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How Sparse Demos Can Blossom Into a Rich Sonic Tapestry
Having children, traveling and making music is certainly a balancing act. It’s essential to not let life get in the way but to incorporate all of its elements to showcase your story. Vandaveer’s newest album, The Wild Mercury, is a collection of songs that were created over a long period of time. Mark Charles Heidinger draws on experiences that define his life, yet is able to construct songs that have a universal element. This album is far more autobiographical than Heidinger’s past work, but it makes it all the better.
Emotionally and mentally, writing the songs was a more solitary journey but was a collaborative effort in the studio. “I wrote exactly what my heart compelled me to and I was liberated by that aspect. It came from a genuine place,” says Heidinger. Whether the album is deemed a success or failure, Heidinger feels so connected to it and he embraces all aspects of his music. This is Vandaveer’s fifth album and Heidinger deems them all career-defining. He says, “I don’t think the point is to make the same record over and over again; there is always room for growth and creativeness.”
With The Wild Mercury, Heidinger was able to achieve new sonic textures, more focused on the temperature of things, metaphorically speaking. The Wild Mercury is the album title and the title track; the meaning behind it is profound. Heidinger says it’s all about “stargazing, wanting and yearning; wanting to get back to where you think you once belonged even though you haven’t been there yet. We seek out ideals even though they don’t really exist.”
The album embodies an old soul stuck in a contemporary time, yearning for something more low key. “I feel like in my life, the pace is quick and the chaos is increased and that the crazy has become the norm. And all of that very much is the wild mercury, the quickening of the pace.”
The songs are narrative in nature and it is evident that there is an underlying storytelling aspect to the album. When writing the lyrics, there was intent behind each word choice. Every single phrase was honest and direct and that really drove the bulk of the material. “I felt compelled, required, to write a batch of songs like this, to make sense out of things for myself,” says Heidinger. There is a universal connection in aging, growing, starting a family and incorporating that into your ever-changing life. The Wild Mercury represents all aspects of life and how we react to and handle things as they evolve. While one person’s story may be different than another’s, there is a fundamental element of empathy. Heidinger notes that while “a specific experience may be unique, if you zoom out…things look pretty similar.” Rather than masking his songs with flowery words, he was more direct and prudent. His writing is deliberate and well-crafted.
The songs are part of an organic experience that Heidinger wanted to share. He didn’t set out to write an album that was thematically connected from song to song. The context was far more direct; it is a byproduct of watching himself, and the band, age. Heidinger notes the importance of staying engaged with what you are creating. Perspectives, time, anonymity, sense of place and the people that walk in and out of our lives all change. The world around us is complex and making sense of it all can seem complicated. Heidinger uses music as an outlet to convey his sense of self. He notes that the content itself made him write and that it is part of the natural progression to gravitate towards a specific subject matter, and in this case it’s life.
Some people shy away from admitting that life is complicated, but Heidinger embraces it and enhances its beauty. In the studio, Heidinger tends to do more with less, less time that is, because of life, a great balancing act. Unlike his previous albums, The Wild Mercury does not have character study or theatrical elements. Interestingly enough, the album started with a minimalist approach but that idea was quickly scratched and turn into a full sounding record.
Heidinger was originally attracted to the minimalist approach because the material is so inherently personal; he felt the obvious choice was to strip things down to the elements. He did not want to cloud the story with flourishes and extra instrumentation. The demos were simply Heidinger and an acoustic guitar, but after a few pre-production sessions that idea was abandoned. “Making an album is the album you make,” says Heidinger. Moving to a fuller sound raised the stakes and juxtaposed the content. The album is balanced with personal lyrics and a full spectrum of timbres. Some songs were recorded live, some had minimal overdubs, but all were crafted from the ground up.
Heidinger finds the whole concept of consuming music, paying for what you want, quite liberating. As the music industry continues to develop, Heidinger does not feel like it’s feast or famine. Vandaveer has been a band for about ten years and continues to evolve. Heidinger feels honored that he gets to make another record, but he admits that it’s not an easy thing to do; it is difficult and emotionally draining but an overall fun process.
For Heidinger, making music used to be a compulsion but now it is ingrained in him. He notes that every album feels like it is career defining. He profoundly states, “Recording is an artifact. If you don’t feel like it’s your best record, then maybe you shouldn’t put it out.” Heidinger poured his soul into this album and has exposed himself in a way he hasn’t before. The Wild Mercury takes us on a journey through Heidinger’s life, something that is more familiar than we think.
photos by Kurt Gohde
The Wild Mercury
Standout Track: “A Little Time Off Ahead”
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