Editor’s Note: It was such a blast to be once again talking to one of the loveliest souls in the music industry in frontwoman/guitarist Mercedes Arn-Horn of Courage My Love. In this interview, she took a break from the studio to be chatting with Madness To Creation about the upcoming album, their recent video/single release for “Remission”, along with her mental health and working out. I am anxious to see what is in store for this band in 2019. Sadly, they had to recently cancel their East Coast run with Potty Mouth due to circumstances beyond their control, but they are playing Renegade Fest in Pontiac, Michigan this summer. If you get a chance to see them live, please take a night off of work and go do it! Fans can find Courage My Love at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: How have you been Mercedes?
Mercedes: Pretty good, pretty good! We’re just in the studio right now, so I can’t complain!
Madness To Creation: How is that treating you?
Mercedes: Great! We’re at the stage now where we finished all of the guitars and the bass, a lot of the drums and programming, and vocals and stuff, so it’s finally starting to take shape, so it’s cool, I’m kind of coming back and listening to it all come together.
Madness To Creation: What are some magical moments that have been created so far?
Mercedes: The vibes are kind of different right now, we’re kind of going for a sound that we haven’t tried yet, but it feels a lot more like us right now. The past couple of releases for us have been on the pop side of things, and we’ve been experimenting with those textures, but we finally found a way to have the perfect marriage between rock and pop. There’s a lot of cool guitar lines that I’m definitely proud of, a lot of driving bass in the rhythmic parts, but there’s still going to be that pop element as well. I’m just really stoked to put it out at this point.
Madness To Creation: Given you and the band’s studio work, how would you describe each personality trait for Courage My Love when you all are in that studio?
Mercedes: We’re all very different, but we’re all similar at the same time, but we all really get along. I think what Phoenix(drummer) brings to the table is that she is the one that knows how to cheer all of us up. When we are on the road, she is the most stoic one, she complains the least, she’s got a great sense of humor, and she knows how to make all of us laugh, so that is really important when we’re all together and when we’re all tired from traveling and stuff. Lockwood(bassist) is like that as well, he’s definitely more of a party animal, out of the three of us, he parties the most, he’s the one who makes the most friends on tour because he has that quality, and that’s really helpful as well because I think Phoenix and I take a little longer to break the ice with people and to get to know people, it just takes us a little longer, but he’s pretty confident and comfortable in those situations, so that’s what he brings to the table personality wise. For me, it’s hard to say, I would like to think that I’m pretty introspective, I take a lot of time to think about things, I love analyzing things, and I think that’s what makes me be a pretty good lyricist and video maker as well, I started directing music videos and stuff like that too, but my ability to analyze things and to find the deeper meaning behind things, it helps me out in that regard. The three of us just kind of work really well together with our personality traits.
Madness To Creation: Speaking of analyzing, I tend to do that too, sometimes I find myself in really deep thought, what was the last deep thought that you have had?
Mercedes: Something that is going through my mind right now while being in the studio, I think it’s something a lot of artists can’t help but wonder if they’re making their best work, because you definitely want to put your best foot forward with being evolving and growing. Phoenix and I are 25, and we are at the point in our lives where there’s a lot of pressure to creating your best stuff and really just taking things to a new level, but that’s been on my mind a lot lately, and you can probably hear it in the songs. We’re really not writing “relationship-y” songs anymore. We used to write a lot about love and breakups, and stuff like that because that’s what we were going through at the time, but I think these songs are more about personal growth and just sort of being an individual, it’s just a lot more about that. I’m just kind of over writing songs about unrequited love or chasing a person or being chased by a person, and I’m more into writing songs about my emotions and my feelings and my growth as a person. It’s going to be interesting to put these out. I think a lot of fans that have grown with us are going to relate to it because they’re probably going through some similar stuff in their lives right now. I’m just stoked for people to hear this new subject matter that we’re trying to tackle.
Madness To Creation: Do you think personal growth is critical for a person’s mental health?
Mercedes: Oh my God yeah, I think that the reason that Phoenix and I are so creative at the moment and have just come to this renaissance in our careers is because we felt so creatively stifled in the past year, and we felt very stagnant. We went through a phase of writer’s block and a phase of butting heads with our label and trying to decide who we want to be and what kind of artists we want to be, and as painful and as hard as that was, I think that it’s really important to go through that so you can be your own compass and find out what path you want to go down. Just staying the same, I think if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards, cause the rest of the world is moving forward whether you are with it or not. I think that’s for anyone, but especially being an artist, being stagnant is a really bad thing, you should always push forward and try to grow and just push your limits.
Madness To Creation: What do you do to focus on your mental health and your wellness?
Mercedes: Well, it’s really funny for me, and I think you can relate to this as well because being a journalist is a very creative thing, but I feel like my work is an extension of myself in a sense, we all put a lot of ourselves into it, so writing and recording is a big part of who I am, and I think that really helps my mental health when things are going well, when we feel inspired, writing is a really therapeutic method, but on the flip side, when things aren’t going well, it can be pretty depressing and you can get anxious from it and really feel a lot of pressure and stuff like that. So, in those moments when writing and creating isn’t doing the trick for me, I love unwinding in a physical way, like going to the gym, that does really help. I took up running and that has really helped, I think it’s just a physical thing, I just get these happy chemicals into my body when I’m active, shooting hoops and playing basketball is also fun. For mental health, I think it’s important to be mentally stimulated as well, like listening to music, watching a really good movie, and stuff like that.
Madness To Creation: Do you ever do yoga?
Mercedes: I have tried it and I do like it. I tried it once on tour. Woody was a great yoga instructor and we went to these classes, and it was really cool. I feel like personally, I need something that’s a little bit more fast-paced and yoga requires a lot of patience and discipline, I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s so calming, but for my personality, I need something that’s a little bit more fast-paced and a little bit more active. That’s why I like running because I do experience a runner’s high, I do get into the zone and my brain just kind of shuts off and I can just get lost for minutes at a time and just not think about anything, I think that’s good for me because it just kind of helps me with meditation in a sense to shut my brain off for a little while.
Madness To Creation: For mental health, what are a couple of pre-show rituals that the band goes through?
Mercedes: Good question! Lockwood will have a beer before he goes on, he kind of likes to wet his hair, so when he comes out, he already has his hair wet, so he doesn’t get super sweaty or gross or anything like that. Phoenix just warms up for the drums with the practice pad every now and then, she loves warming up vocally with me. I like to kind of be alone for a little while before we go on stage, so I just kind of seclude myself somewhere, even if it’s just a bathroom or something, I always warm up vocally. I kind of jog for a little bit because I like to work out my lungs before we go on stage so I’m not out of breath, and I’m already warmed up physically too. I just kind of do the vocal warm-ups and the physical warm-ups for the exact reasons we were just talking about, it gets my mind ready to perform, it’s pretty much what I do every single time.
Madness To Creation: What is the moment that you had on stage where you felt that you wanted to do this for the rest of your life?
Mercedes: Oh my gosh, the one I can think of that is just a eureka moment was the first time that we went to Japan, and we played on stage to around 500 people, so it’s not like it was the biggest crowd that we ever played to, but it was a pretty decent crowd, and a lot of people there knew our lyrics and they were singing it back to us, and we were already in this big culture shock and we could not believe that we were in Japan, and we didn’t expect that kind of reception from people, we didn’t think anyone would know who we were, but I think anytime that we go to a new place. We had a similar moment a lot of the times we went to a new country, where it’s not even an English speaking country and they know our lyrics, and that’s a moment where we’re like, “wow, I can’t believe people actually care”, it’s just really encouraging when you’re so far away from home and people know your music, moments like that are what we live for, it’s a nice validation that we’re doing something right and people enjoy what we do and we enjoy what we do.
Madness To Creation: I have actually talked to people and they say that the music of Courage My Love resonates with them and helps them get through. Music helps all of us get through, let’s say you are down in the dumps, do you have any bands or artists that help you get through tough times?
Mercedes: Totally! Phoenix and I love a band called Death Cab For Cutie, they have so many songs and it’s really impossible to just pick one, but there is one that we really love from our childhood and it’s called “Brothers On A Hotel Bed”, it’s from their album “Plan”, it’s a pretty iconic album of theirs if you’re a Death Cab fan, something about the way that they write lyrics and how in tune everybody is musically with each other, it’s really cool. That band has been with us through so many phases in our lives since we were 13 or something like that, they’re kind of a comforting band. I like to listen to them when I’m happy, when I’m sad, or when I’m kind of in between. I would say Death Cab is our pick.
Madness To Creation: Do you ever have fans that say that your music has helped get them through?
Mercedes: Yeah, it happens all of the time and we feel really lucky every time that it happens, I think that’s probably the best thing that you can hear as a writer because like you said, we all have our go-to songs that has gotten us through rough times that has become the soundtrack to our life, so every time that we hear a certain song, we can associate it with a time in our lives or a memory or something like that, so to know that we are that to someone else is just really rewarding, and when we meet our fans, they’re also lovely people and I love hearing how they found out about us and what songs are their favorite and what it means to them because I really love getting to know them as people and knowing how we impacted them is just a really rewarding feeling.
Madness To Creation: I bet it’s very humbling too!
Mercedes: Absolutely! When you start out, you’re so mind-blown that anybody cared, so to have anybody say, “hey this song got me through like a rough breakup or this song got me through a time when I was self-harming”, it can get pretty dark, we’ve had people say, “this song has helped them get through when they were thinking about killing themselves”, and stuff like that. That is so heavy, I can’t even imagine the process of feeling that way, let alone a song that is redirecting your path or giving you that ray of hope, it’s just really awesome to know that we can have that kind of impact.
Madness To Creation: Speaking of songs that have impact, “Remission” is such an addictive song, what was your mindset when you wrote that song?
Mercedes: That one is special for me specifically because when I wrote it, although it sounds like a sad song, I wrote it about the process of getting over a relationship that I was in. So I was in a relationship in my early 20’s with someone who was a lot older than me and then the relationship turned toxic so quickly for whatever reason I was totally enamored with this person, and then after it ended, it was hard for me to figure out who I was after, and it was hard for me to really move on, so I wrote that song about that process, it was supposed to be about going into remission from someone who had been such a huge part of my life, and it kind of messed me up for a couple of years emotionally. So, the song is meant to be about strength, when you finally do move on, you’re not supposed to be running from these painful memories and trying to hide from them, it’s more about embracing the pain, and accepting it as a part of you, it led to who you are today.
With the video, we wanted to embody the story of a ghost that is haunting the girl and kind of following her around and at first, we have all of these horror movie cliches that are supposed to be creepy, and she’s running from the ghost and she’s afraid of the ghost, but in the end, there’s this turning point in the video where the ghost doesn’t seem scary as it did in the beginning, there are moments in the video where this ghost is just really cute and jamming with the band and following me around, with kind of this endearing puppy love, and in the end, I crawl into bed with the ghost. It’s meant to symbolize you coming to terms with the trauma that you went through and embracing it as a part of you, that way, you can move on, and love who you are.
Madness To Creation: You know I never put 2 and 2 together. If you can talk about this, what are a couple of other song ideas that you and the band came up with?
Mercedes: For these new songs, right now we are working on one called “Teenagers”, and we have it all like very “Breakfast Club” scenes, well none of us are teenagers anymore, so the lyrics are kind of talking about someone that you went with in high school and has never moved on from that time in their life, they keep holding on to it, and you’re being that person that says, “there’s so much more to life than just that one period in your life, you have to grow”, kind of like what we were talking about before with evolving and growing into who you were meant to be, so you’re always stuck looking back on certain memories that you have towards the beginning of your life where you’re never going to experience what life is like after that. So, that’s one of the songs that I’m really proud of writing because it’s a subject matter that we never tackled before, but it’s coming out from a pretty creative and honest place, so I’m really stoked to finally put it out and make the video for it and all of that.
Madness To Creation: This question literally just came to me as you were talking about “Teenagers”, but is this kind of a response to people who expect you to only be the heavy version of Courage My Love?
Mercedes: Going into it, you have to know that’s going to happen, and I know that it comes from a place of people being nostalgic. The first thing that you hear from a band is usually your favorite thing because you associate it with a time that you heard them, it’s a time when that band is the most fresh to you, when it’s new and interesting, but it’s exactly what we were saying earlier, you can’t really stay the same and keep recreating the same things over and over again because that’s just not realistic, it’s not who you are, and fans grow up too, we’ve been a band since we were 17 and we are 25 now, so of course we have different things to say and different perspectives and different things that inspire us. So, it can be a little frustrating when people sometimes compare your new stuff to your old stuff and when they want more of the old stuff, but at the same time that stuff will always exist and if you love it, you can always go back to it. I love listening to our older stuff too because it’s a screenshot of our life, you step into a memory when you listen to it, but I think our new stuff is a lot more interesting to me because I feel like we’ve really honed our skills as songwriters and as performers and as musicians. I think our fans are going to love the new stuff as well, and those that don’t will always have the old stuff to remember.
Madness To Creation: I am loving this conversation, what is the best thing that has happened to you this year?
Mercedes: We’re a quarter of the way through the year already and I can’t believe how quickly this year is going by, but so far the best thing that has happened to us has been Phoenix and I taking the reigns of our career, we’re kind of not letting people hold us back anymore, we’re not letting people try to guide us creatively anymore, we’re just kind of like, “thank you, but we are doing our own thing” and if people aren’t on board with our vision on how we want things to be, we’re just going to be like, “thanks for the input, but we’re going to do this and this is what we want to do”, so I think it’s a really rewarding thing at this point in our careers to have so much more control over our music and to show people what we are made of, so to answer your question, the best thing that has happened to us this year was making that decision and really making the music that we want to make, the next best thing that will happen is finally releasing it and sharing it with everybody, and getting everyone’s reaction to it.
Madness To Creation: Planning on touring this year?
Mercedes: We want to get back to the states, we want to plan on some more international touring, and when the new music comes out, of course that means a lot of shows are going to happen.
Madness To Creation: Anything else you would like to add?
Mercedes: Thanks so much! We’re recording half in a studio in Toronto and the other half is in our house, and Phoenix is doing half of the production as well, she’s producing half of the songs, it’s been a really cool process and she’s working away really hard right now, so I can go and help her out again I guess!
And there you have it! Unfortunately, Courage My Love had to recently cancel their East Coast run with Potty Mouth due to circumstances out of their control, but they do have a couple of dates in the states coming up.
Wed. 4/24- Mohawk Place in Buffalo, New York
Sat. 7/6- Renegade Fest in Pontiac, Michigan
For tickets and further information on any of the shows listed above, click here.
- Photo Credit: Madness To Creation