We are pleased to announce our SMC Spotlight Featured Artist for October 2017 is Menton, France-born, Montreal, Canadian-based Ghostly Beard! Just as the name suggests, you won’t find imagery of him anywhere (believe me, we have all tried!) and much like Sia, he has chosen this pseudo-image/name as his signature moniker for the purpose of creating music and getting it out to his fans – minus the convoluted self-imagery that runs rampant through the music industry today. In fact, this incredibly talented Artist has no intention of ever performing live. Although some might say that is a risky move in the music community, we at Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) and Limehead Radio have specifically chosen Ghostly Beard as our October 2017 Featured Artist not only for his brilliant music, but also for his ability to consistently engage in the Artist community through social media platforms, always networking his peers and showing support for their music. Indeed, there aren’t many ‘Casper The Friendly Ghosts’ in the industry today, so it’s refreshing to see an Artist as passionate as he is about networking his peers while still maintaining his secret identity.
Today, we have launched the world premiere of his lyric music video for ‘Blue’ exclusively on the SMC Spotlight and our main website front page. It is a song written for his daughter and the beautiful imagery throughout demonstrates the love between a Father and his ‘little girl’. Without giving away the literal meaning behind this lovely song (see the interview below), I can honestly say that this song is one that will resonate with any parent. The song itself is a beautiful, soliloquy-type account of the immense love and pride one feels as a parent and the accompanying instrumentation is a gentle, dream-like melody which supports this.
Aside from the obvious, Halloween being the October theme for SMC and Limehead Radio, the Ghostly Beard not only reigns as our Featured Artist this month on both platforms, but it made sense to showcase his art as his music and presence in the Artist community is most definitely felt, even if he isn’t ‘seen’. I encourage you all to check out his socials at the end of this interview and watch the music video for ‘Blue’ (below) here and also on the SMC website at www.starlightmusicchronicles.com!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Ghostly Beard
SMC – Hello Patrick! We are pleased to host you on the SMC Spotlight to coincide with the SMC and Limehead Radio Halloween special! Can you tell us what your thoughts are on the support you have received from both for the launch of your new music coming out?
GB – It’s awesome! I love it! It’s an amazing experience and an honor for me to be featured. I truly appreciate all the work you do in the background to help spreading the word about indie music and artists, it is essential for all of us and most welcome.
SMC – Speaking of new music – we launched the World Premiere of your music video ‘Blue’ today on the SMC Spotlight and our main website. Can you tell us what this song is about? The lyrics are sweet!
GB – Thank you! I’m really happy about this one, especially the lyrics. It’s dedicated to my daughter, Sarah. It’s been inspired by a picture I took when we adopted her in China, the very first day actually. She was almost a year old and that day when we first met her she had been crying nonstop for hours, but in this picture, she had finally given up to tiredness and she looked so peacefully asleep… The picture is in a shade of blue from the lighting, which is why the song is “Blue” and inspired by that color. But more than anything, this picture represents the exact moment that I fell in love with my daughter. The song is also about how she has changed my life… she’s 16 now and I’m very proud of the grown up she is now, but this song express how I will forever remember her somehow.
SMC – The video has some lovely scenes in it. Can you tell us who the creative team was behind the making of it?
GB – I’ve found Gareth Kay, the director, who actually lives in London, UK, from an online service called Radar (see here) The service allows you to post a brief and this will be picked by various video artists who will pitch their ideas. His was the most interesting, in that he proposed to do live footage with a friend and his daughter, the budget was pretty tight of course but he came up with this simple idea of a father/daughter having fun in a park. Since I’ve done this (and it was actually the first video I’ve done), I asked him to do a few more, and he has done videos for “Close Your Eyes” and “No Return” from the previous EP, and he’s now working on “A Reason to Leave” and will possibly work on another one from that new album.
SMC – Now, your album launches very soon! Can you tell us what we can expect from it in terms of how it differentiates from your last album?
GB – It’s very different. Someone said that it was almost a 180, perhaps a 150 turn from the previous EP, and it’s really the case. The previous EP was quite progressive-rock in spirit, while this one is much more jazz oriented, and much more song oriented too. So, it might be a little bit disconcerting for people who expected the same kind of music, but jazz is also a big part of my background and music that I love to listen to and write and play, so this album reflects that. I hope the people who have loved the first EP will give it a shot though, they might like it!
SMC – Did you write all your own music for the album?
GB – Yes, I did. I write, arrange, record, produce, mix everything in my home studio. I also perform all the instruments (although drums are programmed, I program them myself too), and sing (or try to anyway).
SMC – What is the theme of your album?
GB – Not sure it has a theme as such, it’s not a concept album. The previous EP was more cohesive in terms of theme, but this one is more diverse and I wanted it so. It has tales of lost love or obsession, but also dreamy tunes, or tender songs like the “Blue” song, and even self-deprecating fun songs like “Fool”.
SMC – How long did it take to create your album from first concept to final art?
GB – A couple of years, probably more. These songs, as well as the songs from the previous EP and the songs from the next album after this one, I have worked on since 2013 I think. I usually take at least a month from an initial idea to a finished song. And then to put them out there on an album, I have remixed them, and then had them mastered and worked on the cover art and packaging and running order, etc. so yeah, a long time!
SMC – In terms of your name ‘Ghostly Beard’ – why the name? How did you arrive at that?
GB – First, I tried to use my name ‘Patrick Talbot’ – but the .com domain was taken as well as many social media accounts. So, I decided that I would use an artist name… Choosing a name that wasn’t already taken proved quite difficult actually… I was looking for a name that would be fun and evocative around the idea of being invisible. Why? Because truly I am invisible, like many other indie artists, I mean we don’t really exist in the realm of the “music industry”. Also, I liked the idea of being invisible, because I think nowadays images take too much importance and precedence over music and I think it’s a shame. Personally, I don’t need any visual stimuli when I listen to good music. I put my headphones on and I close my eyes… So how to convey these ideas in a name? I looked for “invisible” something, “shadow” something else, finally I was happy about “Ghostly Bear” but the name was taken too! So, I added a “d” at the end because I do have a beard… And then I found that icon that I use as a logo and that settled it. I licensed the icon immediately because I found that it was so evocative of a beard, a ghost, a mask, anything you want, really. I love that.
SMC – Can you tell me what people’s reactions to your name and secret identity have been?
GB – It’s been really fun. At first people didn’t understand it, but once they’ve learned the reasons behind it, they’ve been playing the game… And I know that some people are desperately trying to find a pic of me and it’s like a treasure hunt… so that’s the fun part. But they won’t find anything of course. I’ve been totally absent of the world of social media until very recently, and then I never published any pic. Anyway, if they did find something, they would just be disappointed. A mystery is only good when it stays a mystery. The fun is in the hunt, and just like reading a book, compared to watching a movie, the best is in creating your own images in your mind, not having them imposed on you…
SMC – With the secret identity, it reminds me of Sia. Are your reasons the same as hers?
GB – Nothing as dramatic, no. And at first, I didn’t want to hide as such, I just didn’t want to put a closeup of my ugly mug on my website, I thought it wouldn’t be such an incentive to check my music. I played with images of shadows for the site because I’m fascinated by them. But the more I’ve seen people wanting to see my face, the more it made sense to me to refuse to show it. It’s a message, really… It says: forget the face, forget the image, listen to the music. Music to me is powerful enough that it doesn’t need any image to go with it, and certainly not the image of an old dude with a beard.
SMC – Can you tell me what people’s reactions have been like for your music so far?
GB – I’ve been blessed with a lot of positive feedback. I’ve received a lot of really awesome press and reviews for my first EP, and generally people are loving the music. I’ve also had some people saying to me that they have connected with my music and that it has touched them emotionally, which is amazing because to me that’s the ultimate goal. I mean I’m not in it for the money that’s for sure, and anyway I’m too old to have any claim of fame and fortune. I’m way passed that. But to have people connect with my music so deeply is something that means a lot to me, and something that makes me want to do more and better. In the end, and you might think that it’s paradoxical because I don’t show my face, but it’s all about human connection and this is something that I want my music to reflect upon and my actions on social media to be about.
SMC – What has that public/fan anticipation been like for the release of your new music so far?
GB – Everyone who has loved the first EP, and who has come across my music, has said to me that they are eager to hear what I would do next, and that’s been a great incentive for me to go forward. Now all I hope is that this new album, which is so different, is still going to connect with people, and perhaps make them want to open their ears to different music, things that they are not used to listen to in general. I really hope that people will give it a good listen anyway.
SMC – You have been such an amazing support among your peers. Can you tell us who you would like to give a shout out to in terms of support for your work among your industry peers?
GB – How many pages do I have? The truth is that it’s been only a few months that I’ve started reaching out and “meeting” people virtually on social media, and already I’ve seen many people doing amazing things to support indie artists and this is something that really warms my old heart. Now I can’t cite them all, because there are so many, and I would hate to forget anyone so I’ve created a page on my website that I call “partners” to list all the ones that I know of and to say thanks to them. It’s also a resource for other indie artists who might wonder who are the good ones in this indie world…
SMC – You also have a blog! It includes a directory of all your industry faves and its growing every day. Can you tell us more about this blog?
GB – The blog started as a simple way of keeping my site up to date. I started putting short stories about what inspires me. And then the more I’ve met people online in this indie world and the more I’ve felt that I needed to talk about it, about what they do, and how it affects me, and every other artist, and it also became a way to put forward a few ideas that I have about sharing and networking between artists and indie “actors” and how it seems obvious to me that this is the way to go for us little fishes if we want to get heard in a music industry that ignores us blatantly.
SMC – What has the support been for your blog?
GB – Pretty good so far! People are sharing it, commenting on it, and it’s really nice to see! Now It puts some pressure on me to write about the issues I see in the music industry and about ideas that I have and hear about how to better network and share and care. But I try to write one post at the time, and usually it comes from things that I’ve seen or experienced online or off, and that I want to talk about. So, I might talk about something light and just have fun with it on one post, and then the next try to go deeper about the state of the music industry. That people are reading it and discussing it with me amazes me and it’s great if this makes anyone think a little bit and believe that we can all make a change.
SMC – What has been the biggest accomplishment of your music career to date that you are most proud of?
GB – The fact that I came back to music after 15 years of drawing a blank, and that my music has actually gained a lot of musicality and maturity in the process… I was really good technically when I stopped playing altogether. I mean I could play anything, really. But now after 15 years of not touching an instrument, my technique is much more limited, and I’ve learned to work around that by writing more simply but more deeply, with a lot more attention to production details and arrangement. I’ve learned the power of silence in music, and how to play each note with some thoughts behind it instead of letting my fingers run their course. It’s really coming from my heart nowadays. I want everything that I play to be sing-able and memorable somehow.
SMC – What is your songwriting process like?
GB – Painful! Well maybe not, but it takes me a long time from an initial idea, that could be a chord progression or a melody, something simple but powerful enough that it’s worth spending the time to perfect it, to try and make it a finished song. I usually record a scratch version, most of the time with acoustic guitar or simple piano and vocal humming some melody on it, then I live with it for a while… meaning I will listen to it from time to time during a week or two at least. And if this is strong enough, then I will start hearing some extra ideas in my head, counterpoint melodies, a bridge, some words, it will grow… This takes a while until I have a good idea in my head of an arrangement and something to work on. Then I start recording and adding layers to get close enough to what I hear in my head. And as I go along more ideas come and I throw everything and the kitchen sink at it and see what sticks. This goes on until I’m satisfied…
SMC – What instrument are you most proficient in?
GB – The guitar is my first instrument. I’ve started learning it intently (and intensely) at the age of 14 until the age of 30. I could spend 8 to 12 hours a day practicing, and playing. I wanted to be a session musician, so I knew I needed to learn to play in any style. And I did play in a lot of styles. There are some things that I naturally tend to do though, like playing augmented chords for example, because I have trouble playing simple Major or Minor chords, there should be a 7th at least then a 9th or a 13th somewhere otherwise it doesn’t sound complete to me, I find Major chords pretty boring TBH. And I tend to swing more than playing straight, which comes from having played jazz and listened to a lot of it too. I like straight rock and blues and many genres, but I love sophisticated harmonies best and some interesting groove.
SMC – Have you been spun on radio? If so, who would you like to give a shout out to?
GB – I’ve been aired on many indie radios, and it’s been a pleasure to be played on some amazing indie shows along some really great artists that I love and respect. Among these radios there is one that I want people to be aware of. First because it’s a good friend and then because his radio is in trouble and he has a fundraiser to buy the equipment that has been destroyed a while ago. I’m talking about KB Radio in London, Ontario, Canada, which is the labor of love of Al Yardy, an amazing indie supporter with a big heart and a real passion for good music. His motto says it all: “What radio used to be”! To help, I’ve been reversing all the sales proceeds from my first EP into his fundraiser. I wish people would chip in as well because I don’t want another good radio to disappear.
SMC – Where is the bulk of your fanbase located?
GB – Anywhere! Everywhere! Basically, on the internet. I think most people are aware of my music through interactions on social medias, hearing it on indie radios (mostly internet radios) and blogs. There’s no more frontiers now with the internet and anyone can hear music from anywhere, and it’s an awesome thing!
SMC – Since connecting with SMC and Limehead Radio, can you tell us what has changed in terms of your career and/or connections?
GB – Well first, I’ve come to know you and Mark and Rachael from Limehead Radio and seen what awesome work you do in the background, then I’ve been in contact with many artists that have been under your wings as well, like Hannah Clive or Chris Watkins and many others, and it’s been fun to support them and they support me too, so it’s a win-win for all of us. And then of course having my tunes played on Limehead opens it to UK listeners, and being supported by SMC makes me more “visible” on social medias and on the internet.
SMC – I saw a tweet once where someone had commented that you are very picky with your art. Is this true? Are you a perfectionist?
GB – I’m afraid so. I spend hours and hours, recording and arranging songs and mixing and in the end, I’m never entirely satisfied. I love mixing but it’s a never-ending task because everything you change on a mix affects everything else… And then our ears tend to get used to sounds too easily. Say you mix a track and you have too much of a certain frequency, at first it will feel weird, but then wait for a few seconds and it will sound perfectly fine, your ears have adjusted to it. So, you always need to re-tune your ears to what you are hearing, using references and taking breaks. And then the laws of physics also make it extremely hard to have a flat monitoring, especially in a home studio in a room that is not made for it, meaning what you hear is not necessarily what it is… in fact, there’s a good chance your room is lying to you. You listen to it in another room and it will sound completely different, and with another kind of speakers and you will hear it differently again. Someone said that you never truly finish a mix, you just abandon it, and that’s been exactly my experience.
SMC – Since you have chosen a ‘ghostly’ image, how are you going to get around live performances and such?
GB – I’m really a recording artist, I don’t gig. And I have no intention to do so. Too old for this, truly. I’ve done that in the past and it’s never been the part of being a musician that I enjoyed the most anyway. My dream was to be a session musician, meaning a studio rat. I love working in a studio but playing on stage is not my thing. No, my true pleasure comes from songwriting, arranging, producing, crafting my little tunes, finding the best note at the best time with the best sound I can. My dream role nowadays would be to be a producer for artists that I like.
SMC – Alright, final question: What are your plans in terms of any future collaborations with other Artists?
GB – None at the moment. Although my next album will contain an artist that I’ve been collaborating with for a long time, Emma Caiman. She’s a singer and musician and a poet and a friend, and she sings with me on one of the tune (I’ve played on a couple of her tunes too). And then my daughter Sarah will also sing with me on another tune. Apart from that I’m open to collaboration in principle, and there are a few artists that I’d love to collaborate with, but to be honest I’m such a control freak that I’m not sure anyone will dare attempting the experience!
Social Media Links for Ghostly Beard (click to view)