mehro on vulnerability and creative expression

Ahead of their upcoming US headline tour, mehro discusses embracing vulnerability as a songwriter and the importance of exploring and expressing the depths of their lived experiences as part of the creative process. mehro also chats inspiration and early influences, following one’s dreams, and putting everything on the line in pursuit of those dreams.

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Let’s start this off with a game of Would You Rather. Would you rather be the leader of an advanced underground civilization during the zombie apocalypse, or be held captive in a futuristic underwater utopia during an alien invasion?

I would rather be the leader of an advanced underground civilization because I like taking responsibility for things. I like having that weight on my shoulders. As a prisoner, yes, it’s a utopia, but I wouldn’t know how they would treat me, so I would say leader. What would you choose?

That’s a hard one. With the alien invasion, there’s still a chance that you could somehow escape. If we’re under the impression that things might be better than they were before, then I would choose that because I would not do well leading an underground civilization. Everyone would be dead in a week, so that would be the safer option.


Would you rather relive a day in the past where you could change anything that happened, or would you rather live a random day in the future but not know what events will occur?

My [intuition is telling] me to [go to the past and] change something. There’s one particular day. There’s one particular thing that immediately came to my mind that I wish I hadn’t done. At the same time, I wouldn’t want to change who I am now, and I wouldn’t want to change the situation that I am in now. Perhaps, if I didn’t make the decision I made that day, my life would be different now. I wouldn’t want to risk [that] because I’m so happy with how [things have] turned out [so far]. I would have to choose a random day in the future, because I wouldn’t want to change my current life potentially for the worse. I learned so many lessons from the situation I would change that I’ve taken with me since that mistake.

That’s a really good answer, and I agree with all of those points.

So you’re with me. You would do the same thing.

Totally. That’s why there are movies telling us not to mess with the past because we’ll mess up the future.

Back to the Future.

Would you rather have a national holiday in your honor, or be able to change anything about a pre-existing holiday?

The more holidays, the better. The more breaks that people have, the [happier] people are. You don’t have to pay for parking on a holiday. I would take another holiday in my honor. I would be honored, and I think people would be stoked. Maybe it’ll become a big enough deal where people can get school off, and kids would be super stoked. [There’s] nothing better than a random holiday where you get a day off from school and work. I would choose that selfishly and selflessly.

You’ve spoken in the past about your desire to branch out into acting or directing. Was there a specific moment that made you realize you wanted to explore that?

I fell in love with acting when I went to a summer program at a school called Crossroads in Santa Monica. The class of kids was so talented and amazing. Even the smell of the theater, as soon as I walked in, there was just something [about it]. It was an experience I had been longing for my whole life that I didn’t know I [longed] for. [I] had some amazing teachers when I was a kid, but Ginny Russell was the first teacher — especially with acting — who believed in me a hundred percent. [She] supported me and loved me for who I was. That woman, and that circumstance, planted the seed of acting and theater [in me], the love from that [experience] extended from there, and the forest grew [a] plant of film, art, and expression. All [of it grew] from that moment in my life.

That’s a very important thing to have when you’re thinking about pursuing a creative career. I feel like a lot of people know it can be an unstable career path to pursue, so they’re afraid of where they might end up if it doesn’t work out. With people who want to do something creative, it’s very important to instill that motivation and acceptance from a young age.

That fear hinders people from following their dreams all the time, and I wish it didn’t. I wish that people went for a thousand percent [of their dreams], but I [also] believe that people possess and receive their deepest desires. [They get] exactly what they truly want. Perhaps, putting everything out on the line could lead to risks that are not conducive to a healthy spirit [and mentality] within themselves. I completely understand. This is a wild journey that we are on, and I’m so grateful for that experience. I don’t know if I’d be here without it.

Is there anything that you feel like you would gain through acting or directing that you don’t feel like you could get or are currently getting through music?

Yes! There is.

They are quite similar creative fields, but they differ in a lot of ways too.

I’ve been lucky to co-direct all [of my] music videos — shout out to Ryan Calavano — that we’ve made so far. I get to scratch that itch of being on a set with a team of people [to] make something together visually, which is an itch that I love to scratch. There’s something about being part of a film that is unlike a piece of music. There are a lot of similarities, [but they] are different [forms of expression]. Movies make you feel something different than [what] a song makes you feel. It’s deeper. It takes more time to create a film than a song or a music video. It’s something that I would love to experience at the highest level whenever that time comes. I’ve already had the chance to work with incredible actors in my career, and it’s just the beginning. Having the opportunity to act alongside my heroes and incredible rising stars, and being able to be a part of that as often as I want, would add another wonderful flavor into my life. I’m always looking for the best. I’m always looking for the best way to live my life and to get the most out of it at every single moment.


Who were some of the biggest influences or inspirations that shaped you and your work today?

With these questions, anybody that you [mention, there are] twenty people you don’t mention that should be mentioned, but I will try to say as many as I can. I absolutely love Nirvana. Stanley Kubrick’s films are jaw-dropping. Amy Winehouse has had a huge impact on my life. Aretha Franklin has had a huge impact on my life. And The Beatles. Every time you think of somebody, [you think of somebody] else.

I love Elliott Smith. I love The Cure, Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, Prince, and David Bowie. [I also love] Francis Ford Coppola. If we’re talking about [actors], there’s Marlon Brando, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, and Barbara Stanwyck. [The list] goes on and on.

I can definitely tell that you have a varied taste in music, so I’m sure that there are so many different people from different genres.

I [haven’t] even [mentioned] Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, or Lana Del Rey. [There are] so many people that I’m missing. [There are] recent artists that are so incredible, like boygenius. Lil Yachty’s most recent album is amazing. Have you heard it?

I have not. I’ll have to check it out.

Please check it out. The musicality [of] it is [phenomenal]. Aurora is [also] incredible. My best friend loves Aurora, so I hear her quite a bit.

Let’s talk about your creative process. Obviously, that can change from song to song. What are some of the more consistent moments or steps in your process when you’re creating your songs?

Iceis, are you a songwriter?

Yes and no. I write a lot of lyrics.

You write lyrics. You’re a poet. [That] makes sense. The reason why I asked is because [you asked] an interesting question. You know that the process isn’t the same every time, and it’s true. Not all the songs are the same, and every song that’s out has come about in its own unique way. There isn’t a process that I abide by in terms of writing and crafting songs. Some songs take longer to craft than others. [Some songs are] written almost immediately. The thing that’s consistent is that when you are inspired by something that happens, you have to act on it immediately as a creative. Don’t push it until later because it won’t be the same. There are some creative expressions that are so vivid in your inner world that you can go back to it later and be fine, but when you have that initial inspiration, you have to work on it. When I was inspired, I worked on it, and I got as much or as little done as I possibly could in that stretch of time.

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You get pretty intimate and thought-provoking with a lot of the lyrics in your songs. Are there any personal moments you would feel comfortable sharing that inspired some of those lyrics?

The first song I wrote that made me feel like I could actually be a songwriter was “lightning.” Up to that point, I loved songwriting. It was really fun, and it was something that I was really passionate about. The night that I wrote “lightning,” I played it for the person that I was with at that time, who I loved very much [and] still [do], and they cried. I didn’t realize what the song was about when it was written. [I came] to realize, when we were making the music video for it, that it was probably inspired by my experience of losing a best friend and my grandpa on the same day — the duality of a life fully lived and a life cut short. I could see both sides of it. [I saw how] I could [have been] impacted selfishly, but [I also saw what] I hadn’t lost. I didn’t lose a father, I didn’t lose a son, and I didn’t lose a brother. I still lost meaningful people in my life, but [I had] the perspective of knowing that nothing is promised. None of this is guaranteed. That was the most significant day of my life. The process of me becoming myself as a human being and realizing who I am [started on] that day. The vulnerability of the lyrics came from that night the song was written. The expression of it comes from opening and being willing to go to [that place] and get to the root of it. [Getting] to the core of it is a practice that I’m very grateful to be able to look at and do.

Is there ever a moment when you’re writing a song like that where you feel like you need to reel it in a bit because it seems a bit too — I won’t use the word vulnerable — direct about what you’re going through?

This is a very interesting question, because it’s minute. It’s specific, and it’s something that a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily think about. I would say, for anybody [who’s] looking to be a writer, that there is no such thing as being too vulnerable. The process and the practice of going to that part of yourself and expressing that part of yourself is so, so, so important. Going to the depths and extending past those depths is such an important practice as a writer. [You have] to be able to go there when necessary, because there are priceless treasures in those untapped places. Of course, there’s a line of being too direct, of going past the point of artistic and crossing the line into indulgence. That’s walking that tightrope. Every [listener is] going to have a different opinion. Every [reader is] going to have a different opinion. I’m sure some people [who] read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings hated the book, and other people said, “this is too vulnerable,” or “this is too much.” I read that book [and I was] flabbergasted at her genius. Talk about somebody [who] has inspired me in my life. Maya Angelou flabbergasted [me with] her vulnerability, genius, brilliance, and timelessness. [The] simple answer [is], you can’t be too vulnerable. [The] more complicated answer [is], walk the tightropes that you want to walk. You can define the line [between] when it’s too indulgent, just right, or not vulnerable enough.

That’s fair. Everyone interprets things differently, so I feel like if you’re comfortable, and you think it’s tasteful personally, then you hit the sweet spot. It’s right there, and that’s the important part.

That’s the important part. If it hits the sweet spot for you as the creative, then that’s [what matters].

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Let us talk about your upcoming release, “dopamine.” Going back to one of the topics we discussed earlier, was there anything that felt different about how you approached creating “dopamine” compared to some of the other songs you’ve written?

[It was a] very unique process. It was actually written in this chair. I had just gotten home from a video shoot, and I decided to go live. I was saying hi to everybody, and I was feeling good. I came off of that live. I started strumming something during that live, and it called [to] me to be played again on the guitar, so I kept playing it. I was on a voice memo for about ten minutes, and the beginning verse came right away. About nine [or] ten minutes into that recording, the chorus happened. I didn’t have any other lyrics after that. I turned off the [voice memo], and I said, “Okay, that’s something.” I started recording with an engineer named Adam Comstock. We recorded the guitars, but I still had no lyrics. I went live because I was alone on a Friday night, and he [sent a message] in the chat [at] about [the] hour [mark saying], “I’m waiting.” I [was] like, “Oh, shit. I need to write these fucking lyrics. I need to record this song. I need to record these vocals. We need to do this.” 

I [wrote those] lyrics as fast as I possibly [could]. I [didn’t] think about the meaning. It was all a stream of consciousness. We recorded the vocals. We recorded two-and-a-half takes. We comped it in fifteen minutes, maybe even ten minutes. It was late on a Friday night, he wanted to get home, and I knew I was keeping him. [We were] like, “Make a decision. Make a decision. Make a decision. Ah, this one. This one.” I told myself I wasn’t going to get attached to it, because it wouldn’t be the final vocals. It ended up being the final [vocals]. That is exactly what happened. [I] produced the record more with an engineer named Steve Hammonds, and the rest is history. I played it for my producer, he was absolutely blown away by it, and the [song] is the way that you hear it today.

It’s always nice when the creation process is so effortless from start to finish. It’s like a eureka moment, but you’re not aware it’s one of those moments until you’re at the end of it.

Right. You’re completely unaware. A eureka moment is a perfect way to describe it. There [was] some stress in there, too. It was effortless, but it was also stressful because we needed to get it done. It’s something that you can’t try to replicate, and that’s why those processes are so fun. You find yourself in a different situation and let the universe lead you to certain destinations that you otherwise wouldn’t end up at.

How do you feel like “dopamine” sets itself apart from your previous albums and songs?

It’s drastically different, and we’re not resting on any of our laurels here, which I absolutely love. It’s a unique expression of something that I have yet to really express in that way. It sounds different. I’m using different parts of my voice, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing something different for the sake of it. I don’t like when artists do that. It’s a progression. It’s an evolution. It’s showing that we are constantly venturing forward. We’re constantly blazing a trail, [and] we don’t know where [it’s] going. It’s wonderful, fulfilling, different, and exciting because there are no [expectations]. There isn’t anything like, “Oh, this last song did well, and we need to repeat that. See? Yeah, see?” No. It’s nothing, and it’s everything. At the end of the day, it’s just a song, but maybe it’ll be a song that touches a person’s life for the rest of their life. Who fucking knows? I’m very proud of this little song.

I have a sentence that I want you to fill in the blanks for. “dopamine” is a great song to listen to when you’re *blank* because *blank*.

“dopamine” is a great song to listen to when you’re numb because it doesn’t take life too seriously, but it addresses serious points in life.

It’s the contrast of talking about heavy issues in an unserious way.

You could play that song [to] a kindergarten classroom. I hope that they would enjoy it.


If you could have people who are listening to your music for the first time take something away, whether it’s motivation, a message, or some form of inspiration, what would it be?

I thought [this] question was going to go one way, and then [it went another way]. The words that change it are “first time.” How do I want people to feel the first time? I want them to have to listen to it again. Whether they like it, hate it, love it, or despise it, I want them to listen to it again. At the end of the day, I want my music to be a part of people’s lives. [I want it to] give them memories they will cherish. Those are the best songs, the ones that make memories you don’t realize you’re making. You’re listening to it subconsciously. I hope that my music goes within people’s lives, hearts, and minds subconsciously. There’s plenty of music where I first listened to it and hated it, or movies that I watched the first time and didn’t get, but then you get punched in the face with it at the right moment, exactly when you’re meant to. I want people to listen, when they’re listening to my music for the first time. I want them to feel forced to listen to it again. It might not be right away. It might be a week later. It might be a month later. But I want them to listen to it again. The message I want to leave them with is whatever message they need to hear. [If] there’s something in their life that they need, or something they need to change, that’s the thing I want for them.

We all have music like that, where we hear it for the first time and we don’t know what to think until it forces us to listen again, and again, and again. Sometimes, it lives in our memories. Sometimes, a few months or a couple years later, it finally resonates with us. I think that’s really important for anyone who enjoys and listens to music.

I completely concur. We all have those experiences. We [all] have those songs. For people [who] enjoy music, it’s a priceless feeling to have. You’re not even aware [you’re having one of those experiences]. It’s similar to the process of writing songs. You don’t know what’s going to happen. [When] I was writing “dopamine,” I didn’t realize what was happening as it was happening. It’s such a beautiful thing. You look back on it and realize how all those little mistakes led to that thing. [It’s] the same way we enjoy music in our lives.

With the year coming to a close, is there anything you are looking forward to, either personally or professionally, in the remainder of the year or early next year?

There isn’t anything official that I can [talk about] at this very moment because I don’t want to make any false promises. There are things that I’m very excited about, but they’re not official yet. You’ll see what is happening [soon]. There’s something happening early next year that I’m very excited about. Again, nothing is official. I’ve been having some wonderful [experiences] writing songs that I’m incredibly excited to share. I don’t have [exact dates], but it will be early next year.

Exciting! You have “dopamine” coming out soon, so I’m sure whatever comes next is going to be really good too. 

I hope so. It’s the first time I’ve released music since March of this year, so I’m very excited to release this.

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