Jimmy Merchant - 10 Questions Music Interview
Jimmy Merchant, a Jersey Shore native, is a 26-year-old professional saxophonist, composer, and arranger. He works as an in-demand sideman in live performances on Broadway, for singer/songwriters and corporate bands. He performs as a studio session musician for artists and bands of various genres. Some of the bands Jimmy performs with are: Jay and the Americans, The Chiffons, Quincy Mumford and The Reason Why, Evangelia, Eryn Shewell, The Bryan Hansen Band, Eastside Mix, and LYF. Jimmy also works as an educator/guest clinician. Jimmy currently is a substitute musician on Broadway for Mark Gross in the musical “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations.” Jimmy started playing saxophone when he was 10 and attended the prestigious Mannes Prep of The New School for Music in Manhattan where he majored in Music Theory and Saxophone Performance. He went on to Rutgers University Mason Gross School of Arts where he graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Performance. He currently endorses BG France, Marca Reeds and Tall Slim Tees.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
Back in college when I was a freshman (so 8 years ago), I had an amazing professor: the great jazz drummer/songwriter, Victor Lewis. He was super supportive and I would hang with him after class. He always talked about putting the pencil to the paper and just write what you feel! Express yourself through melodies. Don’t hold back – share your music. It stuck with me and I noticed myself writing a ton that year... even if I didn’t share it. It was just interesting and fun to write and I owe it to him for encouraging me to start.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
I was in an Italian deli, picking up groceries with my mom when I received a phone call from a colleague, an excellent saxophonist to sub for him. The gig was with Eddie Money. I was mid-order for food and it didn’t register until I said out loud "Eddie Money"— my mom then started screaming in excitement.
What has been the high point of your music path?
Getting to play on Broadway in the Temptations' musical “Ain’t too Proud.” Every time I get to walk into the theater and take that stage it's surreal.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Typically I write the chord changes first and then write the words after I have a melody in my head.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Getting our music heard on streaming platforms. The days of selling music are not like they used to be, so unless you have a strong internet presence and fanbase it is hard for you to reach new listeners just from streaming. You have to be constantly promoting, etc. And of course, you need to work, make money, etc., so it's tough to devote the time to promote. It's another full-time job.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Oooh, that’s a tough one! I feel like if I could share the stage with anyone, I would want to play saxophone for Sting. He is such a huge musical inspiration for me. Sting in the 80s where he used Branford Marsalis on saxophone is like the Bible to me. LOL.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Oh, that depends, as I freelance for a lot of different bands. Each rehearsal is different. However, the way I prepare for a show remains the same. I tend to listen to that band's music on repeat for days before bed and during the night, almost as an osmosis effect (it’s weird I know). Once it is in my ear totally – that’s when I pick up the instrument and start practicing it to get my fingers/muscle memory up to speed.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
Yes, it was this song, “A Painted Lady”. Three years ago, I was going through a breakup. When she ended the relationship abruptly, I sat at the piano for hours that night and just wrote. I sat on the song for over three years thinking about it and trying to make it perfect before I released it, always adding life experiences to it to make it even better. Then I asked the amazing artist, Adam Pascal, to record the vocals. And he said yes. WOW
What's coming up in the future?
I’m currently working on a number of different projects which I’m very fortunate to have during this insane year. I’m producing albums for some great artists, I’m writing more original music, I’m recording as a sideman and I’m lucky to even have some live gigs here or there, still. Hoping for the best for all my colleagues in the music world, and ...everyone, actually.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Pre Order— A Painted Lady, Vocals by Adam Pascal, Music and Lyrics by Jimmy Merchant
A Painted Lady will be available on ALL streaming platforms on December 11th. THANKS!
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For more information on Jimmy Merchant, please visit his website.