Sep 20, 2019

Exclusive: 1 on 1 with the king of financial country music

Photo courtesy of Merle Hazard

Merle Hazard, the biggest name in country music about financial markets, debuted in New York on Thursday night, performing for a packed house at WNYC's Jerome L. Greene Performance Space.

The big picture: The legendary crooner behind hits like "How Long (Will Interest Rates Stay Low)," "Dual Mandate" and "Inflation or Deflation" is unquestionably the economics world's biggest country music superstar. But Hazard, aka Jon Shayne, still has his day job.

Hazard is a native of New York who bills himself as the son of a coal miner daddy and a mama who was a compliance director at Morgan Stanley-Dean Witter. On Thursday he unleashed 2 new bangers, "That's Seigniorage" and "The Fed is Watching the Market," as well as a favorite from his 2018 opus "Tough Market" backed up by his son Merle Jr. (aka David Shayne) on guitar.

Behind the scenes: He's an asset manager, dealing mainly in U.S. equities at his firm Shayne & Co., LLC overseeing portfolios for around 100 client accounts.

  • "There's an audience for [my music]," Hazard said during a 1-on-1 exclusive with Axios, "but I'm not sure it's a sufficiently big, paying audience to really make this a career."

Background: He got his start in finance at brokerage firm Paine Webber as a "number-crunching analyst in the mergers group," but eventually moved to Nashville, where he was able to combine his love for country and finance.

  • "Everything I sing about in the songs ... they're all real issues to me."

Fun fact: Hazard now records at Compass Sound Studios on Nashville's Music Row, the former home of Glaser Brothers Production, aka Hillbilly Central, "where the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman and Tompall Glaser gave rise to country music’s 'Outlaw' movement," according to the studio's website.

The intrigue: While his songs generally focus on high-level macroeconomic themes like central banking, GDP growth and interest rate policy, his heart is in value investing — as a Warren Buffett devotee he specializes in company valuations and stock picking.

Go deeper: Who would’ve thought a bluegrass spoof of atonal music would take off on YouTube? (WashPost)

Editor's note: This article has been changed to reflect the name of Shayne's firm, Shane & Co, LLC rather than Shayne & Co. Investment Management, and to state that only one song performed was from his "Tough Market" album.

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