By Jennifer Levesque
For the Valley Advocate

Local musician Chris Croteau took a musical hiatus to focus on parenthood, but is now back with an album that is worth the wait. Released in November of last year, “Mesmir” is Croteau’s comeback. The 16-track album has songs that have taken decades to finalize, with appearances by many musicians (and friends) sprinkled throughout. Some of those friends have since passed away. The album serves as a dedication, honoring their contribution and inspiration for many of the songs.

Jennifer Levesque: Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Chris Croteau: I’m from Western Mass, Greenfield specifically. I have a beautiful son, Fares, who is the absolute light of my life and we have just celebrated 12 years he’s been living with me full time. He was born in NYC where we used to live. Presently residing in Hatfield.

Levesque: What is your musical background?

Croteau: I began playing music around the age of 16. On a fateful evening I was really moved witnessing my brother in-law (David King) playing his acoustic guitar for my sister by an open fire. David taught me my very first chords. He is sorely missed. Listening to music was my favorite pastime and certainly my favorite form of escapism. Learning to play evolved quite naturally. My young life revolved around all things pertaining to my favorite artists. The radio was far less commercialized back in my youth. I could actually tell you the names of several DJs back then. I hardly listen to the radio now, unless it’s The River.

Levesque: Who are some of your influences?

Croteau: I’m a huge (John) Lennon fan, (Jimi) Hendrix, Roger Waters, Neil Young, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Mazzy Star, Chris Cornell. Loving old Motown and Soul at the moment. I went to NYC last week to see Black Pumas. Locally, I’ve become a big fan of The Medicinal Purpose. I have discovered as of late the brilliance of Tommy Twilight too. What an amazing poet and songwriter!

Levesque: What is the meaning beyond the name of your album, “Mesmir?”

Croteau: My late partner Corrine DeWinter suggested the name Mesmir for my solo musical pursuits. Meanings originated from a special place that lived in her heart. I didn’t really ask her about the name, I simply just started using it. Losing Corrine was an immense profound loss to this world. Please check out her many published poems and books available online, she was also a celebrated Stoker Award winning writer. She is missed dearly.

Levesque: You state on your Bandcamp page that there are a few songs on “Mesmir” that started on an 8-track a couple decades ago. Can you tell us which songs on the album you’re talking about?

Croteau: The song “Bellevue” was written and recorded to 8-track when I lived on 34th St. in 1998. It was considered done at the time. I was able to access the original wav files and bring them into my DAW to remix, add or change tracks. Originally, it was only acoustic guitars and vocals recorded on a SM58. So the version of that same song on this current album is fair to say was created over the span of 25 years or so, including all the original tracks. “Cyanide” is 21 years old. JJ O’Connell came to my home-built studio to lay drums down on that early musical idea. He was a bit surprised to finally hear it again! The song never had a finished verse or mix so making this album inspired me to breathe new life into it. I recorded my friend Michael Secore playing bass on the track while his newborn baby Liam was on his back in a toddler sling. What a memory. Michael passed away five years ago. He is truly missed. “Run from the Boeings” was written and recorded mostly in 2003 but only truly mixed a few months ago with a new bass line I attached. Nick Parsons played drums on that to a drum machine. “One Red Star” too! I have an 8-track version completed in 2001. This version on the album is a hybrid, with drums played by Nick Parsons and additional guitars by Chris Bartlette. I used some of my original guitars and vocals I sang from my old childhood bedroom in 2001, I had temporarily moved back to my parents while I looked for an apt after relocating back to this area. Nick Parsons is sorely missed as well. A lot of huge significant losses over the years.

Levesque: Is there a therapeutic feeling when you finish a song that you had started so long ago?

Croteau: Yes, very much so. Unfinished works of music — I’m assuming for other forms of art too — feels like carrying an anchor around. Cluttering the mind. It’s unsettling. And to feature my musical friends who are no longer with us now was all part of a healing process for some of these tunes. And using the name Mesmir celebrates Corrine’s contribution.

Levesque: “Running Out” is my personal favorite on the album. The wailing guitars, slightly distorted vocals in some spots, it has an alt-rock 90s vibe, which I love. Can you share the story behind that song?

Croteau: So, you’re familiar with the beginning of that tune … A minor chord that switches immediately to the guitar you’re liking … that’s a real-time split decision to not pursue the minor feeling, my hands jumped to the guitar riff you’re appreciating and I rolled with it. That original minor chord was about to set a darker tone. Decided to keep it in as it was recorded. I only stopped to work out a chorus but in all took about 15 minutes to blindly lay the rhythm guitar down. After that I played drums to it, bass guitar and had no idea what I’d sing.  After taking an edible I was able to catch a melody and words came to me.

Levesque: Crows are one of my favorite animals, so it’s no surprise to me that I was instantly drawn to your album before listening, simply from the cover. Is there any significant symbolism for that image you want to share?

Croteau: I am spiritually drawn to crows and ravens. Native American mythology cemented my intrigue. My friends used to call me ‘Crow’ ironically after my best friend Kevin Colgan started calling me that. Having to do with my last name Croteau. My mother’s maiden name is Crowell. More interesting is that both of my parent’s grandparents had pet crows, a little like Edgar Allen Poe, these pet crows would communicate and ride on their shoulders. I have a few small crows tattooed on my chest.

Levesque: “Knocked Around” is a slow, beautiful tune with heavy, emotional lyrics: “It’s the holding onto you that’s holding me / it’s our story that I love I don’t want to leave / it’s the journey that has taken me so long to see that I need you, and that’s ok.” Can you share the story behind that track?

Croteau: It’s a breakup song. Written and recorded in less than a day. Inspired by an email in which my partner felt ‘knocked around’ in our dynamic, bringing forth deep rooted traumatic wounds.  We were both ‘knocked around’ in our cycles but that she felt this way and used those words to describe her feelings broke my heart, and broke us apart. Learning a lot about these old wounds, lots to unpack and learn from.

Levesque: You have a handful of covers on your Soundcloud page that are all amazing with your own takes on them. You revamped Lord Russ’ acoustic song “Still Life” into an electronic goth tune that is outstanding! Any hopes of a goth album from you in the near future?

Croteau: Those remakes are inspired by James Weeks. Have you heard any of his breathtaking covers? OMG. He’s a musical wizard. Truly inspired by him to attempt covering anything. I tried as he does to emulate a few well-known songs. To answer your question, I do have other written and recorded songs much like this revamped version of Russ’s song, that have that ‘goth’ feel. A few years back I was offered an independent record deal which I turned down as I was raising my son full time and that was my true focus and path. No regrets. I’d have signed to say I was signed. The person who corresponded with me from the label was liking the contrast of rock, folk, metal and goth, etc., but was also wondering how everything could sit on the same album. Perhaps creating an alias could be a means of releasing my goth tunes. How’s Goth Brooks sound?

Levesque: You mentioned to me that you are currently in a band with fellow local musician Tom Sturm working on a new album. Is there an ETA on that release?

Croteau: Yes, we are Mothra, along with the multi-talented and versatile Sven Huggins on bass guitar and backing vocals too. I’m the drummer for the project, I am also recording us. I sing one of the songs. Immensely talented Tom (Sturm) is leading our way in most of the writing, singing and playing guitar. ETA? I’d say early spring we’ll have our debut album. We’re all very busy and lazy.

 You can check out “Mesmir” and other works by Croteau at