Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter/producer Illicit Ghost unveils her new single “Precious”.
Co-written by Illicit Ghost and Holden Jaffe (Del Water Gap) and co-produced by Illicit Ghost and Elliot Jacobson (Ingrid Michaelson, Verite, Allie X), the song is about feeling trapped, overprotected and out of control.
Combining electronic and acoustic elements, “Precious” allows Illicit Ghost to fully express herself as a violinist and as a complete artist.
“Precious” follows her debut single “Drunk and Alone,” and her cover of Pink Floyd's "Money" and "Parties by Myself."
“Precious” is now available worldwide.
Introduce yourself - where are you from?
I’m from New York, I live in Brooklyn. This is where the industry is if you’re in NY. It’s a struggle to be an artist here – it’s expensive and there is a lot of competition – but I’ll take that any day over a 9-5 office job. I’m lucky to have a small close-knit group of musician friends. We all keep each other motivated when there are dark days, and trust me there are a lot of them.
What's your story?
I’ve been writing songs ever since I was a teenager. It was the only way I could communicate my emotions. I was never a talker and was always quiet. Sitting at the piano made me feel like I was in a different world. It felt like the only place I could really be honest about how I was feeling.
When did your love for music begin?
When I was 3, I started taking violin lessons. It was intense. My love for music really began about ten years after that – at that point I was growing as a musician and learning how to put emotion into my playing. There was nothing like that feeling…being able to express myself through sound and movement was an incredible experience. For example, I could show sadness by slowing down my vibrato on the violin or using less breath on the clarinet. Realizing that I didn’t have to use words to communicate emotions was groundbreaking for me.
Could you list some of your all time favorite albums?
Fiona Apple’s Tidal, Dave Matthews Band’s Under the Table and Dreaming, and Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill.
Which album or artist had the most impact in your life?
I think it would be Dave Matthews Band. I remember hearing them for the first time and being completely blown away by the violinist Boyd Tinsley. That guy is a total badass. I was so used to learning and playing classical music and I couldn’t believe that these upbeat songs featured the violin so prominently. I thought maybe I could do the same in my music. So I started exploring the electric violin and all that you could do with pedals.
When did you start writing songs?
When I was a teenager I wrote a lot. I had a keyboard that I could record multiple tracks on. So I would record the piano part and sing over it. Then I would record that on my computer microphone into Garageband and then add other instruments. I dove deeper into production as I got older so that I could get these songs out into the world. I learned from YouTube how to use Ableton.
How would you describe Illicit Ghost, the artist?
She takes no bullshit, she takes care of herself, and she wants you to the same. She wants her music to give you hope.
At what point did you realize the music you are making right now was the right sound for you?
I never was chasing any kind of sound. I try to reflect very specific emotions in my songs and don’t really consider sounds – I just do what feels right to my ear.
"Precious" is your new single. What's the story behind this song?
“Precious” is definitely different than the other songs I have out. To me it feels more cinematic and stripped down. I tracked most of these instruments by myself to give it more of a live feeling. For example, this is the first time I am playing bass on one of my songs. It’s liberating to have so much control over the music I put out. As far as what it’s about, I’d like my listeners to make of it whatever they want.
Could you describe us the songwriting/production process for this song?
I started the song with Holden Jaffe (Del Water Gap). For lyrics I have to go to a dark place to write each one of my songs. I wish I didn’t have to but it’s just the way it has always been. I have a support system that I am grateful for and which is essential if you are an artist. For the production, I co-produced the song with Elliot Jacobson (Ingrid Michaelson, Verite, Allie X) who has been an amazing mentor to me. I feel extremely lucky to work with him. He’s the best out there on all fronts – a wonderful friend, a great mentor and a great musician. That’s rare to find in this industry.
When did you know "Precious" had to be your next single?
If I feel good about a song I write then it will come out. I don’t put out anything I’m not 110% happy with.
What do you like the most about this song?
I like that it combines electronic and acoustic elements. I’m grateful that I can make use of the violin in the music that I’m making. It feels very true to who I am.
You are also a producer. What equipments and softwares do you usually use?
I work in Ableton. I have a little set up in my bedroom that I use to record everything. I record my vocals into a Shure SM7 microphone under my covers so that no one can hear me. I don’t work in a professional studio to make my music.
What do you like the most about creating music?
It is amazing to have strangers reaching out after hearing my songs about how it has affected them positively. My goal is to always be honest in the hope that it reaches other people and makes them feel hopeful or happy.
How's it like to be a woman in the music industry?
It’s not easy but I’ve been lucky. There are of course people who will try to take advantage of you. I write these people off so quickly that they don’t even know what happened. I’m not an idiot and I can see right through any kind of bullshit. No “opportunity” is ever with your well-being or safety. Fuck that. My job is to empower people to be independent.
As an artist, what are the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is being an independent artist. I don’t get the same opportunities that other artists on record labels get. I don’t have my songs automatically added to Spotify playlists to increase plays because I’m not signed to a certain label. I have to fight for everything on my own. I do all of my PR and marketing and administrative work. I get rejected left and right because I don’t have a certain number of streams or followers or whatever nonsense is determining what artists are “worth” investing in or promoting. It’s an everyday fight, but it’s a fight that’s worth it to me. I want to reach people organically not through major Spotify playlists where people aren’t even paying attention to the artists. I want to build a true fan base, one that cares about the music and the messages I am sending.
What are the things you are the most proud of?
I’m proud that people are connecting with my music. After shows people will tell me that one of my songs really spoke to them and is helping them get through a difficult time. That is the most rewarding part of being an artist. It feels good to give back in that way because music has really helped me through some rough times.
How do you want to be remembered for?
I’d like to be remembered as someone who never gave up.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
What biggest lessons have you learned as a human being?
Live in the moment. Every day I remind myself that life is short and to give it all I have. If you have a dream, go for it. You don’t want to look back one day and think “I wish I would’ve given it a shot.” No matter how hard it is. If it makes you happy, do it.
Connect with Illicit Ghost: