Zach Zwerdling on that Sweet Humboldt County Sound
He founded Mercury Sky Records for local singer-songwriters
Published in 2022 Northern California Super Lawyers magazine on July 5, 2022
It only took one performance for personal injury lawyer Zach Zwerdling of Eureka’s Zwerdling Law to be sold on music, and it was a doozy: The Beatles. The Ed Sullivan Show. 1964. “I fell in love,” says Zwerdling, in eighth grade at the time. Shortly after, he bought his first electric guitar and has been playing ever since.
Eventually, just playing wasn’t enough. “I practice in Humboldt County, and have lived here most of my life,” Zwerdling says. “We have a thriving arts scene featuring many fine musicians, but because we are far from music epicenters like the Bay Area or Los Angeles, it’s difficult for young musicians to get discovered.”
Then there’s the hefty price tag musicians have to grapple with to record and promote their music. Zwerdling’s solution? In 2016, he founded Mercury Sky Records to find, produce and support local singer-songwriters. “I had been fortunate to play in bands fronted by some of these musicians,” he says. “It seemed like a natural synergy.”
So what does Humboldt County sound like? “Iconoclastic, unique, and non-formulaic,” he says. Kind of like Sara Bareilles, he says, a local superstar. “She draws from many types and styles. We have great reggae, funk, soul and alternative sounds. Singer-songwriters abound. I think artists love Humboldt County because of its rugged natural beauty, which allows creativity to flow.”
While Mercury Sky boasts a robust roster of artists, Zwerdling is excited about recent releases from Elisa Penner (who performs under Penner) and Michael Dayvid.
“Elisa Penner released a record this year titled When We Fall Apart. This music is masterful,” Zwerdling says. “Elisa’s songwriting is deeply personal and her musical talent shines throughout the recording.” Zwerdling says fans of Billie Eilish, Sia, Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga will dig Penner’s “haunting, simmering, angsty bops.”
Dayvid’s record, Solveig’s Shadow, was released in 2019. “We worked with a local sound engineer and another engineer from Los Angeles in the production of this record,” Zwerdling says. “This record is complex and anthemic. Michael’s songwriting is excellent and his unique voice soars. He’s also a gifted guitarist who appears as an instrumentalist on many of our productions “
And as for lawyers’ playlists? “Any respectable lawyer song list would have to include ‘I Fought the Law’ by The Clash,” he says. “Another potential would be The Beatles’ ‘You Never Give Me Your Money,’ which starts ‘You never give me your money. You only give me your funny paper, and in the middle of negotiations, you break down.’”