The Story Behind the Song: Last Night

Eric Steckel

Blues Rock Review recently reviewed standout blues guitarist and singer Eric Steckel’s latest album Dismantle the Sun. It’s a great record, and one that Steckel says he’s particularly proud of. After more than a decade of recording albums and performing, he’s finally reached an album that he calls “the real deal.” It’s not only good music, however, providing a glimpse into Steckel’s own feelings and philosophies. As such, it’s a compelling journey, and one that is impressive coming from a musician 22 years old.

Steckel acknowledes his youth, and instead of viewing it as an attribute that may hold him back, embraces the unique advantages it affords his career. He’s reached the place where he has had enough experiences to judge what he wants for his life, but he’s not jaded yet either. It’s a good place to be, and one that has empowered Steckel to create an album unlike his previous endeavors. He says that every track on Dismantle has been directly inspired by a specific event, place, or person that he still strongly remembers. This concrete basis for subject material contrasts the more abstract themes of his earlier records and allows him to closely examine himself and his craft as a result, a trait strongly exemplified by the album’s outstanding track “Last Night.”

Eric Steckel in studio

Steckel in the studio

For quite some time, Steckel has known he’s an old soul. While many of his peers find their solace in drinking and partying, he eschews these pasttimes in favor of more personal exchanges. He says “when it comes to social interaction I prefer a nice dinner with someone or maybe acoustic guitars around a fire pit on a Friday night as opposed to a night of blacking out and binge drinking, which is the majority, not the minority, of social interactions among my peer group.”

It wasn’t always that way, however. While Steckel’s first love was music and he’s always been wholly devoted to it, he thought he needed to conform to the norm in order to achieve relevance in his generation. And so Eric attempted to become a part of the scene that was all around him, drinking to excess and getting involved with women that pulled him in directions he wasn’t happy with.

“Last Night” begins with a brooding, melancholy acoustic guitar part and Steckel’s own pensive vocals reflecting on this time in his life. It tells the story of walking in someone else’s shoes on roads where one doesn’t belong. And it closely mirrors a specific, personally memorable moment for Steckel. He’d been living a life he didn’t love, and it thankfully didn’t last.

Things came to a head one night at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Augustine, Florida about a year ago. At one point in “Last Night,” Steckel sings “Staring into empty space / Try to catch my breath. Reach down deep inside / Only to find there’s nothing left.” These words directly refer to that night. Steckel was drunk, and was desperately trying to explain to an even drunker girl about how much music meant to him. She just wasn’t getting it, being on the edge of passing out, and Steckel found himself trying harder and harder to get across to her what he did for a living. As the conversation spiralled downhill, he realized that even if he would be able to explain to her the deep connection and passion he had for his music, she likely wouldn’t care.

Eric Steckel with recording equipment

Steckel with some of the equipment that generated the unique tones on “Last Night”

It was at this point that Steckel realized that he had been living a lie by compromising on his dreams for the admiration of others. It’s also at this point that “Last Night” trades languid acoustic picking for a turnaround, quickly building up a huge stadium electric guitar anthem wreathed in swirling clouds of revelatory resolution. As Steckel’s vocals drop away, the instrumental half of the song picks up, telling the poignant story of a young boy becoming a man by shedding his need for peer approval and deciding to remain true to himself. Steckel sees the shift in the song’s sound as a clear demarcation of his thought patterns. He says he remembers telling himself that night “it’s all about the music from here on out.”

It certainly seems to be for him. Through refining what he wants for his life, Steckel has reinvented his very career. He’s in a place of contentment with his work, one that is backed not just by sentiment but by his very life. And he’s taken a past experience and allowed it to shape him for the better. “Being real comes naturally,” Steckel says. “Being fake is a difficult act to pull off every night and you don’t want ‘Last Night’ to be every night.”

Canadian musician Carey Mercer, the man behind ruminative indie solo project Blackout Beach, said in explanation of the themes behind his war-pondering 2011 album F*** Death “the dominant 2011 story is that kids want to live on an invisible beach within their hearts and party this [heavy] stuff away.” I can think of no statement that more aptly sums up the aspirations of a majority of 21st-century young adults. Perhaps it is just this crowd that needs examples like Steckel to show them how to shed the patterns of our listless, liquor-laden society and risk all to follow their dreams. We might be surprised by what they’re capable of.

Hear the song:

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-Tyler Quiring

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One Response to “The Story Behind the Song: Last Night”

  1. Mary Harhigh says:

    Absolutely Amazing!!!

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