April Meservy was as surprised as anyone that she wound up at the Canadian National Skating Championships in Vancouver last month.
And it was certainly beyond her wildest dreams to find out she’d be going to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and to realize that millions of people around the world will be taking in her performance during the pairs figure skating competition.
After all, she’s not even a skater.
But considering a two-time world-champion skating team wanted to use her song, and an anonymous donor (or donors) wanted to pay her way to go see them — twice — well, Meservy wasn’t gonna say no.
The Provo singer, whose cover of the U2 classic “With or Without You” is the soundtrack for the short program of Canadian medal contenders Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, still can’t believe any of it.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever cried for joy more in my entire life than in the last couple months,” Meservy told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’ve felt so much goodness from other people.”
This past August, Meservy saw she had a Facebook notification, and upon checking it, saw she’d been tagged in a post by Duhamel, whom she did not know. It included short video clips of Duhamel and Radford — at that moment, six-time Canadian national champions and two-time world champs — practicing in a near-empty arena, with Meservy’s cover of “With or Without You” blaring from the speakers.
Duhamel said in a blog post that she and Radford had long considered setting a routine to an instrumental version of the tune (songs with vocals were not allowed in figure-skating competitions until a 2014 vote changed the rule), but had never done so. But when they met with choreographer Julie Marcotte to start sketching out options for the coming Olympic season, fate was put into motion.
“Julie appeared, with an unheard of version by April Meservy. Her voice was raw, powerful and captivating, and Julie, Eric and I sat there in tears listening to it,” Duhamel wrote. “There was no plan B after that. This was it. It had to be it.”
Meservy was stunned. She knew little about skating and zero about Duhamel and Radford. But after she messaged the duo to express her appreciation for using her song, and they responded that they intended to get her music onto Olympic ice, she did an online research crash course.
“I looked them up. They were clearly very good, and I found out, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re world champions! How on earth did they find this?’ ” Meservy recalled. “… I had no idea. I didn’t know a ton about figure skating — now, I know a whole lot! I’ve been following it all season. I now know what a triple-Lutz is. It’s just beautiful to me, the whole sport. That was such a shock to me to even hear that was something possible — I couldn’t have imagined it.”
Meservy has had singing gigs since her high-school days in Reno, Nev., and has been a professional musician since earning a degree in sound recording technology and media music studies from BYU. But she’s hardly a household name.
She’s mostly done shows in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California, with some swings through the Midwest, and occasionally to places such as Texas, Massachusetts, Washington, and even China. She’s released both covers and originals over the years. Getting studio vocal work has helped, but she acknowledges that she’s mostly “just trying to make ends meet,” and “there have been many sleepless nights because of the financial situation.” As a result, she’s not above taking nonmusical odd jobs to supplement her income.
There have been myriad times over the years when she’s wondered if she should get a more “normal” job, but inevitably circles back to the realization that she’s doing what she loves, and so she’ll keep employing whatever budgetary gymnastics are necessary to make it work.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a time that I really ever seriously considered giving up. But financially, at times, the creativity that’s been involved in being able to do it has been interesting,” Meservy said. “There have been times where I have been eating oatmeal every day for breakfast because it’s cheap. For many, many years, to save money, I was buying dehydrated milk.”
She also, for a long time, was driving around a “little white ’97 Geo Metro” she bought for $1,800 that “couldn’t go above 55 on the freeway,” though she recently swapped that out for a 2001 Ford Focus she bought for $1,500.
“I’m so used to not going fast that I have to have people remind me — going in a caravan or following people — I have to have people remind me that I can speed up now,” Meservy said with a laugh. “I’m used to people passing me.”
Her travel plans got a big upgrade last month.
Meservy figured she’d just read online how Duhamel and Radford fared at the Canadian National Skating Championships in Vancouver. Someone else had a different idea.
“Someone anonymously paid for my entire trip!” she said. “I still do not know who it is, or who they are. But it was paid for, and I got to go to Canada in mid-January, watching them skate.”
Plane ticket, hotel room, event ticket — all taken care of. So Meservy was in attendance at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre to see Duhamel and Radford’s short program set to her cover. The pair roared to a massive 12-point lead with the performance.
Then, the next evening, they clinched their seventh national title with their free skate.
They insisted Meservy celebrate with them.
“I was able to talk to them, meet them for the first time, meet their parents, a couple of their friends. And then they invited us to the after-party for the medal ceremony in Quebec,” she said. “We got to hang out with them all evening — I don’t know if they were away from us for more than 20 minutes.”
Knowing the duo were Olympic-bound, Meservy planned to throw a watch party for some family and friends.
A few acquaintances suggested, though, that she needed to find a way to get to South Korea.
“Some people said, ‘What? You’re not going? This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing!’ And it’s true,” Meservy said. “And I started thinking about it — ‘This might be one of those things I regret [missing]. Maybe I should just go into debt to go pay for it.’”
Turns out there was no need: “Right after I booked tickets, I found out that people were anonymously donating a good portion of it — the cost of the flight and entrance to the short program event!
“It’s given me the opportunity to take a major financial burden off and still be able to do that,” she added. “I am just so excited.”
Duhamel and Radford performed the routine Thursday night in the team competition. And they will again this Tuesday when the pairs short program gets underway. Meservy will be there to witness it.
She still can’t believe her luck. She has no idea how Marcotte stumbled upon her version of the song. And she can’t say definitively why it resonated so much with Duhamel and Radford. But somehow, of all the versions of that song by all the singers out there, they wound up loving hers.
“There’s nothing I could have done to put it into their hands, I know that. I wasn’t knocking on their door or anything,” Meservy said. “… I never expect these kinds of things to happen. The reality of it is there’s a lot of really fantastic music and singers and songwriters out there, and everyone has something to contribute. And it all just ends up in different places. We just never really know the audience it will ultimately reach, and what that will be. I don’t have a lot of illusions about that, it never crossed my mind that something like that could or would happen. … Realistically, you never know.”