Video Premiere: Stewart Eastham "Carry On"
While blacks and reds splash across the album cover, there is a sense of joy that permeates Stewart Eastham’s latest, Dancers In The Mansion, a fifteen track collection that features both innovative lyricism and distinctive musical arrangements. No Depression is pleased to premiere the video for one of the album's tracks, "Carry On," a steel-filled classic heartbreaker with underlying hip-hop influences. Watch the cinematic, chilling video below and then read on as Eastham gives you the story behind the song and video.
What inspired the song, "Carry On?"
I originally wrote “Carry On” not long after the release of my previous album, The Man I Once Was. My girlfriend had been spending most of her time in Nashville and was preparing to move back to London. At that time, I thought she was moving back for good. Hence the song was born. (I couldn’t even get through it the first time I tried to sing it for her.) She did eventually end up coming back to Nashville. And here we are, a few years later, and she co-directed and co-starred in the video with me!
Going into the recording studio I had a pretty clear vision for this song sonically. My basic concept was to have this folk/country song playing over big hip-hop style drums. In the studio, Burke Ericson (producer) and Allen Jones (drummer) came up with some super cool second pass drum stuff we layered in during the bridge that really opened that section up.
I’m a big fan (and collector) of soundtracks, so I wanted the song to feel like soundtrack music if the vocals were stripped out. Skyko Tavis played strings on the song which helped add to the cinematic vibe. In post, we beefed up the kick drum to give even more of a hip-hop vibe. I’m a big fan of composer Adrian Younge and the way he mixes classic soundtrack music with hip-hop. This song was our version of something like that.
How did the treatment for the video come together?
My girlfriend, Katrena Rochell, and I both directed, shot, and starred in the video. A portion of the footage we originally intended to use in a music video for the song “It’s Understood” from my previous album. Before we could finish the video, I started recording Dancers In The Mansion, and it fell by the wayside. When we were brainstorming music video ideas for the new album, we came up with the idea to repurpose that footage and turn it into a video for “Carry On”. We tweaked the concept so it fit the song better and shot a bunch of additional footage. I think it ended up adding to the “epic” nature of the video because it was shot over such a long period of time.
Where was the video filmed?
All of the graveyard stuff we shot in this neat old cemetery hidden in a park near where Kat lived in the Putney area of London. She had been telling me about this place for years. I flew over there and we shot all the graveyard footage. That’s also when we shot the footage of me on the Tube and other shots of me walking around London.
All the “crime” related footage we shot in and around our house here in East Nashville. We built out the crime scene itself in our backyard. The mental ward was a little set we built in a corner of our dinner room. All of the stuff out in the country, we shot at Kat’s folks’ place near the Alabama/Tennessee border. In order to expand the timeline of the story I also used some old footage of Kat and I we’d randomly shot 5 years ago at our old house in the 12 South area of Nashville. It’s fun for me now to watch us grow older and younger throughout the video.
The video for the song is very cinematic and has a very dark vibe to it.
The lyrics of “Carry On” are pretty straightforward and literal. We decided to take the opposite approach to the video and completely reinterpret the song. The original concept was more of a traditional ghost story. But, the more we dug in, the more surreal it became. Thus it veered towards the sinister and mysterious. It was fun to create something much more impressionistic than any of our previous videos.
Once we finally got everything shot, I sat on the footage for many months before attempting to edit it. We had so much footage, spanning so many years, I knew it was going to be a challenge to put it all together. It was by far the most time-consuming video I’ve ever edited, but once I got started, it turned out to also be the most fun.
I went through a period where I watched a lot of avant garde filmmakers like Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger (my favorites are “Invocation Of My Demon Brother” and “Lucifer Rising”). They both were definitely an influence on this video, especially in terms of layering images and using those layers to connect disparate ideas. David Lynch was another big influence. I’ve been a long time Lynch fan and “Twin Peaks: The Return” had just started around the time I was editing this. So those first four amazing episodes were embedded in my mind as I edited this video.
Do you have any interesting stories from filming?
I do have a funny story about shooting the stuff in the graveyard in London. As I mentioned, it was kinda hidden in the middle of this wooded park. While we were walking around in there we kept running into these very nice English gentleman who would chat us up. Later we were telling Kat’s roommate about that and he just laughed. Apparently, that park is well known as a “dogging” park. We didn’t know what that meant, but turns out it’s very different than a dog park. (Google it.)
What do you hope the viewer/listener takes away from having watched this video and hearing the song?
I just hope they have a fun experience watching the video. Hopefully, it’s moving and/or entertaining for folks. It’s a dense video, so I think repeated viewings will enrich the experience. Thematically, it’s something everyone can all relate to. We’ve all lost someone we love. Whether it be a story of a dude who’s sad his girlfriend is moving to London or a sinister tale of ghosts, murder, and mental illness...at its core, it’s a meditation on loss.
What's ahead for Stewart Eastham?
My band and I will be playing a set for the $2 Tuesday show at The Five Spot in East Nashville on August 8th. See ya there!