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Why your local folk singer could become your folk hero

Photo: ZaaZaa Productions, License: N/A

ZaaZaa Productions

Man of many hats: Radio DJ, limousine dispatch and songwriter Nick Mery.

I imagine interviewing Nick Mery is something like dealing with national acts. He schedules me on a Sunday just before his #goodjobtexas radio program, held at Studio 14 Hundred on West Avenue and broadcast on KROV 91.7 HD2. The show gets delayed. Then he disappears for a photo shoot. Then the guests (myself, local Texas is Funny Records owner Scott Andreu, and talent from River City Wrestling) are corralled into a room while Mery works out the schedule. Midway through our chat, he leaves for another shoot and our interview ends when the show starts.

The place is in quiet, somehow organized, chaos. Mery is calm, charismatic, and provocative as he genially plugs his day job ("Elegant Limousine is the number one limousine company in Texas"), dishes on the SA music community's chief obstacle ("The venues and the promoters… a lazy family"), and politely declines to say what CBS paid to license his 2009 Boy & the Bird EP. On air, Mery promotes anything SA arts-related. He hypes the upcoming Texas is Funny Showcase with Andreu before poking fun at RCW star A.J. Summers' height, between playing cuts of his favorite local music.

Mery is a consummate ambassador, easily read as either community-driven or Machiavellan. In fact, he's both. For proof, one can study not just his radio show, but also his musical excursions. In 2010, a Zeitgeist Management agent (repping Death Cab for Cutie, She & Him, and others) told Mery that if he wanted more than recurring blips of national recognition, the local music community needed to rally behind him. So Mery abandoned his folky Merykid project and started The Great '85 with Heather Go Psycho's drummer Diana Marie. The Great '85 played loud, conceptual rock all over SA, gaining Mery new followers and making the Current's "Best Local Albums of 2011" list. Mery went heavy because he wanted a larger audience for his music and his satellite projects.

"Now I can show people that the songs [they] like are still here, but it's in a different way," he said, referencing two forthcoming projects.

The first is Merykid's Lullwood, a collection of folk tunes exploring dreams. Where 2010's The Raccoon saw Mery incorporating gaggles of electronics, Lullwood is leafless. All songs are played on the piano, banjo, or guitar by either Mery or Edwin J. Stephens (The Fisherman, Blowing Trees), who has become something like the Mike Mogis to Mery's Conor Oberst. Early demos of "New Tricks" and "See Me Through" find the duo channeling Nick Drake with Southern soul accents.

Meanwhile, Mery is working with Polysynth Fusion as The Texas Weather. Mery refers to Mike Randolph (PF's creative center) not as a fellow musician but as an "avant-garde expressionist." Their forthcoming Pluck unites Mery's popcraft with Randolph's improvised synth-driven, theremin-accented sound collages. It's all meant to work in the style of Mery's psycho-folk cover of Metallica's "Master of Puppets."

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