Gentle Ghosts chats about wanting to get out of his introspective bubble and be curious about the world and shares the process of making his latest album
Gentle Ghosts opens up with writer Liv from Happy, who spent an afternoon chatting with him about his current claustrophobia and need to get out into the world. They explore the art of not suppressing feelings and thoughts and diving into new moments, people and connections as well as expressing and opening up their inner child.
Gentle Ghost lunges into his struggles to engage with music as a tool to navigate his emotions and how the motivation to finish feelings and identify them fully through song can be distant sometimes. He talks fondly of the making of his first solo album ‘All I see Is Ghosts’ which dropped a couple of months ago and shares that being able to embrace that writing music is just for himself \, was incredibly cathartic and motivating.
The album revels in the roots of stylistic heroes such as Bright Eyes and Elliot Smith and ventures over bridges between folk, grunge and emo sounds, layered with soul-testifying lyrics and fuzzy guitars. Gentle Ghosts uses his music to walk through his emotions and allows himself to make friends with the ghosts inside him. He also elaborates on his collaborative projects such as music he is help write and produce for other artists and a new band he has formed with his brother and a longtime friend, where the musical fusion and energy just meld so naturally.
Overall, Gentle Ghosts tries to manifest the importance of feeling your feelings in the moment, because they’ll come back to bite you. “I’ve fallen away from my creativity a bit lately. And I think maybe part of it is not wanting to open up too deeply” Gentle Ghost revealed. A week later he texted Liv a song he was able to pour out. “It can open up things more than you want in a certain moment. Like if there’s a lo built up inside. Maybe that’s one reason why I’m hesitant to” he reflected.
You’ll want to read on if the following words interest you:
feel, moment, life, work, friends, fuck, write, fucking, person, shit, repress, play, guitar, people, talking, transition, thinking, strangers, emotions, weird
Gentle Ghosts and Liv dived into the existential crisis you experience around the age of 25 and the urges and desires to explore the chaos and beauty in the world.
LIV: There’s so much I want to do with my life, and so many people I want to be and I’m feeling a bit like claustrophobic.
GG: Yeah, it’s weird. I feel that as well. I’m bisexual. I’m never going to be X the horror movie. It was an A24 horror movie that came out recently…it’s like a slasher movie. But the horror villain who kills people is like this seventy-year-old woman who repressed her sexuality and was then jealous of all these women…
LIV: That’s like inspiration to not repress anything…
GG: I work with so many older people who just seem miserable…I feel like that just builds up…there’s a librarian at the school I work at…if anyone has fun she’ll get mad at them, like the kids will be laughing or something and the librarian comes over to me and she’s like, what’s so funny and I’m like let people have fun…like fuck I don’t want to regret stuff that I did when I look back on my life.
My friend was saying that one of the things his grandma said before she passed away was that you don’t regret the risks you took that didn’t turn out. ….it does feel like that turning point between life right now…you have a moment like oh shit I’m actually getting older…anything that’s a new experience…like with this interview…with everything going on in my life I just wanted to hang out with someone I hadn’t hung out with before and see what happens…if I don’t know what’s going to come from it, then it’s probably worth doing
LIV: Yeah, I was talking to one of my friends and we were sharing stories about moments we’ve had with strangers and how letting yourself even have a conversation with a stranger can open up so much…
GG: I’m feeling like, I’m starting to want to go out of my introspective bubble…because it never seems to be bad to just to see another human being’s perspective on the world. At the same time, I still want to have time to myself where I can just think…I feel like I’m spending all my time with people that I don’t even know what I’m thinking anymore…I sort of lose track of myself.
Gentle Ghosts shares his experience grappling with purpose and intention behind the moments he spends creating music.
GG: Well, I guess in terms of where I am right now. I think what it all comes down to is what I feel the purpose of it is if I if I feel like I’m sitting down, to make something for other people to listen to, then that’s going to start to happen. Because then I’m thinking about it from someone else’s perspective. And usually, the perspective of the person who would be least suited for my expression, and just imagining how they would feel about it…. which doesn’t help at all. And that’s what helped me when I made the music for the album. It was just me and my friend. And we just met each other at a park somewhere. And we were like, let’s just fucking write songs…by the end of it, I had a bunch of songs. And then it became what it became.
But then, as soon as I put it out, I just didn’t want to write music anymore. Because then it just became what else can I put out? And became seen through that lens of being made for other people’s sort of validation.
It’s only been until recently, that I’ve started to get back into writing songs. And I think because I distance myself from the whole project, I’m now going back into that state of not really imagining that it’s going to come out. I’m just fucking around and it’s just for me
LIV: Yeah, I think that’s like a really good way to go about it. I feel like after you’ve been through so much self-doubt and comparing yourself to other people…kind of trying to move yourself away from that like it’s just really cathartic to be able to pick up my guitar and fuck around.
GG: and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day…that’s why we even got these things in the first place. When I was 12 years old and I added guitar on my Christmas list and every night I’d be like, can I please have a guitar for Christmas? I wasn’t thinking like, so I can fucking write the next Gentle Ghosts album. Like I just wanting to learn fucking AC/DC covers. That’s what it all comes down to not that I need to just play AC DC covers…That’s my biggest problem right now, for me I don’t have the will to complete something, what’s the point, if you get a half song out, you get the feeling out’
I’m at peace with it because I am exploiting my sadness for this. But it’s also helping me through my sadness. It’s helping me process my sadness. And if the result of that is something that could help other people with their sadness, that’s not a bad thing. I just forgot what it was like to actually make the music. And I forgot that feeling of like, when you just write a song for the first time and you play it through the first couple of times and you feel…there’s not even, a word to describe it. That feeling after, when you’re just in that moment and in that feeling…and then I did it again, I was like this is how it actually feels to write a song.
LIV: I‘ve been writing songs for the last few months, but they’ve all been, like, half songs. I know what you mean. I’ve got so many half songs.
GG: “That’s actually my biggest problem right now as well because I don’t have the will to complete something. It’s like if you get a half song out, you get the feeling out. But then you’re like, why finish it? I don’t have the feeling anymore. I will only go back to it when I have the feeling again. I think that’s why…like you said, if you’re just expressing yourself, you don’t need the full song. Where does that motivation come to then shape those feelings into the most presentable and concise version of itself, to then be consumed by other people?
For some reason, I’m just against it right now. I’m enjoying it in the moment, but I don’t feel that need to be like, finish it, let’s record!
LIV: My mate and I went to the park and played our guitars the other week, so we just wanted to write…we just haven’t played together in ages. We just did it to just fucking do it. And we wrote, like, three half songs and I really adamant as well of moving on. Maybe there was just, like, lots of different feelings that I wanted to capture in that moment, and I also probably didn’t know how to like, you were saying, finish the feeling”
GG: I feel like the finishing is almost a separate way of looking at it. In a way, to me, it feels like the analogy of a movie. It’s getting the idea out is like the actors in the scene with the cameras running, and then it’s like, you’ve got all this footage and then a year later, people come back, and they splice it all together and colour grade it and edit it and turn it into the movie from that source of material. But it’s kind of more like thinking about its process…. should we put this here and this here? But then if you only have half the song, then more needs to be written. Then it’s hard because then you need to revisit.
…Me and my friend, we were holding each other accountable, every day we sent each other a new song. There was that level of, I’ve got to send a song today. All the songs that were on the album, they were all fully written within that one hour or two hours or whatever. But now whenever I write something, I don’t have that feeling or motivation to actually write …I don’t even finish the verse a lot of the time. I got an idea, but I don’t have that drive to make the thing.
LIV: So, do you think that your friend holding you accountable was the only thing driving you at that point?
GG: There was a part of me that wanted to prove that I actually could do that to myself. But I didn’t need to do it to get the feeling out more, because just getting the idea out gets the feeling out. Like, even now, if I wrote half a song, I’m getting the feeling out. But then there’s not that feeling of wanting to finish it because I know I could finish it, but I just can’t be bothered.
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Aside from his lack of motivation to create music on his own at the moment, Gentle Ghosts has been embracing musical creations through collaborative projects with other artists as well as jamming with his brother and long-time mate.
GG: This one person I’m actually still working with at the moment is my friend James. And like their voice just puts me in, a trance. They’re kind of like Angel Olson.
And we kind of brought some jazzy elements into it…we started last week because I’ve had this idea, I wanted to mix folk music with…have you watched over the Garden War? It’s like this Cartoon Network animated miniseries with Elijah Woods. It’s like these two brothers who get lost in the woods. But it’s really cute. It’s so wholesome. It’s so funny. It’s so sweet. But then it’s also so sad and moving and existential and spooky. And this forest is kind of magical. I fucking love it so much. But I just wanted to sort of mix folk music with sort of some synths and stuff. So, it’s kind of like magical folk.
And when I was listening to it the other day, I was like, oh, it kind of sounds like water or like waves or something. And then I told it to James, and they were like, “I actually wrote the song about the Dawn Fraser pools.” These pools that they would just go to and just lie in the water whenever they needed to just become full of peace.
And we were talking about…because I was saying how I’ve been going to the beach just to take care of myself lately as much as I can. It was crazy because I didn’t know that. I’m going to try to take it even further by added more like reverbs and stuff just to sort of open it up. It’s like kind of atmospheric over the top and then it will go back into like a more focus rock section after this…I’m following what is feeling good, I guess…what I have some excitement for.
… And then the band I’m super excited for as well because I’ve always wanted to play drums in a band, like my whole life. I got so lucky that my brother is playing bass and my friend Brian is playing guitar and singing and I’m playing drums and we come up with stuff…just jamming. That was always my dream because that’s my favourite thing, is just doing stuff in the moment, fucking around. Not like sitting down, like fucking okay, let’s play this chord and let’s play this chord.
…We were rehearsing the other day and during our rehearsals we pretty much just come up with stuff. And it’s just crazy because we’ve figured out because we’ve played together enough, we’ve all just figured out how to slot into a specific thing so that when we come up with something new, it just happens. So, like, naturally, quickly.
So, I started playing drums and we hadn’t even, like, talked or said anything. Then once Brian finds his voice it just felt so right. Like, this is the first thing we played when we sat down at our instruments.
LIV: “Fucking crazy… that feels like a polished song.
GG: We didn’t even talk about that; you know what I mean? How does that even happen? Because I have my eyes closed usually when I’m playing. So, like we just have this fucking psychic brotherly connection and, like, my friend connection.
But this was another one. I think we start the song, and we find it in, like in 20 seconds. The reason I’m so excited about the song is because we came up with the verse and the chorus both without talking about it. And then this is the chorus…we all landed at the same time. How do we do that? We never even spoke about this. Like he said, “Angels on fire.” And we all landed the emphasis at the same time. And I was like, what the fuck?
I was just like, what the fuck?
LIV: I’m so excited for you guys. I feel like with creative stuff, people get mixed up thinking that the thing has to find you because you have to find it by finding the song. You just have to get stuck in it and just make shit.
GG: It’s like when you’re just jamming with your friend at the park…you both know what you need to sing next, but you’re not thinking about it. It just feels like it already existed. And you’re just like the antenna receiving the information and certain things can block that antenna. And when you’re with the right people that you have created an open space with it can come out.
And that’s why I’m so thankful for my friends. Because sometimes we’ll be jamming and I’m like in my head like and I tell him “I don’t know, I feel like I’m drumming too similarly in each song, I feel like I should mix it up.” And he’d just be like, “dude, if you want to play fucking reggae, play fucking reggae. Do whatever the fuck you want.” Him saying that opened up the antenna. Because it’s like, well, now I don’t need to think about it. I’m just going to open myself up to what feels natural. It’s like just trying to remove all those blockages to getting the inspiration and getting to put it into something.
I meet certain people who are just embracing themselves so much. And I’m that’s what I want to be around. I can’t remember what her name was, but her artist’s name was Tork. I’d love to show you how she performs. It’s like her and a drummer, and she’s on keyboard, like slamming these synth. And she’s screeching in this operatic register. And I’m like, this is the shit that I want to see…I want to be a part of this. I think I will hit her up at some point and be like, hey, you’re cool. How do I just not give a fuck?
LIV: So, I wanted to know about the metaphor that you use with Ghosts and what is symbolized to you and your mental health and your music as well.
GG: I think it always changes what I think it means. I think a lot of the music feels like ghosts. Either of maybe memories from the past or things that I experienced or even people, things that I’ve forgotten just sort of kind of coming to the surface. And I guess at the time it was more confronting things. It was sort of the darker parts of myself or experiences I’ve had, or memories of things and it’s kind of this idea that even like the darkest things aren’t actually out to get me or anything, they just sort of want to be heard.
…the more you fear it and the more you push it away, the scarier it is when it comes around…they all come from a place of fear or something at the moment but it’s just seeing the good in everyone and everything is sort of where I’m at. With parts inside me as well…they’re not bad things, they’re just things. But it just all comes from a place and if you just give a look, then you can kind of start to see the light forward. I guess, once you start to understand yourself more, you sort of become more at peace with that.
LIV: I remember talking to one of my doctors about some trauma stuff and he used the metaphor for ghosts as well. And he was talking about how those things never go away but they fade, and they become like a ghost kind of sitting on your shoulder and it’s always going to be there. So, it’s kind of like learning to be with it, make friends with it.
GG: Maybe that comes into the ghosting as well…of that thing that stays with you. And it doesn’t have to be like a terrible thing…there’s a lot of beauty in it as well. There’s more resilience that comes from going through something like that…it’s pretty fucking cool.
LIV: It’s good that you have this perspective when you work with kids, like teenagers as well, because being a teenager sucks because you’re just so fucking confused about the world, and you don’t know how to process your emotions and then on top of that…trauma or whatever the fuck you’re going through.
GG: It makes me sad when I hear people say this person is a bad kid…I hear it all the time…it’s like dude, they’re 13.
LIV: Yeah, if you fucking tell the 13-year-old that, then they’re going to be a bad person because they’re going to fucking think that about themselves.
Taking a moment to reflect on the beauty of being a child and exploring your inner child, Gentle Ghosts and Liv swap expansive thoughts of the world.
LIV: …I loved the kids that had obsessions with things like dinosaurs and bugs. And they just like, tell me all these facts and stuff. They’re just fucking smart as fuck.
GG: Yeah. I love that age of kids. I feel like in high school, they lose that a bit because they’re like more self-conscious or something. For sure. “Like dinosaurs. That’s for kids. I like nothing.”
LIV: And I’m really missing my childhood at the moment because everything is so hard at the moment. I’m like, I want to be a kid again and just float through life. And I kind of want to engage in those things again and just do it. Just like obsessions…Might get a telescope, actually.
GG: That’s how I felt when I went to the aquarium and there were all these kids and me. I was just, like, standing, looking at the fish with all the kids and all the adults were just walking past hugging their kids… And you just see that wonder from the kids. And you’re like, damn, that’s where it’s at. And there’s still so much in life for you to be wondrous about. There’s still so much that you don’t know about that you haven’t experienced…that you can look at through kids eyes.
…they had this fucking French competition in, like, the 1,700. They were, like, battling it out. Like, who’s going to invent the best meter?
LIV: What decide, like, how long it should be? How did they do that?
GG: They had a bunch of different ideas. But the one that they ended up going with was these two people that we’re going to measure how long the whole Earth is. And it took them seven years and all this crazy shit. And they went on expeditions to measure how long the world was. And they measured that whole distance. And then they were like, okay, we’re going to say that this is 10,000,000 meters. And then they’re like, okay, so this is a meter… this is how we’re going to define a meter. It’s like the whole distance around the Earth divided by 10,000,000. I don’t know why they decided that. They’re like, no, we gotta measure, the fucking whole Earth. But they didn’t even measure it right. They got slightly wrong…you’d think after fucking doing it for seven years, you’d want to get it right. I was teaching my students about the meter and centimeters, and I wanted to know where they got it from. And when I was reading about that, I was just really excited. I was like, oh, shit. Because it’s kind of crazy to think, like, oh, in another world, they could have decided something different…let’s just do it this way. But the point is, even I just felt a sort of excitement in that. I was like, oh, this just made me feel some sense of wonder about the world, which is like that childlike feeling.
LIV: Yeah, I want to capture that more with whatever it is.
GG: When’s the last time you looked at the sky and there were like a million stars?
LIV: When we went to Byron, we were staying in an industrial area, country vibes, barely any light pollution. It was amazing. We were all just laying down, under the stars.
GG: I was considering going away this weekend and just, like, going to fuck off somewhere and just looking at the stars and stuff… One time as well, Me, Mel, my ex and one of her friends, we were like at a beach on the central coast at night and it was like the craziest full star display
LIV: …Oh, also Is there always like a go-to lyric thing that you always say when you’re improvising?
GG: Yeah, I definitely always say stuff about being alone. And I always say, “I don’t know”. There are always things I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I think that’s what I’ve learnt. I don’t know. The only thing I know is I feel alone, and I don’t know.
LIV: …Mine is also always, like, something about going down the street, like walking down the street. I always end up saying that in an improv. Like, where am I walking? Why am I always walking?
GG: Life do be like that. The endless walk of life.
LIV: Dude it’s been so good talking about all this stuff with you…did you want to have a Jam?
GG: I had a really good time, fuck yeah let’s do it!
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to Gentle Ghosts sound, check out the album below. Through venturing through all these emotions that came with each of these incredible tracks, Gentle Ghosts shifts between light and dark shades of life. Embracing the changing cycles of life and the contractions of life that are mixed within beautiful and despairing emotions. Take a breath, feel the emotions, and take it all in.
Interviewed by Liv Adams