Music

Mereba Is a Musician Who Thrives on Discomfort

The singer has created her own signature sound.
Reading time 4 minutes

Photography by Ryan Shorosky 

Fashion by Julia Ehrlich 

“Oh my gosh, stop,” Mereba says when I tell her that “Fast Car” is the first thing suggested after you play her song “Black Truck” on Apple Music. “That’s amazing. Tracy Chapman is my favorite. She is one of my musical aunties in my head. I lived in Ethiopia for almost a year, and my cousin and I had three CDs and Tracy Chapman’s Greatest Hits was one of them, so we played that thing inside out. Every time I listen to her now, I just get super emotional, because I think about my whole experience. It all plays like a montage, my life in Ethiopia, and she was the soundtrack on it.”

Mereba, born Marian Mereba, is newish to L.A., a place she calls “uncomfortable in a good way.” She tells me that she thrives on discomfort. Growing up in Philadelphia, Mereba was transplanted to Greensboro, North Carolina, just before entering high school, a move that shook her, but ultimately led her to music.

 

 

“I grew to love Greensboro for the same reasons I hated it,” she says. “It’s really quiet, it’s really safe. But it was a shock (when I moved from Philadelphia). I was just super angsty and lonely, and it was hard for me to adjust and make friends, so I learned instruments. They were my friends.”

Which is why “Black Truck” means so much to her. Recorded during a trip to North Carolina, Mereba linked up with producer 9th Wonder, who has made records for everyone from Jay-Z to Destiny’s Child to Anderson .Paak to Kendrick Lamar. But, despite the satisfying recording process with North Carolina’s most famous producer, whom she’d looked up to since she was in high school, the trip was a melancholy one for Mereba.

"I was just super angsty and lonely, and it was hard for me to adjust and make friends, so I learned instruments. They were my friends.”

“At the time, I was going through a lot,” she says. “My father was very ill, and he was living in North Carolina, and I got to see him, and we all knew anything could happen. My last time getting to spend time with him, I was in the process of writing the song. And in the same way, it’s super triumphant to me. I guess I was in a place in my life where I was like, ‘Things are so hard that the only way it could go is up.’ And that’s essentially what happened, so I guess it was an affirmation. Once I spoke those words into existence, my life actually started coming together.”

The song’s automotive theme, she says, is a sort of tribute to her father.

“So I grew up, like with a lot of first generation kids, with the stories (their parents told) of, ‘You don’t know how hard I worked to be here.’ And my dad always wanted this specific Lexus. He wasn’t a materialistic person, but that metaphor for him was like, ‘I will have really been that person who came from Ethiopia, from nothing, and made it.’ So that’s where I got the idea of the car. But also the matte black truck is something to me that’s really militant, like, ‘You can’t fuck with me if I’m in this car,’ and that’s why that particular type spoke to me. It’s like an ode to my ancestors, and the people who came before me who were strong enough to muscle through.”

JACKET ALEXANDER WANG, NOSE RING MEREBA'S OWN

CREDITS

Hair: Vernon Francois

Makeup: Charlotte Prevel

Photo Assistant: Julian Berman

Stylist Assistant: Grace Lynch

Makeup Assistant: Keely Maroney

Production Coordinator: Tim Oliver

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