Shelby Merry, a former resident of Gallia County, landed the role of lead composer of Final Space, which she describes as a multi-generational epic space saga with lots of heart. Created by Olan Rogers, Final Space airs Mondays at 10:30/9:30 central on TBS. Merry is joined in her role by co-composer Jake Sidwell, who scored the original series proof of concept.
Final Space isn’t Merry’s first foray into show business. While pursuing work as a solo artist, Merry began writing for film. She wrote a song for the The Maze Runner that went viral online and went on to do some work for Lionsgate. She met Sidwell through a mutual appreciation for each other’s music and through that connection was introduced to Rogers.
“He got my music in the room at TBS and the rest was history,” said Merry.
In her solo career, Merry said she has new music in the works and a new album planned, but Final Space has been her primary focus for the past year.
“I can’t make promises on a release date. It’s a high concept album, very reminiscent of some of my old work like “Gallows” and “Grounded,” Merry said. “There was something there with those songs that I never got to finish, and it’s my hope to do just that. I’ve learned so much from composing that I want to incorporate it into my personal music.”
The Earth is dying. The world runs under one central government known as The Union, a ruthless and desperate organization on a search to find another planet for colonization. When Earth receives a mysterious signal from a neighboring solar system, Harper along with five other prisoners are given the option for early release if they take on the dangerous mission to investigate. But things drastically become more complicated when the crew discovers people on this new planet, and these people know who they are. Harper left Earth to run away from her past, but the world she found has a darker history than her own. In this forgotten wasteland, everyone is desperate to protect something, and Harper must decide what is worth fighting for. But in a game of survival, only one question matters: who is telling the truth?
The idea for “Second Planet” came from an “insanely vivid dream that got my head turning”, said Merry. She felt it was too cool of a concept not to form into a story.
“It had always been a plan of mine to write a book, so I just sat down and decided to do it,” said Merry. “Second Planet is my realistic take on sci-fi, tapping into the question of where we came from, dark existentialism, and what we are as humans at the core.”
Merry chose the self-publishing route because she said she likes a challenge and breaking into the publishing world can take years and several books before success is realized.
“Also, I knew I was doing something a bit different, and I wanted to preserve that. It’s not an adult novel, and it’s not a young adult book. It’s not a stellar, shiny science fiction look into a bright future with super tech and lasers and robots,” said Merry. “I really wanted to make a book that focused on who we are as humans with all that stuff stripped away to get to the heart and the despair of it.”
Merry, who putting her composing skills to use, was also adamant about including a soundtrack with the book, available on iTunes.
“This book to me really feels like a film in words: from the visuals, to the soundtrack, to the artwork,” said Merry. “I just wrapped work on Final Space, so my plans for book two are getting pulled off the back burner and made a priority.”
She is also pitching “Second Planet” as a television series.
“I guess we’ll see what wins first, my sleep schedule or my projects,” said Merry.
When asked about some highlights over her career so far, Merry recalled her first show in Gallipolis.
“It was in Gallipolis in the alley between a tattoo parlor and a skate shop on Second Avenue,” said Merry. “It was a free show, we had zero sound equipment, but we had a grill. So, we made hotdogs and everyone sat on the ground. It was great.”
She also recalled the release show for her album Young Guns at the Ariel Opera House, where they had also recorded the piano live for the album.
“I still listen to the tracks today and think back to that. We would set up and start at 9 p.m. and record until 6 a.m.,” said Merry. “We only had one ghost encounter, so it was great!”
She also reminisced about the shows she played at the French Art Colony, which were outdoor shows, and the lessons she learned from them.
“Every single show has had some kind of weather related disaster, but we’ve always made the best of it,” said Merry. “Those shows turn out to be the best, because it pulls you out of the plan. You have to shift and make the situation work.”
In order to get where she is now, Merry said it took “a lot of sacrifice and dumb luck”.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to see such a wide scope of the music industry, all good and bad sides. You do something long enough and with enough ferocity, you’ll have a lot of experience under your belt. You get comfortable with being miserable and finding the joy of the grind in it: touring in a van with 12 people and no heat, sleeping in my car between shows, driving three hours after school to have practice…that’s the stuff you remember,” said Merry. “I just decided early on to thrive in the struggle and let it shape me. I’ve never been complacent with standing still. Life only gets odder and more interesting when you do. I cashed my first Final Space check with $3 in my account. The bank thought I forged it and froze my account for 3 weeks. I’ll laugh about that till the day I die. It never gets normal, only more absurd, and I love it.”
As for advice for youth considering a similar path, Merry said, “Be prepared to put the work in, and I mean a lot of work, for a long time. Opportunities aren’t gonna mean anything if you aren’t prepared for them. You have to do the not fun parts like doing your research and practicing your skill and sacrificing things like having a social life. Find what you niche is, lock it down, and then find where that’s needed. Practice a lot. No, even more. MORE. There we go. Drink enough water each day. Sleep when you can.”
To those in Gallia County who have shown her support over the years, Merry says thank you.
“You gave me what I needed early on to keep pushing and moving forward,” said Merry.