October 13, 2010 Leave a comment
By Christa Lawler
Duluth News Tribune
Season 4, Episode 2 of the computer geek-meets-a bumbling James Bond television show “Chuck”:
Our T-shirt and jeans hero is looking for something that might be wrong in his relationship with the sexy girl-next-door slash super-spy Sarah. Meanwhile, Chuck’s sister is armed with an old photo album and flips through memory lane during a fit of insomnia.
The spare folk vocals of Jeremy Messersmith play in the background of this three-minute heartfelt plot wrap-up. His song “A Girl, a Boy and a Graveyard” is the mood-setter during this moment of the episode that aired on Sept. 27.
Imagine what that kind of prime-time, network television saturation could do for a Minneapolis musician’s popularity.
“This is the first time a mass audience has had a taste of one of my songs,” Messersmith said in a recent phone interview. “It’s fun getting re-Tweeted in different languages. That’s all the result of being on ‘Chuck.’ My website traffic quadrupled.”
Catch Jeremy Messersmith live when he plays a free all-ages show at 7 p.m. Saturday at Beaner’s Central in West Duluth.
The concert is part of “The Current Road Trip,” a series that brings Twin Cities music — the kind found on Minnesota Public Radio’s all-music station 89.3FM — to other areas of the state. DJ Barb Abney is traveling with Messersmith. There will be some music, some banter and some fan interaction.
WHO IS HE?
Jeremy Messersmith’s exact level of celebrity is hard to pinpoint. Around his adopted home court of Minneapolis, the thin and Buddy Holly-bespectacled musician is recognizable in public. He just knows a lot of people, he admitted. But when it comes time for cross-country tours like the one last summer: “Outside of Minnesota, nobody gives a shit,” he said. He can draw a bulky crowd in Chicago and New York, but “I’m opening for jazz trios in Washington, D.C. That’s just the way it is. I’ve put in a lot of time to be able to make music in the Upper Midwest.”
This doesn’t seem to be a big deal to him. When Messersmith was in college, he imagined he would be a guitar teacher. And, actually, he is a teacher. He has classes in composition at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. Now he just wants people to listen to his music and then pass it along to someone else.
Jeremy Messersmith is the kind of artist you contact through a publicist. But he responds to an interview request himself, and he includes his home phone number.
He is super-accessible to his fans. He hand-delivered a large order of Messersmith memorabilia to a fan — $80 worth of records and posters. There was no one home when he got there. He delicately put the stuff in the mailbox, he said. Later he received a horrible e-mail from the buyer, complaining about the way it was wadded up and the lack of delivery confirmation.
“I think I will not do that anymore,” Messersmith said.
His Twitter feed is a quirky day-to-day and fun-side-of-professional stream, which gives him the feel of a sort of Wil Wheaton of the music world, a comparison he doesn’t object to. Messersmith posts things like:
“I have the top selling iTunes song with the word ‘Graveyard’ in the title. Nothing like setting the bar low! #loweredexpectations.”
And this two-parter:
“I love St. Paul. Sitting outside and a dude came up and said, “Hey, I’m hungry. Can I have your sandwich?” #politeness”
Which was followed up with:
“So I gave him the rest of my lunch then went over and sang with an old dude playing beatles covers on his guitar. #bestlunchbreakever.”
His new album recently cracked into the iTunes Top 150 iTunes pop charts — the only nonlabel artist in the mix. Yet, if you go to his website, he is offering up “Reluctant Graveyard” for whatever you want to pay — a tactic employed by plenty of artists in recent years, including
Radiohead and Amanda Palmer’s ukulele covers of songs by Radiohead.
This thing on “Chuck” wasn’t his first go-round creating a soundtrack for pop culture. MTV has a large sound library, including Messersmith’s complete works. Over the course of nine episodes of the first season of the faux-reality show, “My life as Liz,” Messersmith said he heard almost all of his songs.
“Miracles” was playing during a pivotal moment on the duckling-to-swan moment on the show “Ugly Betty.”
“‘Miracles’ was played when Betty was getting her braces off,” Messersmith said. “Which was a monumental moment … like when Forest Gump got his leg braces off.”
And fans of America’s favorite self-described guidos and guidettes got a taste of the Messersmith when his song “Love You to Pieces” was played on Season One of “Jersey Shore.”
“When ‘Jersey Shore’ needs to be reflective, they’ll play a clip from one of my mellower songs,” he said.
TV aside, Messersmith has three albums: “The Alcatraz Kid,” “The Silver City” and “The Reluctant Graveyard.” Next up, Messersmith plans to confuse his fans.
“I’ll probably pursue some intellectual tangent,” he said. “It will only make sense to me. Everyone will be like, ‘I remember when he was good.’ ”
This story originally appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on Oct. 7, 2010 (without the word “shit” in it. I prefer it with the word “shit” in it).