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Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Band Rock Pop




"The unsinkable mission of MER"

The unsinkable mission of Mer

Lisa Balde | Beep Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ever heard of a bald Filipino kid with a slight Prince fetish, who dresses like a club DJ and plays acoustic guitar ala Dave Matthews with a tinge of Jack Johnson? Indie folkster Mer is willing to bet his whole image on the hunch that you haven’t – unless you’ve heard of him, in which case he figures you’d come around sooner or later.

It’s safe to say 27-year-old Edmer Abante (affectionately known to everyone who knows him as “Mer”) isn’t just a musician, although he’s more excitedly motivated about music than almost any other pre-label band I’ve met. No, he’s more of a start-up marketing-guru in a sweater vest and neck tie, who knows it’s more economically feasible to “sell” oneself, than fall to the ever-ominous risks of “selling out.”

Basically, if Mer’s music Master Plan for Greatness made a bumper sticker, it’d say “Musicians do it live every day of the week.” (His buttons would read, “Hey baby, what’s your brand?)

“You build the brand, you sell the image, you sell the record,” Mer says in such a matter-of-fact, way-of-life manner that one can only assume this is his daily mantra – or nightly meditation.

Tonight, not unlike every other Wednesday during his weekly stage stint at Chicago club Mix, Mer schmoozes briefly with the bar manager and bartenders before he spots and meets a few fans who straggled in early for the show. He fits in well with the scene. Decked out in collared shirt and casual suit coat, he is as materially hip as he is savvy to the persona that this look conveys to his peers.

Mer picks up his usual vodka tonic (with lime) from the bar and momentarily works the room like a networking business man who’s got his priorities straight. There are hand shakes, smiles, a few half-hugs exchanged. Somehow, for a guy who works music like a business, Mer never forgets to come off genuinely.

Not long after Mer shakes my hand and offers me a drink, wondering if I’ve waited long (I hadn’t), he confesses what’s immediately clear in his sleek, urban folk sound and the energy with which he performs it onstage: “I want to ensure that I’m doing this for the rest of my life,” he says.
Mer grew up near the city with his first-generation Filipino parents, who moved to the states for the sake of their kids. “They came here to give their first-born son the education he deserved,” Mer laughs, a little guiltily. The statement seems ironic now; Mer dropped out of college his second year to follow his jazz dream for mainstream greatness.

Although Mom and Dad are two musically inclined artists who held infrequent jam sessions among the family while Mer was growing up, they were initially less than pleased with their son’s decision. Who could blame them, really (Mer doesn't), parents’ expectations for their kids are always high. Everyone came around in the end, as soon as it became clear their college-school-drop-out Mer knew exactly what he was doing all along.

“My mom still gets a kick out of seeing other people sing my music,” Mer says, adding that the first night he played the Chicago House of Blues (the same stage James Brown stepped foot on, he says), his parents stood in the audience and couldn’t help but feel proud.

“They loved it,” he says.

Since Mer’s college days, where he (surprise, surprise) studied marketing, Mer has endured as a constant ball of motion. He lives in Aurora (just bought a townhouse), but basically lives in his car, where he practices pre-performance scales every night he hits the stage. P.S. That means he’s in his car all the time.

“I feel so unproductive when I’m at a comfortable place at home,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where I live. I live out of my car; I love it.”

For the past six years, Mer’s jazz backing has rotated among a dozen musicians, although somehow I think he prefers it that way. And for just as long, his folk-rock act has played Chicago’s suburbs and the city proper nearly every weekend, save a few dates for tours.

He’s grown used to people looking at him incredulously, saying “We never knew that that music would come out of you; we thought you were the DJ.” Responsively, he’s used to saying, “Yep, I’m a folk singer.”

Mer makes his way almost on name recognition and face time alone. The music is all gravy to him; it’s his life’s passion. So far, it’s worked. See, you can’t deny the bald Polynesian thing.

More quickly than ever, he’s convincing people. And the more people who know his name and know his work end up wanting to know him.

Not long ago, he collaborated with Kanye West doing backup vocals for West’s rendition of “Hotel California” for a movie soundtrack. The song never made it to the big screen, but connections are always nice. He met Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams a while back too (schmoozing will do that for you).

Mer even landed himself a try-out for music reality show “The One.” It could’ve been a sweet gig, until the show questionnaire posed questions about his “biggest secrets” and whether he would “cheat on your significant other for camera time.”

Sure he’s learned a thing or two about the business since he started his band in all of its folksy, grassy glory. But perhaps the biggest lesson of all is this: Mer can make it if he makes it happen according to the new rules of the indie circuit.

“I think it’s evolving,” he says about the music scene, specifically the one in Chicago. “I think there’s a whole lot more power going back to the little guy.”

As the night went on, Mer talked about his career in commercial value and marketability, a means to end he hopes includes mansions and million-dollar studios. He stressed saturation and face value, necessities to a guy who firmly believes music is his only career path.

But it works for him.

Stop by his future dream studio someday and you’ll see. He’ll probably shake your hand, exchange a half-hug and ask you if you’ve waited long (you probably won’t have). He’ll offer you a drink, thank you for stopping by and tell you how marketing his brand changed his life and even bought him a mansion.

“It’s a consumers market,” he says. “You have to force-feed people your brand, otherwise you’re not going to get your music in their hands. I think you have to sell yourself.”

Look for his newest release in 2007.

- Lisa Balde - Daily Herald


"Explosive! MER's live experience is a showcase of solid songwriting and charismatic stage presence." - JAMWIRE.COM


"MER's brand and marketing focus come second only to his musical ability!" - Daily Herald


"Can't stop listening! MER's new album is a must have!" - The City Mix


"MER's music speaks right to the heart. His melodies are infectious, his stories are relatable, and he's destined to hit the mainstream pop airwaves any day now!" - CLTV METROMIX - CLTV METROMIX

"MER: All I Want"

By Kent Green - RedEye - Published March 5, 2009

If MER's songs sound like he's been making music his whole life, well, that's pretty much right.

Born Edmer Abante, the Chicago-based singer-songwriter started playing piano when he was in grade school and soon began singing and taking lessons in classical guitar. He's mixed those influences into a blend of soulful pop rock that showcases his impressive vocal talents and heartfelt lyrics.

MER (pronounced "murh") got the taste for music from his extended family.

"Our Christmas parties were jam sessions," he said. "It's just part of the Filipino culture. That definitely influenced me to become a performer and to create that fun vibe."

He credits his parents, who emigrated from the Philippines in 1977, for giving him his work ethic. MER said that one of the toughest things he's ever had to do was tell his parents he was dropping out of college in 2000 to pursue music full time. But as they've watched his notoriety grow with his 2007 LP "Handwritten" and his just-released EP "Rockstar," they've embraced his decision.

MER is working on a family of his own. He's got a 2-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. That has made him more serious about pursuing music as a career, but he also teaches guitar, voice and songwriting at a Hinsdale music academy. His goal is to work with top-notch producers to improve his songs and expose his work to a wider audience.

"I turned 30 in December," he said. "I've already gone this far.

People ask me, 'When are you going to stop?' It's not a matter of when I stop. I will never cease to pursue my passion."

Kent Green is a RedEye special contributor.
- RedEye

"Watch for MER"

He's your everyday guy, laid back and friendly. You could find him standing next to you at your local bar greeting friends and relaxing with a drink in hand. But what sets him apart is that he radiates a sense of effortless cool.If you don't already know him, his name is Mer, and his passion is writing and performing music.

A native Chicagoan, Mer was first exposed to music when he began studying classical piano at a young age, giving him a strong foundation and appreciation of the fundamentals. He picked up the jazz guitar in high school, learning improvisation and chord replacement, opening his eyes to the different ways to approach melodies and songwriting. Mer also attributes much of his love of music to his family, who were always 'jammin' in the backyard during family gatherings.

"I always wanted to be a part of it when I was young," he says. "It was amazing to see my family having a great time playing and singing the nights away."

In junior high he realized that he wanted to write and perform music for the rest of his life, but continued to follow the normal path to college. He was not there for long before life took him in another direction, finding all along that his motivation came from the drive to become a better writer and musician. Now 27, Mer borrows his distinct sound from all genres of music.

"I learned at a young age that diversity is the key to finding your own identity. Whether I like the music or not, I can always find something within a song to appreciate. I can't say that I'm a big fan of country but you can't deny the strength of the songwriting, lyrics and musicianship within country music. Jazz stimulates me because of the freedom of thought and expression.

"Classical music is a great way to find structure and discipline. Pop music teaches you how to relate to the general public. Rock music allows me to let my 'inner rock star' shine through.Folk music has taught me how to tell stories and paint images with words. Funk music has taught me how to have a good time and has helped me become a better entertainer," Mer explains.

So, whether playing a one man acoustic set in a small coffeehouse or rocking Cubby Bear on a Friday night with his bandmates, it is clear that Mer exemplifies a new musical wave, paying an incredible amount of attention to detail. And even if you try,you probably will not be able to pinpoint any one artist that is similar.

"People have a tough time comparing us to other bands out there and I'm proud of that fact. Any time a friend or a fan tries explaining us to other people,they almost always say, 'You just have to seem them live and figure it out for yourself.'"

Mer spent much of 2005 touring the Midwest playing both acoustic sets and all-out rock shows with his band that he values greatly.

"I write all of the music for the band. I show up, do my thing and let them add whatever they feel is right, because I want all of us to find our own place within the songs. No one is here to stand out. We've learned how to work together and work towards finding the identity of each song. It's always great for me to hear what they bring to the table. They always surpass what I have planned for the song before it gets to them. It's a comforting feeling to know that these three people help bring my music to life."

The three people Mer refers to are Mel Washington on lead guitar, John Owens on bass and Mike Alongi on the drums.

Mer describes Mel as "a great listener, which is extremely important in music." In addition, Mel is well-trained in music theory and performing live, stemming from his background in blues and jazz.

John Owens has been with the band for two years and captures his influences from gospel and R&B. Mer points out that John is an uplifting presence and is always smiling on stage when he performs.

"You can tell that he sincerely loves playing music. John is a valuable contributor to song arrangements and he's always got ideas to help me express whatever it is I'm trying to get across."

Mike Alongi, Mer's long-time friend and bandmate for eight years, brings cohesion to the group and helps inspire Mer to be the musician he is today.

"Mike can play any style of music and his ability to adapt is amazing. He is one of the most well-versed musicians I know and he ’s constantly trying new ideas and is always challenging me to improve."

Recently though, Mer has taken a trip back to his acoustic side. His newest release, Revealed, is an album with flair ranging from the upbeat sounds of pop to heart-wrenching blues. The EP consists of six acoustic tracks, bringing him back to the simplicity of performing and writing alone.

"I wanted to do an album that returned to the 'raw' essence of my writing. I've been performing and writing with my band for the past five years so it was nice to go back to what hooked fans in the first place. I've always written alone and it was nice to bring some of the familiar music to the forefront of its roots," explained Mer."The acoustic effort also allowed me to showcase some of the newer songs I had written while touring as a solo act."

While songs like "So Much More" and the title track "Revealed" have grown into full band arrangements, "Smile" and "Recovery" are two new, strictly acoustic cuts that are featured on the album. Taking a more simple approach,they showcase Mer's singing ability and his talent on several different levels. The lyrics of each of the six tracks are quotable and powerful in addition to reflecting Mer's life as he has grown both as a person and as a musician.»

"All of my lyrics reflect things that have occurred in my life. Girls, relationships and the pursuit of both have always been a source of inspiration. Dropping out of college to pursue my music career was a big event that helped me write some of my most favorite songs. Music has always been an outlet for me to express what I feel. Some people like to cry, some people like to drink, some people like to hide and some like to smoke. I like to write and perform," states Mer.

That said, it is clear that Mer has a real passion for his music and fully believes in the work he does. He not only values his career, but keeps it all in perspective when it comes to the respect he has for his band, friends and family. There's no doubt that he hopes to hit it big soon, and by his excitement, it is apparent that Mer has some new and exciting projects coming up in 2006, including a collaboration with Chicago's own, Kanye West.

"I'm 27 years old now and I must say that the drive to be a better writer and musician has always been a strong motivator in my life. I hope to continue the trend of not fitting into a particular genre," Mer continues, "and that my band and I keep the diversity that earns us a place in this crazy music industry. Whether it be that I'm rich or broke, I'll always be writing and performing music somewhere."

And from the sound of it,this guy is going places.

- Chicago Lifestyle Magazine (article by Alli Libb)


Made In Chicago [Live @ Cubby Bear] - 2011
Live at Schubas [LP] - 2010
Rockstar [EP] - 2009
All I Want [EP] - 2008
Hand Written [LP] - 2007
Revealed [EP] - 2005
Trio [EP] - 2004
Familiar Ground [LP] - 2003




Passion, discipline, raw energy, and focused talent are what you'll encompass when you experience the music of MER.

"In a market place over saturated with corporate created talent, MER delivers a refreshing reminder that musicians with originality and heart still exist!" - CHICAGO TRIBUNE

"From the blueprint of singer/songwriter's like James Taylor comes the artistry of MER. Armed with a Martin guitar and the wisdom of life's tribulations his music is ready to be heard by all." - ABC7 CHICAGO

"MER is the real deal, a true musician, excellent songwriter, amazing stage performer, and just an overall great person that you would want to hang out with!" - CBS CHICAGO

"MER's music speaks right to the heart. His melodies are infectious, his stories are relatable, and he's destined to hit the mainstream pop airwaves any day now!" - CLTV METROMIX

"No matter if he's gracing the stage by himself or he's backed by his band, MER's live performances take control of your senses and deliver a high-energy, feel-good time leaving you wanting more and chanting merplay dot com." - VERVELIFE

"Having worked with MER in several venues I can honestly say his live shows are one of the most energetic and radiant performances that I have seen. The enthusiasm pours off the stage and infects the crowd as MER plays his set of original rock music infused with funk, soul, and a classy attitude." DUFF ENTERTAINMENT

Violent Femmes, Eddie Money, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Will Hoge, Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra, Marc Broussard, Michael Tolcher, Rusted Root, The Verve Pipe, Pat Green, Cowboy Mouth, Grammy nominated Liquid Soul, Fastball, Kill Hannah, John Wesley Harding, Matt Wertz, Ari Hest, Ekoostik Hookah, The Kin, Virginia Coalition, Andrew Ripp, The Pat McGee Band and many other national touring acts.

- Live performance on WGN midday news on 2/24/12 for national broadcast.
- Weekly host for 312 Presents: Local Music Showcase at Cubby Bear Chicago.
- Live performance on WGN news at noon on 3/12/10 for national broadcast.
- "All I Want" licensed to TARGET/MEAD 5 STAR MUSIC INSIDER program 1/12/10.
- Guest appearances with Blackbox & Sarah VonderHaar at SUMMERFEST 2009.
- Headlining WTMX Party in the Park @ MILLENNIUM PARK 7/2/09.
- National anthem at US CELLULAR FIELD [MLB] on 4/10/09.
- Headlined GODIY Records showcase at HOUSE OF BLUES on 2/12/09.
- Profiled on ABC 7 Chicago for Asian Pacific Heritage Month in May 2008.
- National anthem at TOYOTA PARK [MLS] in 2008.
- Single, "All I Want" liscensed to MILLER HIGH LIFE in 2008.
- Single, "Home" liscensed to CHEVROLET in 2008.
- National anthem at SEARS CENTER [WNBA] in 2008.
- Obtained artist sponsorship with CF MARTIN & CO. guitar company in the fall of 2007.