In 2014, Kristen Merlin captured America’s hearts with her explosive voice and high-octane performances on Season 6 of NBC’s Emmy-winning “The Voice,” working under the guidance of Shakira to place fourth in the competition. Tracks created from her takes on hits by Sugarland (“Stay”), Passenger (“Let Her Go”) and Lee Brice (“I Drive Your Truck”) becameTop 40 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, and her 2015 debut EP Boomerang soared to #2 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart.
Now, the Massachusetts bred, Nashville based and career-immersed singer-songwriter returns with a fresh, vibrant new vibe and a single that’s about to make a major impact – but she has one request before you tune in: “Don’t Call It a Comeback.” Produced by Alex Kline (Tara Thompson, Adam Brand, Ronnie Dunn) and penned by Kline, Kellys Collins and Hannah Blaylock, the soulful and infectious pop/rocker is pure energy from start to finish, weaving a sly story of an exciting but emotionally dangerous single night reunion with a lover she broke up with. She sings “Won’t regret it/We can still be over/Even if I’m coming over. . .It’s just the lonely, someone to hold me tight.”
“It’s a song about just living in the moment, not overthinking things,” says Kristen, who has perfectly embodied that spirit in her own life these past few years, collaborating with Nashville based songwriters and participating in writer’s rounds when she’s not hitting the road solo or with a band. Fans of all ages have been enthusiastically following her journey, but she’s found an especially inspiring niche performing on the college circuit, where her natural gifts for motivational speaking and life coaching come into play during and after her performances.
“Whether I am writing my own songs or choosing outside material to record, my goal is to connect with an audience and move as many people as possible,” she says. “They will only feel that connection with me if I feel it with the song. The second I heard ‘Don’t Call It a Comeback,’ I knew it was the perfect way to introduce my new, more country-rock oriented sound. Its energy immediately grabbed me and pulled me in, and like many people, I completely relate to its theme of going back to something you shouldn’t, but doing it anyway because it feels good.”
Following the release of “Don’t Call It a Comeback,” Kristen will be rolling out four other tracks, either as single releases or as an EP. Three of them showcase her exciting development as a songwriter. “Disengage,” written with Rob Pagnano and Lauren Weintraub, is a mid-tempo country rock tune with an unexpected, ear-popping pre-chorus, about breaking free from a toxic relationship; in some ways, it reflects Kristen’s own experiences. “Anyway,” a fiery pop rocker penned with Chris Parker, is thematically along the same lines of “Don’t Call It aComeback,” another throwing caution to the wind tune about a love that isn’t quite burned out. “Humans Being” is an uplifting, socially conscious anthem about the essential qualities all humans share despite our differences, and the importance of learning to accept one another for who we are.
Tracing her performance history back to her first solo spotlight in first grade, Kristen grew up singing in school choruses and taking drama classes. Immediately after receiving her B.A. inmusic and sound recording at the University of New Haven (Connecticut), she hit the open mic scene at home in Hanson, MA, performing her original songs. This led to an opportunity for a paid gig singing covers at J.P. Ryan’s Tavern in Abington, and she worked the local and regional circuit (doing originals and covers) for several years before following her ambitions to Nashville. It was during her first trip to Music City when she was flown out to L.A. for the second round of auditions for “The Voice.” She has been living full time in Nashville since her run on the show ended in 2014.
“More than any others I have ever recorded, the new songs truly represent who I am, where I am, and are a lot more relatable than my previous material,” Kristen says. “There are no true ballads here, and that’s because I wanted everything to feel good and be uplifting so people can get lost in the music and have a great time.”