Folk musicians are known for their ability to tell stories in their songs. While Handsome Ghost mixes electronic production with eclectic influences, ranging from R&B to ’90s pop, at the core, their two EPs—2015’s Steps and 2016’s The Brilliant Glow—see that same storytelling ability. Songs like “Graduate” and “Promises” are located in the most fleeting moments of youth, a reminder of the feeling that we’re not quite young any more but have yet to fully grow up. After releasing the singles “Beauty/Bends” and “Indian Summer” earlier this year, Handsome Ghost is now at work on a debut album.
When fans come to a Handsome Ghost show, what can they expect from your performance?
TIM NOYES: I would hope that you leave a Handsome Ghost show feeling something, some kind of emotion and connect to the music. It’s not necessarily a big party—we’ve got some slow jams—but hopefully you leave feeling emotion and moved, for lack of a better word.
What about an artist’s live performance do you think allows that live performance to reach fans?
I think it’s another opportunity that you don’t have on the record to connect with people, whether it’s through your performance or the fact that you’re in the room experiencing the music as it happens. There’s plenty of bands that I thought I didn’t like, and then I went to a show and I was like, “Oh, actually that’s amazing” and then you go back to the record and it’s a whole new experience.
You put out some songs earlier this year, “Beauty/Bends” and “Indian Summer” and from what I’ve heard you’re working on an album right now.
Yeah, we are! We’re just about done, and I think it’s sounding really good. I think those early releases were a good starting point and we used them to set the tone for the record. I’m really excited about it. It’s been a long process—much longer than I thought—but I think it’s gonna be good.
With this being your first album, not only do you have to make the album, but you also have to learn how to make an album?
Yeah, we have so many songs and we’re cutting it back to 10 or 11. We’ve spared no expense and basically any time we need to put in to it, we’ve done it to make it perfect. But I’m excited, I think it’s gonna be great.
How do you know which songs are right for the album?
I think we have a theme, or I had a theme in mind going in, and all the songs fit the theme and then it’s just a matter of what works in the studio. I do a lot of the demos with just an acoustic guitar and sometimes a song will not necessarily translate to a bigger band sound. And we just fall in love with some songs too where it’s just like, “That needs to be on the album.” We love it, no discussion. It’s just finding those 10 or 11 really special songs that fit together and represent where we’re at.You started off making music as a folk solo artist. How did it evolve from there into what Handsome Ghost is today? I had done the folk thing for many years, and I took a break and was kind of grappling with the idea of not being in music anymore.
At the time, [I was] just looking for a change. Music’s amazing, but it can be a grind too.
Definitely. What makes it worth it?
I love writing songs. It’s my favorite thing to do and it still is now. Every time I get frustrated or down, I just remember that. If you don’t love it, I wouldn’t recommend it.
You pour a lot of yourself into the songs that you write. Does it ever get emotionally exhausting sharing yourself, or is it more of a relief, more cathartic?
I think it’s both. It’s definitely a relief and a way to deal with issues,but you do put yourself out there for critique. This band has grown quite a bit since the beginning, [and] I think the bigger you get, the thicker skin you need—not that we’re “big”–as more people hear your music there’s more opinions about you. So you just gotta brush it off, keep doing what you’re doing, good or bad. We’ve done a lot of support slots where we’re opening. We’ve just now graduated to our headlining dates.
What is more nerve-wracking for you—opening or headlining?
I would say headlining only ’cause it’s your show,and it’s up to you to give people their money’s worth, and there’s definitely a lot more responsibility. As support, you’re just like, “What time do we play?” But, I think the reward for headlining is amazing because you know that people came to see you and you know that they like your music. It’s a really exciting responsibility. And then festivals fall in the middle. Yeah. We just started doing them. We’ve done two or three,but they’re their own beast. You just play and maybe you have people who know your music, maybe you don’t. You just let it rip.
In your songs, you talk a lot about youth and growing up but also the idea of leaving that space where you’re young. Do you tend to write about stuff that you’re currently feeling or do you look in the past more?
I try not to get too deep into the past. It’s hard, sometimes that sticks with you and you wanna write about it, but something that I’m working on is not dwelling on thepast so much. I’m trying to be a little more, for the writing and just in general, “Here you are, live now, stop writing about something that happened a couple years ago,” but at the same time, it’s a nice way to reflect and celebrate the good times and even the bad times too.
You mentioned you’re working on an album. When can fans expect that?
It’s gonna be either the very end of this year or the very beginning of next year, that’s the plan. We haven’t rushed it, and we’re so close at this point. I’m really excited to share it. I’m hopeful that people will connect.
What are you hoping that people will get out of listening to the record?
I hope that people are able to take a song or a lyric or whatever it is, and find something in it and relate it to their own lives. Or just move them in some way [and] feel emotion. I think that’s what we’re striving for, just picking the most emotional, honest songs that we can and being as genuine as possible. I think that’s what we do best and I think that’s what we’ve found people connect with the most, when we’re just “heart on our sleeve.”