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Judge for Jonathan Meek

Livermore, CA
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Portrait of Jonathan Meek
Jonathan Meek is not timid about his new self-released EP, Irony & Pity. “I want this to be something awesome and real and different,” he says. The record, like Jonathan himself, is all of those things and more

Irony & Pity is completely DIY: recorded and mixed in the local church where Jonathan’s dad preaches. It’s credited to Jonathan Meek & the Mutes, but nearly every note recorded was performed by Jonathan himself. His brother, Nathaniel Meek, lent his talents as a drummer for two of the five tracks, and Mike Mittelstedt, Jonathan’s fellow band member in the San Francisco group the Fair Saints, engineered and co-produced. “Having [Mike] there engineering and giving me feedback gave me such enormous freedom and confidence, so that a lot of the record could just fall into place. Most of what you hear was written right there during the session.” The energy and the feel of the music make it hard for the listener to believe that only three people were involved in producing it; and clearly the inspirations for the record are literally countless

Jonathan’s musical development began in his childhood in a small town outside of Reno, Nevada, where his father preached and led music in the local church, and his mother played the piano. The influence of the simple melodies and rich harmonies of the traditional hymns in Jonathan’s music cannot be understated. Especially in songs like the opening track “The City I Love,” a wiry, jagged, riff-driven tune that opens up in the chorus to a full choir and church organ, calling to mind early hymns of redemption. The artists that have inspired him since his early days in the church, including Elvis Costello, Neko Case, and especially Nick Cave, have served only to strengthen that influence. “Boatman’s Call by Nick Cave is my single favorite record, and ultimately is what pushed me to make Irony & Pity. The textures and the chords and the lyrics to me are perfect. I want to make music like that.”

Jonathan continued to pursue his musical interest through college, and in due time received a degree in music from the University of California in Santa Cruz where he studied Classical theory and performed in orchestras, opera, and chamber ensembles. As a break from all the “serious” music, he would often take his guitar out onto the streets of Santa Cruz and perform to whoever would listen. “Playing on the street is really an experience,” he says. “Just finding out what grabs people. Sometimes I’d get a little crowd gathered around me listening, and I’d play for hours at a time. Afterwards I’d go through my guitar case to count the tips and find all sorts of things: incense, candies, girls’ phone numbers. It’s fun.

His love for performing continues, and he views the release of this record as just the first step toward his music being heard by, and performed to as many people as possible. Not a very modest goal for someone named Meek