Fresh off the heels of their most recent album, 2018’s Delivery and Departure, L.A.-based Americana-roots collective The Sound of Ghosts is back with their highly-anticipated new single, “Heavy Burden.”
The track, diverse in its tempo and rich in sonic texture, was inspired by Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and the idea of carrying the weight of trauma and pain experienced throughout life.
Lyrically, charismatic vocalist Anna Orbison delivers an emotionally ubiquitous and haunting vocal to the song and takes the listener of a journey of pain and self-awareness. “Heavy Burden” also features a guest performance by trumpeter Paul Litteral, who’s resume includes working with such legends as The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits and Billy Joel.
To those not already familiar with The Ghosts, the band’s music blends the best elements of Americana, folk, rock and jazz into one tasty musical stew. Having performed extensively throughout the L.A. area and Pacific Northwest, where they’ve opened for such artists as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Sisterhood and Oingo Boingo, their insatiable music has also been featured nationwide in commercials for major brands.
I recently spoke with The Sound of Ghosts’ Anna and James Orbison about “Heavy Burden” and more in this exclusive new interview.
What’s the band’s songwriting process like?
James Orbison: Every song is different. In the past it would usually start with a riff idea that would be brought to the band and then we’d form it into something that sounds like the Ghosts. Anna has really hit her stride with songwriting and leading the charge with ideas and melodies.
How did the song “Heavy Burden” come about?
Anna Orbison: We write in a lot of different ways but the melody and lyrics of “Heavy Burden” came to me all at the same time. I had been reading Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth,” and his idea of a “pain body” being the weight we carry around from traumas and pain we’ve experienced throughout our lives. It really stuck with me. When we carry that pain with us into relationships it ends up weighing our partners and our friends down and creating more pain for the people we care about. “Heavy Burden” is a reminder that when we hurt our loved ones it’s coming from our own pain and not from love. Love is not constant pain.
What can you tell me about Paul Litteral’s involvement in the new track?
AO: Paul and I met when I first moved to L.A. almost ten years ago. He’s been playing live shows and on our recordings for the last few years and we’re so very lucky to have him. He’s played with The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Billy Joel, Tom Waits, and so many other incredible artists.
JO: Paul is a living legend and such an amazing talent. His list of accomplishments is second to none. I’m grateful that he believes in the music we create.
Is there a meaning behind Steven Van’s cover art for the new single?
Steven Van: After feeling the song’s energy and listening to the lyrics, I really resonated with the line “Don’t want my love to be a heavy burden for you to carry.” I ran with a depiction of a wealthy figure being burdened and held down by the responsibility of wealth all while trying to maintain and nurture their relationship with nature and growth. That’s what I envisioned listening to “Heavy Burden.”
Is the new single part of a larger body of work the band is working on?
AO: We’ve been writing a fair amount over the quarantine and the months leading up to it. We’re looking forward to putting together a new album in the near future.
How has the band matured over the last few years?
AO: When we first began playing as a group we wrote songs with nothing particular in mind as far as a specific style. Just music that was loosely based in the Americana genre. In the last year we’ve become more focused on what The Sound of Ghosts sounds like. I think that’s been a big place of growth for us. Knowing what we want to say and how we want to say it without holding back or trying to make ourselves something else for other people’s comfort.
JO: As bands grow you find yourself in lots of up and down moments. I’m so proud of the accomplishments we’ve made during our time as a band and am looking forward to the future of our music and continuing to grow together.
What changes do you see in the live music experience when the isolation period is over?
AO: I think the biggest thing will be the inevitable closure of small venues. I sincerely hope they will make it through but it’ll be difficult to keep doors open when you can only have a handful of people together. I’m sure many music festivals are wondering if they can get back on their feet too. For bands like us who depend on touring to the smaller venues it will be very difficult in the coming years. One change that’s positive is all the amazing live music we’ve seen online. There are so many great concerts and musicians streaming and we hope to do some shows like that ourselves. There are always amazing things that come out of difficult situations. We’re just trying to see what we can do to stay creative, inspired, and connected with the people who love our music.
What other ways have you found to be creative when not working in The Sound of Ghosts?
AO: I’ve always loved drawing and painting. Nature is also incredibly inspiring to me, as is reading. I get a lot of song ideas just going out on walks or from the books I read.
JO: Spending time outdoors on hikes and reading is inspiring but I must say I’ve also been finding inspiration in watching TV shows and movies recently. Whether it’s the message a show or movie is trying to convey or just listening more closely to the soundtrack. I believe you can find inspiration anywhere there’s some kind of creativity happening.