Play “Holy ghost” by William Wild.
Tell us the story behind “Holy Ghost.” Where did the idea come from?
“Holy Ghost” started in a cabin in North Carolina. When I was writing the last record “Push Ups,” my producer Tim Friesen and I would book an AirBnB or something like that in a destination with a different landscape than we were used to and set up a little studio for a week or two at a time. I was really trying to push myself and my writing and getting into new environments seemed to be helping. It was still slow at times, though, and on one particularly dry day, Tim said “I’m going to leave you for an hour, just try to come up with something, anything!” So, he left and I kind of just sat there for a while reveling in my inability to make music. For some reason at this point in time I was unintentionally blocking the things that would naturally come to me…I guess I didn’t feel like my instincts were good enough. Anyways, about ten mins before my hour ran out I started strumming some chords on acoustic and singing “I need more time.” I literally needed more time to come up with something. Tim eventually came back and that’s what I had…it was more of a joke than anything and very representative of how hard it was for me to write at that time. Fast forward about four months and I was in a studio in Nashville tracking drums for some other songs I had going and towards the end of the session we had a couple hours left, so I pulled out that little idea. It was called “I Need More Time” at that point and I had elaborated on some of the verses by then. Lyrically, the song started going towards me investigating the question of “why am I struggling so much with writing?” I could feel myself blocking my voice but couldn’t stop it. In the studio, we had a really dry drum sound setup so I ended up laying down those chords (I think we wrote the chorus chords that day as well) just so we could put some drums down and see if it inspired anything. Ultimately the song and recording got finished in this manner, little bits and pieces at a time and finally coming together after probably six months. The chorus lyric is supposed to be a little ironic nod to my growing up in a religious home, but I really feel something when I play it…like “Hey! Great beyond! What’s happening to me? Where did the old me go???”
Tell us about the recording process and the instrumentation.
Like I said before this song was pieced together, but there was a final push to finish it at my studio in Knoxville called Pink Moon. We have a great tracking room there and that allowed me to put some air and life into the song once it was fully written. A lot of that was adding percussion and running things though tape. I have a 1940s 28″ marching bass drum that hits in the chorus and kind of gives it a super chill Beach Boys thing. There’s also this tiny Isreali tambourine that, if you tap with your fingers and mic really close to it, sounds like a bongo. I also ran parts through a really old Ampex 602 tape machine. It’s a mono tube machine and has this wonderful saturation that makes things sit in a track really well. One interesting thing that happened during recording was while making the outro. A friend of mine, Jake Smith, was recording electric guitar in my living room super loud and the vibration of his amps made this big baritone acoustic guitar slide from the wall and crash to the floor. It was at the end of a take and we had compressed room mics going so it made this insanely epic crash and the guitar actually bounced in a triplet kind of rhythm! I ended up sampling that crash into the ending of the song for some cool slam sounds.
On a more general note, what does normally your creative process look like? Do you set aside “songwriting time” or does it just happen when it happens?
I would really love to say that I have some kind of process, but I very much do not. If there’s anything consistent, it’s that I’m constantly trying to change things up. I love getting new gear to spark ideas!
If we rewind to the very beginning, how did your musical journey start?
My dad bought me a guitar from an infomercial when I was nine. I came home from school one day and there it was. Other than that, I think music afforded me some type of escape that I have always longed for. I haven’t changed much in that way. I still love to go off on my own with a pair of headphones and get lost. I think that is ultimately what my goal is when making music…to create worlds…places you can go to.
How did this interest in music translate into writing your own songs?It took me several years to consider myself a songwriter and I still don’t really connect with that terminology. I probably have a skewed perception of what that means, but like I said, I really just want to build worlds. For me that looks like opening a Pro Tools session and just starting, the lyrics come later most of the time. My first record came about just because I decided I wanted to make a “record,” there weren’t songs, just the concept of “making a record.” I had an idea for the first song to have big hits for the chorus, and the next song to feel like the Smokey Mountains where I grew up. That’s all I needed. I’m getting back to that simplicity lately.
Finally, what’s next on your agenda?
I have a batch of recordings that I’m really excited about! They’re getting mastered and we will start rolling them out. The pandemic down time really helped shift my perspective and I’m feeling really energized and rejuvenated. I think that happened to a lot of people and I’m excited to see what happens in the music world. I also have a bunch of shows in the States this fall and some other crazy plans associated with that that I will have to wait to talk about. It’s a great time to be alive.
The original drums in this song were converted to MIDI using the ‘Tracker’ in Superior Drummer 3 and then replaced with the sounds from the Singer-Songwriter EZX. Song used with permission. All rights belong to the copyright owners.