I’m thrilled to be able to tell you all about a cinematic masterpiece that is Steven Mercyhill’s latest!
Listening to the music, you’ll feel like Mercyhill pulled the lyrics out of your own head full of nightmares and you know exactly which ones I’m talking about. The video backs up the song with eerie, dark, exquisite creepiness that you will agree is replicative of how life seems to have been going these past couple of years. There are even a few small hints of light to acknowledge there have been some moments of levity amongst the strife.
I fully believe Steven Mercyhill’s “Wide Awake Nightmare”, the third single from the “Nonfiction” album, will go down in history as the perfect pandemic song! While it wasn’t written specifically for the pandemic, it’s certainly excellent for the times.
Steven explains, “The original idea came to me when, after going through a particularly rough period in my life, I had awakened from a bad dream only to come to the realization that events in my actual waking life were worse than the nightmare I had just had. As I often do, I tucked the idea away in my lyric notebook to work on at a later date as I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to work on it at that time. Years went by until I ran across it again and, even then, in 2019, it occurred to me that current events were such that it would be a great time to bring that song into existence. However, this was still before what unfolded for all of us in 2020 and I am now struck by just how well it still applies to what we are all going through. Apparently, there is never any shortage of nightmares.”
Steven then chose to create this video using a combination of shots he took himself, and footage from a working short film project being made by Mercyhill himself and some work done by award-winning, experiential filmmaker, Robert Banks. Add a bit of archival footage and a pinch of stock imagery, and the end result is a compelling version of what a wide-awake nightmare might look like to the point that you’ll get goosebumps watching it.
“I’m especially proud of the image in the last scene that Robert and I created, which was shot on actual 35mm, Tri-X, black & white film stock, not digital, with Robert’s Bell and Howell, 35 Eyemo — a Military Surplus issued cinematic movie camera from the 1960s which enabled us to achieve an incredibly “Film Noir” look. That shot is so creepy, it still gives me chills every time I see it,” Steven remarked.
Along with the unusually crafted video, the actual song has an unusual trajectory as well. You’ll notice as you listen to the video that every other song was recorded with professional grade recording software, on a super-computer that Mercyhill built himself. However, “Wide Awake Nightmare” was recorded on a beat-up, “steam-powered” MacBook Pro using Garageband, a free program at that.
Steven divulges, “I wanted to start using Garageband just for idea generation and getting basic song sketches down quickly because it’s so fast and easy to use. Garageband is only available on a MacIntosh, though, so I picked up this little Mac very cheaply and started laying down the basic tracks for “Wide-Awake Nightmare” on it with no intention of using any of it for the final project. I also laid down the vocals on it with a very inexpensive microphone that I bought used for under $100, despite the fact that I own several much higher-end microphones. Once I got on a roll writing it, I didn’t want to stop my momentum and, before I knew it, the song was finished. It sounded pretty good already so I didn’t feel the need to re-record it on better equipment. Given the subject matter, I also liked the rawness of it. I did have it remixed though, by Jim Stewart, at his recording studio at Superior Sound as my home studio doesn’t have a very good mixing environment.”
And, just because Mercyhill has an abnormally high level of authentic artistry, this raw song, recorded on the most basic platforms was sent along to the legendary mastering engineer, Miles Showell, of the world-famous Abbey Road Studios, to master this track. Aside from having re-mastered some of The Beatles work, Showell did the mastering on “Under the Milky Way”, by the band, The Church, as well as several of the albums by the band, Portishead, both of which, Mercyhill is a fan.
“Basically, the main reason I went with Abbey Road, though,” Steven admits, “was to have my song and voice echoing off the same walls that have had The Beatles singing and playing within them. I just really like the idea of that … and, of course, all kidding aside, I also knew Miles would do a fantastic job on it, which he absolutely did. The song came out great despite the unconventional way it was recorded.”
“Wide-Awake Nightmare” is available as of February 19th, 2021, on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and all major streaming platforms. The music video is available on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and on www.stevenmercyhill.com. You can also check it out right here: