Trey Anastasio has announced he will release his first-ever solo acoustic album, Mercy, this Friday, March 11. The LP was produced by Bryce Goggin and Robert “RAab” Stevenson and engineered and mixed by Mike Fahey.
Mercy is comprised of nine songs and is something completely new from the Phish frontman who has contributed to albums, collaborations and projects over his nearly 40-year career. The songs were written during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and recorded with just Anastasio, his guitar and a microphone. “I’ve never done anything like this before,” Anastasio said of the project in a release.
The album was recorded over the last two years and unravels Anastasio’s understanding of music as a healing force, as he addresses confusion, fear, loss, desperation, recovery and hope. Mercy comes almost two years to the day since COVID-19 descended upon New York City, and it went into the first of its lockdowns. “Mercy is like a bookend,” Anastasio continued. “It’s two years since we went into hiding. This is still going on, and it’s an even lonelier trip.”
During the pandemic, Anastasio and Phish accomplished a lot; they released 2020’s Sigma Oasis, they returned to the road for Halloween shows in Las Vegas, and Anastasio put on a Beacon Jam charity concert. During the Beacon Jam, Anastasio said he found himself thinking, “These songs just want to be one guy with a guitar, singing.” This wasn’t the first time he felt this. During his first tours as an acoustic solo performer in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the guitarist explored his songs stripped of their signature licks and vocal melodies and found something again.
“I found this weird thing happening,” Anastasio said in the release, “where ‘Maze’– an eight-minute song off of 1993’s Rift–”worked on acoustic guitar. Who would have thought that? ‘It’s about the jam, the organ solo.’ Turns out it wasn’t. It was about the lyrics and the music.” After his June 2021’s shows, his first after a year, at Saratoga, N.Y. and once again at the Beacon Theatre, it was clear, the musical and emotional exchange “was like a direct path from my heart to the audience,” Anastasio said. “The honesty and simplicity of those shows – without it, this album would not have happened.”
In the album’s liner notes when Anastasio was asked if the songs would make it into the Phish or Trey Anastasio Band’s live shows he responded immediately, “Definitely.”
The release of Mercy follows Anastasio’s extended stay at the Moon Palace in Riviera Maya, Cancún, Mexico, where he played his destination event and sat in with My Morning Jacket and Dave Matthews during their getaways at the lush location.