American Classic (2023) is Nicholas Merz’s third record, a culmination of two years of writing and the finale of a trilogy of albums and ideas that he shorthands as the Duvall Sound. Born and raised in Duvall, Washington in the Snoqualmie Valley, Merz left his home state for Los Angeles a few weeks before shutdowns began in February 2020.
American Classic was mostly recorded and mixed in his home in South Central, LA, where he lived for the first year and a half of the pandemic. The album explores working class America as a vast, static, and humorous landscape that is blueprinted, carved, replicated, and held immobile by invisible gravities of oppression that are craftily sold as the American Dream. It’s a celebration of the people held and hidden within it who nonetheless gut it out and make America vibrant and real.
As an ode to his father, a former union tile-setter and pedal steel player from Los Angeles, Merz made pedal steel a prominent instrument on the record.
More than the last two records, which were heavy on feeling and tone, American Classic relies on lyrics and song-based comfort to anchor and give context to the subject matter, with the specific intent of critiquing and breaking down that idea through its live performances.
The music was composed remotely with friends from Washington, New York, Los Angeles, and Colorado playing instruments on it.