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Jeremy Messsersmith
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI
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Jeremy Messsersmith

To call Jeremy Messersmith a musician is half-truth: He's also a storyteller, who has carefully crafted a trilogy of songs that narrate life. His first full-length release The Alcatraz Kid is a moving collection of acoustic-driven lullabies with titles like "Novocain" and "Beautiful Children" that innocently question the purpose of things to come. The integrity of these delicate songs immediately struck a cord with critics and fans alike, and captured the attention of Semisonic's Dan Wilson, who offered to produce Messersmith's follow-up album, The Silver City.  

The Silver City was a natural progression in sound and reflection: the compositions grew fuller and more dynamic with a classic-pop feel inspired by the Beach Boys and Beatles: While the topics focused on midlife struggles with tracks like "Dead End Job" and "Miracles." Local and national attention soon followed with NPR and college stations around the country, followed by U.S. tours and sold-out shows in New York, Chicago and Minneapolis.  

The Reluctant Graveyard (out May 4) bookends this trilogy of lifelong (ahem, literary) observations with songs like "Lazy Bones" and "Organ Donor," and sonically continues on the'60 chamber pop path Messersmith set out with his sophomore release. He continues to share stages with notables such as Sondre Lechre and The Watson Twins, and has been featured on MTV and Ugly Betty. And while this collection of songs comes to an end, it's no doubt that the stories will live on.


"A local star in Minneapolis ever since his 2005 debut The Alcatraz Kid, Jeremy Messersmith seems poised to find a national audience with the last chapter of what he calls his "life-cycle trilogy.""
NPR Song of the Day

"Like his previous outings, but even better"
-Bruce Warren

"literate, languid but warm acoustic ditties with traces of Elliott Smith."
-Star Tribune

"Simone and Garfunkel, with a 21st century twist."
-Performing Songwriter

"It's hard to listen to The Silver City, the new CD from Minnesota chamber-pop artist Jeremy Messersmith, without thinking of Sufjan Stevens. Both artists have strikingly similar voices and a love of richly orchestrated story songs."
-NPR Second Stage

"Messersmith excels at one thing that can't be taught: Songwriting."
-Time Out Chicago

"The lyrics of his songs also suggest that he's a little on the glum side of things, although those dark lyrics all come supported by a musical spoonful of sugar: beautiful, catchy melodies."
-KCMP 89.3 The Current

"It's hard to listen to The Silver City, the new CD from Minnesota chamber-pop artist Jeremy Messersmith, without thinking of Sufjan Stevens. Both artists have strikingly similar voices and a love of richly orchestrated story songs."
-NPR Second Stage

"Imagine Elliott Smith driving in a convertible, the wind flying through his hair, singing about sadness and somehow creating joy enough to forget his troubles for a while."
-The Onion

"The Silver City(Minneapolis) has maintained a reservoir of talent ever since The Replacements, and this often stunning pop gem offers further proof of its endurance as a muse and a creative center. This love song to the city recasts it as a kind of mystical wonderland, certain actual landmarks like mythic spots that inspire and bring safety and joy."
-Not Lame

"Jeremy Messersmith has that certain je ne sais quoi. His sad lyrics/happy melody coupling isn't brand-new, but it's done in a way that conjures images of a still-upright Elliott Smith performing songs intended for Brian Wilson or A.C. Newman,not a bad spot to be in, all told."
-City Pages (Village Voice)

"Remember the way you felt the first time you heard the amazing harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel? That subdued, magical sound lives once more on Jeremy Messersmith's The Alcatraz Kid, but this time with a 21st-century twist. Messersmith lulls with his gentle voice and overdubbed harmonies, easing the shock of his sometimes-harsh lyrics. Quirky? Certainly. Will you like it? No doubt."
-Performing Songwriter

"With simple chord progressions and beautifully crafted melodies, his music feels reminiscent of '60s-style, Beach Boys-influenced pop."
-NPR World Cafe


To listen:
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Published May 2, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.
Conrad Plymouth had a great experience at this year's South by Southwest music conference.
I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I can remember a time in Milwaukee when there were as many great bands working as are active right now. One of those at the top echelon is Conrad Plymouth, an Americana collective fronted by Chris Porterfield, who arrived in Brew City a few years ago.

After recording some "living room" EPs, Conrad Plymouth played a great gig at South By Southwest in March and now digitally releases its first "official" recordings, an EP. The four-song, self-titled recording -- which will be released on vinyl in the near future, too -- is an accomplished set of lovely, understated, heavily acoustic music that stands up to comparison with anything out there in the world these days.

We talked to him about the band, the record and more ...

OnMilwaukee.com: You've had a few more casual EPs out before, but this is the first "official" one. Did you feel pressure to really pick the best tunes for it?

Chris Porterfield: We had some new songs, and had just recently added Damian on drums, and we were excited about how things were sounding. We wanted to make a document that captured the band in that moment in time. We just picked our newer songs. In fact, we did "Captain Video" on the fly in the studio -- the guys had never heard that one before we recorded it.

This band is a constant exercise of reevaluating where we've been -- we kill songs pretty recklessly, and so far, we've been able to write new ones to replace them in a set.

OMC: Did you save a couple of aces in the hole for a future full-length?

CP: Nope -- we went all in. I've got some new ones getting polished in my brain's tumbler now. We'll do a full length when it's time. I feel like people don't listen to "albums" in the traditional sense as much any more, so we aren't in a rush to make an piece that, by the way it's organized, will be an obstacle to people listening to it.

OMC: The new EP, which is available for download is coming on CD, too, right? What's the timeline for that?

CP: We actually aren't going to press CDs. When I buy a CD, the first thing I do is load it into my iTunes and throw it on my iPod. The actual artifact isn't the important part of the equation. So we're allowing people to skip that step, and then we aren't stuck with a box full of plastic that we spent a grand on. For those people that really do want to have the tactile and visual relationship with it, we are planning on doing a limited run 10" vinyl edition.

OMC: Are you worried that allowing folks to pay what they want for the download will hurt physical sales?

CP: I think that the digital version will allow us to build relationships with people who wouldn't normally have been to a show and bought our music. We aren't ever going to make money on albums, and this way the necessary capital required for people to hear our music was minimized. The vinyl folks will buy vinyl regardless, just because they are collectors. And the pay what you want model does allow for the occasional patron of the arts -- there have been some folks who have been more generous than I would be for an EP.

OMC: As someone who arrived here from elsewhere, what's your take on the current state of the Milwaukee music scene?

CP: I've been in Milwaukee for four years now. You guys recently did a writeup on 200 important musicians in this city, and I certainly didn't know all of them. So I don't want to be a 4-year-old talking like I know anything about people who have been playing music here their whole lives. I do pick Damian's brain sometimes, and I love learning the history of a place.

I will say that Milwaukee is full of talented, engaged, inspiring people, and I meet more of them every week. The state of the scene certainly seems healthy to me -- we just need to keep being Milwaukee missionaries and preach the good news past our comfort zones. We are as good as Madison, Chicago, or Minneapolis. I think that rather than hop on his Harley to promote "tourism," Scott Walker should send some Milwaukee bands across the state on tour.

OMC: Do you have a favorite band here?

CP: I could list dozens: Group of Altos, Heidi Spencer, Lisa Gatewood, Time Since Western. Everybody in the Sector Five United family: Old Earth, Golden Coins, Jay Flash, Bikini Beach Combers, Juniper Tar, Surgeons in Heat, Flojo. Too many to list.

OMC: How was your SXSW experience?

CP: It was a blast. It was a rock and roll family vacation -- my wife Joanna came, and Betty, Damian's wife, came too. Betty (Blexrud-Strigens) sang with us at the show and on the record, and her voice blows me away. She finds these harmonies, and her voice is sure pure and effortless ... chills every time. Her band, Testa Rosa, should also be included on my favorite bands list.

It was great seeing this Milwaukee enclave in Austin. Everybody drinking beer and slapping asses like it was Linneman's or Club G., but it was sunny and 70 and we were surrounded by a million people and a thousand bands from across the world. Really, really fun.

OMC: What's next for you?

CP: We need to find a home for the vinyl, then keep playing, writing, getting better. This whole project is a continuing revelation: we will never get to a point where we say, "Aha! Here we are! This is where we are supposed to be!" And that is by design. There is no definitive version of anything; nothing is sacred. Some people find that obnoxious, some people find it honest.

This collective is still pretty fresh -- we are still figuring out how to read each other, how to incorporate each other's strengths into the fabric. With a solid recording done, now we can focus on all of that, musically and otherwise. Travis is a great video artist -- he's working on some videos for us. Damian designed our album art -- I'd like to get prints of that available. Nick is our de facto engineer and documentarian -- he's definitely curating the Conrad Plymouth archives.

And I'll keep writing songs and killing them and writing new ones.



High Noon Saloon
701A E. Washington Ave.
Madison, WI 53703
United States



Minimum Age: 18
Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: No
Wheelchair Accessible: No


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