In early 2017, “The country felt so divided and there was so much hate in the news, media and on social media,” singer-songwriter Elke Robitaille says. “It was hard to escape from feeling completely overwhelmed. Not only that, but we seemed to be facing tragedy after tragedy: mass shootings in Florida, Texas and Las Vegas (just to name a few) on top of racial tension, class divide, sexual assault allegations, and so many other political issues.”
Taking in all this real-life struggle and strife, she did what any folk singer would do to make sense of the world around her: She wrote a song.
Challenges inspire change and Robitaille found inspiration in “the rise in counter movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, #MeToo and Time's Up, and March For Our Lives,” she tells. “All of these movements gave me hope... and that is really what inspired ‘Mercy’—finding hope through despair.”
She began playing the hopeful ballad live ”shortly after writing it,” she says. “I noticed right away that it had a powerful effect on audiences. Even in a loud, crowded bar, ‘Mercy’ had a way of making people stop to listen. I think it felt sobering but also inspiring. I knew then that I needed to record it.”
Almost 10 months later, Robitaille teamed up with musician and engineer Tim Karplus at Yellow Room Recording to power through a 12-hour session with her “band members, some studio players, and an incredibly talented group of vocalists including Haley Johnsen, Stephanie Scelza, Sarah Billings, and Alison Segura to join in on harmonies. The entire day of recording was filled with hope, excitement, inspiration and friendship—the epitome of what ‘Mercy’ stands for.”
After tracking, Matt Greco at The Rye Room got his hands on it for the mix followed by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Mastering. But throughout the whole process, Robitaille “had a vivid image in my head for how I wanted it to be portrayed as a music video,” with a focus on protest and solidarity. “Essentially, I wanted to highlight the positive over the negative.”
“In a very sad chain of events, as ‘Mercy’ was being produced, the mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school occurred. I was devastated, overwhelmed, furious and helpless once again. But as I reflected on the lyrics—‘We've got more guns, we’ve got more power than we need, we write the headlines that play out on TV / It's not enough that we're destroying all we see / Armed and loaded, we're explosive, a poison remedy / I need some mercy”—I was reminded how we needed to come together more than ever in the face of these tragedies.”
So Robitaille went to the March For Our Lives to support the cause, but also “to create a piece of art that would live on as a reminder that history won’t stop repeating itself until we do something to make a change.”