My Oh My's A.M. Merker finds comfort in growing older
Parts of Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way sound as though My Oh My could have played Woodstock. There's the Joe Cocker-inspired opener, "Marianne," and the acoustic "That's All Right," which could have been written by Levon Helm. There's even a hint of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-era Elton John in the opening piano chords for "Thief."
Frontman A.M. Merker has a grainy tenor that works on all of it. It's the kind of voice that sounds equally suited for long slide-guitar notes and bombastic rock arrangements. On Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way, he favors the latter. I chatted with Merker about the new songs and My Oh My's direction ahead of Saturday's release show at the Tank Room.
The Pitch: The last release from My Oh My was Your Heart Not Mine, in March 2014. How do you feel the music has evolved on Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way?
Merker: We had a change in lineup. My cousin Corbin [Logan] was one of our bass players, and his wife, Christin [Kuchem-Logan], was one of our singers, and when they moved to Colorado, Jason Harper [former Pitch music editor] came on board to play bass, and we added two new singers to replace Christin — to her credit, I guess — because I always secretly liked the idea of having three.
A lot of the songs for Your Heart Not Mine were written before My Oh My was a band, and so we'd kind of have to figure out how they worked with the group. These songs [on Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way] were written specifically for this group of people, which I think makes for a better record. Now, I'm always writing with the girls' vocals in mind. I love strong, mixed male-and-female harmonies. It's the Joe Cocker thing — he'd have a whole choir behind him. I'm really conscientious now about writing choruses that have spots for the girls.
Also, you know, I feel like I used to write a lot more country music before, and I've kind of lost interest in that. It's probably still in there a little bit, but I'm really wanting to write for this group, which I kind of see as more classic rock-and-roll band.
That's funny — I heard this EP and I was immediately like, "Oh, this is Americana."
[Laughs.] No doubt it's in there, but it's one of those things where you sit down to write a song and you know it's still you sitting down to write that song, regardless of whatever new vision you have. That's [country music] always kind of been in me, I think.
I feel like there's a change in tone on Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way — that's what I noticed. You're writing about different things. You seem a little more settled.
When I wrote Your Heart Not Mine, I wasn't married. I didn't have kids. Now I am married. I do have kids. If there's a theme to Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way, I think it's about getting older and maybe not necessarily missing being younger and the life that went along with that, but maybe being nostalgic for it occasionally. I think there's some nostalgia in there and coming to terms with it just because I think that's where I'm at. I wouldn't change anything, but I'm not even close to being in the same spot I was when I wrote some of My Oh My's earlier material.
With eight band members, scheduling practice must be a nightmare. Are you guys planning to schedule a tour?
I think we would all like to tour, but it's not practical. Three of us have kids, so it's probably not very realistic to plan a tour. But that doesn't mean all of us are not totally dedicated and passionate about the band. It's something that we all love to do.
At the same time, you're going through the expense of releasing new material. I think the easiest way to measure success or feel like you're moving forward is in tracking sales or widening your audience. But My Oh My must have a different scale.
I think we've been successful just in the fact that I feel we keep getting better. Our live shows are getting better, and I think this record is an improvement over the last one. I think that's maybe our level of success — just playing good shows. Did that set make us feel good? Did we improve upon last time? That kind of thing.
None of us think we're going to make money doing this, or not very much. We love getting together and playing songs. This band is unusual relative to some of the other bands that I've been in because we're all vested in it and we all get along. I think we just want to do something that we feel good about and try to get better and continue to play shows that people enjoy.
- Natalie Gallagher