Madeline Merlo is one of the first songwriters featured on NBC’s hit songwriting competition show Songland when it returns Monday, April 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT for its second season. The upcoming season will feature guest artists that include Boyz II Men, Florida Georgia Line, Luis Fonsi, H.E.R., Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Julia Michaels, Ben Platt, Bebe Rexha and Usher.
In the premiere episode, Merlo competes alongside American Idol alum Tim Halperin, The Voice alum Ryan Innes, and R&B songwriter Steven Battey to see whose song will catch the eye of country trio Lady Antebellum. Here’s what you need to know about Merlo going into the episode.
WARNING: Light spoilers ahead for the premiere episode of Songland season two. Don’t read the fifth header if you don’t want to be spoiled.
1. Merlo Grew Up in Maple Ridge, British Columbia
Merlo is a Canadian country music singer, born on February 9, 1994, and raised in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada. She revealed in a 2014 profile with the Maple Ridge Times that her father Dominic Merlo is a musician who “raised [her] on soul” and her mother Susan “raised [her] on country music,” so her “soulful country” is a combination of those two influences on her sound.
Madeline’s father Dominic is a songwriter/producer who played in a band called The Groove, a house band for the Roxy Night Club in Vancouver. You can see some of his performances on his YouTube channel.
Merlo’s mom is also her manager — or “momager,” as Merlo says in the profile — and she has a sister named Cheyenne with whom she is really close. Cheyenne is a yoga instructor in Vancouver. All three of her immediate family members were in the audience for her big concert, when she opened for Dean Brody at the Abbotsford Entertainment Centre on February 22, 2014 — and her mom filled a bus with 25 of her friends to attend the concert as well.
2. Merlo Has Won Several Awards in Canada
In 2015, Merlo won Female Vocalist of the Year from the British Columbia Country Music Association and the Rising Star Award from the Canadian Country Music Association. She won the BCCMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 2016 as well.
She has also been nominated for three other BCCMAs, two other CCMAs and a Western Canadian Music Award for Country Artist of the Year in 2017. She has charted five Top 15 singles and is now based out of Nashville and hoping to break into the United States country music scene. At the 2017 CMA Awards, E! Online named her one of the best-dressed celebs on the red carpet, writing, “A velvet jumpsuit on the red carpet? Yes, please! The Canadian country music singer-songwriter serves as outfit inspo for our next holiday party.”
In 2019, Merlo made her first big foray into the U.S. Country Music Association limelight when she booked a spot at that summer’s CMA Fest, playing on the Spotlight Stage that is designed to showcase up-and-coming artists.
3. She Performed for the Troops in Kuwait
In a 2017 interview with Belles and Gals, Merlo revealed that a high point of her career up to that point was definitely getting to travel to the Middle Eastern country of Kuwait to perform for the Canadian troops stationed there.
“Travelling to Kuwait to sing for our Country’s troops was an experience I will never forget. It was so special to sing for those brave men and woman and get the chance to shake their hand and thank them in person. I will always remember standing with my feet in the sand in the Middle East thinking ‘Music brought me here’,” said Merlo.
She also revealed that some of her biggest inspiratons are Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Dolly Parton, Carole King, John Mayer, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars, and that her favorite TV show is Game of Thrones, her favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz and her favorite actor is Leonardo DiCaprio.
4. Merlo Starred in a Film About Country Music
In 2017, Merlo starred with Jana Kramer and Sophie Tweed-Simmons in the film Country Crush about a young woman who is trying to make it as a country star. Merlo played the yong woman, Nancy Taylor, whose car breaks down on the way to a party. She meets small-town mechanic Charlie (Munro Chambers) and a romance begins, but Nancy must then choose between following her budding music career and following her heart.
Merlo won Best Actress in a Feature Film for the movie at the Lake Charles Film Festival. It’s on Amazon Video if you are interested in watching it.
In an interview with Showtimes when the movie was filming, Merlo said of her first on-screen acting experience, “It has been amazing. I thas been long. Long hours, long days. I expected physically to be tired because you’re standing and moving and dancing and singing so much, but it’s mentally exhausting as well because you want it to be authentic, so you’re putting yourself in her shoes all the time. When there’s an emotional scene, you bring it home with you … I’m bummed out and hurting for a character that doesn’t even exist.”
5. How Does Merlo Do in Her Songland Episode?
Merlo auditioned with the song “I’ll Drink to That,” which she then reworked with the help of Grammy-winning country songwriter and producer Shane McAnally. They turned her song into a “fun summer anthem” and renamed it “Champagne Night.”
During Merlo’s final performance, Lady Antebellum said of the song, “That’s so fun. That’s a hit. When it gets hit city [is the line] ‘Doubles or bubbles, get in all kinds of trouble,’ whoa!”
After Merlo left, Dave Haywood joked that “Doubles or Bubbles” is the sweatshirt they’re going to sell on tour.
When they selected her song, Merlo said, “They just have an incredible reputation for releasing songs that are cool … it is really validating.”
“I can’t even tell you the kind of dream it was for me to get a Lady Antebellum cut, so today, to be a part of that with Madeline, it’s huge,” said McAnally.
Songland airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC, following new episodes of The Voice.