Syesha Mercado: Still Tall

Friday, 03 May 2013 21:12 Written by  Iya Bakare

With the appearance of a delicate flower whose career continues to bloom with every song she sings and every role she portrays, Syesha Mercado remains deeply grounded in her faith and her reasons for creating music. The American Idol finalist currently permeates her fragranced talents in Chicago as she co-stars in the city’s production of the Tony-Award winning musical The Book of Mormon. Recently, Syesha produced her first singing showcase at Chicago’s City Winery. Accompanied by local artists, the songstress performed original pieces and covers from other artists at what she says was her biggest accomplishment.

“I did the showcase to see what people like and now I have a better sense of what people like and it’s great because it’s stuff I like,” the artist comments. “I like feel-good music like “Love on Top” and “Different,” a song that I wrote. Then, there are also the vulnerable songs, which were very hard for me in the beginning as an independent artist. I was scared to talk about something so vulnerable, being knocked down and wanting to keep going.”

It seems like only yesterday the Florida native says she was singing along to her older sisters’ CDs and music she recorded on cassette tapes from the radio. It was on the television show The One: Making a Music Star where the world was introduced to Syesha’s voice. Her success on Florida Super Singer, a local competition, prepared the singer for her one of the biggest roles of her career. She wowed the judges and gained fans all over the nation with a determined passion to show the world what she was made of, which earned her a finalist spot on American Idol.

Upon her experience with American Idol, Syesha used her dynamic vocal skills on stage in a new role – Deena Jones in the international and national tour of Dreamgirls. Her role earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress by the Black Theatre Alliance. In 2011, the artist co-starred in Dreams, where she landed her first role in a film. She also starred in the off-Broadway remake of the production Once on This Island in New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse.

With all of her success, the songwriter says she hasn’t lost sight of whom and what keep her grounded in this industry.

“Growing up, I saw my mother who was sweet and delicate, but she was very grounded and her roots come from the church,” Syesha says. “So, I went to church a lot and not saying everything is perfect about the church, but I feel like it was a good way for me to stay grounded and that always reminded me of who I was, where I come from and my background. We grew up not having so much, but God always provided, so I got a lot of my strength from her and the foundation she started when I was a child.”

Syesha’s grace and her gift to relate to her supporters are some of the qualities that many appeal to, as she admits the lessons she’s learned in her career thus far.

“I’ve learned to just be honest because that’s when you create your best work,” she confesses. “You can’t really worry about that when writing songs because the more honest you are, the more people can connect with you.”

Her candidness about those vulnerable times in her life, especially when she contemplated giving up on music, also connects her to those who can relate to her experiences and feelings.

“I wondered, ‘What am I doing?' I’m trying to get a record deal, but I don’t know who I am.” she recalls. “I know bits and pieces, but where’s the music? I have "Love on Top" and other covers, but no one knows who I am. 'Do I know who I am?’ So, I asked all of these basic questions and said, ‘Gosh, I really need to do some soul searching.’ I wondered ‘Why am I doing this for a generation who just wants to sing about cake, sex and grimy ratchet dirty stuff? That’s not me.’ That music is fun and I listen to it, but it’s not something I want my children or nieces or nephews to listen to. I had to sit back and think if I really wanted to be a part of this industry that’s so corrupt and focused on hits, getting paid and not making music from your heart that can affect people, change people and make them better. Just make good music and the hits will come.”

The singer says it was the death of the late Whitney Houston that inspired Syesha to continue with her journey in the music industry.

“I thought this was not even about me anymore, this was about finishing her legacy,” Syesha says. “I want to show people there are still singers and a singer out there who want to make real music and who want to affect people in a good way. That was a big moment for me.”

Worried that people may judge the artist if she revealed things she experienced, Syesha says at one point in time she chose to hide parts of her past and the journey she traveled. She admits she chooses to keep her personal life private from the public eye and ear. Frustrated and tired of how some people were treating her, Syesha wrote “I’m Still Tall”. Her song reveals some of the lessons she learned professionally. The song is a universal tune for those who experienced heartbreak in relationships or other damaged partnerships. It’s through those lessons that Syesha says she realized her own resourcefulness and gained her growing shrewd judge of character.

Time management is another aspect the artist says she continues to work on as she finds time to create in the midst of her work in musical theatre, film and her other performances.

“Sometimes it’s hard to just say ‘no’ to certain things because you have to allow yourself time to live so you can have experiences and write about them,” the songwriter admits. “Going from one project to the next is great and I’m grateful for them because it means I’m working and I can pay my bills. But, at the same time, I’m going, going, going, going, going and there’s barely time to create.”

It was during the gap between the end of Once on This Island and The Book of Mormon, as Syesha traveled, that she was able to write and fill pages with her creativity. Flying on the airplane, listening to music after a warm bath or looking out of her window are times when the writing currents flow the hardest, she says.

The multi-dimensional artist says she aspires to do more work in film, but has a strong focus on her EP. Learning to play new instruments and more work with music theory play a role in the growth process in her career.

“I’m just working and I feel like God is piecing everything together perfectly,” she says. “I have so much balance now and it’s easier than it was three years ago when I thought I needed someone to do everything for me, and I didn’t. I can do anything I want to do and I’m still tall, praise God.”

Syesha is the epitome of an artist. When she’s not singing, dancing or acting, one can rest assured she’s creating. She’s writing. She’s drawing. She’s learning. She’s growing. She’s focusing on her next artistic endeavor. She’s evolving into a better Syesha every day.

Follow Syesha on Twitter and Instagram at @Syesha

Visit her Facebook page at


Photography by Kirsten Miccoli

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare, GMO's managing editor, earned both her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in print journalism. She earned her B.A. from Delta State University with a minor in English and graduated with a M.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago. In her spare time, the Chicago native continues to freelance and ponder ways to both inform and improve her community one story at a time.

She can be contacted at
Follow her on Twitter: @ibakare


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