If you wander in the desert long enough, you’re likely to see a mirage. That’s been the hope of generations of mystic seekers, anyway — that the barrenness and solitude of lonely places might bring us closer to enlightenment. Director Aaron Caleb Eisenberg brings the rock singer-songwriter Isaac Watters to the California desert in the trippy, luminous clip for “All I Need,” his latest single. The camera captures Watters on a long walk through a stark landscape, deep in thought, searching for something ineffable. There are signs, however, that he hasn’t misplaced his tether to the material world. For one thing, he’s brought his coffee cup with him.
That cup is a visual reference to the lyric of “All I Need” — a mesmerizing, wholly engrossing pop-rock song that plays like a prayer. With typical candor, Watters writes about the thrill of getting lost and the intellectual and spiritual comforts of a low-key, self-sufficient life. For Watters, the simple things are enough: a cabin far from the city, a view, a place to write down his thoughts, and, of course, a steady supply of coffee. Composed in the solitude of Pipes Canyon, near Joshua Tree National Park, “All I Need” is a non-anthemic anthem for the overstimulated and a pivot back to basics from an ambitious musician whose songs are never less than thoughtful.
Watters starts the song reflectively: his singing is barely more than a murmur, and his band backs him with music that’s rhythmic, hypnotic, sun-baked, and subtly propulsive. It’s designed to feel like an internal monologue, and in a few epigrammatic lines, he’ll have you caught up in the reverie. But by the end of “All I Need,” he’s dispelled those long desert shadows and come to an uneasy truce with himself. He’s determined to find what he’s after — and the conviction in his voice makes it clear that he’s found the path.
Eisenberg’s clip for “All I Need” underscores this dramatic trajectory. Inspired by Wim Wenders’ film Paris, Texas, Watters begins as a wary desert wanderer, dressed like Harry Dean Stanton in the film’s opening scene. He’s bedeviled by the heat, the dust, and the distance. His tie is loose around his collar, and there’s dirt on his business suit, but he’s undeterred. Fans of arid Californian scenery (who isn’t?) will find Eisenberg’s shots of crumbling red hills, scrub growth, and looming cacti intense and cinematic. By the end of the song, Watters has made it to the top of the mountain, where he stands alone as the sun is scorching enough to melt anybody’s sanity. What does he see when he looks out? We won’t spoil the last shot for you, but let’s just say that he’s found an unlikely use for the handful of sugar cubes he’s brought with him.
Follow Isaac Watters: