Singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt is a man of many hats and talents

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WILLIAMSTOWN >> Singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt admitted recently that his 3-disc masterpiece, "69 Love Songs," took a while to write.

"Well, all my life in that I had a lot of song fragments just lying around in my head for years, and I used those," he said in a telephone interview.

Merritt, who appears at MassMoCA's Hunter Center at 8 p.m. Saturday, added that collating the song fragments and writing additional songs for the massive project took about 15 months.

Merritt wrote all the melodies and lyrics for the disc, released in 1999.

"It was a publicity stunt, essentially," he said. "It's one of my signature projects, and I'm fine with that. It was a way to announce myself to the world."

Merritt will be appearing at Mass MoCA as a solo artist. But Merritt is a man of many, many hats and talents. He is, for example, a member of four other bands, including the Magnetic Fields (1989-present), The 6ths (1993-present), The Gothic Archies (1997-present) and the Future Bible Heroes (1997-present).

In addition, he has written soundtracks and composed the music and lyrics for an off-Broadway stage musical, "Coraline", based on a novel written by Neil Gaiman. In 2010, Merritt wrote and produced the musical accompaniment for a silent film adaptation of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

The soft-spoken Merritt conceded that pigeonholing him in some sort of musical genre is not particularly easy — or relevant.

"I enjoy a lot of different kind of music," he said. "I really don't know how to characterize it. Why bother? It's music. I'm not big on genres."

The Yonkers native recalled that it all began when he was about seven. His first record purchase was not actually a record, per se; it was a plastic disc on the back of a box of the breakfast cereal Alpha-Bits.

"There was a recording of the Jackson Five's 'ABC' embedded on the box," he recalled. "You had to cut it out of the box to play it. I was kind of surprised that it actually worked."

His musical odyssey included being a member of the Bay City Rollers Fan Club. In high school, he took guitar and piano lessons. From then, said Merritt "I was in a succession of bands in high school and college."

He formed the first of his four bands, The Magnetic Fields, in Boston in 1989.

Merritt promised an eclectic set of solo material and songs from various sources in his life. He will be accompanied by cellist Sam Davol, with whom he has worked as a member of the Magnetic Fields.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-495-6251.

IN CONCERT

Who: Singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt, accompanied by cellist Sam Davol

When: Saturday evening at 8

Where: Mass MoCA, Hunter Center, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams

Tickets: $29 (advance); $35 (day of); $44 (preferred)

How: (413) 552-2111; massmoca.org


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