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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive
Ryan Merchant shares his favorite packs, hikes, and tunes for the trail.
Wolverine makes a habit of booking terrific musical acts for its 'Rock the Outdoors' party here at O.R., and this year was no exception. The Los Angeles-based indie pop group Capital Cities rocketed onto the Billboard charts in 2013 with their infectious single "Safe and Sound" and recently scored a 2014 Grammy nomination. Our colleagues at the O.R. Daily caught up with frontman Ryan Merchant to talk nature, gear, and awards mayhem.
[Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and punctuation.]
O.R. Daily: We understand you’re an outdoor enthusiast. How so?
Ryan Merchant: Before the madness of Capital Cities started, I’d definitely done a lot of mountaineering with my brother. I’ve climbed Mount Whitney, Mount Shasta and I did a trip down to Aconcagua in South America. Now I’m in terrible shape because I’ve been traveling and eating terribly on the road, but there was a time when going mountaineering and going on camping trips was a huge part of my yearly ritual.
ORD: Do you have a favorite piece of gear?
RM: As far as my backpack, I use Arc’teryx. I have one of their Bora backpacks, which I think is one of the best as far as durability, waterproofing and space. Of course I’m rocking some Wolverine boots, which are awesome. I feel like I can wear these to the Grammy’s on Sunday.
ORD: Speaking of that, how does it feel to be nominated for a Grammy?
RM: It feels really good. Basically we were nominated for the best music video, which is to me kind of a nomination for the song “Safe and Sound.” We put that song out back in 2011 and just threw it up on the internet, so it’s really crazy to see the journey from a DIY PR campaign and having no fans to now touring the world and going to the Grammys.
ORD: Why is connecting with nature important?
RM: I just really enjoy going on trips – I’ve done an African safari, I’ve done a river rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, I’ve done camping trips in California, and for me I think it’s really important to get in touch with nature when you’ve been spending so much time in the cities. It helps you recharge and reset. It generally tends to elevate my mood.
ORD: Is there a piece of outdoor gear you with somebody would invent?
RM: Some kind of comfortable outdoor toilet system would be nice. That’s one of the most challenging things when you’re climbing a high peak like [Aconcagua]. You have to pack everything out. I feel like there’s just a better solution other than what is out there and just using a bag.
ORD: Do you have any favorite hiking spots?
RM: There’s this hike [in Napa Valley, Calif.] called Oak Hill Mining Road in Calistoga. It’s just this really pleasant hike that never gets old. You hike up through the trees and pop out onto this opening and you just have beautiful views of all the vineyards in the Napa Valley. It’s a not-too-strenuous but really stunning hike.
ORD: Do you listen to music when you hike?
RM: There are some people who like to listen to very upbeat, music when they’re doing something strenuous. I actually like to listen to very mellow, soothing music because it tends to make me forget about the physical exertion that’s going on. I’ll listen to one of my favorite bands called Air from France, another called Zero 7 from the U.K, and a new band called Rhye. That’s one of my favorite newer groups.
ORD: Wolverine has a history of booking artists for this event that experience super success afterward – but it seems like you guys are already doing that. How do you think you’ll benefit from that Wolverine magic?
RM: It’s always good to play in front of new fans and I think live shows are the best way to gain die-hard fans because they form a personal connection and they get to see the whole full body of your work so it’s not just like they hear one song on the radio and think, ‘Oh I like that song but I’m not going to research the band.’ Playing the show always leads to some interesting opportunity.