a good amount of time in private is that you get to gather things. You go through different phases and you move to different sounds in new ways.
It becomes this sort of spectrum and songs that felt out of place now have something in between and by relation, it all makes sense. So we’re just trying to go with what makes sense. The songs themselves are all little self-important stories but we’re trying to create a larger arch and story with how we release the music and produce this world like the artists that I am captivated by. I want to create a world around the music.
If you have to pick one album to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Maybe “The Art of the Ballad” by Dexter Johnson. I was definitely much into jazz when I was younger and I’ve never been a fan of saxophone also. It’s a multi saxophone jazz record and the first time I heard it, the saxophone is played so much like a voice and there was so much to learn about singing through the saxophone. Just the way that he kind of moves the air and emoted through the saxophone was really interesting.
What was the most life-changing concert that you’ve ever been to?
When I was younger, on my father’s side of the family, my great uncle is actually the lead singer of a relatively well-known within the Caribbean community band called The Tradewinds. They were pretty popular back in the day. They go on tours through the islands and do pretty well. I remember I was taken to one of their shows as a kid and my grandmother would sew all these matching very nice material silk dress shirts, and I just remember seeing these four men on stage in bright red silk shirts, just kind of brimming with energy and commanding the room. Even as a kid, I could just tell they were different from everybody else. The adults were looking at them the way I look at adults, and I think that at that point, I felt like that stage or where they were doing, I wanted to get there. I wanted to do that.
What’s next for you?
The plan right now is to begin building this world up and introducing the project to people. I’m going to wait until the right time, but I’m excited to create this world and bring forth this music. We’re ready to go that way, but I just want to feel like it’s the right time and the place to do that. I haven’t performed a lot because I have been in this building stage, but I look forward to getting back to that. We’re definitely going to show up in person.
Listen to Joseph of Mercury’s newest track, “Find You Inside” here.
Photo Credit: Luis Mora