Last year, Torrey Mercer unknowingly penned a fitting anthem for 2020.
“We wrote this in December of 2019, which is wild to think about, considering the times we are in now. It was meant to be a song about feeling like a ‘hot mess,’ little did we know. The song is meant to be a pick-me-up in some hard times, which I hope it can be for others during the times we find ourselves in,” said Mercer, who released the track in May.
Mercer beautifully exposes that frustrating, turbulent world throughout “This is Fine,” which fuses gleaming acoustic strums, bouncy synths, thumping bass and striking electronic drums in a poppy, cheeky ode to bad days. She nonchalantly sings, “My bank account just froze/Bedroom full of dirty clothes/Of course I stubbed my toe/What day is my cycle/There it goes.”
“It was inspired by a meme we are both familiar with on the Internet originally created by KC Green. The original artist gave us permission, and we recreated his art for the album art of the song, which was fun. The song has lots of quirky details in it, which started with both of us listing things that we were feeling at the time,” Mercer said.
“We wrote this song in its entirety in about two and a half hours, all in one sitting. And we spent a few weeks nailing down final vocals, production and mixing. It was actually a total fluke we wrote this song before the current moment we are facing in the world, and when everything started happening, I realized it might be the perfect moment for this song. I’m glad we got to release it.”
“This is Fine” isn’t the only shiny, effervescent new material Mercer has dropped this year. In February, she released Boys/Girls, a vibrant, inspirational six-track EP filled with bisexual anthems, misogynistic tales, patriarchal challenges, changing relationships, inner revelations and personal empowerment.
“This EP was meant to be a liberation for me as a woman and as a bisexual. In the music industry, there’s a lot of pressure to perform a version of yourself that is more likeable to others. This project was about taking the duct tape off my own mouth and embracing what makes me different and outspoken,” she said.
Mercer’s outspoken, personal journey begins with the glistening, uplifting ode to bisexuality, “Boys/Girls,” as sugary synths, swift finger snaps, vibrant piano, pulsating drums and spirited bass magically surround her soulful vocals. The poppy track opens with a man’s deep, hunky voice asking, “Hey babe, where’s your boyfriend at?” He’s quickly answered by a series of girly, flirty giggles.
Instead, Mercer beautifully combats that playful female stereotype as she proudly sings, “I like boys, girls and in between/I like all of the above/I need you to be good to me/For me to fall in love/There’s no sides/There’s no right and wrong/I know where I belong/So don’t tell me it won’t be long/Just let me sing my own song.”
“I had never been out about my sexuality in my music prior to the song, and so when I came out on social media in 2017, I knew it was something I wanted to work on. I co-wrote the song with Tova Litvin that fall and spent a while working with some producers to get the sound just right before releasing that first single in the summer of 2018,” said Mercer about the EP’s title track.
“Tova really helped me to create an upbeat, happy song about bisexuality and to make the concept of bisexuality really digestible and pop-song friendly. That song will always have a place in my heart because it took something I had been feeling so deeply for the last several years, and it was able to make it a lighthearted, happy thing. That was so healing, and seeing the response to the song has been surreal.”
“Boys/Girls” also features an energetic, dynamic video with colorful animation as Mercer explores fruitful relationships with both men and women. Mercer co-produced the video with director Sheena Midori Brevig and teamed up with amBi – Your Bi Social Community and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to recruit extras.
“Sheena was the perfect choice to direct it being openly bisexual herself. We included several real-life bisexual individuals in the video and featured them expressing themselves through silly dancing. It was special for all of us and was a cool way to validate a lot of amazing people,” she said.
On Boys/Girls, Mercer also seeks personal validation on “Like That,” a dreamy, synth pop revelation about falling for your best friend. Swirling, bright synths, pounding electronic drums (think Phil Collins), funky bass, rich electric guitars and soaring vocals catapult listeners inside Mercer’s angst-filled mind.
She passionately sings, “I don’t know if this love/I don’t know if this is lust/I just wanna go bust/I’m scared you’ll say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that?’/I don’t wanna ruin this thing we have/Pushing me away would make me feel so bad, but I’ve gotta say.”
“I’ve had a lot of encounters with different girls that inspired that song. It isn’t about one specific girl, but a few. Sometimes, when being a girl who likes girls, there’s an anxiety about having feelings for another girl, and fearing whether or not she you likes you back ‘like that,’ or if it’s just a close friendship. I’ve heard that sentiment a lot from many friends of mine as well and knew the song had to be written,” Mercer said.
Mercer’s other propulsive Boys/Girls tracks continue to invite listeners into a warm, reassuring embrace as soulful vocals, dazzling melodies, groovy rhythms and infectious pop hooks encourage authenticity and pride. For the EP, she worked with Attic Empire vocalist-guitarist Tyler Connaghan to record and produce it at Killingsworth Recording Company in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
“Tyler was an amazing influence on the project; I couldn’t have done it without him. He really created a great creative environment too that made it natural for ideas to flow and worked really hard to make these songs as amazing as they became,” she said.
“It’s my hope that fans and listeners can feel validated by these songs and empowered in their own way. So often, these subjects go unaddressed in the mainstream. And if I can do anything as an unsigned LGBTQ+ artist, it’s to shed light on that for others.”
Musical Journey and LGBTQ+ Activism
Mercer started shining a lot on others while growing up in San Diego. In fourth grade, she auditioned for a musical with a friend, and the director quickly discovered she was a “natural” vocalist and performer. Along with a supportive family, that initial encouragement inspired Mercer to pursue musical theater and front several multi-genre bands.
By age 17, she released her first single with a Los Angeles-based producer and writing team. At the time, Hayley Kiyoko inspired and validated Mercer in her sexuality and identity as a music artist.
“I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing today without Hayley. She’s influenced my songwriting so much. I started writing for the first time at age 13 and have written all kinds of songs, starting of course with the bad bubblegum pop teenage cringe. We all start somewhere,” said Mercer, who’s also inspired by Lady Gaga.
Today, Mercer serves as an outspoken, influential advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and volunteers with amBi – Your Bi Social Community and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and supports mental health issues, women’s empowerment and anti-bullying causes. She’s also logged past performances (when it’s not a pandemic) at several Pride festivals, including Orange County Pride, Palm Springs Pride, Desert Hot Springs Pride and a Bisexual Pride event in West Hollywood.
“It’s been surreal to see the community’s response to the music. I have gotten private messages from several fans who have told me they used a song to help them come out to their families, and that was probably the most surreal thing I’ve ever had someone tell me about my music,” Mercer said.
“It has been wonderful getting to support amBi and other LGBTQ+ organizations with this EP as well. I would like to think my music has been a source of positivity for some of their members, and we did raise money for the organizations. I would like to keep doing this any time I can.”