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How a Provo singer’s U2 cover made it into this year’s Olympics

PROVO — When April Meservy recorded her cover of U2’s “With or Without You” more than five years ago, she never intended for anyone to hear it.

But a lot of people are about to hear it. Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel, the Canadian pairs figure skaters who won a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics Games in Sochi, will perform to Meservy’s song at this year’s Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Meservy, a Provo resident, recalled the day she recorded it. She was at the Orem home studio of her friend, Aaron Edson, waiting to produce vocals for another singer. As they waited, the two started discussing a hard relationship of hers that was ending. As she spoke, Edson sat at the piano and started playing the chords to “With or Without You,” U2’s smash hit from 1987’s “The Joshua Tree.”

He encouraged Meservy to enter the vocal booth and start singing — much to her chagrin.

“I just remember thinking, ‘Are you serious? Are we turning this into a moment? You’ve got to be kidding,’” Meservy told the Deseret News.

“It was like a dream that I hadn’t even thought to dream," April Meservy said of seeing Canadian figure skaters Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel perform to her song.
“It was like a dream that I hadn’t even thought to dream," April Meservy said of seeing Canadian figure skaters Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel perform to her song.
Ivy Stauss

They recorded her vocals in a single take. As she stood in the recording booth, reading each line on her phone as she sang them, Meservy said it truly captured what she’d been feeling.

“So it was really emotional for me, singing it in that place of feeling so fragile,” she said.

Being a professional vocalist requires considerable vulnerability. Still, putting this song out into the world made Meservy unsure. This, she said, “took an extra level of bravery,” and it didn’t see the light of day until its release early last year. With more than 4,000 plays on Spotify, Meservy’s cover experienced modest success.

That where Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel came in.

The figure skaters had been searching for a pairs song, and their choreographer, Julie Marcotte, showed them Meservy’s cover.

“Her voice was raw, powerful and captivating, and Julie, Eric and I sat there in tears listening to it,” Duhamel described in a blog post from June. “There was no Plan B after that. This was it.”

The group had been practicing with the song for a while before Meservy found out. After being tagged in a Facebook post, Meservy saw the group’s rehearsal and was blown away.

While Meservy never had high hopes for the song, Edson said he initially imagined it on a show like “So You Think You Can Dance.” At the time they recorded it, the TV show was utilizing similarly emotive covers of well-known songs.

“With almost every song, you have these big, high hopes, and they almost never come true,” Edson said. “I love that it was grasped onto without an introduction or a connection. It was just found. That, to me, is the beauty and the power of digital music distribution today.”

Paul Jacobsen, a Salt Lake City musician, has known Meservy since they took a songwriting class at Brigham Young University in the early 2000s. The two also collaborated on Meservy’s recent EP “The Good-Morrow.” According to Jacobsen, Meservy’s voice possesses a unique dichotomy. While it’s recognizable, Jacobsen said she avoids the affectations that now dominate contemporary female vocals — a plague of sorts known as “indie voice.”

“She’s very versatile, and that’s a tribute to her work ethic, I think,” Jacobsen said. “She’s constantly working, and she’s doing a lot of studio sessions — and for lack of a better word, hustling.”

At Christmas, an anonymous well-wisher gifted Meservy some tickets to the Canadian figure skating championships in Vancouver, where Duhamel and Radford skated to her song and won first place last month.

If that weren’t enough, another anonymous donor has paid for Meservy to attend the Olympics, where Duhamel and Radford will perform at the team event on Thursday, Feb. 8, and again on Feb. 13.

“It was like a dream that I hadn’t even thought to dream,” Meservy said. “It’s not something you plan. I’m a musician, and I know the realities of how often stuff like that really can happen. It feels like you’re more likely to get struck by lightning.”