Keeping it Casual: Jeremy Messersmith

With a rave reviews on his fourth album, a Rolling Stone article and an NPR first listen, Jeremy Messersmith has become a TIME Artist to Watch of 2014. Join him at Jammin’ Java on Feb 7 to celebrate the release of his fourth album, Heart Murmurs.

By Robby Osborne

Jeremy Messersmith
Courtesy of Glassnote Records

With a tour that started at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UtahJeremy Messersmith visits Jammin’ Java this Friday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Messersmith is touring to celebrate the release his fourth album, “Heart Murmurs.” Heart Murmurs launches Tuesday, and is his first album since signing with Glassnote Records in the Spring 2013.

The new album has been generating a lot of buzz for Messersmith recently, including an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, a mention on Time Magazine’s Artists to Watch 2014, and a first listen of Heart Murmurs by NPR. With all this momentum, Messersmith assures us that it’s still business as usual.

NVM: What was it like playing at the Sundance Film Festival?

JM: It was really interesting and kinda fun. My only other festival experience had been South by Southwest. Sundance felt a little like a less crowded, less drunk, more alpine South by Southwest.  The focus there is really more film, whereas in South by Southwest there were about a thousand bands playing simultaneously.  It seemed there wasn’t a whole lot of music at Sundance, and I felt kinda privileged sneaking my way into films. People would occasionally ask what film I was in or what film I was there to see, and I was like ‘I’m just here playing music.’ Shows were a lot of fun, and I hope I get to go back at some point.

Is there any extra pressure now that you are signed by Glassnote Records?

I don’t really feel any extra pressure, everything is exactly the same. I’m on the road with my friends and sleeping on the floor of Motel 6’s. I’m not sure much else has changed. I’m pretty excited about Glassnote Records, they’ve been able to do a lot more for me that I haven’t been able to do on my own. It feels like you have a whole team of people that have your back and they’re out there working for you. Obviously we’re at the very beginning and I’m excited to see where things will end up.

What do you have to say about being named in TIME Magazine’s Artists to Watch 2014?

Keep watching. The funny thing with all those articles is that they’ll give you ’10 artists to watch’ or ‘here are the 20 artists that will break this year,’ and for the most part: none of them do.  It seems kinda dangerous to predict who’s gonna make it, and who’s gonna not, cause who knows? Maybe people won’t like the songs.  So while it’s nice I wouldn’t give much thought into what they said about it.

With your busy tour schedule, what do you do with a day off?

I’m playing a house show in State College tomorrow, and its all pretty low key. I put a lot of work into my record, and I hope people like them, but I’m a low-key kinda dude. It’ll be just me, we had a day off, and I thought ‘I’d rather play a fun little show,’ so we’re doing a supper club show where everyone brings a bunch of food. It’s like a big potluck,  and I just play while everyone eats dinner. It’s fun, and I get a really good free dinner.

NPR compared you to  David MeadDeath Cab for Cutie‘s Ben GibbardFountains of Wayne‘s Chris Collingwood, how do you feel about that and who are your inspirations?

I’m flattered, those guys are all much better than I am. Go buy their records before you buy mine. We’re generally kinda white dudes with guitars who spend time working on lyrics. Maybe it’s accurate in that respect. I’m certainly a fan of all those dudes. My biggest inspirations are Ben Gibbard, Stephin Merritt from Magnetic Fields, John Prine, and Joni Mitchell. I’ve been listening to her an awful lot, and she’s just amazing, she’s timeless and I’m a big fan of hers.

Love plays a significant thematic role throughout Heart Murmurs, is there a specific reason?

Because the last record I did was about death. I was like “where do I go from there?” I developed a bit of a writing crutch where at the end of the song you just kill off your character, maybe that’s just a little bit too easy. I wanted to try something a bit classic, I got a couple reviews, “hey these songs are cool, why are you writing about death.” I wanted to try cooking with a classic ingredient. You know, love is a singer/songwriter’s bread and butter. A lot of the great songs are love songs, and I wanted to see if I could come up with my own take on it. The real challenge is trying to find something that hasn’t been said about it already. I found it a lot more difficult to write about, but I was happy with how it turned out.

Heart Murmurs is being released halfway through your tour on Feb. 4. How does this effect your tour?

I’m doing about half new songs and half older songs. It’s actually kind of nice, we have a few shows where we’re warming up, people haven’t heard the new songs and we get the chance to work them out live. It gives us a chance to work on the show before the record comes out and people get familiar with it.

What’s it like playing with an eight-piece band in a smaller venue?

Everybody gets really tight and cozy on the stage together. This tour I’m only playing with a five-piece, I’m not touring with the string section just yet.

How are you traveling for this tour?

We are in a rented 15-passenger van, which one of my band-mates managed to lock the keys into last night. Thankfully I recently re-upped my AAA membership and we could get a locksmith out in a couple hours. We gave him a lot of shit for that, but we were all happy that we weren’t ‘that guy,’ cause we’ve all done stuff like that.

Jammin’ Java 

Friday, Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m.
227 Maple Ave E Vienna, 22180
$12 advance/$15 day of