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    At Long Last… My Interview with Merton, the Piano Chat ...

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    Larry Kless

    by Larry Kless

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    It was more than a year ago when Merton, the improvisational piano player, became an Internet sensation when he first appeared on Chatroulette playing piano and serenading the strangers he'd meet on the video chat website. His videos have attracted over 25,000,000 views on YouTube and he has performed in London, Montreal, and he how has live, interactive, webcam show that airs weekly on Wednesdays at 10:00 PM ET called The Merton Show.

    Merton is a self-taught improvisational pianist who lives in the Colorado rockies. He's a quick-witted, friendly guy who conceals his true identity by wearing a green hoodie and fake horn-rimmed glasses. There had been some speculation that he was actually recording artist Ben Folds in disguise – especially with Ben Folds' Chatroulette Piano Ode to Merton video – but while the two have similarities in appearance and musical styles, they both disputed the claim in a recorded Public Service Announcement where they appeared together.

    I met Merton last year at NewTeeVee Live where he spoke about his experience as a web celebrity and how he planned to further develop and evolve his improvisational social and musical style. Merton says that he's played piano and done improvisational music for a long time, but Chatroulette gave him the mass exposure to become a web video phenomenon.

    Merton's advise to artists and performers to build their audience and expand their reach is to just do it.

    "Video is huge and I don't know if I can say anything that hasn't already been said. But a picture is worth a thousand words but a video is worth a million pictures. And so as far as being a performer, but because I was able to make this humble little 5 minute video and put it in a place where millions of people could watch it. I was able to insert myself in the mainstream that way. So, I would encourage anybody who is a performer or artist to just do what you do. Put it on film or take pictures, put it on the Internet and people can find it."