Reaching the top 10 song charts in eight countries, Alice Merton’s “No Roots” made waves.
Within the lyrics, Merton’s feelings regarding her Third Culture Kid (TCK) lifestyle are prominent. This song about not having a home or sense of belonging is easy for any TCK to relate to.
Released in 2016, “No Roots” converts Merton’s realization that she doesn’t have one place to call home or return to into lyrics.
“In the beginning, the reason I wrote [‘No Roots’] was because I felt very lost,” Merton said in an interview with ABC Radio.
Writing the song helped Merton learn that she doesn’t need “roots,” or a physical home to return to. “That’s when the realization came that my home was never on the ground, it was with the people who I love, and that was then the uplifting part,” Merton said to ABC.
The realization came that my home was never on the ground, it was with the people who I love, and that was then the uplifting partAlice Merton
Merton was born in Germany to a German mother and Irish father. Because of her father’s job as a mining consultant, the family moved often. Being an international business kid took Merton from Germany to the United States, to Canada and eventually back to Germany. The return home inspired Merton to learn German, so she could communicate with her grandmother. After graduating from a German-language high school, she moved to England.
The Uplifting Lyrics
The feelings shared in “No Roots” may sound familiar for TCKs. The lyrics revolve around moving, packing up, and living a nomadic lifestyle.
“And a thousand times I’ve seen this road,” Merton wrote, reflecting her 12 moves over the course of 24 years.
Merton even sings about the pressing but all-so-common question “where are you from?” Her answer: “Ask me where I come from, I’ll say a different land.”
Some lines from the song tell all, like “I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground.” Other lines are more personal to Merton, like “I build a home and wait for someone to tear it down, then pack it up in boxes, head for the next town running.” Merton told Rolling Stone before each move, she got two boxes: One box of things to keep, one of the things to throw away.
The upbeat track in “No Roots” brings new life to otherwise melancholy lyrics. This is Merton’s intention. “It shows the two sides of having no roots,” Merton said in the Rolling Stone interview.
Merton wanted to listen to the song and recall her TCK past in a positive way. Rather than a sad song about the difficulties of being a TCK, “No Roots” is bold, unapologetic and proud.
‘No Roots’ Unites Through Song
“No Roots” also helped Merton realize she is not the only one experiencing life with no home on the ground. Because of the popularity of the song, she learned that many people understand where she was coming from in the song.
“I actually didn’t think there was that many people out there who knew what it’s like to not really have a home or have that home in one place. So it’s just a very pleasant surprise,” Merton told ABC.
Before “No Roots,” there was “Little Lighthouse,” the first song Merton ever wrote, at the age of 16. Prior to finding a way to embrace not having a place to call home, “Little Lighthouse” was about finding a home. She began writing when she moved back to Germany and found herself feeling homesick, according to Tidal Mag.
“That’s why I kept on searching for this lighthouse, I guess, which would take me back to Canada,” Merton told ABC.
Creating “No Roots” allowed Merton to cope with the feelings that she was missing something that other people have. Furthermore, Merton’s constant moving was preparing her for her future of touring and sharing her music around the world.