Interview: Mercy Bell

Mercy Bell is a musician I first ran into at a bar in New York called the Sidewalk Cafe, on the recommendation of another musician and friend, Maryanna Sokol. Her voice demands attention, her songs are full of soul and heartfelt emotion and she makes a mean guacamole. I asked her a few questions about All Good Cowboys, her new album recently released on Bandcamp.

Would you like to introduce yourself for those who are unfamiliar with you?

I’m a folk singer from Brooklyn, NY. Moved to New York with almost no money, a guitar, a duffle bag, and not knowing anyone with the purpose of making music. I pretty quickly made a lot of friends and a lot of music.

And how long have you been writing music for?

 Started 4 years ago, when a friend of mine asked me to be in a band with him. Spent my whole life singing in choirs, classes, musicals.

You come from a musical family, how does singing with them differ from singing with, say, your friends?

My family is spontaneously musical. Singing is as natural as breathing. We just sing all day all the time, cooking, in the shower, on the computer. I am always confused by people who are afraid to sing. Just sing! That’s the big difference, outside of my household, people consider singing to be this big event. It’s not, it’s just expressing your aliveness.

You mainly perform in New York City – what made you choose New York, and how has the city treated you?

I moved to New York because I knew I’d have fun there and it’s New York City. The city made me who I am. It’s rough, you have to be lonely with your thoughts and strangers and sing in bars where no one is paying attention. But once you do that nothing phases you. And then those strangers become your best friends. It brings out the brave in you.

Where do you find your inspiration for music?

Daily life, stories, small things, photos, vistas. I wrote Wild Fire from a story I heard a boy tell me at a bar one night, about his best friend who’s brother killed himself and then ran off and got married. As far as musicians go, the storytellers really teach me, Patty Griffin, Pete Seeger, Sufjan Stevens, etc.

And your new album All Good Cowboys is also your first official release – how did that name come to be and what should we expect?

You know, I took some sleep medicine one night and woke up one morning and apparently had scrawled All Good Cowboys on the wall behind my bed. It never left. The album is pretty folksy and very simple. But sometimes you want a bagel and butter for breakfast, right?

What made you choose Bandcamp as the first place to release the new music?

I love do-it-yourself platforms and enjoy having control over my product. I was daunted by the process of getting music up on iTunes and Amazon, although my music is up there already.

Who are you currently listening to?

Sufjan Stevens, The New Pornographers, Patty Griffin, Otis Redding, and lots of mainstream country and pop radio.

Outside of music what do you do for fun?

Ahhhhhh I am incredibly lazy. I hang out with friends, drink coffee, listen to This American Life, read nonfiction, and go on walks.

What can we expect from you in the near and not so distant future?

I’d like to say something incredibly daring and wild, but probably just more therapy in the shape of folk music.

Anything more you’d like to say?

Be brave.

You can preview all the songs from All Good Cowboys at

Photo by Michelle Farkouh


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