Pop Rocks

Jeremy Messersmith on his rising rep, natty style, and playing for the prez

Q: Your latest album, The Reluctant Graveyard, was named one of the 10 best of 2010 by National Public Radio. You were asked to play before President Obama’s speech at the U of M last fall. Life is good?
Jeremy Messersmith: I made my first album in my basement a few years ago and was surprised that anyone wanted to pay for it—so yeah, it’s all cake to me now.

Q: Your music has been dubbed folk pop, chamber pop, and pop rock. Which is it?
JM: All of the above. I’m also called a singer-songwriter, sometimes with a dash, sometimes a slash. Which means, if all you’re going to do is stand there and sing, your songs better be amazing.

Q: You grew up playing music in church, back in Washington state.
JM: It was a holy-roller place, speaking in tongues and all that. If the drummer didn’t show up, I played the drums. If the bassist didn’t show up, I played the bass.

Q: What was the first album you bought?
JM: A tape by Megamouth and the Rap Blasters: Doing the Thing That’s Right is the Thing That’s Cool.

Q: You dress as well as you play. It can’t hurt that your wife, Vanessa, owns Blacklist Vintage in Minneapolis.
JM: My style is nine-tenths her doing. I’m hopeless otherwise. But I get it: Rock ’n’ roll without style is Elvis without the hips, Jimi Hendrix without the lighter fluid.

Q: So what was it like opening for Obama?
JM: When I got the call—“Do you want to open for the president?”—I was like, the president of what? The Secret Service guys were jerks, though: If you move from that stage, they told me, the snipers will get you. I was sure that every move I made would be my last.

Jeremy Messersmith plays the Fitzgerald Theater on April 9, joined by Dessa, Chris Koza, and Lucy Michelle.

See videos of Messersmith at MNMO.com/Messersmith.