Jon Mero is coming to Des Moines to perform his new single
Jon Mero is a traveling man.
His social media feeds are full of photos from stops in Cleveland, New Orleans, Rhode Island, Florida, the Bahamas, New York City and Atlanta. The miles are a welcome ripple effect of his much-talked about turn on “The Voice” — and proof that even with some reality TV exposure, Mero is still hustling to make it happen in the music business.
But no matter where Mero lays his suitcase, Des Moines will always be the center of his universe.
“The kind of support I have received from my community, it is enough to make you crazy — in the best way,” he said with a laugh during a recent phone interview from Nashville, where he is recording an album.
“There is just no place like Des Moines,” he said. “Des Moines is humanity at its best. The people of Des Moines have supported me throughout my entire career, all the different phases, and they keep me in their prayers. There is nowhere else in the entire world where I have felt that kind of commitment.”
Mero, 32, will return to the city he loves Friday and Saturday for two free concerts at the March Madness-themed Hoops & Hops event in Cowles Commons. During those sets, he’ll perform his brand-new single for the first time.
With a smile that radiates through the television and a lilt of excitement in his every word, Mero wants you to know that he is “high on life” right now. His journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s far from over.
In anticipation of Mero’s performance, the Register spoke with him about rocketing to fame on “The Voice,” Adele, his new album and the spirit of the hustle.
Don’t let the modern flash foul you, this church is all about praising the Lord — and producing some serious talent.
Let’s start at the beginning, have you always been a musician?
I have always been a musician, but I wasn’t always a singer.
When I was 4 years old, my mom took me to get piano lessons. I went kicking and screaming the whole time because when you are 4, it feels like some sort of discipline. But, eventually, I started really focusing on it and loved it.
At 6 years old, I started playing the trumpet just because I decided that was what I wanted to do.
But it wasn’t until I was 14 that I started to want to sing. I had no voice, honestly. I simply wasn’t a singer — and my mom and dad can vouch for that, trust me — but I would come home from school and start singing to different records.
Honestly one of the reasons I really love Lutheran Church of Hope is because they gave me so much support early on. I wasn’t a person who had a whole lot of friends. I was that guy playing piano alone and running music through his head. So to have a group of people like Hope give me the courage to be able to say, “You know what, I think I can make this happen,” that was everything.
Let’s talk about “The Voice.” How did you get on the show?
“The Voice” process is a year long. It starts with the open calls in January and goes to the finale in December. I have a friend who lives in Los Angeles and casts for “The Voice” and he called me in about mid-April and asked me to audition.
The first time I was approached, I actually said no.
I was afraid of it. I was afraid of something that big. But my friend told me not taking this opportunity would be a big mistake. So I said, all right, let’s do it, and I will simply be as successful as I am supposed to be.
Was this a big turning point for your career?
Yes, because of what I paid attention to while I was in that environment. I paid attention to the business of the show and how everyone’s job flowed into the final product. Because here’s the deal: I am a 32-year-old man trying to make a career. The glitter and the lights and all of these different things, that’s just not of interest to me.
And just so everyone knows, when you get off this show, the phone just doesn’t start ringing. So thank God for the spirit of the hustle. A lot of times, people go into these situations like, “Oh man, the world is going to be waiting at my doorstep now,” but you still have to grind. “The Voice” gives you more opportunities to get into more rooms and have more eyeballs on your music, but you still have to put those work boots on and make it happen.
Were you shocked to go home when you did?
In hindsight, of course. In the moment, I have to say I had a peace that everything was going to be OK. But when we switched to live — even when I did the song on Monday and was getting ready for the elimination on Tuesday — there was a different energy. I can’t put my finger on it, but I knew. We were in hair and makeup and everybody was saying, “Jon, are you out of your mind? You are so not going home.” But I just had this feeling and I thought if it is my time, then it is my time.
OK, but were you mad?
No. When my name was called, I was surprised in that moment. I had a lot of things I wanted to do — play the piano, dance, play the trumpet for a song — so there was disappointment about everything I wanted to do and didn’t get to do.
The people in Des Moines started this petition to get me back on the show and I think it had 4,800 names at the end of the day. That speaks volumes. To me, that is God saying you’ve got enough.
Are you better off for having been on the show?
Landing where I landed is just fine with me. Things are happening right now; we are building and taking advantage of every new situation and new opportunity.
I'm nomadic by nature. I get bored very quickly with complacency. That’s what makes me love this journey of music. It’s forever changing with all the different people that I meet and their stories. I'm honestly high on life a lot.
What can you tell me about the album?
Put on your dancing shoes, because this is a good one!
I wanted to make my songs honest. They are not all cerebral. I have some Adele and then some Bruno Mars on this album. Adele will make you sip a glass of wine thinking about life and Bruno will have you dancing under the lights. I want to celebrate the human experience with my music, and life is not always happy and it’s not always sad. I want to be the soundtrack to human life.
Your story is not over, but what do you think the moral of your story is so far?
Don’t use someone else’s journey to determine whether you are where you are supposed to be in yours. I feel like a lot of times people compare themselves to others and say, “Man, that person is further along and I should be, too.”
I’m in my 30s and it is just now happening. During my 20s I thought my chances were fading away and when I was a teenager; I thought I needed to be signed by the time I was 20. But that was because I was using someone else’s journey to determine what mine should be.
Now, I'm just doing Jon.
Hoops & Hops
Hoops & Hops runs 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Cowles Commons in downtown Des Moines. Admission is free and tickets are not required.
Jon Mero will perform from 7-9 p.m. Friday and from 5-7 p.m. Saturday. He'll also appear in the Des Moines Radio Group float in the St. Patrick's Day Parade Saturday.
Hoops & Hops will feature drinks from the Iowa Craft Beer Tent and grub from some of the Des Moines area's best food trucks. The first and second rounds of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament will be playing on TVs inside a heated tent and basketball hoops will be available for shootarounds.
Follow Jon Mero's travel on social media.