PREMIERE: Elle Mears’ Musical Journey Reaches New Heights with ‘Tequila Me’
At every turn, Elle Mears has lived a life surrounded by music. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter is the daughter of pianists – she describes her mother as a “brilliant” classical pianist, while her father’s exploration of the 80s synth movement led her to appreciate a broad range of styles.
Not to mention, she found a world-class musical mentor in her uncle, legendary bluegrass mandolin player Jimmy Gaudreau.
“I grew up in Seattle, and he played a bunch of bluegrass and music festivals. We’d see him every time he came into town,” Mears said of her uncle, who has performed alongside Emmy Lou Harris and many others. “I absolutely loved going to see him, and the experience of being backstage in the music world.”
Embracing the creativity around her, Mears decided to get in on the action from a young age. She began taking violin lessons at age 4, and continued to develop her craft by playing in school orchestras throughout middle and high school.
Then, Mears broke her back in a cheerleading accident during her freshman year of high school. The injury required her to wear a rigid back brace and go through extensive physical therapy, which prevented her from holding the position needed to play violin.
Determined to fill that void, she picked up a guitar and started teaching herself how to play.
“I absolutely loved it,” Mears recalls. “I wrote poems and songs my whole life – I wrote my first song when I was 7, and I’ve been writing ever since.”
The journey to Nashville
Mears continued to develop her skills as a guitarist and songwriter as her teen years progressed. Then, at age 16, her uncle delivered another dose of inspiration. A friend of his had a home studio in the small town of Browntown, Virginia – about 15 miles south of Charlottesville – where Mears would have the opportunity to record her first country and bluegrass EP.
“It was that moment,” Mears recalls. “I knew that this was what I wanted to do, what I was meant to do, and what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”
As she approached her high school graduation, Mears chose music over her other passion – medicine – and followed her heart all the way to Nashville, where she attended Belmont University.
“Even when I was in Seattle, before I knew about Belmont — or knew anything — I knew I was going to be in Nashville,” she said. “I had these little handwritten postcards all over my room, and I don’t know why. I didn’t have family here or know anybody here. I just knew I was going to be in Nashville.”
This August will mark nine years since her arrival at Belmont. In that time, Mears has found valuable lessons and a sense of resilience in her pursuit of a creative life – and in the inherent challenges that all independent musicians face along the way.
“Your heart has to be in it, and you have to be willing to stick through it — even when your rent is two months late, and your car is getting repossessed,” she noted. “We all go through these crazy times, when we don’t know if this makes sense, and that’s OK. In this career, sometimes it’s not going to make sense. You have to make that work and be OK with that for a little bit. Your situation can always change, but your mindset is the part that has to stay permanent.”
She continued, “As long as you stay true to what you want, and you’re happy, the rest will fall into place – even if it doesn’t feel like it, at that moment.”
A viral moment – with a ‘Girl’ twist!
Mears has been steadfast in building a catalog of material over the past few years. However, it was a re-imagined YouTube cover of Thomas Rhett’s “Marry Me” that helped her cement her status as one of Nashville’s fastest-rising stars.
The inspiration to re-write the song from a female perspective came from a co-worker’s suggestion, when Mears worked as a bartender at Bootlegger’s Inn on Broadway.
Then, one night, a heart-to-heart with a friend — one who was in a situation befitting of the song’s narrative — led Mears to pull out her guitar and give it a shot.
“I started working with the lyrics and twisting things around. She was in the room the whole time giving some feedback, talking about her experience and what she was going through,” she recalls. “That song – it had a funny feeling in the room, the moment we started writing it.”
The next day, Mears propped her phone on the windowsill in her apartment and recorded the video. Before long, her rendition of “Marry Me” caught fire.
“She texted me a month or two later and was like, ‘You got Whiskey Riff.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’” she remembers. “She sent me the Facebook post. Whiskey Riff had picked it up and shared it. I looked at the video, and it had 100,000 views.”
The ‘Girl’s Version’ of “Marry Me” has since surpassed 1.5 million views on YouTube, and presented Mears with a coveted – and unexpected – viral moment.
“You can’t make something go viral. For that to happen organically is almost a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You hope for it and pray for it, but you never know when it’s going to happen,” she said. “That was the tipping point of my career, when everything else started fitting in and making sense.”
Now two years removed from releasing “Marry Me,” Mears recalls the experience as one that taught her to continue creating – fearlessly, and without expectation.
“It’s never the thing you think is going to do it for you. It’s never the song that you’ve put hours of production into, and you spent all this money on,” she said. “Being fearless is essentially releasing any expectation that you have for what things are going to be like. When you stop expecting that something is going to work, and you just do it and see what happens, you release a lot of pressure on yourself, and it allows you the creative space to be successful.”
‘Tequila Me’: A new summertime staple
The attention from “Marry Me” – and everything thereafter – has led Mears to even larger opportunities. That includes her new single, “Tequila Me,” released on Friday, May 29.
“Tequila Me” was written by Mears alongside fellow Nashville artists Rae Solomon and Taylor Watson. A scorching summer anthem, the tune kicks off with a memorable, down-home acoustic guitar riff that leads us to an infectious melody. The soundscape expands from there to include bright, modern pop layers, giving “Tequila Me” a radio-ready shine that can be attributed to the masterful work of producer Mike Levitt and mix engineer Dylan “3-D” Dresdow (Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas).
Certainly, “Tequila Me” has the potential to be a watershed moment. Mears began working with Los Angeles-based manager David Waechter of Imagine Music, whose notable past clients include Gym Class Heroes. Through Imagine Music, “Tequila Me” is being distributed and tracked by InGrooves, the distribution arm of Universal Music Group.
“You start looking so far ahead when you’re goal-oriented, that you’re always thinking ten steps down the road. You forget to experience it,” Mears said. “If I had told myself that this was going to be coming out — and that we had these people on it — the first year I was at Belmont, I would’ve died. You forget to enjoy the moment that you’re in. It’s that unreal.”
“Tequila Me” is now available on streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer. Fans can visit this link to locate it on the streaming platform of their choice.
Just the beginning
Following the release of “Tequila Me,” Mears has plenty of content planned for the rest of 2020. She just finished a music video for her previous single, “In or Out,” which was released in February, and has more ‘Girl Twists’ on the way.
In addition, Mears recently teamed up with Nashville-based producer Evan Cline to collaborate on upcoming singles, which are expected to hit later in the year.
“Every 6-8 weeks, you’re going to count on a new single coming out, from now on,” Mears said. “You’re going to start seeing a lot of burned pavement from me.”
Get a taste of Elle Mears’ new single “Tequila Me” below!