Madeline Merlo Reflects On Heartbreak In Powerful New Song, ‘Same Car’

“Same Car” tells a vulnerable story about getting your heart broken in the same place you fell in love.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

March 25, 2023


8:40 am

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Madeline Merlo; Photo by The Dwyers

Madeline Merlo is embracing her inner teenager as she thinks back to all the painful periods of heartbreak that she experienced in the “Same Car.”

Her new song was written alongside Jason Saenz, Josh Osborne, Sara Haze and Zach Crowell, who also served as the producer. Together, they pulled together the memories of their younger years that took place in that trusty vehicle that got them from point A to point B. 

Merlo’s courageous vocals go hand-in-hand with the story that so many others can relate to.

“I was so excited. I remember like the day I wrote it knowing, you know, we had something special and being really excited about it,” she told Country Now.

This song also marks the Songland winner’s first release since her unapologetic EP, Slide. The project dropped on Friday, Sept. 23 with four-tracks that were each entirely co-written by Merlo as a follow-up to her 2016 album, Free Soul.

During Merlo’s recent conversation with Country Now, the “YOUNG-ish” singer opened up about her brand-new song, and reflected on her time as a contestant on the singing competition show, Songland, and revealed that there are plenty more songs on the horizon.

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Your Slide EP has been out for a few months now, so what has the response been like?

It’s been really great. It feels awesome to kind of have the first thing out on the label and really establish the brand and the good energy and kind of good story that I was trying to tell with that. You know, “Slide” is at Canadian radio and crushing up there and I’ve just really enjoyed playing it live these past few months as well. So yeah, really stoked about it.

What did the writing process look like for your latest release, “Same Car”?

“Same Car” was actually supposed to be on the EP originally and I just felt really strongly that I wanted it to kind of come up by itself and have its own, you know, picture and visualizers. I just felt like it was such a story that I really wanted to paint. We and my co-writers were writing a completely other song and suddenly, somebody, I think it was Jason Saenz who, for a line for the song, he was like, “you broke my heart in the same car.” We fell in love in, and we all just kind of were like, “wait, that’s so cool, and that’s a song.” We talked about being young, you know, you have nowhere to go, so you just drive around in the car and you’ll make all those memories. And then all three of us had been like, had a breakup scenario in a car and that feeling of the quiet and like the hum of the engine and all that stuff. So, we literally wrote the first version of “Same Car” in like 30 minutes after that. There was just so much to say on that concept, and I took it to my producer, Zach Crowell, and he loved it, loved the idea, and had some really great ideas. So him and Josh Osborne jumped on the song and kind of tweaked some things and added a bunch of cool stuff. The production is just extremely cinematic and really, really cool. So I’m very excited to have it up.

Madeline Merlo - Same Car
Madeline Merlo – Same Car

What do you envision people will take away from listening to “Same Car”?

I mean, I think it’s definitely the relatability, it’s the emotion. I feel like we tried really hard to put emotion in the vocal and obviously in the lyric and in the production for it to feel tense and feel caught off guard and to feel, you know, distraught that this place that you felt in love and had this amazing summer together is now the setting and the scene of this devastating breakup. So there’s all those kind of emotions tied to it and you know, I hope that people kind of hear their own story in it, and that it just makes ’em feel something.

Have you had the chance to bring the song to the stage and perform it live yet?

Yeah, I’ve played it just acoustically. I haven’t done it full band before, but even just acoustically, it definitely just translates and it’s the song that people are like, “oh gosh, that song, it’s so cool.” So, excited to have it out in the world and then, you know, play it with a full band. I think that would be super sick.

Since your time on the singing competition show, Songland, in 2020, have you kept up with any of the other contestants?

Yeah, I mean a lot of them were in Nashville as well too, came from Nashville. And you have a lot of them on Instagram and constantly rooting for everybody. I feel like we’re such like a little class of Songland and you know, have that kind of shared experience. Even at CRS, I ran into someone who’s on the show and they were like, “I’m on songland too.” So there’s definitely the camaraderie between contestants and, you know, we’re all just songwriters. It was such a supportive group of people. It was really, really sweet.

How did your experience on the show impact who you are as an artist now?

You know, there’s always the evolution, I think as a songwriter, the more you do it, the better that you are, the more that you learn with each kind of year that passes. And Songland certainly put it into hyper speed. It kicked down a lot of doors for me, I feel like I was put into rooms that I had only dreamed of being in and had the opportunity to just write with really, really successful songwriters. And when you’re the little fish in the big pond, there’s a lot to learn, you know? And I feel like any opportunity I get to be around people who’ve had multiple songs and are a part of these like really great albums and projects, there’s so much to learn from them, and try to soak it all up. So, I think you’re constantly learning and evolving, but I think I’m just a better songwriter. I feel like my bar is higher, I feel like my ear is better for melodies, and I’m just constantly trying to push for the best lyric and the best thing, and just really trying to create music that can really make an impact.

Looking back on how far you’ve come in learning all these things, do you have any advice that you would give to artists who are in the position that you were a couple years ago?

It’s such a hard business sometimes, and it’s about showing up, it’s about, you know, trying to keep a good attitude about it, even when it can get discouraging sometimes, and just keep writing, keep exploring, keep pushing, keep fighting for your voice to be heard and trust your gut. I’ve always said that I’m really big on, you know, putting out the music and fighting hard for the music that you feel in your heart that it’s the right move for you. So I would just always encourage…and then to not give up, you know? I feel like right before Songland, something kind of discouraging happened to me and I remember being like, olh my gosh, like, just feels like I’m being kicked around a little bit and then, you know, something like that just comes outta nowhere. It’s so unpredictable. So just to keep going, you never know what’s about to happen.

It’s hard and you’re trying to, you know, please everybody else and put the best thing out and everybody’s opinions, and you just gotta know, “I know my fans, I know what they wanna hear from me and I do me best, so I gotta do me.”

Any other big plans that you have in store for the year that you can share yet?

I will definitely be putting out more music. I think that, you know, once we kind of dropped the EP, it opened the door a little bit to continue to drop music. So I’ve got some more songs that are kind of like waiting in the wings to have a space that I’m really excited about. And, you know, hopefully get on the road more and meet some more people and meet some radio folks and do that whole thing as well. Hopefully it will be a really great year for me.

Fans can keep up with Madeline Merlo on Instagram.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.