Who isMerton the Chatroulette Piano Guy? The mystery remains, but one thing is clear:He's not Ben Folds in disguise, contrary to the rumor thatgained momentum after the musician's talent caught attention on Chatroulette(an online site that randomly pairs people around the world for one-on-one livewebcam chats).
The buzzover the mystery man compelled Folds to breakout his own webcam during a North Carolina concert and offer a tribute. In front of2,000 screaming fans, he serenaded his Chatroulette partners with impromptusongs inMerton-like style. He made up lyrics to match each person on the computerscreen, from a shy writer who finally emerged from behind a notepad to the manwaving a lighter to Folds' live music.
Folds'performance provides evidence that Merton the Chatroulette Piano Guy has madeit. He's Chatroulette's first legitimate online superstar. What Andy Sambergand Chris Parnell did for YouTube in 2005 with "Lazy Sunday," Mertonthe Chatroulette Piano Guy has now done for the online video chat service.Other than that, little is known about Merton (except that he's not fellowpiano player Ben Folds), and for now, he seems quite content cloaking himselfin mystery (and a green hood).
In an exclusiveinterview with Mashable, Merton breaks down how and why there is nopossible way he could be Ben Folds, citing the difference in their pianoplaying techniques (most people will just have to take him at his word).
"Atfirst, I thought it was a similarity. You know, I can accept that - we're bothwhite guys who play the piano and sing kind of funny songs," explainsMerton over the confusion. "Any musician, and certainly any pianist, willnotice that we are not the same person."
Thatdoesn't mean he wasn't flattered by the comparison. "I think it's great. Ilove his version of Chatroulette because he's a different kind of improviserthan I am," says Merton.
Merton filmeda series of three-hour Chatroulette sessions over two nights. Theclips were then edited and posted on YouTube, where they are now (after somere-editing over privacy concerns for a few of Merton's Chatroulette partners)approaching five million views.
Of course,by the time he filmed his more recent sessions, Merton was already a knownChatroulette star. He admits, "My experience was very different becauseeveryone knew who I was. It's more fun one way, and a little less fun anotherway."
WhoeverMerton is, he seems media-savvy enough to know that the mystery surrounding hisidentity is what (at least at first) drives his story. He is an unknown pianoplayer who has already had a well-known musician pay tribute to him. Mertonmentions in the interview that he doesn't want his identity to become a"treasure hunt." He also admits, "[I would] have the most fun ifI went undetected for as long as possible." For the many who feel theymust know his identity, the treasure hunt continues.