Alex Mercier certainly looks and sounds the part of a pop musician. But spend a few minutes talking with the 27-year-old Edmonds native, whose voice has been compared to that of James Blunt, and you realize that he is both practical and focused about his efforts to find success as a performer.
Like most people trying to break into show business, Mercier made the move from the Seattle area to Los Angeles. We had an opportunity to talk with him recently when he was in Edmonds visiting his parents, John and Mary Mercier.
An alumnus of Holy Rosary School in Edmonds, Mercier admits that he took piano lessons grudgingly while a youngster — “I hated it and quit” – but developed an interest in music in middle school. He played in the jazz choir and band at Blanchet High School and also played football in high school and college, including two years as a receiver for the Washington Huskies.
While at the UW, he combined his football and music interests to create a CD titled “Husky Nation,” part of his senior-class project to finish a degree in music management.
Before joining the Huskies, Mercier played junior college football in Southern California and became familiar with the LA music scene — and knew he’d eventually return there. He also was exposed to professional athletes, and quickly saw the connection between playing sports and music.
“There’s a lot of mysticism involved in professionals at the highest level,” he said. “I always thought it was about being the best, but it’s about being an athlete that has a use. The way one athlete gets on the field over another player is because it’s what the team needs.”
Given his belief in teamwork, it’s no surprise that Mercier is collaborating with two other musicians — Michael Blue, who discovered One Republic, and Benji Heard – to write and record music. “Between the three of us, we’ve written hundreds of songs,” he said. “We are focusing on what our strengths and talents are. You put that melting pot together and see what comes out of it. And then, we’ll say, ‘Can we outdo that?’” He expects the trio to have a mini-CD of their music out by spring 2012.
When you ask Mercier his dream, it isn’t what you’d expect – to be famous. Instead, he said his focus is on “generating effective content, which includes getting the music out to a large audience.” The economic downturn has taken its toll on the music industry, Mercier said. “It’s so much more competitive. There are more fish swimming and less food to feed them with.”
“I’ve met some of the biggest producers in the business, who’ve sold $50 million, $100 million in records and now can’t make a living,” he added.
He emphasizes the business end of show business, bringing a dose of patience to his ambitions and accepting that success takes time, with the eventual goal of getting a record label.
“There’s an unwritten rule that it takes about five years to get established in LA,” said Mercier, who started out walking dogs to make ends meet. “I used to be in a band and we played a lot of colleges. Now I’m playing spot dates, like a fashion show in Las Vegas.” He has also had success composing music for a range of popular television shows such as “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “Real World” and “L.A. Ink.”
All the while, Mercier feeds off the collaboration with his fellow musicians.
“Whenever I’m feeling exhausted or lose perspective, someone else comes in,” Mercier said. “Most recording artists think if you have the courage to show up, that’s half the battle. While that’s true, following through, learning, adjusting are a bigger piece of the equation. Although the talent is a unique component, there is so much more to it.”
Because the recording process is mostly computerized, putting a song together “is more of a puzzle piece,” he said. “You have to have something – skill – you have to build on. Some people have powerful vocals, some people have stylized vocals. It’s important to figure out the right type of combination.”