Tristan Bouchard

Nearly three years after being badly shaken by an accident he witnessed, Tristan Bouchard is working on an album that he said has helped him cope with the lingering trauma.

“That ultimately forced me to take the semester off. I couldn’t finish it,” the 23-year-old Wellesley Hills resident said of the fatal crash that occurred as he walked along Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, near Boston University. “PTSD is often recurring images and videos in your head that you just can’t get rid of.”

For Bouchard, he was unable to free from his mind the images of 23-year-old student Christopher Weigl speeding down Commonwealth and colliding with a tractor-trailer as it was making a wide right turn onto St. Paul Street in December 2012.

“I couldn’t talk to anyone, I couldn’t communicate with people,” said Bouchard, who now works as an instructor at the Wellesley Theatre Project. “It’s just so absurd.”

The one way he could express himself, he said, was through song. A piano player since age 12, Bouchard sat down and began attempting to convey his grief a different way.

“I couldn’t express it through words, but I could express it through sound,” he said. “The piano then became this conduit for expression.”

In the time since, Bouchard has begun to find the words to put to his songs and is attempting to record his debut album, “Blue Nights,” with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. The words he’s put to the music, he said, largely deal with the challenges he’s faced communicating his grief—and anger—in the years since witnessing Weigl’s death up close.

Though much of the album’s content stems from the morning of December 6, 2012, some of the music has been written down since Bouchard began playing the piano several years before.
“It’s kind of in two parts right now. It’s things that were written before then and things that were written afterward,” said Bouchard, who added that he’s suffered from insomnia ever since the crash. “I wouldn’t sleep at night, so that’s probably when I wrote most of the songs on the record.”
One of the biggest roadblocks to putting the album together, Bouchard said, was the crippling stage fright he’s always had to contend with. After the accident, he said, the fear of playing in front of crowds seemed almost trivial.

“When you’re so traumatized and out of it,” he said, “you just don’t care about that stuff anymore.”
Bouchard said that the kids at the Theatre Project, and their support, have helped move him in this direction and overcome that stage fright as well. The album, he added, is complicated because the songs remind him of his darkest days even as he begins to overcome the impact of the accident on his life.

“From where I am now to where I was then is a mile away,” Bouchard said, adding that it’s sometimes frustrating to deal with the conflicting emotions of his current state and the one that the songs reflect. “The songs are so strong but I don’t necessarily want to be reliving them all the time. But, I have to.”