Critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Mark Erelli has released “You,” one of the rawest, most emotional tracks from his forthcoming LP, Lay Your Darkness Down, due out on February 3rd via Soundly Music. “This is a wrecking ball of a love song,” Erelli explains. “It’s a cry for help, directed at a partner who is also struggling and may not be feeling strong enough to be supportive. There is real desperation here, an honest need to be reminded of the redemptive power of love, especially at one’s lowest moment.”
Erelli also recorded a stripped-down performance of “You” at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “I wanted to capture this in one of the rooms that’s most meaningful to me,’ he says of Passim. “At its essence, the song explores the need to be fully seen by the ones that we love, and it felt fitting to play it in a space where I always feel I can be at my most vulnerable and honest with my audience.”
“You” also serves as a mission statement, a reaffirmation of the commitment to walking together through the darkness together and emerging stronger on the other side. Its release follows the soulfully sultry “The Man I Am,” a tribute to Polly, his wife of 20 years, and lead single “You’re Gonna Wanna Remember This,” an epic track he co-wrote with his “musical big sister,” GRAMMY-winning artist Lori McKenna.
In the summer of 2020, Erelli was performing an outdoor show in New Hampshire when something strange happened. “I looked down and couldn’t see my fingers on the guitar,” he recently told The Boston Globe. “I’m literally about to go into the downbeat for the solo, and, as you can imagine, it didn’t go great. It was embarrassing. I came offstage thinking, ‘Note to self: Check the lighting next time.’” Later, when driving home one night through a Boston tunnel, he lost sight of the road. After a trip to the ophthalmologist, Erelli was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (“RP”), a degenerative eye disease that causes progressive loss of night and peripheral vision, and can lead to complete blindness.
After his terrifying diagnosis, he began to wonder – Does diminished eyesight decrease one’s insight? What does it mean to be ‘fully seen,’ by oneself and by others? These questions, along with his drive to regain his creative agency, are at the heart of Lay Your Darkness Down.
The tracks, though decorated with references to shadows, light, and obscured vision, are about resilience, love, and the human condition. The album is more than a collection of affirmations and optimism in the face of despair; it is a clarion call for anyone lost in the shadows. Yet Erelli doesn’t proclaim any easy answers for how to navigate the unknown. Instead, he squarely examines question after question, reveling in mysteries both great and small. With equal parts hope and resignation, he reminds us in the title track that our deepest challenges are more than a simple test of our endurance—they ultimately help us chart our course.
Lay Your Darkness Down is a reconciliation of life’s trials and human frailties, adversity transformed into finely-embroidered rock n’ roll, burning with urgency. “These aren’t songs about blindness. They’re songs I could only write once I realized what I was losing,” Erelli explained to The Boston Globe. “My impending blindness opened my eyes, and I was able to write from that new viewpoint.”
The album is available for pre-order HERE. Those who pre-order Lay Your Darkness Down through Bandcamp will receive an exclusive bonus track – a live acoustic performance of “You.” Click HERE for more information.
Photo Courtesy: Joe Navas