Chad Merritt is an independent artist creating fascinatingly dark and dreamy music under the moniker St. Mary’s. In the following interview, Merritt shares about his music and how Hurricane Rita impacted recording his recent release, Oh Tremble, while hinting towards his future plans. St. Mary’s is a wonderful musical project, and Merritt openly shares about what inspires him to write such otherworldly music.
How did you get your start in music?
I’ve been doing cassette 4-track recordings since 1997, but started the St. Mary’s project around 2002 in earnest. I put out two limited edition eps, one called “Do You Find Me Wicked?” around late 2002/early 2003, and “Lullaby for the Lost” in 2004. Those are both out of print now, but I took a couple of songs from those releases and re-recorded them for “Oh Tremble”. Anyway, I sold out of those cds and got some very kind words from people about the music, and I forged ahead with the full-length in 2005.
Give us a history of your label, Red Red Records.
I started the label when I released “Do You Find Me Wicked?”. I had absolutely no interest in finding a label for my music. I saw no need for a label, and fully believed I could do it all myself…in hindsight, I was a bit naive about it all. I truly think that you can release your music without the help of a label, and have people hear it. It is hard work, but extremely rewarding. Red Red Records will continue to be a home for St. Mary’s and whatever other side projects I have, but the exciting things are the two non-St. Mary’s releases that, fingers crossed, will come out before the year is over. All to be kept a secret for now!
How did you come up with the name St. Mary’s for your project?
St. Mary’s is the name of a parish in Louisiana, which is the state I’m from. I also just like how the name sounds, and the images that it conjures up in my head.
What inspires you to write and record music?
Oh my….I think just life in general, and the cycle/balance of life.
Light and dark, calm and chaos, death and love. All the major things.
I’m also extremely inspired by nature and nature’s beauty and destruction. There are also themes and images that excite me…Trees, fire, blood, birds, deer, floating, burning…the list could go on. I never sit down specifically to write lyrics/songs. It all happens very haphazardly and unexpectedly.
You create a very specialized kind of music…what draws you to the dreamy-slow brand of music that you create?
I just love dreamy music! I listen to all kinds of music though, and have a huge record collection. Actually, when I first started playing music, the music was much harsher and louder. But I always get pulled in by atmospheric music. The genre doesn’t matter, just as long as I can float to it! Plus, I just get more out, emotionally, of more melancholy music. As a result, that’s just what my head and heart automatically play.
Is there a specific message you are trying to convey in your music? What is it?
Message…no. The songs are all meant to evoke a mood and feeling. I’m much more about that than a specific message. I’d like whoever listens to the record, to play their own little mind movie. The songs are all kind of little stories that I sketch out with tiny bits of my life/truth in them to make them personal for me.
Describe for us the recording (and writing) process behind Oh Tremble.
I wrote “Oh Tremble” in the early part of 2005. It was probably the most enjoyable writing process for me, because everything seemed to come together easily, and I was excited by the songs. The recording part was absolute horror. I started recording it at home in June/July of 2005, a little bit at a time, and in September Hurricane Rita came and destroyed my home. I had to finish the record wherever I could. I eventually finished it while living in a tiny camper trailer. I’m proud of the record, due to the fact that I know what I had to go through to finish it. And what’s strange about it all, is that I wrote the songs all before the storm, but the mood and lyrics fit what I was feeling after it all happened.
Who are some bands that you admire? What are some cd’s you’re listening to now?
Oh wow…how much space do you have?! Let’s see…here are some of the bands/artists that inspired me to make music…Cocteau Twins, Low, Julee Cruise, Slowdive, Tarnation, Tindersticks, Loveliescrushing, Cowboy Junkies, Mazzy Star, Windy and Carl, Patsy Cline, Lisa Germano, Drugstore…honestly, the list could go on and on. Who am I listening to now…hmmm…Dreamend, The Low Lows (formerly Parker and Lily), The Voices, STAR, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Nico, Keren Ann, Eau Claire, A Cricket in Times Square, Tarantella, and Baby Rosebud.
If there was an artist or band that you would like to work with, who would it be, and why?
I’ve actually been approached by people whose music I really admire to work on projects (St. Mary’s and non-St. Mary’s). It’ll probably end up being three non-St. Mary’s projects and someone who will work on the next St. Mary’s with me. All in the very very early stages, and nothing is concrete yet, so it’s all still a secret. But in my dream world, I’d love to work with David Lynch, Robin Guthrie, and Lisa Germano. The reason being the mood, texture, and world that they create with their music, and that’s something I strive to do with my own songs.
Do you have any advice for young artists setting out to write songs and record them, or for potential label owners?
Well, the most important advice I’d give to anyone would be to definitely follow their own muse, and not to be concerned one bit with what they think the outside world would like or not like. Trust me, if you like it, someone else out there will too. You may not get a huge fan base (because I know that my music is not everyone’s cup of tea), but those who are drawn to your music will be true fans. Record your songs the best you (or your friend, or whathaveyou) can and don’t be pressured into getting the latest, most expensive unit. Again, if you like it……. I honestly hate recording studios. I always feel cold, nervous, and lost in them.
Record at home! It’s a great way to spend the evening, trust me. As for advice for record label owners, I really don’t think I’m the best to give advice in that area, but I would say find distribution from people that you trust, and also look at what they sell. If it’s something you think your music you’re releasing will fit into, then go for it.
What’s in the future for St. Mary’s?
It’ll be a fairly busy year for me/St. Mary’s. Like I said before, some things are super-secret, but I will be playing shows finally for “Oh Tremble”. I also am writing for an ep that will be released this year.
My biggest hope is to just get out there and play for people. I have incredible stage fright, but we’ll see how it goes.
Any other comments?
I would just like to thank anyone who has taken the time to listen to St. Mary’s or buy a cd, from the bottom of my heart. It truly does mean a lot, with as much music that is out there, that folks take a chance on you. Also the only real website going for St. Mary’s is the St. Mary’s myspace page. But I do have a domain name, and really am looking for someone to help me with a website. I have no idea how to make one, but would love for a dependable person to be able to help me. Anyone call email me at email@example.com.