Spotlight: Nick Meyer on The Formation and Future of Volume One

By B.J. Hollars

                                                                                           Volume One  publisher and co-founder Nick Meyer in the archive

                                                                                          Volume One publisher and co-founder Nick Meyer in the archive

“Watch your head!” Nick Meyer calls back to me.

            I do, ducking to avoid the low vent in the bowels of the basement of Eau Claire’s Local Store

            “Thanks for your concern,” I say, following after Nick’s 6’5” frame, “but I’m a little more worried about your head.”

            In truth, I hardly have to duck at all, though when I do, I rise up to spot a wall lined with boxes directly ahead of me.

            “So this is the archive,” Nick says.  “It’s where we keep all the back issues.”

            All 300 of them. 

            Certainly Nick Meyer needs no introduction.  At 22, he—along with Dale Karls and several of their friends—decided to create an arts and culture magazine in the city, though at the outset, were wholly uncertain about the magazine’s future.

            “This publication may very well be a one-time exercise in futility for us,” the inaugural issue’s opening statements reads.   “Depending on what kind of response we receive, it might continue.”

            It did continue.  It continues to continue.  And our valley is better for it.

            Nick and I meet to talk on his 37th birthday, which, as it turns out, happens to coincide with Volume One’s 14th birthday.

            “Well happy birthday to you both,” I say.

            “Thank you and thank you,” Nick smiles.

            Though I’ve long heard rumor of Volume One’s origin story, I’ve never heard it directly from Nick.  However, given the abundance of birthdays in that basement, it only seems natural to harken back to the old days.

            “What was [Volume One] initially supposed to be like for you?” I ask.

            “The whole reason it started—my personal story for it—was there was a band called the Buddyrevelles, who I thought was the greatest band in the world.”

            Nick discovered the local band while attending a show on the UWEC campus in the fall of 1998.  Four years later, long after the band had made good in Chicago, they planned a homecoming show in Eau Claire.  Nick was anxious to spread word of their return; the problem, though, was that he found it impossible to spread the word in print.  After the traditional media outlets passed on the story, Nick began to wonder how he might create a publication specifically aimed at local arts and culture.

                                                      Issue one of  Volume One

                                                      Issue one of Volume One

            Volume One was born soon after, arriving into the world on March 1, 2002—exactly 23 years after Nick.

            Years later, Nick began to realize that it wasn’t just the Buddyrevelles’ music that inspired him so deeply, but what that music came to represent: proof, as he put it, that “amazing art can be made anywhere—including a place like this.”

            For many, Volume One has become synonymous with community building—a tangible, bi-weekly reminder of the power we possess when communities come together for a cause.  Though in the case of the Chippewa Valley, it’s hard to put a finger on just what our “cause” may be.   Perhaps it’s simply to continue to grow the place that we call home.

            “So many people pulling in the same direction on a place is a powerful thing,” Nick tells me.  “And we’re lucky in that way because a lot of communities don’t have that vibe going at all.  There are places bigger and smaller than this that just sort of exist—and there’s a few people here and there—but this community’s been able to find this wave of energy and keep it building and growing, and it hasn’t even crested yet.”

            When I ask Nick to reflect on his years with the magazine—on what it means to him—he admits that he probably doesn’t reflect nearly enough; mainly, because he’s always looking forward. 

            Though for a moment I do catch him reflecting, watching as he flips through the humble, 24 black-and-white pages that became Volume One’s first volume.

            Over the years the magazine had grown tremendously both in terms of page count and readership.  But it’s grown in other ways as well, including its ability to provide jobs for over 20 of the most talented writers, designers, editors and advertising teams in the region.  More recently, Nick has also found ways to pay contributing writers for specific content as well—a step he believes will not only ensure Volume One’s high quality content for years to come, but will also better reflect his own values related to compensating writers and artists for their work.

            Nick and I wrap up our conversation, ascend the stairs—and after one last happy birthday wish courtesy of me—part ways and get back to our jobs.

            But before leaving the parking lot, my eye catches on the many bumper stickers lining Nick’s car.  Each sticker reveals his support for one facet or another of our local scene, though one sticker, in particular, stands out. 

            There it is, innocuously positioned near his right taillight: 

            I ❤︎ EC

            It’s a message so simple it can fit on a sticker, yet so complex that—300 issues later—we’ve hardly begun to explain all the reasons why.

Interview music courtesy of Lee Rosevere