Even before he’d released an album in the States, Australian singer Daniel Merriweather was selling out venues like Los Angeles’s Troubadour and having big-name acts like Samantha Ronson open for him. “I’m always kind of shocked when people know my music,” he muses. “But I guess that’s the beauty of the Internet.”
Now that his stellar debut, Love & War, has been released, there will surely be even more dedicated fans. With strains of jazzy, blues-infused pop, the songs are all autobiographical, according to the pompadoured Merriweather, especially “Cigarettes,” about a lost love being replaced by alcohol, bar fights, and, well, cigarettes. The 28-year-old has certainly come a long way from being Mark Ronson’s protégé (that’s Merriweather’s voice on Mark’s 2003 semi-hit “Stop Me”) and the opening act for Kanye West and Justin Timberlake.
Love is a common theme in Merriweather’s music—and his life. His one tattoo, on his right arm, is a sprawling Latin phrase that means “for love or money,” which he got in a local shop in Melbourne when he was 18. The reason behind it? “I was young and trying to be self-important,” he laughs. As for it being in Latin, that was also a teen’s whimsy. “I wanted to put it in a different language most people can’t read.”But no one will have a problem seeing the next tattoo he has planned: a 100-word excerpt from a poem found in Robert Hughes’s The Fatal Shore that will cover his back (yes, he can recite the entire passage, which begins “For night and day, we toil and toil …”). It’s an idea Merriweather has been kicking around for months, and one that’s close to his heart. The passage was written by an unknown convict who was exiled from London to Australia. “That’s the history of Australia; we’re a convict country,” Merriweather says. “That’s my heritage. So when I read this book, the verse just stood out to me. It’s kind of a painful thing to hear. So I thought there was no better way to remind myself of that heritage than to painfully inscribe it on my back. I really want it to hurt a lot.”