Initially forming his band The Will Be Gones ten years ago, life would eventually lead Halifax-based singer-songwriter Craig Mercer away from the project after two years. Eight years later, he is back with many of its original members with the release of their debut EP, the four-track Never Not Letting Go, on June 23. Mercer and his band will celebrate the release at The Carleton that same night.
“We were fairly active for the first couple years of that band, but I had a few things happen personally that took me away from that project for quite some time,” he says.
But while a health scare with the birth of one of his children at the time would take him away from the project, it was a near-death experience last summer that would be the real catalyst for Mercer to return to The Will Be Gones.
“I got struck by a car in a crosswalk and in recovery for several months,” he says. “I had never experienced a massive concussion before this, and it was quite a trip.”
Sitting in a darkened room during his recovery, Mercer began pondering some big life questions.
“I started wondering if things were going to be okay and thinking about all the things that I could have done differently, the people I should have spent more time with and projects I should finish,” he says. “That list was pretty long, and this was one of those things I started to pick away at it with a new perspective.”
He also realized that the time invested in The Will Be Gones almost a decade ago should not go to waste.
“That felt like an awful lot of effort if nothing was to ever come of it,” he says. “So, really, I just wanted to make peace with that. So, coming back to it this summer, we finished up a bunch of songs that we had started recording eight years ago, and we are really happy to finish it and finally get it out there.”
A stark contrast to the jam/rock acts, including The Jimmy Swift Band and Scientists of Sound, Mercer has previously been known for, Never Not Letting Go is on the roots spectrum.
“It’s roots rock in the vein of some Rolling Stones, early Black Crows, and lots of guitar,” says Mercer. “I love my guitar, and between myself and Roger [Nelson], who is an amazing guitar player, there is lots of guitar all over this thing. And pretty powerful yet subdued in parts, with a little bit of Americana thrown in there as well.”
While Never Not Letting Go is set to be released this month, it is a stepping stone to a full-length album for the band.
“We recorded a bunch of songs in studio sessions about eight years ago, and we are sorting through those recordings and adding some new stuff,” he says. “And we are working towards a release in late this year or early 2024.”