Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Merton, the Chatroulette Piano Guy

Who is Merton the Chatroulette Piano Guy? The mystery remains, but one thing is clear: He's not Ben Folds in disguise, contrary to the rumor that gained momentum after the musician's talent caught attention on Chatroulette (an online site that randomly pairs people around the world for one-on-one live webcam chats).

The buzz over the mystery man compelled Folds to break out his own webcam during a North Carolina concert and offer a tribute. In front of 2,000 screaming fans, he serenaded his Chatroulette partners with impromptu songs in Merton-like style. He made up lyrics to match each person on the computer screen, from a shy writer who finally emerged from behind a notepad to the man waving a lighter to Folds' live music.

Folds' performance provides evidence that Merton the Chatroulette Piano Guy has made it. He's Chatroulette's first legitimate online superstar. What Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell did for YouTube in 2005 with "Lazy Sunday," Merton the Chatroulette Piano Guy has now done for the online video chat service. Other than that, little is known about Merton (except that he's not fellow piano player Ben Folds), and for now, he seems quite content cloaking himself in mystery (and a green hood).

In an exclusive interview with Mashable, Merton breaks down how and why there is no possible way he could be Ben Folds, citing the difference in their piano playing techniques (most people will just have to take him at his word).

"At first, I thought it was a similarity. You know, I can accept that - we're both white guys who play the piano and sing kind of funny songs," explains Merton over the confusion. "Any musician, and certainly any pianist, will notice that we are not the same person."

That doesn't mean he wasn't flattered by the comparison. "I think it's great. I love his version of Chatroulette because he's a different kind of improviser than I am," says Merton.

Merton filmed a series of three-hour Chatroulette sessions over two nights. The clips were then edited and posted on YouTube, where they are now (after some re-editing over privacy concerns for a few of Merton's Chatroulette partners) approaching five million views.

Of course, by the time he filmed his more recent sessions, Merton was already a known Chatroulette star. He admits, "My experience was very different because everyone knew who I was. It's more fun one way, and a little less fun another way."

Whoever Merton is, he seems media-savvy enough to know that the mystery surrounding his identity is what (at least at first) drives his story. He is an unknown piano player who has already had a well-known musician pay tribute to him. Merton mentions in the interview that he doesn't want his identity to become a "treasure hunt." He also admits, "[I would] have the most fun if I went undetected for as long as possible." For the many who feel they must know his identity, the treasure hunt continues.

via Yahoo!

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