Local band, MerryGold, once the duo of Trout and Parrot, may have hit the big time or at least will have a crack at a great opportunity.
Entering a songwriting contest in September, the band made the final 10 and earned a chance to record an audio and video at TRI Studios in San Rafael. The studio is owned and operated by Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist Bob Weir.
MerryGold won the contest, recording there on Wednesday, Dec. 12 and won two Telefunken microphones to boot.
The winning song “Sweet Lilly” is a murder ballad written by guitarist and lead singer, Jillian Secor. The couple, Secor and Alex Stephens, played music together as a duo from 2009-11.
They expanded their entourage to include banjo, accordion, bass and percussion in 2011 and became known as MerryGold.
“We have entered our songs in multiple songwriting contests since releasing our latest album “Good and Gone” last February,” said Stephens, guitar, mandolin and vocals for the group, as well as somewhat self-appointed manager.
“We heard about the Race to TRI contest from our friend Ray Huber just three hours before submissions were closing and we immediately entered three of our songs. There were no guidelines; the songs just had to be original and could be of any genre.”
Entering the contest closed Sept. 7, and MerryGold ended in the top 10 bands, as did friends Jonny Mojo and Paul Kamm with Achilles Wheel.
The studio picked the top 10 out of 500 groups that entered and then it was up to the public to make the final decision.
The public vote part of the contest took place primarily on social media. The band used texting and e-mailed friends and families to get the word out to gain more votes.
Well, it worked.
“We (also) e-mailed promoters and other musicians we have worked with in the past and asked them to forward the link to the contest to their respective networks,” said Stephens. “We had (only) two weeks to campaign until (the public) voting closed on Oct. 28.”
Although hopeful, Stephens said their competition was stiff as there were other bands in the top 10 that had thousands of fans and larger networks, including Elephant Revival and the aforementioned Achilles Wheel.
“Then, around Nov. 2, we got an e-mail from TRI congratulating us on winning the contest,” Stephens added. “We are very excited and the timing is perfect for us.
“Our day in the studio is Dec. 12 and we have some brand new songs ready to record. We are busy rehearsing with our six-piece band and working out the new material with them.”
Band members for MerryGold include the melodious voice of Secor, Stephens, Wesley Murphy on banjo, Perry Stauffer on upright bass, Steve Schultz on organ and accordion, and Shea Trumbauer on percussion.
According to Stephens, the sound engineer at TRI wants them to record a new version of their winning song, “Sweet Lilly,” and they also get time to record more.
“Our goal is to complete three songs total,” Stephens said, “but it is hard to estimate what time will allow. All we can do is be as prepared as possible.”
The band has been recording its new songs track-by-track on its own so that when they enter the studio they know exactly what the plan is going to be. Stephens said he estimates that the day will entail 2 to 3 hours of setting up multiple microphones, video cameras and getting the sound just right.
“Then, we will hopefully get all three songs done,” he said. “They will all be recorded live with the whole band at once.”
MerryGold’s latest album “Good and Gone” is available on iTunes and CD Baby. Album cover art was drawn by local artist, Lexi Boeger. Hard copies also are available for purchase at the Wine Smith and Randolph Jewelers on Main Street in Placerville.