A Conversation with Nick Mery
Mike Ragogna: Nick, why two albums?
Nick Mery: I guess I'm a bit of a show-off! I wanted to release two albums in order to move forward stylistically--Gentlemen Streets is electronic and experimental--while also touching on my roots--The Blue Dog is very folky, like my earlier work. Hopefully my die-hard fans will appreciate the homage to my older material, and new fans will see that I am more than a one-trick pony.
MR: How did you segregate the creativity that needed to go into each of them to have separate statements?
NM: I approach every album like an actor reading a script. Some actors are only good at comedy, some at action movies, etc. There are other actors who can adapt to any character, any script, any setting, and bring a unique approach to whatever is in front of them. My thought process towards an electronic album is the same as a folk album, and is the same as it would be towards a punk album, etc. What are the characteristics needed from me, the artist, to fulfill the requirements of this genre to the best of its abilities?
MR: How did you approach the recording process for each of them?
NM: Both of these albums were written in my little apartment, just me and my laptop. The Blue Dog EP was written entirely with acoustic instruments that I mic'd up. This was to capitalize on the reverb of the room, and the sounds of the instruments creaking and croaking (all of which are characteristics of my favorite folk records).
For Gentlemen Streets, once I had written everything, I took the files to my friend/frequent collaborator Edwin Stephens, took some time off, and then approached the record again with fresh ears in order to add little changes. Once he and I started working 13-hour days on it, the process consisted mostly of us texting each other saying we were going to quit music and be full-time car washers. Our minds were pushed to the edge near the end, but it was a worthwhile endeavor.
MR: Just generally, what inspires you to write and record?
NM: Inspiration is impossible to tie down. There are songs I've worked on for years, and there are songs that come to me while sitting in traffic. Inspiration is everywhere. If a spoon drops off the table and creates a cool sound, that could be the sound that changes the world, with the right song behind it. It's all about your enthusiasm for creation, taking chances, and believing in your product.
MR: Which song is the best example of you as an artist on the releases?
NM: On Gentlemen Streets, my favorite song is "True". As the writer, producer, and singer, I believe it's the track that pushed my creativity the farthest on every level. On Blue Dog, the song "Dragon Lilies & The Blue Dog" is the track that means the most. I seldom play piano on a track, so the colors from the instruments on that song just felt right.
MR: Do you have a favorite song, yours or otherwise?
NM: "Lilac Wine" by Jeff Buckley is, in my opinion, the most beautiful song ever written.
MR: Beautiful. Of the pair, which was the most challenging project to make?
NM: Gentlemen Streets, an LP, was difficult because of the lengthy process involved, which took a little over 8 months to complete. Blue Dog, an EP, was difficult because I wrote and recorded the entire thing--guitars, vocals, mandolin, drums, and piano--in two days.
MR: Wow. Okay, what's the quick history lesson on Nick Mery and who are your creative influences?
NM: The details concerning my life in San Antonio, Texas, are inconsequential. I was raised by my large Lebanese family, all of whom love to sing, dance, make music, talk about music, and most of all, just being around each other. I have many memories of my dad and his brothers playing Elvis songs one day and singing Barbershop Quartet the next. Periods of my life are defined by Earth, Wind, & Fire records. There was no shortage of music growing up.
My biggest inspiration is the musician Chris Thile, mandolinist for the band Punch Brothers. He has taken the genre of bluegrass into directions that it should have never gone, but when you hear his work, you wonder how no one else ever got there. He is truly a composer and a genius, and I'm inspired by the boundaries he will cross. I find equal inspiration from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone due to the premise in which every episode is set--anything can happen in any universe. That's the expected unpredictability that I like to bring to every record I work on.
Lastly, I am heavily inspired by the musicians I work with/around in San Antonio. There are a lot of great producers like Ernest Gonzales, Beautiful Lou, and AM Architect, who are constantly changing not only their style, but pop culture alongside it. Likewise, artists like Greg G, Carlton Zeus, and FilmStrips are all people that I look up to, because of their writing and work ethic.
MR: I was lucky enough to have interviewed Chris Thile a while back, I agree, he's a genius. And I grew up on reruns of Rod Serling and his TV shows Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. Just curious, even though you already have a track record, do you still consider yourself a new artist?
NM: I do not! As much as I'd like to pretend that I'm a new artist, there are some grey hairs that disagree with the statement. To be honest, Gentlemen Streets is an album that really embraces being older, more mature, and learning from past mistakes. I think its cool to consider myself an adult, especially as I write this on the eve of my 28th birthday.
MR: You old man, you! What advice do you have for new artists?
NM: Get a job, you bums! But in all seriousness, embrace the need to constantly evolve. You need to fall down a lot, make changes, take criticism for all it's worth, and use all of it to push you one step at a time. It's easy to make cover songs on YouTube, but copying artists who are popular because of trends will result in you fading out as fast as they do. Make sure that your soul is a part of your work, and be honest about it.
MR: What's the best advice you ever received?
NM: In 2008, my friend Edwin told me to "reward loyalty with loyalty." I've been working with him ever since.
MR: That's the best thing I've heard in a long time, thanks for that line. I'm big on loyalty. So is there anything we need to know about Nick Mery and his music that we may not already know?
NM: Doctor's say that if his music sells 1,000,000 units, one of the world's major illnesses will be cured. I believe its a theory worth investigating.
Nick Mery's "Give It Up" - featuring Carly Garza
Nick Mery's "Dreamer"
THERE CAN BE NO OTHOR...ALL HAIL LoKi!
Here's the story, as told to me, word for word, about the young musical god that is LoKi that's apparently been passed down from generation to generation over many millennia. Or just passed down to me over nachos about an hour ago.
"LoKi, aka David Huebner is an exciting up and coming producer/DJ currently residing in Iowa City. A linguistics major, LoKi now focuses his finely tuned ear on obsessively creating choice, gnarly bass music. Creations that can only be categorized as 'intelligent' dance music. LoKi weaves a kaleidoscope of precise, intricate percussion, mischievously compelling melodies and phat textured bass synths born and meticulously bred from a keen and original mind. He creates compelling grooves, irresistible to your dancing feet. His sounds interplay, taking on a creature like life of their own, that delivers dance shock waves through your system, imprinting you with sound and leaving you vibrating long after the music has stopped."
The legend continues.
"Recently, LoKi has been accepted into an incredible competition (cue dramatic electronic intro) THE UNTZ CHALLENGE! The winner will perform at 10 festivals across the country!! This would be a manifestation of a heartfelt dream for LoKi. LoKi says about his love for music, 'Music unites us. When we come together and take part in a shared musical experience, we transcend the separateness of ourselves. We become closer, connected in our humanity. We can elevate ourselves through shared artistic expansion and expression. It would be a deep honor to be able to facilitate this experience for people on a large scale.'"
The legend continues further, but not too much further, just a little bit, all things considered.
"The Untz competition would be the realization of a dream, allowing for a paradigm shift in the reality of his goals. His track 'Co-Passion' is a bass anthem with enormous, emotional bass synths, painted with killer guitar riffs supplied by the talented Jonnie Cohen (MR Note: Also watch for this Jonnie guy, he's a guitar force of nature to be dealt with). Definitely worth a listen on speakers that can support such a huge and intelligently carved musical experience. If you like what you hear, support this artist by voting #43 at https://www.theuntz.com under contests 'The Untz Challenge' and be sure to confirm your vote through the email they send."
So voting ends 11:59pm Friday 26th. For more info: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6HbSvOl09TDOGRfYnVnX3NaUkk/edit
TIME TO LISTEN, MORTALS!
And lo, they voted for whomever they wanted, especially #43.