BRAINERD — Jeremy Messersmith is kind of the odd duck in his healthcare worker family.
The 42-year-old singer-songwriter from Minneapolis has forged his own path in life and found success as an indie-pop musician who will perform at 7 p.m. on May 6 at the Chalberg Theater at Central Lakes College in Brainerd .
“I am the only one to be a musician. Everyone else – I have three siblings – and they all ended up being doctors or nurses, except me, so I’m a bit of an outlier, I guess. To be honest, being a doctor seems a lot harder than what I do,” he laughed of any sibling rivalry and pursuing a career in the music industry. “And I was the oldest, so I just did my own thing, I guess.”
Messersmith went to school to study computer science but eventually earned 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 good at the guitar and I didn’t really have much mystique, so I decided to become a bit of a songwriter, I guess, instead.”
Hailed as a “Musical Hero of Minnesota” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Messersmith got his start like most musicians, performing in coffeehouses and recording songs in his basement.
“I didn’t have a lot of performance experience before I went to music school,” he says. “I was really nervous, so I would say the most helpful thing was just playing in front of people and my fellow musicians.”
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 a lot in church – my parents were very religious – so that’s kind of what my earliest musical memories are, playing hymns and things in church and kind of like old ladies who harmonize next to me,” he said.
Messersmith’s debut effort, ‘The Alcatraz Kid’ (2006), featured quiet and often melancholic songs and caught the attention of Dan Wilson (Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic), who later produced Messersmith’s sequel, ‘The Silver City” (2008).
“A thoughtful, intelligent lyricist with a tender voice, the Minneapolis-based troubadour creates catchy, relatable songs, and runs the emotional gamut from emotional to whimsical,” according to a press 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 playing the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Motown artists. But he recently said he loves artists Big Thief, Phoebe Bridgers and Bo Burnham, to name a few.
“I feel like the elders were maybe the only thing they could kind of tolerate,” he said of his parents. “But they would just say contemporary music wasn’t very good music when you know anthems are so much better.”
With his subsequent releases, Messersmith’s reputation for his elegant, literate songs continued to grow nationally with praise 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 teenager) 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 work with students at Pierz High School, the Alternative Education Center and members of The Center and Bethany Good Samaritan in Brainerd ahead of his college performance. He said he had already been booked once to play at a Brainerd restaurant.
“The day before I was supposed to come down and play the gig at Brainerd, the owners emailed and canceled because instead they decided they were going to throw, for example, a party WWF Championship Watch instead,” Messersmith said.
In April 2017, he took an unexpected turn when he released a songbook of ukulele music called “11 Songs Obscenely Optimistic For Ukulele: A Micro Folk Record For The 21st Century And Beyond”, which he followed up with a “micro tour” of 80 stops. of free pop-up concerts across the country.
“The biggest influence on what I do is Minnesota songwriter Dan Wilson of the band Semisonic. … He came to a show I played at a coffee shop, and he produced my second album, ‘The Silver City,” and was kind of a lifelong friend and mentor,” Messersmith said.
According to the press release on Messersmith, “Jeremy is one of those rare artists who can break your heart one minute and then put those fragile pieces back together the next.”
“He’s got a sort of breathless, pure vocal tone that 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 it’s just incomparable.”
- What: Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith.
- When: 7 p.m. on May 6.
- Or: Central Lakes College, Chalberg Theater, 501 W. College Drive, Brainerd.
- Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for under 18s and CLC students. To purchase, visit www.clcperformingarts.com/events or 218-855-8199.
FRANK LEE can be reached at 218-855-5863 or
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