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Arts & Culture

Musicians, Music And Death In Vegas: Mark Eitzel's 'Hey, Mr. Ferryman'

Mark Holthusen
Merge Records
Mark Eitzel

For his first recording in five years, "Hey Mr. Ferryman," Mark Eitzel traveled to London to work with Mercury Prize winner Bernard Butler. Among other things, he said the songs are about celebrating musicians and music, and how death waits for you even in the happiest place on earth: Las Vegas.

"We were staying at the El Cortez (in Las Vegas) because it's the cheapest casino around. It's $12 a night," Eitzel said.

"At the El Cortez, if you earn more than $25, you get a chocolate candy bar," he explained. "And this guy was passed out on the ground with the candy, and I remember the very cruel cops and the very cruel EMT people were just standing around. It was kind of awful, and I thought, 'Yeah, I'm going to write a song about this poor man.'"

Eitzel described the decision to produce the album with Bernard Butler as taking a chance. Butler played many of the instruments in the recording.

"The only creative thing I really did in the studio was shut up," Eitzel said.

The wide-ranging album includes the song "An Answer," a new take on a melodically flowing love song.

"You can't write a love song and not be corny," he said. "You've got to tell the truth. We're just limited human beings. We have this limited range and it's always a mystery of the heart... And I don't mind being corny."

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