Having had a long-time fascination with the “other” world, it’s perhaps not that surprising to find that the acoustic performer once known as Jenny Bruce has now adopted a new moniker – Ghoste – and has just shared her new single, aptly titled “Haunted”, in time for Halloween. ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her to talk all things spooky, song-writing inspiration and what 2019 has in store.
TITL: You’re perhaps best known under the name Jenny Bruce as an acoustic singer-songwriter, so what exactly brought about the transition to Ghoste and your new, electro-pop sound?
Ghoste: Precisely! I was ready to break the mold. Create something new and unexpected. The term singer-songwriter felt constricting, limiting, even if I am still writing songs and singing. The ghost of Lilith Fair! I realize that it’s just my own perception, but when you’ve been doing something for a while, it’s hard to break away from the thing you feel you’re expected to do!
The artist name “Ghoste,” actually came to me in a dream, but I believe it was my subconscious mind showing me a way out of feeling stuck. Creating as “Ghoste” has been liberating. I can be more groove oriented, soulful, and explore a more moody side. Set aside my acoustic guitar and try on some new sounds. Somehow, taking my name out of the equation sets me free.
Also, there is a lot going on in my personal life that makes me feel like I need a secret room where I can hang out. A place to be weightless, ageless, unburdened and creative. That room is Ghoste.
TITL: Which artists have you been most inspired by throughout your life and how do those inspirations filter through to the music you made and now make?
G: I think people hear the Annie Lennox influence. I have always loved her as an artists, and just as a human. She was so daring vocally and creatively. I know she’s a relatively shy person, but she lays it all out on stage. I’ve always been outgoing, but shy artistically. I’m working on growing up to be Annie. Prince was a huge influence throughout my life. I memorized every riff and growl. Loved how free and funky he was. Never mastered the dance moves…
As a female singer songwriter, for some reason, I felt like I had to fit into a girl with a guitar folk thing. I have no idea why I did that to myself. I think I did it pretty well. But inside of me is a whole gospel choir wanting to escape.
Lyrically, Sting was always an inspiration as well. “King of Pain” might be my favorite song ever. Whenever I go for an easy lyric, I think of Sting. He would say it better. Then there were all the ladies, Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin, Carly Simon. I loved them all and was, no doubt, influenced by each. Shawn Colvin inspired me to teach myself to play guitar in my 20s. Before that, I was just a piano girl.
TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing?
G: Firstly, my father. He was so passionate about music. He would bring home new albums all the time and blast them at full volume. Everything from Puccini to the Bee Gees. When the music was funky, he would get up and dance with me. When it was moving, he would weep with emotion. Then he would stroll over to the piano and figure out how to play whatever we just listened to. Music was the family religion.
As far as other artists are concerned, I think those first three I mentioned are my top music heroes. I started writing songs when I was around five years old before I even knew what a songwriter was and I grew up listening to so much amazing music. My dad was a music fiend. Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Carly Simon, The Beatles, The Police, Fleetwood Mac and tons of classical music and jazz. I devoured music my whole childhood like a kid eats candy on Halloween. I couldn’t get enough – except for country. I just never figured that genre out. It doesn’t typically speak to me and I’m not sure why, even though I grew up listening to a lot of traditional Scottish and Irish music. Contemporary Country. Meh.
TITL: Your new single “Haunted” has been released just in time for Halloween. Is there a story behind the song and where did the idea for it come from? Do you have any ‘spooky’ plans for October 31st?
G: In that dream I mentioned earlier, where I got the name Ghoste… there’s more. It was kind of spooky in that it was a very lucid dream. I was on stage, surrounded by moody blue lighting and the letters GHOSTE appeared behind me as an MC introduced me. I woke up and had the chorus of “Haunted.” I didn’t originally intend for it to be a Halloween release, but it worked out that way! I’m reluctant to give the song a literal context as it can mean different things to different people which I like. But let’s just say, I believe.
For Halloween, I have two boys and will be taking them trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. New York goes crazy on Halloween! However, on November 10th, I am going on a Paranormal “Ghost Hunt” at the Morris Jumel Mansion. It’s the oldest house in New York City – mid 18th century – and is supposedly haunted. I am very excited! Of course, George Washington slept there! That’s the American gold standard for spooky old houses. I confess, I’m kind of obsessed with ghosts. Most of the music video for “Haunted” was shot in castle ruins strewn about the French countryside…all supposedly haunted sites.
TITL: The video is due out soon. How did you find the shoot, and how much input do you have when it comes to the creative aspects?
G: It’s all me. I do everything. The glory and downfall of being an independent artist. Full creative license. No help. As an independent artist, you kind of have to be able to do it all. My husband, who is French, helped me find the castle locations and often held the camera. I do all the editing. I’m a one-woman production company, graphic designer, and webmaster. All the funds I raise go towards making music and getting it out there.
TITL: You’ve teamed up with producer Matt Anthony to create the track, and your upcoming album. What has he brought to the creative process?
G: Matt is a gifted producer and composer with decades of experience that began straight out of high-school when he was working alongside industry giants in NYC’s top recording studios. He works with such a wide variety of artists and always manages to pick up on the sound they’re going for. He makes us all sound good. With Ghoste I asked him to feel free to try anything! I tried to not be the controlling singer-songwriter, not easy, and invited him to set the tone. He creates such beautiful musical landscapes. We’ve recorded two songs so far and are beginning a new song next month.
Matt also produced my Jenny Bruce EP, “Firefly in a Jar” where I came in with all kinds of ideas about how I wanted the songs to sound. While Matt was still an integral part of the creative process, I feel like with Ghoste the process has been more like riding a tandem bike. We’re both pedaling, but he’s got the handlebars. Except when “Jenny Bruce” comes out and grabs!
TITL: You’ve often said that you feel strongly connected to the ‘other world’ so what is it about the spirit world that makes you so interested in it? Have you ever had any ghostly encounters and, with that in mind, have you been to Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum yet?
G: I’ve been a long-time fan of Ghost Adventures, but I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Zak’s museum. I think I’ve watched every episode and dream of tagging along on one of their adventures! Alas, I don’t get out to Vegas much…
I watch pretty much every ghost show out there and have always been fascinated with the paranormal. When I was eleven I wrote a short horror story called “The Crack Behind The Closet Doors.” It was pretty spooky! I still have it, written out on lined paper with all kinds of creative spelling and illustrations.
While I have always been intrigued by ghosts, I didn’t truly believe until I actually saw one. Years ago I was touring in Pennsylvania. We were staying at the Inn at Jim Thorpe and arrived late at night. This was pre-internet and I knew nothing about the Inn. That night I saw a full-bodied apparition of a woman in a corseted dress with her hair up in a bun. She was translucent and standing at the foot of my bed. Green. Glowing. She turned and looked me straight in the eyes before gliding off toward the bathroom and vaporizing. That was it. I became a believer. Especially when I found out the next morning that many people have reported ghostly experiences including my bandmates in their respective rooms.
I’d had other odd, spooky experiences prior to this, but I had dismissed them. I do have a very active imagination. Not enough, however, to conjure up the woman at the inn. That was incredible. Never seen anything like it since. Never thought I would. Took my breath away.
TITL: Your album is due out early next year. Without giving too much away, is there anything you can tell me about it?
G: We’ll continue with the electronic, moody vibe of “Haunted” but each song is pretty different. The second song we recorded has a very sexy groove to it. I’m trying to be less cautious in my vocal, melodic choices and hopefully that will come across. With each song, I’m getting a little more daring. That’s pretty much all I can say!
TITL: Do you have any performances coming up and to date, which show would you say has been your best and why?
G: I’m looking at booking some fun shows in the New Year. I’ve had my eye on a few speak-easies and unconventional spaces. I’ll post shows on my website when I get it together. My life is crazy right now, so no time for gigs.
As for my best show…it’s hard to pick one. A favorite was my CD release gig for “Firefly” at Rockwood a few years ago. The room was packed full of family, friends and fans. There was such an incredible feeling of love in the room. It was almost other-worldly. I can’t explain it. That connection that you seek as a musician, as a human, I felt it….like I was connected to each and every person in that room. It was magic.
TITL: Which one venue would you most like to play and are there any bands or artists you’d like to share the bill with?
G: I would love to do a tour of haunted venues! I’ve been compiling a list over the years. It’d be difficult to pull off, but at some point I will do it! I’d love to share a bill with Tracy Thorn. I’ve always loved her music and her voice is so unique. She seems very cool. Sarah McLachlan seems like the nicest person on earth. She’s brilliant. It would be fun to perform with her since I’ve been compared to her my whole artistic career! I would say Annie Lennox, but I’d be petrified! I don’t think I could make a sound in her presence.
TITL: With the end of the year quickly approaching, what’s been your highlight of 2018 so far, and what has been your biggest career highlight to date?
G: That’s tough. It’s been a difficult year on many levels. I take care of my father who is in the end stages of Parkinson’s and it’s been an emotional long-enduring roller-coaster. I have amazing friends, and a wonderful family. The quality, fun times I’ve spent with them are the highlights of my life in general. I definitely had some amazing, memorable weekends with friends this year. I’ll take those stories to the grave! Of my career? I’ve had some incredible moments, but I don’t think I’ve hit my highlight yet. I believe it’s still to come.
TITL: Finally then, aside from your album release, what does 2019 have in store for you? What are your main objectives and, looking further ahead, what are your long-term goals, both personally and professionally?
G: This is out there, but I’m currently in graduate school getting a master’s degree in Education Technology as I’m passionate about education and improving our failing educational system here in the United States. The program I’m enrolled in at Teachers College, Columbia University has a big focus on educational reform, innovation and educational equity. I don’t know where that will lead me, but I follow my heart and my passion. Education, especially early childhood education, is critical to a child’s success in life. That will be tied into my future somehow. Other than that, I want to be a loving mom, a good human. And, of course I want to connect with people by making music until I, myself, give up the ghost.
For more information on Ghoste, visit ghostenyc.com.