The Silver City
01. The Silver City (0:37)
02. Welcome to Suburbia (3:02)
03. Dead End Job (3:57)
04. Franklin Avenue (3:24)
05. The Commuter (3:21)
06. Miracles (3:42)
07. Love You to Pieces (3:55)
08. Breaking Down (3:48)
09. Skyway (2:11)
10. Virginia (3:28)
11. Light Rail (3:21)
Recommended Tracks: 4, 6, 11
CMJ debut at #119 (09/16/08)
Currently charting at #89 (09/30/08)
Tuesday August 26
Perfect Porridge interview posted online here.
Monday September 1st
World Cafe Artist of the Day on WXPN
Tuesday September 2
Provention Concert @ The Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul
with Nellie McKay, Dan Wilson, The Honeydogs, The New Standards, Haley Bonar, Matt Wilson and John Munson
7pm - 11pm All Ages $20
Wednesday September 3
Franklin Avenue will be featured as 89.3 KCMP The Current's Song of the Day.
Franklin Avenue also featured on NPR's Second Stage
KTCZ Cities 97 Studio C Performance. Check out the video footage here.
Sunday September 14
KTCZ Cities 97 in-studio broadcast at 10pm
Tuesday September 16
Jeremy Messersmith¡¯s first full-length release, The Alcatraz Kid (Princess Records, 2006) was marked by a wide-eyed clarity and sweet, straightforward musicianship that resulted in critical acclaim and a growing live following. Songs like ¡°Novocain¡± and ¡°Beautiful Children¡± garnered local radio play and the attention of Minneapolis stalwart and Grammy Winner Dan Wilson (Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic) who offered to produce Jeremy¡¯s next disc.
The resulting collaboration is the forthcoming The Silver City. Part homage to the twinkling pop vistas of The Beach Boys and the sixties, part incisive take on the hopes that push us to the everyday commute, The Silver City pushes Messersmith¡¯s precise lyrics conceptually and expands the scope of his sound. Although The Silver City takes its title from the Minneapolis skyline, it inhabits a universal geography, one that this man from the country refuses to take at face value. With the celebratory track ¡°Light Rail¡± already in rotation and in demand on local radio, and Jeremy¡¯s cover of The Replacement¡¯s ¡°Skyway,¡± a concert favorite, expect The Silver City to both cement Messersmith¡¯s reputation as a musician and songwriter locally, and to launch him nationally as he tours this fall.-Carl Swanson
The World Cafe will be broadcasting Jeremy Messersmith's session on Wednesday, January 28, 2009.
National Public Radio¡¯s World Cafe with host David Dye can be heard on nearly 200 stations nationwide. Fans can find their local station by scrolling to the bottom & choosing their state under "Find a Program Broadcast Time" at the following link:
¡or worldwide they can listen online to the WXPN/Philadelphia stream Monday through Friday, 2pm to 4pm Eastern Standard Time by going to:
Jeremy Messersmith and Derek James to perform at The Underground
Spring 2010 is shaping up to be a great semester for music here at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The semester will kick off with a treat when Blue Devil Productions hosts Jeremy Messersmith and Derek James at The Underground on Thursday, Feb. 4. The show will kick off at 8 p.m., so don't miss it!
Jeremy Messersmith has been enjoying the past few years as one of the most critically acclaimed and well-received Twin City singer-songwriters. The City Pages called him the premiere under-30 singer-songwriter in the Twin Cities, and many have compared his work to the likes of Elliott Smith and Simon & Garfunkel. His beautifully crafted melodies and melancholy lyrics conjure up vivid sentiments reminiscent of 60s peace, love and understanding.
I was lucky enough to share a few words with Messersmith recently about his transformation from a computer science technician to an accomplished songwriter, as well as his experience working with Minnesota legend Dan Wilson.
"[Working with Wilson] was amazingâ€¦ I remember growing up and learning 'Closing Time' on guitar, and here I was playing with the guy who wrote it. It was pretty fucking cool."
Pretty fucking cool, indeed. The finished product, Jeremy's latest album titled "The Silver City," couldn't have come out any better. Slick harmonies, reverb-filled guitar riffs, catchy hooks and overall impeccable songwriting make it a must-own disc for any music fan.
The opening track on the album, which bears the same name as the album itself, is an eerie take on city ambiance - lulled voices and the din of the Minneapolis light-rail build up and give way to the euphoric first track, "Welcome to Suburbia," an ironic take on suburban life and how it masks reality. The album then begins to play through like a well-thought-out story, encompassing both elation and sorrow as Messersmith describes living life in the heartland.
The highlight track, "Franklin Avenue," screams Elliott Smith. The similarities between the two are hauntingly apparent in this his most accessible song on the record. The twangy guitars and Messersmith's masterful voice combine to prove that Jeremy Messersmith is not your average musician; this man has talent, folks.
In addition to talent, Messersmith also has valuable advice for aspiring young musicians.
"Work on writing the best songs you can, and then record them cheaply. Then just give it away. Just give your stuff away," he said. "I probably gave away like 1,000 CDs¦ Eventually people started talking about it, so I changed it up and made a different mix of songs that I recorded at home to give away at live shows. It's like the Oscar Wilde quote, 'The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.' Most of the people who make good music are being talked about."
Messersmith's passion shines through in his live shows as well, and he is no stranger to playing at UW-Stout. He recounted performing at The Underground in the past.
"I remember the last time I played there. I thought I was going to be really awesome at bowling because I had been playing Wii bowling," Messersmith said. "It turned out the skills didn't translate at all. I still really suck at bowling."
Regardless, Messersmith is equally as excited to perform for us as we are excited to have him.
"I'm looking forward to coming out and at least trying to bowl, anyway. [Laughs] We'll see how I do."
This event is sponsored by Blue Devil Productions and is free to all. Please call (715) 232-2432 or go to bdp.uwstout.edu for more information
THE ONION DECIDER
May 7, 2009
Jeremy Messersmith burst onto the Twin Cities scene two years ago with The Alcatraz Kid, a home-recorded batch of melodic melancholia that had critics falling over themselves to compare his folk-pop mini-symphonies with angel-voiced and emotionally troubled pop icons like Brian Wilson and Elliott Smith. Followup The Silver City (produced by Semisonic’s Dan Wilson) avoids the sophomore slump by updating his downhearted, sweetly sung tunes with bells and whistles both conventional (strings, brass) and quirky (omnichord, glockenspiel). Brooklyn based duo Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel play friendly folk-pop with a dash of twee. Their website features them posing with stuffed animals, who apparently also come along on tours. Expect unassuming songs accented with acoustic guitar, drums, toy xylophone, and the duo’s breezy vocal harmonies.
CAKE IN 15
January 24, 2010
Since the response to Prince’s Vikings fight song has been a resounding WTF? (Really, Prince? Really? This song sounds like it should come with a copy of The Watchtower. The only people excited by this song are people who watched Superbowl IV. If you had played this at halftime during Superbowl XLI, Rex Grossman’s performance would have been the second most pathetic thing on the field. Really?) Jeremy Messersmith decided that he, in five minutes and a pique of inspiration, could write a better Vikings fight song. He did and premiered it at the CD release party for Dessa’s Badly Broken Code Friday night, just in time to get our spirits up for this afternoon.
Jeremy Messersmith – "Let’s Go Vikings" from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.
Not to belabor the point, but really, Prince? Really? Think of all the double entendres you could have made with "red zone" and "down by contact" and "third and long". I never knew football could be so exciting, and you could be so dull. Did you forget that you can play guitar? Really? If we win this game can we promise never to play this song again? If we lose can we do the same? Whatever it is, let’s go Vikings.
February 4, 2010
Jeremy Messersmith Offers Us a B-Side "Wasting Time"
Earlier today Jeremy Messersmith posted a song to his myspace blog that he had recorded with local artist Dan Wilson of Semisonic. Within the post Messersmith mentions that he’s been working on an entire album with Wilson, and he notes that they "spent a lot of time exploring different sonic areas, sometimes ditching whole recordings and nearly finished songs and starting anew." One of the songs that made its way through this process is posted below, and the song is entitled "Wasting Time." After trying to find the tune a happy spot on the album, Messersmith decided it just "didn’t fit thematically," but on the bright side, at least we all get a snapshot into what might be expected on the upcoming record.
We couldn’t be happier over here!
CITY PAGESMonday, Apr. 27 2009
By Andrea Swensson
Jeremy Messersmith offers free sampler
In anticipation of his show on May 9 at the Cedar with KaiserCartel, local songsmith Jeremy Messersmith is offering a free six-song sampler for download. The first three songs of the sampler are tracks off of last year's much-loved album The Silver City, while the remaining three songs are live cuts from KaiserCartel.
Jeremy Messersmith and KaiserCartel will play the Cedar Cultural Center on Saturday, May 9. All ages. $8/$10 at the door. 7 p.m
Sat, May 9 at 7:00 pm
Jeremy Messersmith has that certain je ne sais quoi. His sad lyrics/happy melody coupling isn't brand-new, but it's done in a way that conjures images of a still-upright Elliott Smith performing songs intended for Brian Wilson or A.C. Newman¡ªnot a bad spot to be in, all told. Last year's sophomore effort, The Silver City, a charming love letter to Minneapolis that never got mushy or contrived, made it onto many local critics' best-of lists for good reason. Messersmith's lyrics are ultra-smart and literate like Colin Meloy's, without being off-putting the way the latter's so often are; the melodies are simple without ever being cheesy or too precious for their own good. In short, it's intelligent music that can be enjoyed without a dictionary close at hand. It's easy to enjoy on its own merits, and that's commendable. With folk duo KaiserCartel.
April 28, 2009
Jeremy Messersmith ¡°Miracles¡±
With the release of last year¡¯s video for ¡°Miracles¡± from The Silver City, Jeremy Messersmith became the first to record a full-length music video (that we know of) exclusively with an iPhone. And while that, in and of itself, is awesome, the song has since become my favorite from the album. The popping electronics of ¡°Miracles¡± stands out amongst The Silver City¡¯s 11 tracks, shaking off the warm, welcoming guitar sound that the singer has become known for.
In anticipation for Messesmith¡¯s upcoming show with KaiserCartel, ¡°Miracles¡± has been included as one of six tracks in a free sampler. The sampler also includes ¡°Light Rail¡± from The Silver City, ¡°7:02¡å from Messersmith¡¯s 2006 release The Alcatraz Kid and three live tracks from KaiserCartel.
In collaboration with 89.3 The Current Culture Bully is helping present the show which will be hosted by the Cedar Cultural Center on May 9¨Ctickets coming at $8 in advance or $10 at the door.
WHALE IN A CUBICLE
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The Silver City
by Jeremy Messersmith
I included a track from Jeremy Messersmith's album The Silver City on our Sing The States post for Virginia, but I've been enjoying the record so much I need to give it its own post altogether.
It's a loose concept album inspired by the real Silver City of Minneapolis, where Messersmith calls home. He explores the city through the stories of those who travel to and from it each day, making their daily commutes seem a little more mystical in his re-telling. While it's not a strict concept album, the songs are surprisingly cohesive and the record plays with an almost story-like arc as we follow his characters in and out of the city. There's also a strong vehicular theme, with songs called "The Commuter", "The Skyway", and "Light Rail", and lyrics like "The funny thing about planes, cars, trucks and bullet-trains is they'll take you places, yeah". He seems to be fascinated by what brings his characters to the city literally as well as figuratively.
Stylistically, Messersmith often wears his influences on his sleeve, and you could almost match each song with who inspired it. "Dead End Job" is The Shins a la Oh, Inverted World, "Franklin Avenue" is spot-on Elliott Smith, "The Commuter" is fellow mid-western balladier Sufjan Stevens, and "Light Rail" is late-era Beatles. Despite this, his songwriting is solid and the songs are well crafted and thoughtfully executed. While he still has some growing to do stylistically, he's already accomplished that most elusive thing in music, and that is to write honest and affecting songs. I'd be willing to bet this is one of the best albums you missed last year.
THE PASSION OF INDIE MUSIC
February 17, 2009
The Silver City
Minneapolis pop wizard Messersmith crafted "The Silver City" as an ode to his hometown, a place that at least emotionally, has been a psychic hometown to many music fans at least since the years of Twin Tone, Husker Du, Replacements, etc. The city has maintained a reservoir of talent ever since, and this often stunning pop gem offers further proof of its endurance as a muse and a creative center.
This love song to the city recasts it as a kind of mystical wonderland, certain actual landmarks like mythic spots that inspire and bring safety and joy. The Beatleqsue dense, smartly positive pop ennobles songs and places like"Franklin Avenue." Even seemingly tough topics for celebration like "Welcome To Suburbia" and "Dead End Job" are filled with wonder and evoke magical landscapes.
Messersmith clearly implies that rality is merely a jumping off point. "Virginia," "Love you To Pieces" and "Miracles" mean just what they say, but are delivered in a sublte, confident wonder that any impulse to wax ironic about such emotional honesty is drubbed. A reverent cover of Paul Westerberg's "Skyway" fits perfectly too, a chance to honor both another Minneapolis landmark, and pay respects to one of the other artists who saw the city and contributed to its magic.
With whimsical, lush production that is also understated, "The Silver City" sounds like a dream, but a dream of a land it is possible to visit. We've all been there already. There are places and people in everyone's life that become myths, sometimes idealized, sometimes not, but part of our inner life. Jeremy Messersmith's myths are in Minneapolis, and he sees them clearly, believing in them most of the time.
Minnesota love: Local musicians pick their favorite love songs
By KARA NESVIG
February 13, 2009
"Can't Take My Eyes Off You," Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. "This sounds like the kind of song a smitten band geek with braces would write about the prom queen -- which is probably why I like it. Whenever I hear this song, I think about every girl I had a crush on but was too scared to talk to. The verses are packed with anguish, but the chorus is over-the-top exuberant. This song might prove the greatest muse is a love that's unfulfilled."
"Let's Stay Together," Al Green. "When Al Green sings this there are no illusions. He knows he'll be hurt, but he's willing to love anyway. The lyrics are sparse, but Al wrings so much meaning from them with his vocal delivery it feels like some deep primordial language. Al Green could sing bathroom graffiti and turn it into a ballad of love and redemption."
"Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis," Tom Waits. "Somehow, Tom Waits wrote a love song about Christmas, Valentine's Day, Minneapolis, and a hooker. The first time I heard it I didn't think it was a love song, but eventually I realized it's about a desperate love. When everything else is taken away, we are all we've got."
Jeremy Messersmith will be touring in support of his latest release, "The Silver City."
NPR'S CAR TALK
Yup, that was Jeremy Messersmith's tune "Breaking Down" you heard on Car Talk this past weekend (episode #200907). You can find out more info on Car Talk here
The Silver City is Jeremy Messersmith`s second album and here he brings in Dan Wilson of Semisonic to help with the production chores. Part homage to the twinkling pop vistas of The Beach Boys and the sixties, part incisive take on the hopes that push us to the everyday commute, The Silver City pushes Messersmith`s precise lyrics conceptually and expands the scope of his sound. Although The Silver City takes its title from the Minneapolis skyline, it inhabits a universal geography, one that this man from the country refuses to take at face value. "literate, languid but warm acoustic ditties with traces of Elliott Smith." Star Tribune "Simon and Garfunkel, with a 21st century twist." Performing Songwriter "Messersmith excels at one thing that can`t be taught: Songwriting." Time Out Chicago.
"The Silver City(Minneapolis) has maintained a reservoir of talent ever since The Replacements, and this often stunning pop gem offers further proof of its endurance as a muse and a creative center. This love song to the city recasts it as a kind of mystical wonderland, certain actual landmarks like mythic spots that inspire and bring safety and joy. The Beatleqsue dense, smartly positive pop ennobles songs and places like"Franklin Avenue." Even seemingly tough topics for celebration like "Welcome To Suburbia" and "Dead End Job" are filled with wonder and evoke magical landscapes. With whimsical, lush production that is also understated, "The Silver City" sounds like a dream, but a dream of a land it is possible to visit. We`ve all been there already. There are places and people in everyone`s life that become myths, sometimes idealized, sometimes not, but part of our inner life. Jeremy Messersmith`s myths are in Minneapolis, and he sees them clearly, believing in them most of the time." IndiePassion.
January 8, 2009
Messersmith did well enough in local music writers¡¯ year-end lists to wind up at No. 2 right behind Atmosphere in our Twin Cities Critics Tally last week with his sophomore album, ¡°The Silver City.¡± The disc also came in at No. 31 on the Current¡¯s (89.3 FM) Top 89. Messersmith is hardly just an underground/indie phenom, though. A soft-voiced, poetic, semi-spiritual tunesmith who uses strings and bubbly melodies to great effect. Pop/punk trio Best Friends Forever and warbly crooner Caroline Smith open. -Chris Riemenschneider
Top local albums of 2008
By CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
2. Jeremy Messersmith, "The Silver City"
November 11, 2008
The Silver City
Minneapolis pop wizard Messersmith crafted "The Silver City" as an ode to his hometown, a place that at least emotionally, has been a psychic hometown to many music fans at least since the years of Twin Tone, Husker Du, Replacements, etc. The city has maintained a reservoir of talent ever since, and this often stunning pop gem offers further proof of its endurance as a muse and a creative center.
This love song to the city recasts it as a kind of mystical wonderland, certain actual landmarks like mythic spots that inspire and bring safety and joy. The Beatleqsue dense, smartly positive pop ennobles songs and places like"Franklin Avenue." Even seemingly tough topics for celebration like "Welcome To Suburbia" and "Dead End Job" are filled with wonder and evoke magical landscapes. Messersmith clearly implies that rality is merely a jumping off point. "Virginia," "Love you To Pieces" and "Miracles" mean just what they say, but are delivered in a sublte, confident wonder that any impulse to wax ironic about such emotional honesty is drubbed. A reverent cover of Paul Westerberg's "Skyway" fits perfectly too, a chance to honor both another Minneapolis landmark, and pay respects to one of the other artists who saw the city and contributed to its magic.
With whimsical, lush production that is also understated, "The Silver City" sounds like a dream, but a dream of a land it is possible to visit. We've all been there already. There are places and people in everyone's life that become myths, sometimes idealized, sometimes not, but part of our inner life. Jeremy Messersmith's myths are in Minneapolis, and he sees them clearly, believing in them most of the time. -Mike Wood
Jeremy Messersmith performs in The Current studio
With his much anticipated new release "The Silver City" centered around the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of Minneapolis and St. Paul, local singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith has the power to make you feel right at home.
After a lauded debut with "Alcatraz Kid," Jeremy Messersmith started working with Dan Wilson, who produced the new album.
Songs performed: "Miracles," "Skyway," (a Replacements cover) and "Franklin Avenue."
-Bill DeVille, Minnesota Public Radio
RED ALERT'S BEST ALBUMS OF 2008
18. Jeremy Messersmith - The Silver City (Princess)
Twin Cities singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith is an advocate of "write what you know" - and its a maxim that serves him well on The Silver City. Produced by Dan Wilson, a guy who knows a thing or two about an infectious pop melody (he was in Semisonic, i.e. "Closing Time"), The Silver City sinks its teeth into the drama of everyday life, from cheating spouses to tedious commutes. Melancholy, yes, but not brooding - and never a bore. And if you're not in the Twin Cities, you very well may score "discovery" points when you start playing him for your friends.
The Onion A.V. Club
December 11, 2008
Best of 2008 in Local Music
-The Silver City
Singer-songwriter Messersmith, aided by the simpatico style of producer Dan Wilson, creates a gem of a second album with this unhurried, sweetly emotional but never overwrought set of pop balladry¡ªa bit of Paul Simon without the maudlin streak, or Elliot Smith without the crushing darkness.
Welcome to Suburbia: Jeremy Messersmith serenades Minneapolis with his sophomore releaseJeremy MessersmithThe Silver City
Recording an album seems hard enough for a band. Recording a concept album has to be even harder. With an album the tracks have to have a certain resemblance to each other but a band can pick whatever songs are the catchiest ones in their repertoire. Creating a concept album requires a massive amount of planning, picking and choosing songs that best tell whatever the story might be.
Minneapolis native Jeremy Messersmith is one of those brave souls to conquer the concept album. Messersmith broke onto the scene with his debut The Alcatraz Kid in 2006. Whereas The Alcatraz Kid was recorded in his basement, Messersmith chose to work with producer Dan Wilson, previously of Semisonic fame, on his follow-up concept album The Silver City.
Listening to The Silver City is like taking a road trip. There are moments of desperation, love, madness, and elation, ups and downs that are inevitable on such a journey. Messersmith has a knack for going beyond the surface and diving right into the heat of things. The intro track ¡°The Silver City,¡± a hodge-podge of train sounds and other transit noises, leads right into ¡°Welcome to Suburbia.¡± The effect is like bursting out of the business of daily life and into a bright, warm place. Though the suburbs to most city people mean certain death and misery, Messersmith¡¯s ¡°Welcome to Suburbia¡± makes the outskirts of civilization sound like the greatest place in the world. The dreamy, soothing effect on his guitar along with the chorus of singers in the background lures the listener into the beautiful home of barbeques and cookie-cutter houses. Minneapolis may not be the sprawling metropolis that some other cities may be, but The Silver City makes it sound like one of the most gorgeous cities in the United States.
Though there can be a tinge of sadness to the material on The Silver City, Messersmith¡¯s heartfelt words sound empathic rather than depressing. ¡°Dead End Job¡± is about a man who works all the time to make his wife happier, sacrificing his music and dreams to be with this woman. Even when he discovers that she¡¯s cheating on him, he¡¯s still brutally in love with her. Messersmith sings ¡°I saw him kiss your neck/So soft and violent/But I won¡¯t say a word to you/I would lose my pride for you¡± and you understand the depth of this man¡¯s love, though it may be a tad unhealthy. The album is full of these stories that fill our daily lives. Throughout The Silver City we experience the beauty, sadness, and joy that make every trip exciting.
High: Messersmith¡¯s track ¡°Love You to Pieces¡± would fit right into a Wes Anderson picture, its quirky guitar and sweet lyrics imaginable in a signature Anderson moment.
Low: The Silver City feels like it ends too quickly. Less is more, but in this case more is better.
Just Push Play: Odds and Ends that the staff of ¡®Performing Songwriter¡¯ have been obsessing over
Not to be outdone by moonlighters like Auerbach, acclaimed singer-songwriter Dan Wilson has also stepped behind the glass, helming a number of indie efforts in recent years including Jeremy Messersmith's The Silver City (Princess). An orchestrated song cycle that's drawn comparisons to the work of Sufjan Stevens - similar to the concept behind his Illinoise, Minnesota's Twin Cities are the link between the songs on Silver City - Messersmith shows a mastery of pop sensibilities on this sophomore LP. -Jesse Thompson
Jeremy Messersmith on Music and Arts Education
How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?
I remember learning how to play the recorder when I was in first grade. We played some stirring renditions of ¡°Three Blind Mice¡± if I remember correctly. I had a lot of fun making up my own melodies and discovering that you could make little embellishments that made the written melody sound more interesting.
My parents were both band geeks, so when I was eleven or so they took me to the music store and had me try out some instruments. My dad was a trombonist and was eager for me to follow in his footsteps, but I was too small and could hardly hold one. We compromised and stayed within the brass family by getting a trumpet.
Improvisation was a regular part of the church band that I played in growing up. Often it was twelve to fifteen people all playing different instruments with little to no written music! I think it taught me the importance of listening to what other people are playing around you and finding your place.
I played in band in junior high for three years. It was a little strange because I was home-schooled so my mom would drive me to the school and drop me off for just one class! I find it hard to believe that I could make the music I write now without the music education I got as a child. Even though I don¡¯t play trumpet as much as I used to, the foundations of melody and ear training still come in handy. Music education was a big source of confidence for me as a child. I wasn¡¯t exactly athletic or even that interesting, so music was one of the only things I was really good at!
The Silver City
I found a few good songs on Minnesota native Jeremy Messersmith's Alcatraz Kid. The Elliot Smith comparisons are still apt here, but the musical growth and songwriting development has really exploded with "The Silver City." And Jeremy partnered with Dan Wilson (Semisonic) to paint a vivid picture of heavenly Suburbia. The opening track "Welcome to Suburbia" is a celestial pop triumph, with shimmering melodic chorus and George Harrison-like guitar accents that compliments Jeremy's soft vocal. Much like the futuristic travellers on the cover the listeners will be treated to "Dead-End Job," a great ballad with a lovely horns and more descriptive narrative. The next track "Franklin Avenue" is the shinning gem on this album, rich with instrumentation about a passerby "Waiting for that sinking feeling." The production on the album is sparse, but dynamic with "The Commuter" resembling a the REM track "Man on The Moon" in feel and tone. And a bit of good electronica pop sneaks in with "Miracles" after this. The album sags a bit in the middle, but comes back strong on a version of Paul Westerberg's "Skyway" and a very bouncy pop tune "Virginia" that demands repeat listens and I dare you not to tap your toe to the beat here. The closing track "Light Rail" continues the ride, with a McCartney styled ditty that's a worthy followup to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La -Da." The album is like a great cup of coffee; rich, dark and sweet - but ultimately very soothing. Mmm... drink this one up. -Aaron
Labels: Highly Recommended by Powerpopaholic
The Silver City" is pure gold! Messersmith hard at work in his craft: beard growing.
Photo courtesy Princess Records
Coming off of the critical acclaim of ¡°The Alcatraz Kid ,¡± and with the esteemed title of ¡°Best Songwriter of 2007 ,¡± anointed by City Pages, working in his favor, Jeremy Messersmith¡¯s sophomore album, ¡°The Silver City¡± has engendered a sense of anticipation in more than a few followers of the Twin Cities music scene. The album, which is reminiscent of Elliot Smith , ¡°Let Go¡±-era Nada Surf , The Beatles and even Beck¡¯s 1998 release ¡°Mutations ,¡± is the work of a polished and thoughtful musician. ¡°The Silver City¡± is a perfect balance of melancholy realism and dreamy pop. A&E tracked Jeremy Messersmith down to ask him a few questions about his new album, as well as what it¡¯s like being a musician based out of Minneapolis.
So, you have a different producer for this album [Dan Wilson ]. Was the experience of working with a new producer interesting for you? Did you like it more than the process of ¡°Alcatraz Kid?¡±
Yeah, after I finished ¡°Alcatraz Kid¡± I was really sick of myself and I wanted to find some other people to collaborate with. Dan Wilson was willing to help out and it was easier in some ways and harder in others. It¡¯s a little harder when you¡¯re just dealing with more people. I was pushed a little bit in directions I hadn¡¯t thought of, but that¡¯s the main reason that I wanted to work with other people. Dan was really patient; it ended up being really good.
It seems as if ¡°The Silver City¡± functions very specifically as an album about Minneapolis. Do you agree with this?
I think that that is pretty fair to say. I am curious if people outside the Twin Cities will know this ¡ª I think maybe they won¡¯t. I don¡¯t think I write specifically about the city; it¡¯s about it maybe but I think it has a sort of universal geography. I hope it does anyway.
You have been compared to Elliot Smith more than once, what do you think about this?
Generally I feel pretty good about it. I mean if it was someone I hated then I might not like it. He was a great songwriter, really confessional and heartfelt, songwriting-wise. I think that he is kind of ahead above some of the people he gets lumped together with.
You also cover a song on the album by The Replacements , which is another Minneapolis act. Did you have fun covering that song? Was it your idea to do the cover?
I am trying to think of whose idea it was. I don¡¯t think I was originally planning it. I was playing it live and I played it for Dan and he said, ¡°This song should go on the album.¡± I was a bit nervous about covering it because every time you cover a song you get half the band saying, ¡°How dare you cover this song, this song is perfect the way it is.¡± I got kind of bashed in one review where they said it was just a waste or didn¡¯t need to be covered. It was fun to do, though.
Do you have any other Minneapolis musicians that you play with a lot?
Sure, umm, I play probably every summer with Haley Bonar and also Chris Koza . I played with Kid Dakota a few times. Oh, and you know I¡¯ve played with the circuit benders Beatrix Jar also. That was really cool.
OK here¡¯s the final and most important question: Do you like Grain Belt?
Um, I know what you¡¯re talking about but I have never actually had it. I now sound like a complete beer newbie but I pretty much just drink Summit . I guess now I am going to have to try it so I don¡¯t have to answer ¡°no¡± if I get asked that question again [Laughs]. -Ian Power
Jeremy Messersmith celebrated the release of his new CD The Silver City with a release party Thursday night at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. The Varsity has surely been one of the best places in town for CD Release shows lately. When you combine the relaxed atmosphere, the Varsity¡¯s ability to accommodate large numbers of people, and the great sound and light show, it¡¯s hard to beat.
At about 10:45, Jeremy Messersmith took the stage with another reference to the big show going on across town. ¡°Hi friends,¡± he said. ¡°Shouldn¡¯t you all be at Sigur Ros right now?¡± He opened his set with the melancholy light pop ¡°song Welcome To Suburbia,¡± track that leads off his new album.
Messersmith was dressed to the nines in a new pair of shoes and what might have been a vintage suit if it didn¡¯t also appear to be fresh off the loom. Though about as unassuming a person as they come, Messersmith crafts near perfect pop that could easily have national appeal if given the proper exposure. (I am excited to hear he will be embarking on a major tour later this fall to support this album.) In my mind, Messersmith occupies some of the same space on the Twin Cities musical landscape as does Chris Koza, though Messersmith has not toured as relentlessly as Koza has these past several years.
For his second song, Messersmith jumped back to his 2006 album The Alcatraz Kid and pulled the mellow ¡°7:02¡± out of his hat. Bass duties on this song were by Dan Lavonn, who played the bass lines on cello. Lavonn also figures heavily on the album.
¡°The Commuter¡± is another song from the new album that revolves around a theme of transportation, but as with many of these songs, you get the feeling that this transport is as much of the mind as it is across town. Like ¡°Welcome to Suburbia¡± it¡¯s again chocked full of tragic melancholy. Take the lyric ¡°And when I drive this car to work, I feel like I¡¯m going places¡± as just one example.
Messersmith introduced the rest of his live band, which tonight just consisted of the aforementioned Dan Lavonn on cello and Andy Thompson on keyboards and xylophone. On the album Thompson also plays drums, guitars and more.
Other songs in his set included, ¡°Dead End Job.¡± You could have heard a pin drop during this one, and it was a bit ironic to see couples holding hands as the song ultimately turns out to be about adultery. Live, Messersmith¡¯s cover of the Replacements ¡°Skyway¡± (which also appears on the new disc) was amazing. With Lavonn¡¯s cello it almost makes me wish for strings in the Replacements¡¯ original. Messersmith paused a moment to ask if the Twins had won (cell-phone connected fans were happy to report that they had) before inviting Rachel Ries to the stage for ¡°Breakdown¡± from the new disc. Ries also contributes vocals to that track on the album, and the harmonies are gorgeous.
Next up was a song from Messersmith¡¯s forthcoming album, which I hope will not be his last after hearing him say during Thursday¡¯s 89.3 The Current interview that he¡¯s got at least one more album in him before he retires. Towards the end of his set he also got to ¡°Franklin Avenue,¡± another song about transportation, and surely the song on the album most likely to get him compared to Elliot Smith, one of many songwriters Messersmith admits to admire.
The band left the stage but quickly returned for an encore of ¡°Novocain,¡± Messersmith¡¯s biggest ¡°hit¡± (27 thousand plus plays on his MySpace page surely amounts to that, if nothing else) from the first album, and ¡°Light Rail¡± which closes out the new disc. -David de Young
PREMIERE: Jeremy Messersmith ¡°Tube Socks and Tennis Shoes¡±
One of the most critically acclaimed songwriters in the Twin Cities, Jeremy Messersmith will kick off a string of dates in mid-November as he heads through the Midwest on his way to New York. Fresh off the release of The Silver City Messersmith recorded this song, ¡°Tube Socks and Tennis Shoes,¡± exclusively for Culture Bully¡¯s Donors Choose drive.
This post is part of the 60-hour blogathon in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities.
The architect of The Silver City talks about making his exquisite new album, obsessing over science, and surviving crap day jobs. He also receives an unusual challenge.
As soon as I found out I was going to be interviewing my personal voice hero Jeremy Messersmith, I started doing research. And as soon as I started doing research, I found this quote from a previous interview by Perfect Porridge, when he was asked ¡°What else is new?¡±: ¡°Well, I just got taken out to the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum. Being the biggest Star Wars nut ever I was pretty excited to ride in the Millennium Falcon. Hmmm. I guess I need to make a Star Wars record or something.¡±
Oh. My. God.
So I immediately wrote down in my notes ¡°Tell Jeremy that if he makes said record, I will have to stalk him.¡± Of course, I knew, even in my mild state of euphoria, that that¡¯s no way to start an interview.
Instead, I started by telling him that his song, ¡°Novocain,¡± as I mentioned in my review of his most recent album The Silver City, was the most listened to song on my iTunes, which had surprised me. He answered ¡°No one is more surprised by that than me.¡±
Then we got down to business, and I asked him when singing became a major part of his life.
¡°Well, I came from a religious family with lots of religious traditions, like playing music in church. I played the trumpet when I was kid. It was probably around fourteen that I began playing the guitar and singing a bit. I was a music major in college, and eventually I started performing out of school. I was finding a form of expression. And then I got a very, very meaningless job, so music was much needed.¡±
This is the job that is the subject of ¡°Day Job¡±, ¡°Great Times¡±, and ¡°Dead End Job¡±. I asked if he was still plugging away at it.
¡°Yeah. That¡¯s what motivates me with a lot of my music. I started out as a temp. It¡¯s a standard office tech. It¡¯s soul-fucking. But, you know, you drive a shit car and try to make a living.¡±
However, Jeremy will be going on tour in November, so that will be the end of that dead end job, at least for the time being.
We then switched over to his music. I wanted to know how the songs came together, if it was lyrics first or the other way around.
¡°A bit of both, kind of half and half. Sometimes I get melodic ideas, but other times I think ¡®hey, it would be fun to write about this concept¡¯.¡±
I inquired if the song ¡°Light Rail¡± had been one of those concept pieces. It was. I explained how much that song meant to me, as I had taken the light rail of San Jose, California very often as a child. He answered ¡°Dan Wilson [who helped produce the album] has a theory that most good songs have some hint of nostalgia, a romanticism with the past, and that¡¯s true for quite a few of my songs. That song came from me riding the light rail here in town. It feels personal.¡±
I also wanted to know what the obsession was with scientists, which comes across in his first album.
¡°I wrote it about the shedding of my upbringing [Jeremy was homeschooled and raised Evangelical Christian]. The basic premise is that if God¡¯s an all powerful god, and Christianity has all the answers, then where is all the good in the world? Those songs are definitely on a personal level for me.¡±
We then got to talking about The Beach Boys, and I mentioned that I figured he had to be a fan of them given the song ¡®Love You To Pieces¡¯. He answered that when he was creating that song and workshopping it around town at gigs, that he used the chorus to ¡°God Only Knows¡± in the song, and that somewhere out there, there is probably a bootleg copy of that.
So, a new project for me.
Speaking of gigs, I wanted to know what the tour would be like.
¡°It will be maybe me and one or two others. Or it just might be me solo, with a looper. I still have to hash that out. I¡¯ll be touring in the east starting in mid November, and then coming out west after Thanksgiving.¡±
Lucky for me, he will be coming out to Los Angeles, probably in December. Once we established that, I could relax a little, and was able to ask him about a quote from a different interview, with City Pages, where his song ¡°Novocain¡± was compared to the Eels¡¯ song ¡°Novocain For The Soul¡±, and Jeremy mentioned that he didn¡¯t like to ¡°use the word ¡®soul¡¯ in songs.¡± I asked why.
¡°Well, I try not to. I have a couple times. It¡¯s because, like, what does that really mean? It¡¯s a little too vague. Is it the deepest part of someone that lives on forever? There are lots of different ways to interpret it, so I just avoid it. I try not to be influenced by contemporary Christian music.¡±
So if he¡¯s not listening to contemporary Christian music, what is he listening to?
¡°Oh, a lot of local music, like Haley Bonar, who just put out her third album [Big Star]. The Owls [who Jeremy has been doing shows with] put out my favorite local disk of the last year. They¡¯re like Belle and Sebastian meets Bowie. I¡¯m also listening to Dr. Dog, Al Green, and Aimee Mann these days.¡±
Speaking of singer-songwriters, in the reviews for The Alcatraz Kid, he had a lot of favorable comparisons to Elliott Smith. How did Jeremy feel about that?
¡°I like him a lot. I fee like a lot of his stuff was an extension of The Beatles. It is all
very personable and the songs are related to each other.¡±
Finally, I decided I couldn¡¯t let the Star Wars issue pass. I brought up the album idea and the stalker warning. He laughed.
¡°I wonder how I would do it [create that album]. I¡¯m always looking for things that inspire creativity, get the juices flowing. I am probably the biggest Star Wars fan. I used to watch it every day as a kid. I may not ever love anything the way I love Star Wars, so maybe it would need to be a side project, like a make an album in a week kind of thing.¡±
I bristled at the idea of him announcing he was the biggest Star Wars fan and so challenged him to a game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit once he was out here in Los Angeles on tour. His answer:
¡°Okay, you know what? I¡¯m not one for bragging, especially about nerdy stuff, but there have been multiple times where I have beaten that game on one turn.¡±
Oh. Alright. Now it seems I¡¯m in over my head. I told him as such.
¡°Well, it¡¯s been like five years since the last time I did that, so I might be pretty rusty.¡± I smiled and thanked him for the interview, and we hung up. But would I really feel okay with beating one of my heroes?
I¡¯ll let you know in December.
¡ª Amber Henson
Jeremy MessersmithThe Silver City
US release date: 8 September 2008
UK release date: Available as import
Minneapolis has become a nostalgia trip as of late. Husker Du is gone. Gary Louris lives in Spain, and the ultimate Twin City punk outfit, the Replacements, have been ¡°beneficiaries¡± of the re-master treatment this year. Craig Finn has even released a cycle of records re-living the punk spirit of the ¡®90s. There has been a lot of time reminiscing about the old days. So it is with little fanfare that singer songwriter Jeremy Messersmith releases his second full-length solo album, . Filled with fully developed lyrical tales and whimsical arrangements, Messersmith forges ahead with a sound that could not be further from the roots that made his hometown a rock mecca.
Produced by local legend Dan Wilson of Trip Shakespeare fame, Messersmith has drawn from influences as diverse as the Beach Boys and the ¡®Mats in a beautifully crafted album. He also has fallen victim, in lazier musical circles, to being considered a candidate in the search for the next Elliot Smith, despite only a fleeting likeness. Smith¡¯s specialty was the conveyance of very real emotion but most of that emotion was emptiness. Messersmith¡¯s collection of songs is a celebration. Despite having an accomplished lyrical pen, he is unafraid to let the music lead. Some of the album¡¯s finest points are when he does just that.
The album¡¯s title is an homage to the Twin Cities, but the record follows the roads that lead out of city life and into the suburban. Few stones are left unturned as Messersmith demonstrates his excellent grasp of the way that both lyric and sound make long-lasting images. If Messersmith¡¯s sophomore release is any indication, Minnesota¡¯s music town has as much to look forward to as it has to celebrate about its past.
THE WAKE - UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA STUDENT NEWSPAPER
In a town with an overwhelming population of singer/wongwriters, it's not easy to stand out from the crowd. Luckily, Jeremy Messersmith clenches a trump card firmly in hand: he's actually talented. With the release of his second album "The Silver City" on September 9th, Messersmith shines as a purveyor of genuine pop artistry.
Utilizing the aid of producer Dan Wilson, the game has been stepped up considerably since Messersmith's previous effort, "The Alcatraz Kid." Though most songs are relatively simple in composition, the space is filled intricately with lush harmonies and heaps of instrumental variation.
Many comparisons have been made of him to other musicians past and present, but to denigrate Messersmith as a mere copycat would be unfitting. The truth is that he has carved an identity that resonates on its own: sincere, it is lighthearted, and highly melodic.
¡°The Silver City¡± is meant to be a concept album about Minneapolis and St. Paul, with obvious nods to the region including track titles such as ¡°Franklin Avenue¡± and ¡°Light Rail,¡± as well as a straightforward but respectable cover of The Replacements¡¯ ¡°Skyway.¡±
Aside from a few moments of poppy playfulness, most of the songs are highly introspective. At several points throughout the album it seems Messersmith has been heavily pondering the direction of his life, particularly the places and people in it.
The opening track, ¡°Welcome To Suburbia,¡± is a quaint yet poignant statement about the ironies of suburban living and how its suburbanites are isolated from reality. Another tune worthy of mention is ¡°Dead End Job.¡± By far the Album¡¯s most sullen, it loosely narrates the life of a romantic who unselfishly gives all of him or herself to be with their cheating significant other.
Though honest and insightful, the lyrical content is where this album occasionally falters. Several subjects seem to arise in overkill, making what is supposed to be deep and reflective feel a somewhat one-dimensional at times. Upon counting, I found that the word ¡°car¡± was uttered at least once on half the songs on the album.
After a well-attended release party on September 25th at the Varsity Theater, and numerous appearances on local radio and television, it seems clear that Messersmith has gained a strong foothold
in Minneapolis as one of the area¡¯s premier songwriters.
Look for another release from Jeremy soon. Word has it he has already started work on his next album. In the mean time, pick up a copy of The Silver City at your local record store.
The Onion A.V. Club Minneapolis
October 1, 2008
Jeremy Messersmith takes a long and winding road to The Silver City
Jeremy Messersmith burst onto the scene two years ago with The Alcatraz Kid, a home-recorded batch of melodic melancholia that had critics falling over themselves to compare his folk-pop mini-symphonies with angel-voiced and emotionally troubled pop icons like Brian Wilson and Elliot Smith. Messersmith¡¯s new The Silver City (produced by Semisonic¡¯s Dan Wilson) avoids the dreaded sophomore slump by updating his downhearted, sweetly sung tunes with bells and whistles both conventional (strings, bass) and quirky (omnichord, glockenspiel.)
The A.V. Club: A lot of The Silver City¡¯s songs revolve around pretty mundane topics¡ªdriving to work, life in suburbia, public transportation. What led you to write about these topics?
Jeremy Messersmith: I think it¡¯s just a matter of writing what you know. Earlier on, before The Alcatraz Kid, I had written a bunch of different songs and some of them were pretty high-minded epic songs, sort of stadium rock. [Laughs.] The problem was, I couldn¡¯t really relate to it. I felt like I was projecting some sort of rock-star fantasy. I had to change who I was in order to write songs from that point of view. For me it was easier to write songs about what I do every day naturally, and then try to find the interesting moments within those mundane sorts of things.
AVC: Frequently on this record you¡¯ll set up lyrical scenarios that seem conventional, only to tweak them in the end¡ªparticularly on ¡°Dead End Job,¡± which at first seems to be about marital devotion but is really about enduring betrayal. Do you know at the start of writing a song like that how you want it to end?
JM: With ¡°Dead End Job¡± I was writing a song about a lot of people I know, guys who feel the urge to support and provide for their families. I wanted to examine the cost all that working could take on their personal lives. It had to be interesting, though¡ªI didn¡¯t want it to be just the guy who goes to work and loves his wife. I wanted to introduce a little consequence of the situation set up earlier in the song. A lot of those lyrical twists just happen because I get bored with the initial idea over time.
AVC: Were the songs written and recorded over a long stretch of time?
JM: About half of it was written at the same time and even before The Alcatraz Kid, and half were after. The challenge was to take the original demos and then turn them into an album. I wanted it to have a little continuity with Alcatraz just in terms of some of the tones. Dan and I did a lot of deconstruction. Where we could we kept a lot of the original demos to use in the final product. With a song like ¡°Miracles,¡± probably half of it was recorded in my basement two and a half years ago. Other songs were completely changed. Originally, ¡°Breaking Down¡± had a big straight-ahead country arrangement and it felt too large, so we re-did the entire song from scratch. It felt like a much more organic thing in the end without some of the Neil Diamond-ish guitar lines. [Laughs.]
AVC: Over the years you¡¯ve evolved from loop-based live solo performances to leading larger band ensembles. Do you feel like you¡¯ve made the transition to bandleader?
JM: I think I¡¯m still trying to find something that works. When I play live I want it to be a fairly accurate representation of the songs, but the problem is that the bigger a band gets the more it risks sounding like a lot of other bands. I¡¯ve done a few gigs as a five-piece, but everything can sort of turn into sonic mud unless everybody is really conscious of what they¡¯re doing. Right now I¡¯ve moved into playing as a trio where everyone is working as multi-instrumentalists. I¡¯d rather have just three people all playing something instead of five little parts.
AVC: You grew up in a deeply religious household with very little access to popular music. How did your isolated upbringing shape your path as a musician?
JM: My diet of songs growing up was pretty much limited to church hymns. When I finally got to hear good, fresh pop music, it felt like I was making a special discovery. I still feel that way when I listen to new music, I still have a far-from-encyclopedic knowledge of pop. I¡¯m discovering things al the time, which is exciting. I guess if I¡¯d grown up with all of it I might take it for granted. Who knows? You only live the life you¡¯re given.
-Rob Van Alstyne
An Interview with Jeremy Messersmith
Jeremy Messersmith is a singer/songwriter who is about to release his second CD, The Silver City. In this interview, he talks about his musical background, working with Dan Wilson and his CD release party at the Varsity Theater on Thursday, September 25.
How Was The Show: Tell me about your musical background¡ªwhen you started playing, early influences, etc.
Jeremy Messersmith: Music was a big part of my life growing up. My parents were both band geeks, playing trombone and clarinet, and the church I grew up in had a long tradition of musical participation. I grew up playing trumpet every Sunday along with 10 or so other people with different band instruments. We didn't play from charts, so most of it was improvised, almost like Dixieland. I eventually got braces and promptly quit the trumpet in favor of the guitar.
HWTS: What is attractive about Minneapolis that makes you want to live and make
JM: I think Minneapolis is the Paris of the Midwest. We've got great music and art communities, but without the huge metro sprawl of someplace like Chicago. I've lived in the Twin Cities for almost 10 years now and I'd like to think I've absorbed some of the good qualities of the people here. Plus, no one here thinks it's strange if you have a beard year-round.
HWTS: How welcoming has the local music community been to you?
JM: I can't imagine feeling more welcomed by the local music community. I think that's part of the reason I wanted to make a Twin Cities record. A few years back, I made a list of all the bands in town that I'd like to play shows with and I'm happy to say I'll be scratching the last name off the list at my release show.
HWTS: The Silver City is your second solo disc. How did the writing/recording process differ from The Alcatraz Kid?
JM: The writing process for both was roughly the same, but the recording process was a little different for The Silver City. Most songs started with just me and acoustic guitar, then Dan [Wilson], Andy [Thompson] and I would sit around and talk about what ideas we had for the song. A lot of it depended on what instruments we had sitting around.
HWTS: What was it like working with Dan Wilson?
JM: Fantastic. He's extremely generous when listening to half-written songs and he has a very great sense of when something is working or not. Also, he does all of the mixing while perched on a giant rubber ball. He's a man of balance in all aspects of life.
HWTS: How did the line-up for your band come about?
JM: I first met Andy Thompson when I was over at Dan Wilson's house. Andy was teaching a piano lesson and Dan and I snuck down and listened for a few minutes. I quickly found that Andy can play any instrument you put in his hands¡ªoften several at the same time. I met my cellist, Dan Lawonn, in college. He was a few years behind me in college, but he was in some of the same ensembles as me.
HWTS: To your ears, what song off of The Silver City is the cornerstone to the album?
JM: ¡°Welcome to Suburbia¡± is probably the most important song thematically. I originally wanted it to be the last track on the record; a sort of ascent to suburban heaven, but it just didn't work. As the album opener though, it gives kind of tongue-in-cheek preview of the rest of the record.
HWTS: Your CD release party will be Thursday, September 25 at the Varsity Theater. What are we going to see there?
JM: Crazy rock and roll debauchery. Also, The Owls are going to be playing and they don't play live all that much, so you should catch them while you can. From Chicago, my friend Rachel Ries will be playing a set. I really look up to her as a songwriter and performer. She was even kind enough to stop by and sing on my record. Special note to songwriters out there ¡ªif you want to see someone who knows how to write a song around their voice, don't miss her set.
HWTS: What touring plans do you have for the rest of the year?
JM: I'm still working on getting a tour set up, but I'm planning on hitting the road in November and then again in the spring.
HWTS: Thanks for all of your time. Do you have any final comments you want to leave with?
JM: All my friends are going to see Sigur Ros, but if you can't get or can't afford tickets you should come out to the Varsity for what should be a cool CD release show.
The Silver City (2008)
Minneapolis singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith just released his sophomore album, The Silver City. I featured Messersmith on the site two years ago when his debut album The Alcatraz Kid came out, and I¡¯ve been following him ever since.
As traditional as his music is, and as easy as it is to compare him to a more upbeat (happier) Elliott Smith, I¡¯ve always found him to have a unique sound. His vocals are the forefront of his music, and I feel many similarly influenced musicians hide behind their instrumentals and somberly whisper in a way that he doesn¡¯t. When I¡¯m in the mood for music that offers a balance between light & dark, Messersmith¡¯s music fills the role perfectly.
While The Silver City hasn¡¯t had as big of an impact on me as The Alcatraz Kid, I still really like it. The album has a concentration on the Twin Cities (Minneapolis), and focuses on geography, such as life in the suburbs, city, and the commute between both. Right now, ¡°Miracles,¡± ¡°Skyway,¡± ¡°Virginia,¡± and ¡°Light Rail¡± are among my favorite tracks on the album.
I noted in my last feature on Jeremy, and it¡¯s worth noting again, that he seems like an extremely friendly guy (just like everyone from Minneapolis, am I right?!) It looks like his blog has disappeared from his recently updated site, but he sometimes uses Myspace to make blog posts. They are really enjoyable to read, like this older post about his apartment getting broken into. We could use some more honest musicians out there like Messersmith.
9/25/2008 Jeremy Messersmith performs at The Electric Fetus
Jeremy Messersmith has been everywhere lately. Radio K, The Current, HowWasTheShow, Perfect Porridge, Cake In 15, and multiple other publications and news outlets. All of this attention is for good reason. Thursday, September 25, 2008, Mr. Messersmith will finally host a proper release for his sophomore album, "The Silver City." The album has already generated numerous positive reviews. From the album's opening track "Welcome to Suburbia" to the familiar, yet arguably more beautiful, rendition of The Replacements "Skyway," Messersmith's ode to the city warms the heart and prepares us for the oncoming winter.
The party starts at The Varsity Theater at 7:30pm and promises a good time, with openers Rachel Reis (from Chicago) and The Owls.
CAKE IN 15
Jeremy Messersmith: Live in the City
Jeremy Messersmith is set to release his sophomore disc, The Silver City, Thursday the 25th at the Varsity Theater. Cake in 15 caught up with Jeremy over the inter-links to talk about the suburbs, Dan Wilson and why the new W Hotel at the Foshay is a bad thing.
The Silver City has songs both focused on the city ("Franklin Avenue") and in the suburbs ("Welcome to Suburbia"), and songs whose emotional heft comes from the transition between the two ("The Commuter"). Do you/have you lived in the suburbs? What is the draw to write songs about the passage between suburbs and city?
Growing up, I lived on the outskirts of what was called a "bedroom community." I didn't live directly in the suburbs, but most of my friends lived in housing divisions with the names of natural features mashed together. Anyway, it felt like geography I was fairly familiar with.
I guess the need to write about the city vs the suburbs is an argument that's always running around in my head. It's the choice between reality and ignorance or fantasy. For me, moving to the suburbs would be a bit like planting my head in the sand and checking out of life. Not to totally dramatize, but it feels to me like Hamlet's dilemma- "To be or not to be." You can either engage yourself directly with life and all the good and bad, or you can check yourself out.
How do you feel your writing practice lends itself to writing songs with a thematic thread, and how has it changed/progressed since The Alcatraz Kid?
For The Silver City, I had a vague idea that I wanted to make a record about the Twin Cities, but I tried to keep it as subliminal as possible. I guess that's why I think of the disc as a loose concept record. I feel that if I gave myself a bunch of restrictions as to what the songs could be then I wouldn't have written anything, but if I kept the geography in the back of my head it would unconsciously guide the tunes that came out.
With The Alcatraz Kid, I didn't have any grand theme- it was just songs that felt personal to me and that I needed to write.
I was recently speaking to a friend about why people come to (and especially come back to) the Twin Cities and he said something to the effect that it was "an easy place to be", in that you can find artists, collaborators and support. How have you found your trajectory develop since you moved here?
Hmmm. Could it be that we're really friendly? Since I've lived here, I've found a lot of people to learn from- people who were willing to invest time listening to bad songs and challenge me as a songwriter and as a performer. Maybe the main benefit of harsh winters is the constant reminder that we all need each other and are dependent on one another. I think that translates especially well to the artistic community with respect to collaboration.
Then there's that Dan Wilson guy. Wanna talk about him for a minute?
I could talk about him for much longer than a minute, so maybe I will.
More Dan Wilson, songs & style after the jump!
He's a master songwriter and performer. He writes around his voice better than anyone I've ever met and is never afraid to "waste" a good idea on a collaborator.
We talked quite a bit at the beginning of this project about the "producer" role and what that meant. There were a few different approaches we talked about before we started.
The first approach is what I think of as the "Jon Brion" approach to producing. I should state for the record that I love Jon Brion and I've listened obsessively to almost everything he's produced or written. However, I find that most records that he produces tend to sound like, well, a Jon Brion record more than the individual artist he's working with. In this case, the artist provides the content and the producer shapes a lot more of the form and flavor of the record. Whatever the artist can't do, the producer does for them.
The approach we tried is more of the "Rick Rubin" method of producing, which worked well since Dan's latest record Free Life was produced by Rick. To give an example, Dan would often run the board while I was trying to track a part for something, let's say guitar. Even though Dan could probably have just played the guitar part himself in 1 or 2 takes, instead he let me keep trying it and offered some suggestions. Often times, he knew what I was trying to do before I even did. He was constantly trying to bring out the best ideas that I had instead of inserting his own. I think this is why Rick Rubin has been so successful with such a variety of different artists- instead of making a "Rick Rubin" record, he's able to get the best out of the artists themselves.
I think the traditional producer role has the producer acting as a sort of "boss." That was clearly not the case with Dan. I don't think I've ever met someone who is so easy to collaborate with and is so giving with his ideas. He easily (and rightly) could've said, "Hey, I've written hit songs and I won a Grammy, so what I say is the final word." Instead, he was exceedingly patient and open and I admire him that much more for it.
Quick note: Almost all the piano you hear on the record is Dan playing. Also, he turned out to be a much better shaker player than anyone else.
It isn't too far of a leap to say that "Skyway" may be one of your favorite "Minneapolis" songs. Are there any other songs that stand out about the city, or any specific song that you associate with with the city or a specific neighborhood? A moment of epiphany with a soundtrack? Music for the first snowfall?
There is one song that immediately popped into my head and it's "10,000 Lakes" by Kid Dakota. I remember hearing this song and thinking, "Oh- you mean you can write songs about where you live?" I have all these associations with that song and huge snow drifts outside an old drafty house...
Favorite place to eat/shop/see music in the Twin Cities?
Anywhere that serves a good bowl of pho is on my top ten list. I'll gratuitously pitch my wife's shop- Blacklist Vintage over on 27th and Nicollet, but honestly it's where I get almost all of my clothes.
In the Star Tribune yesterday the bar in the Foshay Tower, The W Hotel, was featured next to an article about me. The ironic thing is that I tried to go there a few weeks back and was turned away for what I assume was my shabby dress or generally unwholesome demeanor. I guess my Converse shoes aren't considered "business casual." [Ed.- I got in because I was wearing a suit, after work. It was all blue blazers and blue hairs. The view from the top of the Foshay, though, is grand.] I ended up going over to Grumpy's and having a great time. So there you go- Grumpy's = good, W hotel = bad.
Posted by c.a.s
Q & A: Jeremy Messersmith
Local songwriter Jeremy Messersmith¡¯s new record The Silver City this month emerged from the ether to become a contender for the year¡¯s best local release. The impressive effort features Grammy Award-winner and Semisonic front man Dan Wilson as Master Po to Messersmith¡¯s musical Grasshopper and pays homage to the Twin Cities throughout its 10 tracks. Beautiful vocal melodies weave through simple chord progressions, painting vivid pictures of eerily familiar places and faces.
Messersmith¡¯s much-lauded songwriting has grown since his debut effort, The Alcatraz Kid. He has clearly benefited from experience and mentoring from the likes of Wilson, a major collaborator on the album. While the record is lush in its major-label-quality production, it is lush in the right ways and the right places to conserve the intimate, organic mood that serves Messersmith¡¯s songs so well.
From ¡°Franklin Avenue¡± to the ¡°Skyway¡± and the ¡°Light Rail,¡± The Silver City bathes locals in sweet civic pride; it is enough to leave any far-flung Minneapolitan sick for home. However, the theme is no transparent gimmick used to pretty up an otherwise lackluster record; the subject matter is but stardust on an already stellar work. Jeremy Messersmith spoke to Reveille about his new album from his bunker studio several stories below sea level.
Reveille: Your new record is very Twin Cities-centric. How did the idea evolve?
Jeremy Messersmith: It evolved mainly from the kinds of songs I was writing. For various reasons my songs started having locations in them. I originally wanted to have the entire record feel like an AM radio station late at night, complete with local ads in between. But I found it didn't really work that well upon repeat listens.
Reveille: Is The Silver City a concept record?
Messersmith: I wouldn't call it a high concept record, but most of the songs and locales are inspired by the Twin Cities. The record has a loose narrative that hops around to different places in town.
Reveille: Why Minneapolis? Could the locale have been anywhere?
Messersmith: It's possible it could've been anywhere, but I found Minneapolis interesting. I found myself looking at the whole city as a living entity with roads, bridges, greenways and transit systems as much alive as the people in it. Minneapolis has a few unique characteristics, namely the light rail and the skyways.
Reveille: This record offers snapshots of mundane suburban life and dull jobs. Do you consider this a sad record or a hopeful record? Why?
Messersmith: I think it's a bittersweet record. The front half of the record is pretty dark, but it should be a little more hopeful by the end. I guess I find it hard to relate to songs if there isn't some mundane attachment to reality in there somewhere.
Reveille: How did you hook up with Dan Wilson?
Messersmith: He saw me play at the Acadia Cafe several years ago and nabbed some of the free CDs I had at the door. We met up the next week and talked about maybe working together someday.
Reveille: Was there much collaboration with Dan leading up to this record, or did you show up ready to go?
Messersmith: Dan was involved pretty much from the beginning. I'd play him songs and send over demos and he'd send notes back on the songs. When we thought we had enough good material to work with, we started recording.
Reveille: How have your songwriting and playing evolved since the last record?
Messersmith: Well, I've probably gotten even worse, if that was possible, at guitar playing in the last year or so, but I find myself concentrating much more on my vocal performance than I used to. I figure my voice is probably the most unique thing I've got, so I should work hard to make it sound nice. As far as songwriting, I tend to let ideas roll around in my head a little longer than I used to. I also try to think of songs as a whole instead of just melodies to hang words on.
Reveille: Name three tracks from your prior records that those new to the world of Messersmith should study up on.
Messersmith: I'd pick 3 tracks from The Alcatraz Kid: ¡°Scientists¡±, ¡°Beautiful Children¡± and ¡°Novocain¡± Those would be good tracks to start with.
Reveille: Tell me about some of your non-musical sources of inspiration.
Messersmith: The biggest is my relationship with my wife. It's like a never-ending fountain of ideas. I'm influenced by a lot of things, but I'm inspired by the people I know best, or think I do.
Reveille: Have you always been a solo artist or have you played in bands? How would you compare the two dynamics?
Messersmith: I've played in a few bands over the years and the most I can say is it's always been an awkward fit. Of course, that might have been the bands I was in. I'm probably a bit too antisocial to have a democratically styled creative process. The Silver City was a harder record to make because I involved way more people. Everyone I worked with was great, but I find being around people kind of exhausting. I had to spend ample time in my self-labeled Fortress of Solitude, my basement studio.
Reveille: This album has a great atmosphere¡ªit is spare with unique accents in choice spots. How were decisions made with regard to instrumentation and arrangements?
Messersmith: Dan and I wanted to try to incorporate more fleshed out arrangements with nice production elements, but also to keep a lot of the quick and dirty basement recording ideas. I hope it worked. Most songs started out with me playing guitar and singing; then we'd see what instruments we had laying around in the room and try playing some parts. Some of the arrangements got pretty bloated during the process. I once asked Dan jokingly if he wanted his credit on the record changed from Producer to Reducer.
Reveille: Tell me about some of the musicians who contributed to The Silver City. Did Dan Wilson perform on any tracks?
Messersmith: Andy Thompson, who has been playing with me live for a few years, played a vast number of strange instruments on the record. We found that no matter what instrument we put in his hands he was able to come up with something for it. Dan played a lot of fun stuff as well, including some nice piano parts, drumming and even one standout slide guitar solo. He is also a supremely confident shaker player.
Reveille: What is your favorite track on the new record, and why?
Messersmith: It's a tossup between ¡°Dead End Job¡± and ¡°Franklin Avenue.¡± My favorite part of the whole record is probably the bridge in ¡°Dead End Job.¡± I love those sort of late '70s lounge singer horn melodies. I'll use any excuse I can to play some trumpet. ¡°Franklin Avenue¡± is probably my favorite track overall because it really benefited from collaboration and I think it's maybe the most interesting dynamically.
Reveille: What was the best part about making The Silver City?
Messersmith: The best part of making the record was getting to learn from all the people who helped me make it. After I made The Alcatraz Kid I felt a little bored sitting around making songs in my basement and I really wanted to find people who could challenge and inspire me.
Reveille: What are your touring plans for this album?
Messersmith: It's coming together slowly, but I'll probably hit the road this fall and possibly again in the spring or summer.
Reveille: In keeping with the theme of The Silver City, what is your favorite place in the Twin Cities?
Messersmith: This is easily the hardest question of the entire interview. It's probably the entire Midtown Greenway. That's not technically a single location, but it's just so much fun biking on it.
COMING UP: Jeremy Messersmith plays the CD release show for The Silver City on Thursday, September 25, at the Varsity Theater . With opening acts Rachel Ries and The Owls (previously featured on Reveille). You can check out a previous Reveille video feature on Jeremy Messersmith here . 7:30 p.m. $10. 18+.
Releases 'Best' CD
Local singer/songwriter and 89.3 the Current favorite Jeremy Messersmith is in the midst of a full-court press to promote his sophomore album, "The Silver City." He's set to pop up on FOX 9 Wednesday morning and KARE 11 Thursday morning, prior to that night's CD release gig at the Varsity with the Owls and Rachel Ries. (Between those two, he'll also stop by the Current for an in-studio performance.)
I'm happy to report the disc Messersmith is hawking is worth all the attention. "The Silver City" kicks up the thoughtful, melodic tunes of his 2006 debut a notch, thanks to savvy production from Dan Wilson (who, don't forget, won a Grammy for his work with the Dixie Chicks). The Elliott Smith comparisons still apply and certainly will draw in indie-rock types, but Messersmith's keen ear for a hook suggests a very substantial national audience could be in his future.
Jeremy Messersmith CD release show tonight
It's been hard to scan a local music blog or website this week without running into a Q&A with Jeremy Messersmith, and for good reason: his second album, The Silver City, which will be released tonight at the Varsity Theater, is a breathtaking work of craftsmanship and heart. Picking up where his delicate and profound debut The Alcatraz Kid left off, The Silver City adds layers of instrumentation and harmonies to Messersmith's signature gentle croon. Head down to the show tonight to learn why critics are calling the Dan Wilson-produced Silver City a "love letter to the Twin Cities" and "perhaps the best local album of the year." With the Owls and Rachel Ries. 18+. $12. 7:30 p.m.
Receiving Transmission: Messersmith Serenades HPR
¡°My earliest influence was playing in church¡ I played trumpet in the church band. You could probably classify it as a ¡®holy-roller¡¯ variety of church.¡±
In life he is reserved, almost shy, but in his music nothing is held back.
Minneapolis singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith is rapidly gaining acclaim throughout the Midwest and beyond. His voice is forlorn and intense, and his songs¡¯ thick chords and beat structure make the whole listening experience erupt in jubilation.
After only four years of performing, he has won the hearts of critics and music fans alike. He even managed to pique the interest of Grammy Award winner, Dan Wilson (Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic), who produced his latest album, ¡°Silver City.¡±
Messersmith¡¯s music speaks truths about the human condition with an uplifting and benevolent demeanor. At the same time, a voice hasn¡¯t sounded so distant and forlorn since Elliot Smith.
One speculation as to why the two singers sound so similar in timbre is that they both used double voice recordings, meaning that they both recorded the same vocal line twice and had them directly overlapping one another. Messersmith said he likes the effect it creates because of its ¡°beefier¡± sound.
He grew up in Richland, Wash., homeschooled in a fairly religious community. ¡°I grew up in a town of about 100,000 people,¡± he said, ¡°but we lived in sort of the outskirts. I guess you could call it a hobby farm. Church was kind of a really big part of growing up.
¡°Probably my earliest influence was playing in church,¡± he continued. ¡°I played trumpet in the church band. You could probably classify it as a ¡®holy-roller¡¯ variety of church. That was kind of a big part of it. I guess it sounded a little like Dixieland¡¡±
He explained further that he was not allowed to listen to non-secular music growing up. When he did listen to the radio, it was mostly 60s and 70s oldies stations. He said, ¡°I ended up being influenced a lot by people like Brian Wilson, the Beatles, and I think my favorite music of all time was basically anything from old Motown. That doesn¡¯t really sound much like my stuff at all, but I just love it when I hear it.¡±
Although Motown is not the prevailing sound in his music, his harmonies are distinctly reminiscent of the Beatles, and of the Beach Boys as well. Emotion flows from his songs, and the thickness of their sound goes down smooth.
His music and his life make for an interesting duality. In life he is reserved, almost shy, but in his music nothing is held back. He refers to his style as ¡°confessional music,¡± an appropriate term for the contrast between his life and song.
¡°You gotta remember I was getting raised homeschooled, so I think I have a bit of an anti-social streak. I just prefer hanging out by myself most of the time,¡± he said.
Being such a reserved individual makes performing somewhat difficult for Messersmith to this day. ¡°It occasionally still is [awkward] if I have reason to be nervous,¡± he said, ¡°and I can pretty much come up with any reason off the top of my head. Stage fright was always kind of a problem, although it¡¯s kind of diminished over the years. I think the more you do it the easier it gets.¡±
His new album, ¡°Silver City,¡± serves as a tribute to his love for Minneapolis. Songs like ¡°Light Rail,¡± ¡°The Commuter,¡± and, ¡°Welcome to Suburbia¡± depict the life of an average guy and his love for the big city.
¡°I think Minneapolis and St. Paul are great towns,¡± he said. ¡°I think of them as the Paris of the Midwest.¡±
Computers are another love of Messersmith¡¯s. ¡°I work at a tech support company, so I guess I¡¯m just your average computer nerd,¡± he said. It goes without saying that he is also an avid video-gamer. Lately he has been hitting GTA4 pretty hard, but said that he¡¯s having a bit of a hard time with it, because he drives slowly and avoids car accidents.
His love for gaming even found its way into his new album. He said, ¡°On the record I played a DS game on one of the tracks. It¡¯s called Electroplankton. It¡¯s a music creation game for the Nintendo DS. I actually incorporated a bunch of that stuff into the first and last track of the album.¡±
He even attributes his definition of music to computer nerdery. ¡°Music is simply the audible encoding of information, or the tonal encoding of information. That¡¯s sort of my computer nerd definition of what it could be, but when you look at music, or you look even at language, all words are condensed and encoded information.
¡°I think music is just another way of encoding it, like adding a splash of color to a black and white movie.¡±
Jeremy Messersmith: The Silver City
At the Franklin Avenue station the train doors part. A harp-accompanied falsetto voice and angelic choir welcome us to heavenly Suburbia, the first stop on our moon-dipped tour of The Silver City. Not coincidentally, this city lends its name to Jeremy Messersmith's latest record, a bittersweet love letter to the Twin Cities and perhaps the best local album of the year. Filtered through the songwriter, Minneapolis becomes a celestial, sometimes idealized, sometimes hyper-realistic version of itself. Futuristic travelers on The Silver City's cover scamper toward the Midwestern Oz.
As we continue our whimsical rail ride, narrator Messersmith's "Dead-End Job" proves that while loud guitars may get us going, it takes a great ballad to really take out our legs. The tune is a sweet but doleful look at stereotypical American life; its horn-drenched bridge section connotes timeless, meandering elevator music.
We pause to loiter on "Franklin Avenue," the Dan Wilson-produced record's standout track. Messersmith's collaboration with the Grammy Award-winning Wilson proves potent on this radio-friendly cut, the latter crooning "Waiting for that sinking feeling" over, among other things, a tambourine, cello, and glockenspiel.
The production on The Silver City is beautifully spare, with well-chosen accents from bells to electronica and clarinet that are always underfoot but never overwhelm or seem artificial. Space here is used almost as another instrument, serving to bolster the record's dynamic and broaden its sonic atmosphere.
Throughout our tour of city streets, love, marriage, loss, and rebirth, our conductor does his best to soothe. Vocally, Messersmith impresses; he is a more confident version of Death Cab's Ben Gibbard, a less hazy Elliott Smith. His voice has gentleness without the typical emo affectation. It is a memorable voice that will have boys reminiscing and girls steadying their knees (see "Love You to Pieces").
Nearing our destination, we're held up briefly by a welcome back-road breakdown before meeting with a serene rendition of Paul Westerberg's "Skyway," through which Messersmith manages to make everybody's favorite hamster cage of downtown steel and smudged glass seem a beautiful thing. Finally, after a lovers' getaway to Virginia, we're back on the "Light Rail." The cut would be right at home on a Wes Anderson movie soundtrack; it locomotes poppily about the countryside, all aboard bobbing their heads and grinning. And when we reach the end of the line, we'll all buy a ticket back to the city. -Will McClain
Photo - Tom Wallace, Star Tribune
From 'Alcatraz' to 'Silver City'
After moving here to attend Bible college, singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith has moved on to studying the gospel according to young urbanites.
At first, it sounds like a love letter to the Twin Cities. But when you hear singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith talk about the problems he has endured and the personal journey he's been on since living here, you realize that his new album, "The Silver City," is a bit more complicated.
Messersmith and his wife, Vanessa -- both graduates of the Minneapolis Christian college North Central University -- used to live in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis and loved it, but their house got broken into a couple times. Fed up, they relocated to the Lowertown area of downtown St. Paul. Then they found themselves spending too much time commuting back to Minneapolis.
"It's definitely not a straight-ahead love letter, although there are things I love about living here," Messersmith, 28, explained last week at his new place in Uptown, where the couple had just moved about a week earlier.
"It's more about the experiences I've had living in the Twin Cities, but I never actually say Minneapolis or St. Paul. They might be experiences of anybody my age in any city."
Yes, "The Silver City" has universal themes about life as a young, mass-transit-riding, cubicle-working, job-temping urbanite. But some of the songs should ring specific bells for Twin Cities residents.
Songs like "Franklin Avenue," about a personal crossroads Messersmith faced, and "Light Rail" have an obvious Minneapolis connection. There's as much fine detail in more generically titled tunes such as "The Commuter" and "Welcome to Suburbia," written from a city-dweller's perspective of a big home in a cul-de-sac as a (mythical?) nirvana. Even the record's one cover, the Replacements' "Skyway," wisely fits the mold.
"The Silver City" -- which Messersmith and his two-piece band will promote with a release party Thursday at the Varsity Theater -- was produced by Dan Wilson, Semisonic's frontman (or at least he is again this weekend, thanks to the McNally Smith River Rocks Festival). Clearly a kindred spirit for Messersmith's softly sung, sophisticated pop and hip balladry, Wilson got one of the 500 or so homemade CDs that Messersmith gave out around town prior to the release of his first album, "The Alcatraz Kid," in 2006.
"It's cheaper to actually burn a CD for someone nowadays than it is to print up a flier," Messersmith shrewdly noted.
With its surprisingly highbrow albeit lo-fi production (lightly laced with strings and horns), "The Alcatraz Kid" immediately made Messersmith a kid to watch. It landed on our year-end Twin Cities Critics Tally in 2006, and it earned him a songwriter nod in City Pages' "Best of the Twin Cities."
The debut record also garnered a heap of comparisons to collegiate indie-rock star Sufjan Stevens, whose soft, sweet voice and use of strings and horns are akin to Messersmith's -- whether Messersmith knows it or not.
"I honestly have never really listened to him, but I've heard a few songs now and have read up on him," Messersmith said of Stevens, who is famously a devout Christian. "I guess there's a similar wholesome Christian earnestness there. I'd be curious to meet him, because I think we share a lot of the same background."
Messersmith's youth was defined by a trinity of unusual circumstances: He was raised in a Christian fundamentalist home; he was home-schooled through high school; and the part of Washington State where he's from, the Tri Cities area, was a center for building atomic bombs.
"It's like a big toxic-waste dump now, basically," he said, comparing it to Springfield, home of TV's Simpson family. "My dad actually had Homer's job at the nuclear plant, as a safety inspector."
Messersmith moved to the Twin Cities for college, but even before he was done with school, he said, he started questioning his belief system. He is no longer a practicing Christian.
"One of the reasons I went to a Christian college was to kind of hear Christian apologetics and their answers to the questions of life that everybody has," he said. "They didn't really answer to my satisfaction."
A music major, he picked up songwriting via a class at North Central. While he worked a series of jobs as a temp and a self-proclaimed "computer geek" after school -- fodder for another of the excellent new songs, "Dead End Job" -- he started testing his own tunes at the Acadia Cafe and other coffeehouses around town.
With ample radio play right now on the Current (89.3 FM) and plans to tour in the fall, Messersmith said the idea of playing music full-time "would be very fitting."
"A lot of my songs are about that really awkward period after college when you're faced with finding your place in the world, figuring out where you fit," he said.
He didn't say it, but it sounds as though Messersmith has figured out his place.
JEREMY MESSERSMITH CD PARTY
With: The Owls, Rachel Ries.
When: 8 p.m. Thu.
Where: Varsity Theater, 308 SE. 4th St., Mpls.
Tickets: $10-$12. 612-604-0222.
- CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
DULUTH BUDGETEER NEWS
Jeremy Messersmith builds on success of ¡®The Alcatraz Kid¡¯
When ¡°The Alcatraz Kid¡± came out, I said, ¡°Melancholy has a new best friend forever in Jeremy Messersmith.¡± I may have spoken too soon.
While its follow-up, ¡°The Silver City,¡± isn¡¯t like an I¡¯m-having-so-much-fun-surfing-I-could-hurl early Beach Boys record or anything, there¡¯s at least a glimmer of sunshine that wasn¡¯t present two years ago.
For instance, when the Twin Cities popsmith expounds upon hell on Earth in ¡°Welcome to Suburbia¡± ¡ª as in, actually living in suburbia ¡ª he does it in such an epic and catchy way that you almost want to reconsider living in a place as special as Duluth. Almost.
Much of this newfound pop love can probably be credited to the man behind the boards, producer Dan Wilson. He¡¯s the Trip Shakespeare/Semisonic frontman who, weirdly enough (see previous review), also transformed underappreciated folk duo Storyhill into a Jayhawks-rivaling phenomenon on 2006¡¯s ¡°Storyhill.¡±
Everything that made ¡°Alcatraz¡± such a revelation ¡ª namely Messersmith¡¯s fascination with the late great Elliott Smith¡¯s skill set (see ¡°Franklin Avenue¡±) ¡ª is still present on ¡°The Silver City,¡± but there¡¯s an extra layer of polish that will help the troubadour reach greater audiences. Again, a la Storyhill.
Like Aaron Espe¡¯s ¡°Songs From a Small Town,¡± this concept album about getting around Minneapolis* isn¡¯t something you¡¯ll want to pass up at the local record store.
*As far as I can tell. My reasoning: Interludes include recordings from the city¡¯s light rail system, and there¡¯s even a cover of the Replacements classic ¡°Skyway.¡±
Jeremy Messersmith will play a CD release show for ¡°The Silver City¡± Sept. 25 at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. Get the details at www.jeremymessersmith.com
.-Matthew R. Perrine
Jeremy MessersmithSilver City
Budding wordsmith Jeremy Messersmith takes us on a journey through the streets of Minneapolis, and in doing so forges a distinctive voice that pierces through the rigor mortis of city life.
Following on from his first full-length release Alcatraz Kid, Jeremy Messersmith¡¯s The Silver City is eleven forlorn tales in the bittersweet life of a twenty first-century city dweller. After a short burst of commuter traffic that starts proceedings, ¡®Welcome To Suburbia¡¯ kicks in, its like been born only to find Wayne Coyle giving you the guided tour of what to expect from life as a chorus of angels serenade you as you go. Unfortunately shit happens, ¡®Dead end Jobs¡¯ melodic lament reminding us of that with a deft touch Messersmith exhibits throughout. ¡®I¡¯m waiting for that sinking feeling¡¯ he sings on Franklin Avenue, but we don¡¯t believe he¡¯s given up hope it might not yet come. ¡®The Commuter¡¯ exchanges the rigours of city life for the reprieve it can offer from woes at home, before Messersmith goes all Postal Service and delivers a chunk of pop beauty in Miracles. ¡®Do you believe in miracles?¡¯ he asks, its clich¨¦ done to maximum effect and an album highlight, so yes we very much do. The Silver City is an album immersed in sentimentality and new pop firth, Messersmith shows that he can not only write ballads of heartbreak, ¡®Love You To Pieces,¡¯ and do covers to rival the original, ¡®Skyway,¡¯ but that he can do it all and more with enough sensibility to create an album full of unashamed pop virtue. A loving ode to the streets of Minneapolis; here we discover tales unencumbered by the constraints of geography, instead been treated to a limitless second album from an artist whose freshness is astonishing considering we could probably name his influences from A-Z, do yourself a favour and go discover ¡®The Silver City.¡¯ -Alex Hibbert
If you like the sound of this, then check these out?
Postal Service, Eliiot Smith, Ben Folds
The Silver City could quite possibly be 2008's greatest and most gorgeous concept album. Though it's a light concept based on life in the twin cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul that he inhabits, it's his angelic voice (seriously, people, if male angels could sing, this is what they would sound like), striking melodies and stripped down poetics that really bring the folk-pop masterstroke to life. The Silver City is so relatable because it's about regular human life in all its glories and fumbles. Messersmith is able to avoid the cheese with his lyrical frankness and adds spice with often odd instrumentation (there are omnichords, bells and glockenspiels) that flutters in and out of most songs. It's still rooted in that heartfelt singer/songwriter vibe that can get kind of cliche, but that icky feeling is easy to brush off after hearing angel-boy Messersmith sing about skyways and making them sound like clouds in heaven. -Phil Villeneuve
AIDING AND ABETTING
Jeremy MessersmithThe Silver City
The album's title and artwork are vaguely Oz-ian, but the music is more one-man pop. Messersmith does have a large number of pals who play with him, but his writing has that cool, eccentric quality of so many singular projects. Not quite lush, but well-formed and pretty, verging on gorgeous.
The Silver City
I¡¯ve recently discovered that honesty is the best policy, so I¡¯m just gonna lay it all out on the line here: Jeremy Messersmith is the singer of my most-listened to song on iTunes. Not something I would have expected, I don¡¯t list him as one of my favorite musical acts. And yet, when I hit that ordering tab, there he was: ¡°Novocain,¡± the second track off of his first album, The Alcatraz Kid. Now, I will admit to you, that this song is about numbing yourself from pain, something I was very interested in last year. And then the song meant so much for me, I just kept listening. And, in the meantime, I fell completely in love with Messersmith¡¯s voice.
And now we¡¯re three quarters of the way through this year, and Messersmith has given us The Silver City. True to form, his voice is the most present aspect of this album. But there is so much more that he gives us with this second album: The artwork, smart melodies, and a theme album in the best sense. According to his website, this is a work inspired by the Twin Cities of Minnesota, an area of which I am currently not particularly fond of since it just hosted the RNC. But I will forgive it as long as Messersmith continues to produce works like these.
Some of the same themes that were present in The Alcatraz Kid exist in The Silver City. He¡¯s still hung up on jobs a bit, and doesn¡¯t seems to want to grow up, like some sort of Peter Pan troubadour. Again, his second track is the one that speaks to me the most. ¡°Welcome to Suburbia¡± kills me with its double edged message of "life is great, but you¡¯re living in a cage". There¡¯s also a driving beat, and if you¡¯ve read pretty much of any of my reviews, you know that has me at the first pounding of the drum.
But it¡¯s Messersmith¡¯s voice, backed by an angelic chorus that makes me close my eyes in listener¡¯s bliss. He has the kind of voice that, I am convinced, could end world strife. So for God¡¯s sake, Jeremy, bring those vocal chords of yours out here to California and help us out! ¡ª Amber Henson
The Silver City
(CD, Princess, Folk/pop)
Writers and other musicians all seem to be united in their unwavering support of Jeremy Messersmith. It will be interesting to see whether or not the public at large follows suit. After all, as genuinely good as his music is, Jeremy writes and records music that is so soft and personal that it just doesn't fit in with what the average twenty-first century listener wants. In an age of throwaway meaningless pop, Messersmith may very well find himself the darling of a small group but incredibly devoted group of listeners...while the majority of folks lack the ability to comprehend what he is doing. The Silver City is another amazing album from this incredibly talented young man. Instead of creating canned crap to please the masses, Messersmith writes and records smart, genuine, personal soft pop that is incredibly well-crafted and real. This extraordinarily subdued album is full of fantastic melodies and sincere lyrics. The more we hear from Jeremy...the more intrigued we are. Killer tunes include "The Silver City," "Dead End Job," "Love You To Pieces," and "Virginia." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)
Jeremy, Andy and Dan stopped by KTCZ Cities 97 to play a few songs in Studio C. You can check out video footage of Light Rail, Miracles, and Love You to Pieces here.
Jeremy Messersmith The Silver City
Producer: Dan Wilson
Genre: Acoustic Pop/Rock
This is exactly what the music business needs more of, talented artists that writes their own material and can perform it without the "can be fixed in the studio" saying that the members of the Idol jury uses a lot when they see a cute girl/boy that has no voice.
Jeremy has a beautiful voice and writes angelic songs, he should be the next American Idol if I was the judge.
Songs like "Novocain" and "Beautiful children" from Jeremy's first full length release "The Alcatraz Kid" garnered local radio play and the attention of Grammy Winner Dan WIlson (Semisonic) who offered to produce Jeremy's next album namely this disc that will be released on Sept.9th.
"The Silver City" features 10 new original tracks penned by Messersmith and a really good cover of The Replacements "Skyway", I gave his debut 3 stars in my review on melodic.net but think the new album is even better.
Just listen to the fantastic opening track "Welcome to suburbia" or the lovely "Virginia", songs that comes from the heart of a musician that has something to tell.
The song "Light rail" is already on rotation on local radio and my guess is that "Franklin avenue" will be the next track to conquer the airwaves.
For fans of Julian Lennon, Fielding, Dan Wilson, Michael Penn, Paul Simon
NPR's Second Stage
Jeremy Messersmith: 'Franklin Avenue'
Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith.
NPR.org, September 3, 2008
It's hard to listen to The Silver City, the new CD from Minnesota chamber-pop artist Jeremy Messersmith, without thinking of Sufjan Stevens. Both artists have strikingly similar voices and a love of richly orchestrated story songs. They also find inspiration in geography: Stevens in his series of albums about the 50 states, and Messersmith in the songs he writes about his Midwestern home. The Silver City is Messersmith's heartfelt tribute to the Twin Cities, where he's lived for the past 10 years, with inspired songs of celebration and sorrow in the heartland.
The Silver City opens with the title cut, which isn't a song so much as a strangely haunting mix of ambience from a train station and the humming city outside. (The album closes with it, as well.) It quickly shifts to one of the album's most jubilant tracks, "Welcome to Suburbia," which extols bucolic life in the Twin Cities, with just enough irony to suggest that all isn't as cheery as it first may seem.
Throughout The Silver City, Messersmith borrows heavily but lovingly from some of his favorite artists. There's the twinkling harmonies of Brian Wilson and The Beatles, and the gentle touch of Elliott Smith. Some of the chord progressions are reminiscent of Aimee Mann's work. But Messersmith adds his own colorful touches, including the electro-pop and vintage drum loops on "Miracles" and "Virginia," as well as the wistful country swing of "Breaking Down."
"Franklin Avenue" is the album's most infectious track. It was inspired, in part, by a prominent street in Minneapolis that Messersmith has lived on and around for several years. "The song is more about the aftermath of an existential crisis," Messersmith says. "It was a long-coming crisis, I guess. I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian (home-schooled through high school), and it started to feel like an increasingly awkward fit as I got older."
Messersmith started recording his own work after auditing a songwriting course at North Central University in Minneapolis. After playing some shows and handing out demos, his music found its way to Princess Records, which released his debut (The Alcatraz Kid) in 2006. Messersmith will tour this fall for The Silver City, and is already at work on a follow-up collection of songs. -Robin Hilton
The Silver City
Hey it's Mx2007 with another review for everyone. So Jeremy Messersmith came to my door and hand delivered his newest CD called The Silver City. I was first introduced to Jeremy when I went to a concert at the Cedar Cultural Center last December. Since then, I've also seen him at the Art Institute. Jeremy has put out one record called Alcatraz Kid, and will soon put out another one which is the one I'm reviewing. You can check out his website here. Jeremy is the main person in the band other than a few people in the backround. The CD comes out Sept. 9th and the CD release party is on Sept. 27th at the Varsity Theater. The theme of the album is based on downtown Minneapolis and it's skyline. The songs remind me of the light rail and city streets.The best song on the CD is the upbeat "Franklin Avenue" which is very different from the Alcatraz Kid to me, but still good. Check out Jeremy Messersmith on iTunes.
MINNPOST.COMJim Walsh Monday Morning PlaybackJeremy Messersmith,
." Haven't heard the full album yet, but whenever this gem eases out of the radio, I get a rush of ELO channeling Big Star and the most bittersweet caught-between-summer-and-fall ache.
Today I got the opportunity to chat with Minneapolis songwriter Jeremy Messersmith about his new album, The Silver City, which we told you about last week.
What was recording process like for The Silver City? Was it much different than The Alcatraz Kid?
Recording The Silver City was much different than my previous record. I got bored with my current creative process (sitting in my basement and multitracking) and decided I should try to find some musical collaborators. I found two- Dan Wilson and Andy Thompson. All three of us have our own studios so we split time between them. Dan produced the record so we spent most of the time recording there. Most of the tracks started with just me and acoustic guitar- some from my basement demos. Then the three of us would sit around and try to think of something cool, or just try to play something that was laying around in the room.
I¡¯m told this is a concept album about the Twin Cities. Do you live near Franklin Avenue (mp3), or how did the idea for that come about?
It¡¯s a concept record in that it is inspired by Twin Cities locales and landmarks. I¡¯ve lived on or around Franklin Avenue for several years now and I always thought it would be a great setting for a song.
Tell me about the track ¡°Welcome to Suburbia.¡± I¡¯ve got to tell you, I just bought my first house in the burbs, and that song pretty much runs through my head during my commute home every night.
I¡¯m so sorry! I have a friend who can¡¯t listen to the song because she finds it too frightening. I think for a lot of people, a nice house in the suburbs is the culmination of the American dream, or the closest thing to ¡°heaven on earth.¡± Naturally, I had to write a song about absurd that is.
What are you doing on 9/2 at the Fitz? Is that related to the RNC?
It¡¯s a clever bit of anti-programming organized by Adam Levy, John Munson and Matt Wilson. I think it¡¯ll be a night of good music and some great ideas. I¡¯ll be playing a set of tunes with a band.
Tell me about your upcoming CD Release show on 9/25.
I¡¯m playing a show with The Owls and Rachel Ries. I¡¯ll be playing a nice long set with a few friends of mine and a somewhat revamped live show. Rachel is a good friend of mine and sang on my new record. She¡¯ll be coming up from Chicago to play. The Owls new record is probably my local favorite of the year or at least the record I¡¯ve listened to the most. I¡¯ve never seen them play live, so I begged them to be on the bill.
What else is new?
Well, I just got taken out to the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum. Being the biggest Star Wars nut ever I was pretty excited to ride in the Millennium Falcon. Hmmm. I guess I need to make a Star Wars record or something.
Jeremy Messersmith¡¯s CD Release Show for The Silver City September 25 at The Varsity Theater with The Owls and Rachel Ries.
HowWasTheShow.com Staff CD ReviewsJeremy Messersmith
¨C ¡°The Silver City¡± and ¡°Welcome to Suburbia¡±
Host David de Young discusses new CDs for September 2008 with HowWasTheShow¡¯s Bob Longmore, Jen Paulson and Pat O¡¯Brien.
The Silver City
If Sufjan Stevens was Jeremy Messersmith or if Jeremy Messersmith was Sufjan Stevens or if they somehow were able to sort out an exact 50/50 split personality portal, The Silver City would likely go down as the best concept album about Minneapolis since the city was incorporated back in the 19th Century. Truth be told, The Silver City, which is an omen to the City of Lakes through the eyes of Mr. Messersmith, doesn't really sound that much like Mr. Stevens, however the reference needed to be made, especially since you could feasibly trick your little sister into believing this was Stevens' latest concept piece.
Anyway, The Silver City is an uncomplicated record that boasts one part rock, one part folk, and one part electronic from this seemingly disgruntled singer/songwriter. And with the production of Dan Wilson (Semisonic), this record sounds as good as it needs to.
Messersmith's strongest quality, besides the fact that he can't get enough of his hometown (kudos to him!), is his clean and pure vocal delivery. Think Ben Gibbard with a little less sugar and a tad more falsetto. He commands each song frivolously, creating an even keel sound, one that has been attempted by many, but only mastered by few.
There is an unnecessary cover of The Replacements' "Skyway", which is The Silver City's penultimate track. On the surface it makes total sense as to why Messersmith would cover this song, as it is one of those few songs that truly defines the Twin Cities, but it really should be left alone. The album closes with "Light Rail", a great little tune about the new mass transit system that runs in downtown Minneapolis. Metro Transit might do well to pick this song up for advertising, as Messersmith makes riding the new train seem more appealing than taking a holiday on a yacht.
So, concept about MPLS or not, The Silver City is a fairly decent pop album that should maintain its shelf life for a few months. At least in Minneapolis and their local public radio station. -Kyle Undem
You know a good song when you hear it. What you probably don't know is what went into creating that song. Songs from Scratch chronicles the songwriting process to find out what transforms a vague idea into a full-fledged tune.
Minnesota Public Radio gave three local musicians¡ªBest Friends Forever, P.O.S. (of Doomtree), and Jeremy Messersmith¡ªtwo weeks to write a song. We assigned them a theme ("The Wizard of Oz") and a set of lyrics (penned by Honeydogs' front man Adam Levy) to up the difficulty level.
Songs from Scratch is documenting their techniques and inspirations, as well as their challenges, to get a first-hand look at how a song comes to life.
More info (and the final versions of the songs themselves) can be found here.