INTERVIEW with MNERVA – A unique vision and uncompromising spirit

MNERVA exudes an unabashed confidence, reveling in his gift of gab without reservation. With a razor-sharp wit that cuts through the air like a knife, his lyrics are infused with honesty and delivered with a boundless energy that ignites the listener’s soul. An eclectic mix of rock, hip-hop, and musical theater forms the foundation of MNERVA’s unique style, melding into a harmonious whole that is as cohesive as it is captivating. Hailing from the vibrant city of Germantown, Maryland, MNERVA made the pilgrimage to Nashville in 2015, honing his craft to perfection. He burst onto the scene as a hip-hop artist in early 2020, propelled to viral fame by his brilliant jukebox musical based on the catalog of Twenty One Pilots. But with the onset of the pandemic, MNERVA underwent a transformation. He drew upon his rock roots and bared his soul, laying bare his struggles with mental health and the fears that plagued him.

The result of his metamorphosis is the stunning debut EP, ‘Talk Too Much’, a triumph born from the fires of personal hardship and self-discovery. Each track is a bombastic masterpiece, the culmination of five years of grit and determination. MNERVA has crafted a sound that challenges convention, defying the conventional wisdom of combining rock and hip hop. With ‘Talk Too Much’, MNERVA has staked his claim as a true artist, cementing his place in the pantheon of Alternative music. His unique vision and uncompromising spirit have propelled him to the forefront of the scene, where he stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who dare to dream.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about when you decided to take music seriously, and how you got started recording and releasing music?

MNERVA: Music has been a massive part of my life since I was a little kid. I am the son of two musicians, and some of my earliest memories are from my parents’ gigs. I started playing drums when I was five years old, but I didn’t get serious about music until I joined my first rock band at 13. We started recording demos in my basement, and I learned how to write and arrange music through a lot of trial and error. When I got to college, my artist dreams took a backseat, and I instead got super into hip hop and wrote a musical (it’s a long story). Eventually, I fused all my influences together to create MNERVA and dropped my first single, “Geek,” right before the world ended in 2020. My whole roundabout journey taught me that I had something to say, and releasing music was the only way to properly ponder the questions that keep me up at night.

  1. Do you handle the songwriting, the music and the production on your songs, or do you collaborate with other songwriters, musicians and producers?

MNERVA: I am a big fan of collaboration, and MNERVA would be nothing without my incredible creative team. I tend to write the majority of my choruses alone on a piano, and then I typically take those seeds to my writing partner, Kory Shore. He’s an insane pop hook writer and is MNERVA’s secret weapon. From there, I usually record either an acapella or a piano vocal track with a click on my phone and send it off to my main producer, Andrew Gomez (John Harvie, Lost Stars, Games We Play). It usually takes us 2-3 sessions to finish a track, and we’ve been working together for years, so it’s always a great time in the studio.

  1. Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember, and who are you listening to right now?

MNERVA: I wouldn’t be making music if it weren’t for “You Found Me” by The Fray. I distinctly remember hearing that song for the first time in 2008 and realizing how beautiful music could be, and I still reference that track to this day for inspiration. Linkin Park and Twenty One Pilots were also massive influences on me and taught me to think outside of the box when fusing genres together. Currently, I’m going through another hip hop phase, and I’m listening to a lot of NF, Nas, and Logic, in addition to a bunch of alternative acts, such as Bring Me The Horizon, Waterparks, Mod Sun, and Bilmuri.

  1. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?

MNERVA: I always end my shows with the message, “It’ll get better than this,” and that tag line is the heart of MNERVA and why I make music. I’ve been through a lot of good times and experienced a lot of trauma in my 26 years, but I believe that choosing to get up and keep moving forward, even when everything seems hopeless, is the key to living a satisfying life. And if I’m able to give at least one person hope through my music, then I’ve done my job as an artist. Sonically, I hope my music changes the conventional wisdom that fusing rock and rap together is always corny. I truly believe the genres were made to be put together, and their combined energy makes something truly special.

  1. What led you to move to Nashville to hone your craft, and how has your music evolved during that time?

MNERVA: At first, I came to Nashville for college and fully planned to move to New York after I graduated. But when the pandemic hit, I decided to stick around Nashville, and I’m so glad that I did. There’s a wonderful alternative scene growing in Nashville, and I’m very thankful to be surrounded by so many incredible artists that inspire me every day. More than anything, Nashville really taught me how to write a powerful lyric and how to tell a concise and cohesive story in three minutes or less. There’s a reason Nashville is the songwriting capital of the world, and I’m so thankful I cut my teeth in Music City.

  1. How did the idea for your jukebox musical based on the catalog of Twenty One Pilots come about, and what was the response to it?

MNERVA: The idea came very organically after I first listened to their track “Goner.” For some reason, when I listened to that song, I saw the climax of a stage show in my head and decided to chase after that ending by writing the rest of the show. It took me a long time to finish the musical, but after multiple workshops and a free debut performance in New York City, I dropped a trailer to try and get the fan base behind the project. It very quickly went viral but sadly split their fan base in two. Half of the clique thought the idea was brilliant, but the other half thought I was trying to profit off someone’s mental health issues and sent me a lot of death threats. The saga ended when I received a cease-and-desist letter from the band’s label, but thankfully the buzz helped me create MNERVA’s fan base, so the experience wasn’t for nothing.

  1. Do you write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you simply focus on your own personal vision and trust that people will empathize and vibe with your sound?

MNERVA: I try to be knowledgeable about current trends in the industry, but when I sit down at a piano to write, I only ever strive to create something that excites me. My sound is definitely niche, but I truly believe that good music is good music no matter the genre, and that I’ll be able to find an audience that enjoys what I’m creating.

  1. Your EP ‘Talk Too Much’ delves into personal struggles with mental health and fear of the future. How do you hope your music can help destigmatize these issues?

MNERVA: I was in a very dark place in my life when I wrote “Talk Too Much” and was constantly questioning if I was good enough to be a creative. Through talking about my deepest fears, insecurities, and mental health struggles, I hope to be able to show my listeners that they’re not the only ones who feel hopeless in the face of adversity and that it’s okay to not be okay. Especially now in the age of social media, the only way to destigmatize mental health issues is to share the bad parts of your story instead of just presenting a highlight reel of your life.

  1. What was the biggest challenge you faced while creating your debut EP, ‘Talk Too Much’?

MNERVA: “Talk Too Much” was a really fun record to make because it was my first time working with my now main producer, Andrew Gomez. I distinctly remember finishing “Quarter Life Crisis” in one session and finally feeling fulfilled knowing that I’d found MNERVA’s sound. I’d say the biggest challenge was generating enough capital to produce the record. When you don’t produce your own music, being an artist is ridiculously expensive, and I had to cut some corners on that album to prevent myself from going broke. Thankfully though, that wasn’t the case for my most recent record, “Invincible,” and I truly think it’s my best work because I was able to put my all into it!

MNERVA
  1. Do you have a personal favorite track, or tracks, amongst those on ‘Talk Too Much’ that has a specific backstory and/or message and meaning very special to you in a personal way, and why is it so?

MNERVA: By far, the most important song I’ve ever written is “Talk Too Much’s” final track, “The Interview.” I started writing that song in March of 2016 after I hit a personal rock bottom, and that track saved my life. Over time, I kept rewriting “The Interview,” and finally finished it five years later in 2021 when I got it produced with the great Tony Chetta. The song ponders the question, “where do you see yourself in five years,” and it felt very fitting to complete the song half a decade later with a new perspective. I end all my shows with “The Interview” because the song is about hope, and I want to leave the audience feeling empowered to face their demons head-on when they go on with their lives after the show. Five years from now, I fully expect to still be playing “The Interview” live, and I can’t wait to meet the person I become.

  1. Putting aside any accolades or criticisms that fans, the industry, or the media may afford your persona or music, is there anything about you or your music, you think people may overlook, underestimate or misunderstand at all?

MNERVA: I think a lot of people are surprised to find out that I’ve become more introverted as I’ve gotten older. Growing up, I was a textbook extrovert, and I was incapable of being alone without having an existential crisis. But now that I’ve worked through a lot of my baggage, I’ve become a much more private person because I don’t feel like I need to prove myself to everyone. My idea of a good night is coming home to my girlfriend and watching anime rather than going out, and I’m completely okay with that.

  1. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you feel everyone should be free to interpret your songs with their own feelings and experiences?

MNERVA: I believe that once art is released into the world, it becomes more than the artist’s will put on a page. I love when fans tell me how my songs, like “I’m Not You,” helped them with a breakup when I wrote it explicitly about my dad. It means that I did a good job crafting relatable songs, and I look forward to more people interpreting my songs in new ways as I become more popular.

  1. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much as you put into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in any way?

MNERVA:  My music gives me so much fulfillment, but I’m still very far away from achieving my artistic goals. At the end of the day, I want to be able to live completely off of my creative endeavors, and sadly I’m very much not there yet and still need to have multiple side hustles to fund my career. I truly believe in the power of perseverance, though, so I’m not gonna stop until I make my dream a reality.

  1. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?

MNERVA: After enduring the Blurryface: The Musical controversy, very few things faze me anymore. When I see a negative comment, I rarely, if ever, engage, and try to imagine how miserable they must be to willingly tear down a stranger to feel good about themselves. I’m here to spread positivity, and I know I’m never gonna change a hater’s mind, so what’s the point in trying?

  1. As an artist, how do you balance your personal life with your music career?

MNERVA: I’m definitely a textbook workaholic, but my girlfriend helps me feel like a normal human while still understanding the 24/7 demands of being an artist. I usually take a complete day off on Mondays to unwind and do absolutely nothing, and then work constantly for the other days of the week. I currently work crazy doubles at my day job on weekends, so I need those Mondays to recover from 28 hours of work in 2 days.

  1. What would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or career so far?

MNERVA: About a year ago, I embarked on my first tour as MNERVA and played everywhere from Nashville to Chicago to Rochester, New York. The thing is, though, I had to let go of my drummer the day before the tour, so I drove that entire way completely by myself and had to find new ways to keep my show exciting on the fly. Due to some act of God, the tour went exceptionally well despite the last-minute changes, and I am beyond proud of my cultivated ability to adapt when things don’t go as planned. No matter where things go with MNERVA, I will remember that tour for the rest of my life.

  1. Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excite you most, and why?

MNERVA: I love nothing more than playing live, and I wish I could afford to do it more often. There is no better feeling than watching someone start to believe in you in real time, and being on stage turns me into the person I want to be. If I put as much thought into social media as I do into my live show, I’d probably be much farther in my career, but I digress. My goal is always to bring a stadium experience to whatever size venue I’m playing, and nothing makes me more excited than playing live.

  1. Do you have a favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?

MNERVA: A very simple but important tenet of my life is to keep moving forward no matter what happens. It is so easy to become jaded and hateful when life inevitably takes a turn in the wrong direction, and I’ve succumbed to those negative feelings way more times than I’d like to admit. But if you stay positive and persevere, I truly believe you can achieve anything you set your mind to; you just have to keep pushing.

  1. How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a visual you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your persona and craft, or will you be working on something new soon?

MNERVA: Plain and simple, people listen with their eyes in 2023; if the visual isn’t good, the song isn’t good. I am currently working on music videos for my new record “Invincible” as we speak, but I’d recommend people check out my music video series for “Talk Too Much” to get a sense of my visual style. The videos are all interconnected, and I am very, very proud of the story they tell!

  1. What do you find most rewarding about what you do? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in the near future?

MNERVA: More than anything, I want to be happy, and pursuing these dreams brings me so much fulfillment. I’m grateful that I’m privileged enough to be an artist every day. I look forward to dropping a concept record down the line, and I may or may not be working on it as we speak. I dream of writing an original Broadway show one day, and I may also be working on that now as we speak. In the end, though, as long as I’m able to make music my full-time job, I will be the happiest man alive.

OFFICIAL LINKS:
https://www.instagram.com/mnerva_official/
https://www.facebook.com/MNERVAofficial

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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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