Mallory Merk is on her way to the top. She’s modeled for Gucci, is a muse for both Kanye West and makeup legend Pat McGrath, and has just released today her very first EP, MM & HH, in collaboration with Texas trio, Herrick & Hooley. Plus, she’s not even 16 years old.
Her debut release is a dreamy mix of R&B, pop and soul, with Merk alternating between Amy Winehouse-inspired airy jazz vocals, and bratty rap hooks. Album opener “If You Wanna” is a classic summer jam where Merk’s breezy vocals shine, while “Gold” showcases the singer’s expansive range. On “Loose Kaboose,” Merk goes full ’90s R&B and on “Puppy Love,” she channels Lana Del Rey. Her lyrics combine the sweet innocence of a 15-year-old with both the wisdom and sass of a woman well beyond her years.
With MM & HH, Mallory has proven she’s way more than just fashion’s favorite face—though it’s obvious, with her shaggy red hair and freckle-covered face, why she’s become a favorite for the likes of Yeezy and Alessandro Michele.
Listen to the BULLETT premiere of Mallory’s debut EP with Herrick and Hooley, and check out our exclusive interview with the rising triple-threat, below.
How’d you get into music?
I’ve been playing music since I was born. Like, I came out playing music, singing, drumming, playing guitar. I just sat in my room and recorded on my phone, putting together beats myself, and I would just ask for beats from people I liked. I was able to put out music through SoundCloud by just having an iPhone.
How would you describe your sound?
I would describe my sound as like, trap-jazz music. I’m from Louisiana, so I’ve got a lot of jazz influence in my family—I just grew up listening to jazz and listening to rap music, too. I grew up listening to Big L, and Biggie and Tupac, so I guess it all just blended together. I think I’m just a blend of a lot of different sounds, but with R&B influence and rap influence over jazz beats.
Tell me about MM & HH.
It’s six tracks and each track is a little bit different from the next, but all of it has the central sound of trap-jazz music, or ‘trazz.’ Everything I wrote about was coming straight from me, straight from a feeling I felt when I was writing that song. I never sit down and write just to write—I’m not one of those artists who sits down like, ‘This is my time to write.’ I’ll be on the subway, hanging out with my friends, and something will come to me—that’s basically my whole album. It’s very personal and happy and sad, all at the same time—it’s just got a lot of emotion.
From where do you draw inspiration?
Just living my crazy, crazy life as a 15-year-old girl living in New York City, growing up in the places I’ve grown up. I draw my inspiration straight from things that happen right in front of me.
Give me a rundown of the EP.
The first track, “If You Wanna” is about finding someone you vibe with. The second track is “Gold,” and it’s about material things, and how they don’t define a person. If you would’ve told me three years ago, ‘Mallory, you’re going to be wearing Gucci to your next concert,’ I would’ve been like, ‘Shut up! That’s never going to happen!’ So the song is just about whether I deserve everything that’s been given to me, and kind of reassuring myself that I’ve worked really hard to get where I am. The third track is called ‘Loose Kaboose,’ and I wrote that when people were kind of like, ‘Mallory you’ve got to slow down, you’re going too fast, you’re going to crash.’ I’m still a crazy kid, but I’m being thrown into this big world, so it’s about growing up a little bit. I wrote “Puppy Love” when I had my first boyfriend ever, and “North American Ride” is about appreciating everything that’s happening in front of you—just kind of living for a minute, stopping to smell the roses. The last song is a tribute to [Vine star] Emma Greer. I wrote it right after she passed away, and it’s just about her, and about death in general—how it can affect people. I was just feeling so much, and for me, writing is my outlet.
Do you consider yourself a model first, or a musician?
I consider myself Mallory first. That’s really what I’m trying to do—just like, merge my artist-self with my model-self, and kind of make myself Mallory Merk. Instead of ‘Oh I know Mallory Merk from doing Vogue,’ or ‘I know Mallory Merk’s music,’ I want it to be like, ‘I know Mallory for Mallory, and the things that she does [don’t] define her. She defines herself.’
So how would you define yourself?
I want people to think of me as a girl who does what she wants, and know what she wants, when she wants it, and just goes for it, no matter what people tell her. I’m not your typical model—I’m like 5’7”, I’ve got a regular 15-year-old girl’s body. I’m not trying to be 5’10 and a little stick like a lot of people told me I had to be when I started. Individuality is really important to me. Whenever I’m on set, I try to bring something of my own to it, and I try to inspire others. When I’m on a job, yeah it’s about the job, but it’s also about branding myself. I want people to see like, ‘This girl’s not a mannequin—people don’t just dress her up and take pictures of her.’ They’re taking pictures of Mallory, not just some ginger model-girl.
A lot of people refer to models as blank canvases—they’re just supposed to wear the clothes.
I could pick like five girls who look very similar to each other and they walk all these shows in fashion week, and they’re very confident with who they are. That’s great, because they’re trying to be models—they’re trying to push themselves to fit whatever kind of image they’re trying to be in that moment. But with me, I’m always me. Whether I’m shooting something badass or something really sweet—it’s still me.
What’s your favorite part about being in front of the camera?
I just like seeing people’s reactions when we take photos. Not that I seek validation, but it’s just cool to be on common ground with the people that are on set with you, and just love the art you’re all creating. […] It’s just cool for everybody to be like, ‘Wow, we’re really creating something really beautiful right now,’ and it’s just really a moment of unison for the whole team.
Who are you inspired by?
Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain. Then you’ve got jazz [artists] like Nina Simone, and currently, I’ve been bumping Erykah Badu non-stop. […] For modeling, Kate Moss, duh, and Sky Ferreira. For me, it’s inspiring when I can see somebody really doing them. It kinda shines through when somebody is really just themselves.
How would you describe your style?
For me, fashion is what you make it. I don’t have to put on some name-wear brand for my outfit to be cool. I really like mixing street style with high fashion. I love wearing sloppy hoodies with mad gold chains and ratty sneakers, and then I’ll wear leather pants or something more high fashion to mix with the kind of ratty kid I am. I take influence mostly from the male-side of fashion. I grew up playing in the dirt and playing sports and just being a kid—I didn’t put on a skirt until I was probably 13-years-old, 14-years-old, and I never would’ve thought of wearing a dress. My parents would try to put my hair in pigtails and all that, but it was never me. I’m kind of just a tomboy.
What’s school been like for you?
My first two years of high school—they were rough. I was kind of made fun of a lot and misunderstood. That sounds really cliche, but high school’s a hard time. I went into my freshman year and that’s when I started to get followers, and that’s when I started getting attention and doing real shoots. Like I did Kanye West, I did Yeezy, and after that, people kind of looked at me different in the halls. There were definitely a lot of people who would say one thing to my face, then turn around and say a different thing behind my back. But I can see right through it because I’m a very grounded and spiritual person. When I create relationships with somebody, I can tell pretty much right off the bat if they’re going to be there in the long run, and I can feel their energy right away. High school, for me, is tough, it was tough, it still is tough. You’re a kid and you’re put into these brick walls with these other kids who are all growing through puberty, and fighting—I think it’s kind of just a crock-pot of suckiness. But I’m getting through it, and I think having this second life helps to bring me out of that negative place. I’m always going to have a positive outlook at the end of the day.
Do you always write your own lyrics?
I could never really perform or record somebody else’s lyrics and have it resonate the same way my own lyrics do. I’m not saying that in a negative way, but for me, I hope I never get to a point where I’m too busy to write out what I’m feeling.
What do you enjoy most about performing?
Performing is one of my favorite things in the world—to hear people sing along to your music, or even to see people who don’t know your music, to watch them really listen to it—that’s so cool, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. Then to come off the stage and have people say, ‘I really like your music, I want to listen to it further, where can I find you?’ I’m not at the point where I have to walk off stage and go to my green room—I’m not that Hollywood. I’m always down to collaborate and just build people up with me. For me, performing and being in that environment is super, super amazing.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
I want people to listen to my music and relate to it. I want people to listen to my music and feel so compelled to show it to other people. I want people to drive in their cars with their friends and listen to it and create inside jokes around it. I want people to listen to my music, young people, especially, and think, ‘Damn I can really make my dreams come true and push for what I want at a young age, because age doesn’t matter.’ It definitely doesn’t matter to me.