Today we’d like to introduce you to Mercedez (Meche) Perez.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Mercedez (Meche). So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m a biracial, Latin singer-songwriter and aerialist, born and raised in SF. Music has been a central part of my life from the beginning. Even though neither of my parents is a musician or artist, I was always surrounded by them. My music is a testament to my upbringing in the Latin district of San Francisco. Growing up in a vibrant, artistic, and politically active community immersed me in music and dance traditions from all over Latin America. As for my musical style, I draw inspiration from my Latin and American roots. I grew up listening to a lot of jazz as well as different Latin styles. I was involved in various artistic communities as a kid. I danced with a Brazilian dance and music youth program.
From ages 11 to 19, I was in an aerial dance company that exposed me to jazz and early R&B music. I also sang and danced in a neighborhood youth community theater which inspired me to audition for the public, arts-focused high school in San Francisco. The voice program was classically focused so I got my first voice coach a few months before my audition. High school was the beginning of my formal music training. There I learned to sing in a choir for the first time and to begin to learn music theory alongside other students who had had many years of more formal training. The high school choir was award-winning and we even sang at Carnegie Hall. In my sophomore year, I joined the jazz choir which deepened my love for jazz music. While most of my peers in the voice program were auditioning for classical university programs, I decided to focus on jazz.
My love for jazz music led me to Berklee College of Music in Boston. At Berklee, I began developing as a songwriter. I started a band and we performed some of my original music, jazz standards, salsa, and bossa. With my friends at Berklee, we created a house venue for singer-songwriters to perform their developing material. One of the most important things I got out of Berklee was my connections with other musicians and producers. It’s been over two years since I graduated from Berklee and I am living in my city again. Since I’ve been home, I have been reconnecting with my community. I have sung at benefit concerts to support the immigrant caravans and for other causes at the heart of my community. To pay the bills, I have been teaching voice lessons. But more importantly, I have been working to give back to my community by teaching music at a Spanish immersion Summer camp in my neighborhood as well as teaching kids at the aerial dance studio where I danced as a kid.
Before the pandemic, I was beginning to incorporate my songwriting and singing into some of the aerial dance performances. I had written musical intros to some of our pieces produced by the company. Since the pandemic, I haven’t been able to teach so I have been developing different ways of bringing musicians and artists together over the internet. The latest project I am collaborating with provides a structure for songwriters and producers to collaborate on original pieces and to have a space to discuss our process and challenges as artists. This has been instrumental in me returning to songwriting and to reconnecting with old friends who are musicians and producers. So now, I am working on some original pieces. I want to release a single to promote myself as a performing vocalist. I also have plans to integrate my aerial art with my songwriting and singing as a solo artist.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I was very ostracized growing up. I had glasses, was slow to learn new things, and was biracial. I was never “Latin” enough nor “white enough”. I also have pretty severe dyslexia and, for much of my childhood, I was reprimanded by teachers for not learning fast enough and I was bullied by my classmates. In second grade, I spent three Summers at a special, super-intensive program to learn how to read. When I was 11, I finally learned how to read, but was still reading far below grade level. All this made me a very easy target for ridicule and bullying. I did not fit into any one category. In some ways, this was very difficult but in others, it gave me the freedom to create my own expectations for myself. I did what made me happy and I never needed the approval of anyone to do what I wanted and to be what I wanted. High School was also very hard academically. I struggled and even failed a chemistry class once and had to retake it. I remember what a great feeling it was when I finally passed it.
The fact that my high school was an art high school made school bearable for me because I had music to look forward to every day. Once I got to Berklee, I thought that I was finally going to be in my element and do things that I loved and that I was good at. However, one of the most important aspects of Berklee is that it offers a lot of opportunities to network and to make connections with other musicians, engineers, and producers that can help you start your music career. I wasn’t completely able to take advantage of those opportunities because it took me so long to do my classwork that I often didn’t have time to network or get a band together. It wasn’t until my junior year that I was able to start a band. I was still struggling academically and barely getting passing grades, but I had developed some systems to be able to have some free time.
Every summer vacation during college, I would return home. I found myself sleeping a lot, was paralyzed, and overwhelmed by my disability and how much effort it took for me just to get by. Some summers, I had jobs and was distracted from my insecurities and felt like I had more direction. After graduation from college, I used my Berklee education to give voice lessons. I also rejoined my aerial company as a dancer and a teacher. But I still was not in a space where I could focus on producing music. I felt alone and without direction. Only now during the pandemic, with no work or other things to distract me, I realized that I have to create the space to start writing and focusing on my music again. I reached out to friends and the music community, and am excited about where my art is going.
Can you give our readers some background on your music?
My music is mainly influenced by jazz, different Latin music styles, and pop. Because dance is such a big part of who I am as a person and a singer, I am exploring ways to integrate my aerial dance with my music. As a member of a largely disenfranchised community, I often write about social-political issues. I also learned from an early age that art is political. Every year my community organizes huge cultural events like Day of the Dead and Carnaval. Many of the events take place in public areas; in the streets. It is a political act to come together in art and to celebrate who we are as a community. It’s also important to me as a songwriter to express my birachial, Latin, and queer experiences because there are so few queer BIPOC stories being shared or told. I’m currently working on new music if you want to hear my music stay tuned!
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment in my career so far has been co-organizing and performing for a pride, music, and arts online festival. We created the event to uplift queer, BIPOC voices and to create a community that supports one another and creates spaces for us to perform our music and art. This was especially important to me because, during the pandemic, it felt urgent to find commonalities of experience and struggle across differences and to create a place where we could support and uplift one another. I was also super excited by the positive responses I got to my performance.
- Phone: 4152406792
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- Instagram: @dulcedemeche
1) Sarathi 2)Me 3) Tommy Marcus 4) Adam Antenor-Cruz