A beautiful bow atop a truly tumultuous year, Mervin Toussaint’s debut EP, Another Name For Everything, is now available on all streaming platforms! I had the pleasure of not only summarizing this amazing project for the public, but also conversing with the Philadelphia-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer via Zoom prior to its release to discuss major themes, inspirations, influences, his artistic journey thus far, and so much more. Here are some special highlights from our impromptu interview:
First of all, hello, and congratulations on your debut! This is huge! Shout out to you for having the drive to create and produce during such an indescribable, unprecedented time. I’d like to ask if current events set you back or affected the project in any way?
Hello, and thank you! It’s definitely been a long time coming. I would say I’ve been actively compiling since the beginning of quarantine, but this project is technically two years in the making, from when I first started to conceptualize.
Two years! I know that seems like such a long time to some but as an artist I can definitely relate to having that creative process really draw out at times. Even though you’re creating all the time, everything doesn’t always fit for a specific project that you’ve envisioned. Then once you finally have all your components, you spend time on editing and order, on top of lots of just living in between. Great art takes time.
I agree, for sure. With my EP in particular, I learned a lot about the act of creating a project. I was able to gain more understanding of myself—especially with the levels of determination, creativity, and work ethic that were needed. It became important to wake up every day and try to meet myself where I’m at, and sort of analyze how I present myself to the world.
So, let’s start from the outside and work our way in. This cover art is so unique! Can you explain the artwork—or the thought process behind choosing this particular style and imagery?
Yes, thank you! So, the portrait of me was done by my dear friend Mimi (painter, sculptor, and collage artist, Jameelah Platt). Then with the help of another friend I added the graphics and text to create that museum-exhibition look. With this project focusing on identity, the portrait kind of coming apart visually is like a representation of me and what I’m made of. Having this painting in the gallery, it’s a calling for new perspectives, like looking at life with a new set of eyes.
That’s wonderful! As artists, Black artists especially, I think there’s so much power in collaboration. Working with friends as well, crossing disciplines, it’s like everyone has that opportunity to contribute and add their own uniqueness to this melting pot and make it even greater. How important was collaboration for this project, sonically?
Sonically, I knew what I was going for and what elements were necessary. I knew I wanted a variety of instruments, and I knew that I wanted meaningful lyrics, really soulful voices and powerful spoken word as well; so I was very lucky to be able to have friends as well as local Philly artists jump on my project and not only emphasize the message I’m conveying, but give it so many layers, details, and nuances.
Amazing. Since you mentioned that detail and nuance, could you describe what parts of maybe different genres or styles are mixing and meshing; and how they’ve influenced your artistry over the years?
Growing up as a Haitian American, I spent a lot of time in church; so I grew up on the sound, that energy, and spirit of gospel music. I would say that influence comes to me most naturally. As I got older, I started exploring Neo-soul and Hip-Hop in high school; those elements are in here. And I’ve studied Jazz for so long as well so that structure sort of comes naturally too.
How about artists that have influenced or inspired you, and your sound? Is there anyone that you could see being perhaps in the same playlist, alongside the tracks of Another Name For Everything?
For sure! I’d say Marquis Hill, Terrace Martin, Braxton Cook… Hiatus Kaiyote!
Okay! I’m definitely a fan of Hiatus Kaiyote, and have heard a couple of things from Terrace Martin here and there. Thank you for giving me some new artists to explore though. As we’re wrapping up now, is there anything you would like to leave readers (and future listeners) with; anything else about Another Name For Everything?
The quote, “If you look closely enough and pay attention, you can see anything in everything and everything in anything.” I feel as though there is a presence and force that grounds everyone and everything, and there is a divine love that connects it all. The differences that we see are metaphors for the bigger picture, which is just life experiencing itself. We are taught these metaphors through the experiences we have. In these five songs, I explore how this larger idea fits into the context of my life.
Awesome, thank you for your time!
Another Name For Everything shows Toussaint’s impressive range. Authentically so, this project gives us what we can finally be honest in saying we need—salvation, companionship, joy, and faith. The melodic blends that he’s crafted are all so descriptive and detailed. Toussaint emphasizes the groove and rhythm to life as he explores them. The inclusion of soulful vocals (sentimental lyrics) and declarative spoken word exemplifies Toussaint’s talent as a composer with the brightest of futures. With Another Name For Everything as his leap into what’s to come, Toussaint’s professional personal mark is being made before our very eyes; gloriously human in its approach, and confident in what’s ahead. Journey with him via his website, by streaming his music, of course; and following him on Instagram.