CLC Performing Arts Center presents musician Jeremy Messersmith
Indie- pop singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith of Minneapolis will perform at 7 p.m. May 6 at Central Lakes College’s Chalberg Theatre in Brainerd.
BRAINERD — Jeremy Messersmith is sort of the odd duck out in his family of health care workers.
The 42-year-old singer-songwriter from Minneapolis forged his own path in life and has found success as an indie-pop musician who will perform at 7 p.m. May 6 at Central Lakes College’s Chalberg Theatre in Brainerd.
“I'm the only one who's a musician. Everyone else — I have three siblings — and they all ended up being doctors or nurses, except for me, so I’m kind of the outlier, I guess. To be honest, being a doctor sounds a lot harder than what I do,” he said with a chuckle about any sibling rivalry and about pursuing a career in the music industry. “And I was the oldest so I kind of just did my own thing, I guess.”
Messersmith went to school to study computer science but eventually graduated with a music degree from North Central University in Minneapolis.
“I wanted to be an electric guitar player with a lot of mystique, and a cool rock band was kind of my goal,” he said. “And then when I got to school, I realized … I wasn't that great at guitar, and I didn't really have a lot of mystique, so I decided to just kind of become a songwriter I guess, instead.”
Hailed as a “Minnesota music hero” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Messersmith got his start like most musicians, performing in coffee shops and recording songs in his basement.
“I didn't have a lot of performance experience before I went to music school,” he said. “I had really bad stage fright, so I'd say the most useful thing was just playing in front of people and my musical peers.”
Messersmith’s musical influences growing up, for an indie-pop artist, arguably came from an unlikely and decidedly unhip or uncool source: hymns and sacred music.
“I sang in church a lot — my parents were very religious — so that was kind of what my earliest musical memories are, playing hymns and things in church and kind of like old ladies harmonizing next to me,” he said.
Messersmith’s first effort, “The Alcatraz Kid” (2006), featured quiet, often melancholic songs and drew the attention of Dan Wilson (Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic), who then produced Messersmith's follow-up, “The Silver City” (2008).
“A thoughtful, clever lyricist with a tender voice, the Minneapolis-based troubadour crafts songs that are catchy and relatable, and span the emotional gamut from poignancy to whimsy,” according to a news release from Central Lakes College.
After his parents gave him a Sony Walkman, Messersmith said he spent a lot of time listening to a local oldies station that played The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Motown artists. But he said recently he is liking artists Big Thief, Phoebe Bridgers and Bo Burnham, just to name a few.
“I feel like oldies was maybe the only thing that they were able to kind of like tolerate,” he said of his parents. “But they would just say contemporary music wasn't very good music when you know hymns are so much better.”
With his subsequent releases, Messersmith's reputation for elegant, literate songcraft continued to build nationally with acclaim from NPR, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New York Times and an appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
“I started listening to contemporary music (as a teen) and modern rock ‘n’ roll, I guess, and, yeah, I found that to be better than hymns,” Messersmith said with a hearty laugh.
He will be working with Pierz High School students, the Alternative Education Center and members of The Center and Bethany Good Samaritan in Brainerd before his performance at the college. He said he was booked once before to play at a Brainerd restaurant.
“The day before I was supposed to drive down and play the gig in Brainerd, the owners emailed and canceled because, instead, they decided they were going to host, like, a WWF Championship watch party instead,” Messersmith said.
In April 2017, he took an unexpected turn by publishing a songbook of ukulele music entitled “11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs For Ukulele: A Micro Folk Record For The 21st Century And Beyond,” which he followed up with an 80-stop “micro tour” of free pop-up concerts nationwide.
“The biggest influence on what I do is Minnesota songwriter Dan Wilson from the band Semisonic. … He came out to a show I played at a coffee shop, and he produced my second album, ‘The Silver City,’ and has been kind of a lifelong friend and mentor,” Messersmith said.
According to the news release about Messersmith, “Jeremy is one of those rare artists who can break your heart one minute, and then put those fragile pieces back together again the next.”
“He has a breathless kind of pure vocal tone, which I often try to emulate in my own stuff,” Messersmith said of Wilson and the power of music. “I mean just like a series of sounds, of notes, can make us feel things and that is just unrivaled.”
If you go
- What: Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith .
- When: 7 p.m. May 6.
- Where: Central Lakes College, Chalberg Theatre, 501 W. College Drive, Brainerd.
- Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for those under 18 and CLC students. To purchase, visit www.clcperformingarts.com/events or 218-855-8199.