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Musical grab bag coming to Sheldon

Minneapolis troubadour Jeremy Messersmith and his band will perform on May 11 at the Sheldon Theatre. Submitted photo

"Indie pop" is often used to describe Jeremy Messersmith's music, but that's as close as writers get to putting a label on the mercurial performer.

"I try not to put myself too firmly in the box," he said. "It makes me want to do the exact opposite."

Messersmith will demonstrate his eclectic musical style when he and his band perform at the Sheldon Theatre at 7:30 p.m. May 11. He will also conduct several workshops while in town.

READ MORE: Songwriting, performing workshops planned with Messersmith

The Minneapolis-based troubadour admits that he likes to "ricochet a bit" when it comes to the style of songs he writes. He believes that doing so helps keep his music new and fresh.

For example, his newest album, "Late Stage Capitalism," was described by one reviewer as "a decadent orchestral pop record." One song has "a touch of Beatles and Beach Boys," while the next has a calypso beat, and yet another captures the essence of folk.

For a taste, check the Sheldon website www.sheldontheatre.org and click on concert link.

Messersmith is looking forward to his Sheldon appearance. "I've been to Red Wing many times," he said.

He tries to stop at Kelly's Bar and Hanisch Bakery while in town, he added. Spending a few days in residence should make it possible to visit both places and discover new things about Red Wing.

Two years ago he performed at the first Big Turn Music Festival and he returned for this year's festival to catch some friends who were performing. He also did a "micro-tour" that included a short pop-up concert by the river here a couple of years ago.

Activist bent

A nationally recognized performer, Messersmith grew up in rural Washington and came to Minnesota to study music. He writes songs described as "catchy and relatable." Reviewers say he can "break your heart one minute, and then put those fragile pieces back together again the next."

He has performed at rallies for numerous politicians visiting Minnesota, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Al Franken and others.

"I'm pretty political," he acknowledged. "I like a protest song. The problem is, nobody likes being preached at," so his political activity is done in a way that does not preach. Instead, "I espouse a world view," he explained.

"Songwriting is kind of the thing I'm pretty good at," Messersmith said. At the same time, "I feel like I abandon them" when an album nears completion. "I write the songs, work on them, lose perspective and give up. That usually means it's done."

Six months later he'll listen to the album and decide, "It's pretty good."

A bit of fun, too

Although Messersmith made his career as a singer- songwriter and guitarist ("a promising trumpet career was tragically cut short due to braces," according to his bio), he has also taken up ukulele.

People who take their music seriously often turn to ukulele, he said. "It's fun, inviting and non-pretentious. It doesn't feel as much like work — it feels fun."

Ukulele players represent a hidden subculture, he said. "There's an underground circuit of ukulele clubs. They're all over the place."

One of his recent projects was a songbook, "11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele," containing tunes about everything from kittens and world peace to flying cars and the transformative power of love.

Messersmith released the songs first in book form because he wanted people to be able to play them before hearing him perform the songs. He encouraged musicians to record themselves and share the videos on YouTube — and many of them did.

The May 11 Sheldon concert will be a full rock 'n' roll show with a ukulele encore, he said. A group of musician friends will join him on drums, bass, keyboard, guitar and vocals.

"I may play a new song or two" from the album he's working on now, he added.

Opening for Messersmith will be Rachael Kilgour, an award-winning songwriter and performing artist whose songs are described as "sincere, lyric-driven work (that) bravely walks the line between personal and political."

Kilgour, who is in residence this month at the Anderson Center at Tower View, was the 2015 grand prize winner of the international New Song Music Performance and Songwriting Competition.

Tickets to the concert are $20-25; Kids Play Free, which means a child under 14 will be admitted free with a paid adult admission. Visit the box office, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.

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