Jack Mercer, stage-name VC Pines, told us about his debut solo album – MRI.
MRI is a story about Jack’s brain and is rife with references to his journey with epilepsy. He describes his epilepsy as, “such a massive part of my life”, and says it plays a powerful role in his creative process. “My epilepsy lets me think differently, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a part of me, and I try to harness it, turn it around on myself, and use as a positive tool to help me create music.”
MRI – A debut album about epilepsy
An MRI was one of the first tests Jack had when he was diagnosed with epilepsy, and in the album’s first track, Chamber, you can hear the noises of an MRI machine in the background. In the music video for the second track, Running, we see Jack in a hospital gown connected to an EEG, “The MRI and EEG scans I had were a turning point for my life, and I wanted to start the album with a reference to them”, Jack explains.
Jack’s stage name, VC Pines, is also influenced by his epilepsy and synaesthesia which involves a merging of the senses, for example you might see a specific colour in response to a certain sound. ‘Pines’ comes from when he first started having seizures. “I would have nostalgic episodes and remember these massive pine trees; from the time I visited New Hampshire in the US as a child”. The VC stands for ‘Violet Coloured’ – because, his music, “tends to gravitate towards chords and lyrics that give me a purple or violet vibe. It’s the same reason my hair is purple”.
He told us that, “epilepsy is such a massive part of my life and creative process, I hope my music can help people on their own journeys with epilepsy and help them turn their epilepsy into a positive tool, through which they can create’, as he has.
First seizures and diagnosis
Jack first started having simple partial and focal seizures when he was 17, and like many people who develop epilepsy, found it a scary and confusing time.
He was prescribed lamotrigine which, he says, made everything ten times worse., “I became a different person when I was on my meds, which made it so difficult to come to terms with my diagnosis. I had mood swings and fell out with a lot of friends. The meds didn’t even stop my seizures.”
It was at that point that he had a conversation with his mum, about how he felt the lowest he had ever been.
“Epilepsy is so complicated, and it’s so much more than just seizures. It means that I process things differently, and behave differently day-to-day, even hour-to-hour.
“It massively affects my mood and my memory. I preferred the person who I was off the meds, and explained to my mum I would much rather be myself and live with the seizures, than be on the meds.”
It was at this time, Jack decided to go to music college and pursue his dream of music. Throughout his musical career and early adult life he learnt how to use his neurodiversity to help his creative process. By learning to love and appreciate his brain for thinking differently, it helped him to do what he loves – create music.
“Making music makes me happy, … and I hope I can inspire other people to use creativity to channel their epilepsy.”
An ambassador for people with epilepsy
Throughout his career as an artist, which has seen him go on a World Tour and perform at Glastonbury festival, Jack has been a constant advocate for people with epilepsy.
This year he joined the Epilepsy Society’s #TeamPurple, to run in the Hackney Half Marathon where he and his team raised a phenomenal £1,360 for the genetic research we do at our Chalfont Centre. He continues: “I just think it’s important to show the world that people with epilepsy can achieve anything they want to: physically, or mentally.
“I didn’t want to shout about my epilepsy at first, I was worried it might put off managers or labels. But I’ve realised that people aren’t going to make fun of you, and the support I’ve received after releasing the album has reaffirmed that for me.
“I was astonished by the impact that talking about my epilepsy would have, there’s a whole community of people who are excited to finally be represented in the media. It’s been cool to see the wide range of people that my music has bought together; all over our shared experience of epilepsy.
“Some of the messages have been really touching, especially the ones from people thanking me because they’ve never been able to articulate their epilepsy or describe what it’s like to have a seizure.
“I hope I give people more confidence through the ability to express themselves. I got a message from someone who told me they would share my music and an article about me with their manager, to help their manager understand them better.
“I’m fortunate that my epilepsy is not as severe as others’, there are many people out there who have many more seizures than I do, but if I can help people find a positive creative outlet, that helps them understand and digest their thoughts that would mean a lot to me. If I can help people get their epilepsy to give back, as I have learnt to do with mine. Now, my epilepsy is a tool, without it I would not be able to create my music.”