by Bronwyn Bishop of Rock Edition
California-based trio Ghost Town Jenny is set apart by its deft combination of powerful female vocals and classically based instrumentation. Piano, violin, guitar, synthesizer, and even the musical saw come together in a delicious chamber pop blend, while lead singer Kim Kylland’s voice drapes over the music like gossamer. Kylland and her bandmates, Johan Svensson and Corey Christopher Mike, have created a sound that’s hard to compare to many other artists. Reviewers have noted similarities with country sirens such as June Carter Cash and Iris DeMent and indie favorites such as Andrew Bird, while Kylland’s guitar playing has been compared to acoustic virtuosos like Sir Richard Bishop. Despite these resemblances, the general consensus among listeners is that Ghost Town Jenny has a remarkably unique sound. Kylland spoke to us recently about the band’s upcoming EP, the deeply personal influences behind some of the songs, and why their song “Lights” should have been on the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby. Scroll down to hear the new songs and to read the stories behind them.
The song ‘Suwanee’ came about when we were on a 3-month tour of the US in 2010. We were driving between gigs, going a bit stir crazy in our rented RV, when we drove over the Suwannee river. It was so beautiful and peaceful, and we all became kind of quiet looking out the windows at it. I was really hungover, and therefore very emotional, and the melody (in the chorus) just came pouring out of my mouth. I kept singing it all day, eventually picking up a guitar later that night and putting it to music. This song (lyrically) deals with two themes that have plagued me my whole life: homesickness and wanderlust. I have traveled a lot in the past 10 years, and while I love it and have a desire to keep seeing more of the world, to keep touring and playing our songs, part of me also longs to find a place that feels like home to me…a place where I can put down roots. So far southern Ireland and Reykjavik, Iceland have given me that feeling, but it’s hard to tell if it’s just a feeling…I think I need to spend more time in both of those places before I can say for sure. In the meantime, I am rootless.
There is a scene in The Great Gatsby in which the narrator moves through one of Gatsby’s lavish parties, eventually stumbling upon a famous singer of the day who is leaning against a piano singing her heart out while she sobs uncontrollably. Her makeup pours down her cheeks while she belts out her song, and a gentleman nearby suggests that she try singing the notes on her face. The suggestion sends her into hysterics. That scene has always stuck with me, and I created the character in “Lights” based upon this girl. She is someone who was famous in her day, sought after and given everything. She lived under bright lights, surrounded by adoring fans and hype. Overtime though, she finds herself and her music falling out of style as she grows older. She finds herself losing some type of magic that she does not know how to get back; a magic that she never could quite grasp in the first place. The song is really sung from her perspective. I am really bummed that we did not record this song before the new Gatsby movie came out last year. I would have loved to somehow approach Jay-Z about including our song in the film’s awesome soundtrack. I think it would have fit really well.
This song is about a few things. It’s written with a certain time of day in mind, the hour just before dusk, when the sun is low and the light is very strong and paints everything gold. It’s a time I have always loved. It feels so dreamy and heavily tinged with a sadness that you cannot quite describe. This song also reminisces about growing apart from someone you are in a romantic relationship with and places the sadness of a breakup side by side with the immense feelings of release and rediscovery of self that follow such a split. This song also has a heavy dose of nostalgia in the bridge, where I sing about sneaking out of my best friend Aimee’s house at night when we were 15, running through sprinklers on summer nights and feeling very free.
“See You in Eternity”
I wrote this song for my father after he passed away last summer. Hours before his funeral, I was making sure that I had all the things I wanted to bring with me to the church. I put my guitar in its case, and I began putting little things on top of the case. When my husband walked into the room, he asked me if I was building a boat. My guitar case, holding all the small things I wanted to bring with me to say my final goodbyes to my father really did resemble a boat, or some kind of an altar. Later that night, I took out my journal and wrote down the lines, “I built a boat to come see you. I’ve missed you every day you’ve been gone.”