Award-winning singer-songwriter Jenny Bruce recently has taken on a new persona — GHOSTE. The name, which came to her in a dream, is what she will put all of her future music under. As she puts it — the ‘e’ is silent, but she is not! I got the chance to talk with her about how she first got started making music, her new single “Haunted”, what songwriting award stands out to her the most, getting her masters degree in Education Technology and so much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say.
First, where does the name GHOSTE come from?
I had a dream that I was on stage, surrounded by blue light (which I am told has all sorts of spiritual significance) when I heard someone announce me. I saw the word GHOSTE in all caps appear on a screen behind me. I had been feeling uninspired to record more music as “Jenny Bruce” and I needed to do something new. My subconscious mind gave me the answer.
GHOSTE means so many things to me. As a mature woman, it’s so easy to feel invisible. As an independent artist, it is equally easy to feel invisible. It can be very challenging to feel seen and heard. Yet, here I am, a very determined ghoste – the e is silent, but I am not!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
I’ve been writing songs, playing the piano, singing, and loving music since my very early childhood. As a family, we were always singing, playing and performing with one another at family gatherings. That’s always been a big part of my life. In school, I performed in various musical theater productions, even though I wasn’t a big fan. There weren’t a lot of options. Growing up in Manhattan, nobody had a garage or a basement where we could start a band! [But] at least I got to sing! I became the class piano accompanyist when we would perform for the school (that was a thing at my school). Essentially, music has been in my blood from day one!
When I graduated college, I decided I wanted to be a professional musician and I set about doing that to the best of my ability!
Was there a specific moment or person who made you realize music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
Not really. No one person or moment. What astonishes me is that I didn’t move faster. I guess I’ve always been a late bloomer. I started performing in Paris. It was my junior year abroad and I auditioned for a cover band. I was singing in the Paris metro. I also auditioned to be a singing waitress in an upscale restaurant [and] I realized I could make money singing and performing! With the cover band, we began writing originals and performing as “SAY.” Yes, cringe-worthy name. Well, they were French.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. So how would you describe your sound without using genre names? What kind of music do you produce?
As an artist, my goal is always to connect with others. I can’t control how my music will be perceived, but I’m hoping that people feel moved, haunted, and inspired all at once! I’m definitely digging into my more soulful and pop roots and away from the acoustic singer-songwriter sound. Oh, see, there I went and gave genres.
Here: GHOSTE music is a comforting, deep blue light filled with glowing, pulsating, soft yellow stars.
You’ve worked a lot with producer/composer Matt Anthony to help you find this “new sound” of yours. What was it like working with him and how has he helped you evolve as an artist?
I have worked with Matt a lot over the years. He is a very versatile and creative producer and composer. The last album we worked on was pretty acoustic and simple. He really gets what I’m looking for in this project and it’s so fun to see where he goes creatively when I bring in something very basic and acoustic. When he gets started on a track, it’s a little like he’s possessed, like he’s hearing things. I’m sitting there staring at his back and suddenly there are these incredible sounds coming from the speakers and I’ll say, “Yeah! That’s what it’s supposed to sound like.” Maybe he’s psychic. More likely, he’s just extremely talented.
Let’s talk about your new single, “Haunted.” What’s the story behind that song?
When I write songs they are rarely about ONE thing. I’m not a linear human, [as] much as I try to be. But if I had to pick the thing that haunts me most in my life, it’s music itself. Music is the lover that lifts me up, wrecks me and will never let me go.
My head has always been full of music, all my bloody life, for better or for worse. I have been chasing music and it has been haunting me. Cat and mouse. Like Tom and Jerry. It can get crazy.
What was your writing process like for this song? Did you write it by yourself or did you collaborate with others?
I wrote the lyrics and melody, but the song was completely transformed in the studio. Matt’s track, arrangements, and vocal production changed the whole direction and vibe. What I came in playing sounded like an old Motown song. In fact, I’m thinking about recording an acoustic version for fun! [I] wish I played slide guitar, [but] I’m sure Matt does.
The single, “Haunted,” was a full collaboration. I am heading into the studio next week to record a collaboration with Matt and Karen Jacobsen. There may be more collaborations down the road! The more GHOSTE writers, the better.
Going off of that, who are some of your influences when it comes to songwriting?
Too many to list! Different writers bring different strengths and colors. I think Ingrid Michaelson is a wonderful contemporary writer. I tend to like poetic lyricists best. I love Steve and Deb of The Weepies. Sufjan Stevens is a gorgeous writer. Then there are writers who I admire for their hit-making abilities, like Ryan Tedder – who doesn’t seem to know how to write a not great song.
You’ve also won quite a few awards for your songwriting. Is there one award in particular that stands out as the most special?
Billboard was the coolest, for sure. [I] got to perform at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville [and] they gave me a beautiful archtop guitar. But what makes it even cooler is that an astrologer predicted that I would win that award and that it would be given to me on that specific date. True story. He predicted it many months in advance. He told me the specific date I would be given “an award” and that I would have to travel. I was supposed to be in Ohio performing with an artist/friend, Jo Davidson, and I remember saying, “Well, I hope the award ceremony is in Ohio.” That was crazy!
He also predicted that winning that award would be awesome but that it wouldn’t change my life. Alas, he was right about that too.
You also shot a video for “Haunted.” What was that experience like? Was that your first time shooting a music video?
Yes, it was my first music video. [It was] a huge learning curve doing it myself. We had so much fun filming in haunted locations in France, [like] castle ruins at dusk. But it was A LOT of work!
I know you’re aiming to get a new album out early next year. Is it finalized enough that you know how many songs are on it and what people can expect from it?
It will most likely be an EP out in the spring. [I am] thinking 5 songs. I think people who know me as Jenny Bruce are going to be very surprised. Don’t expect the songs to be all about monsters and ghosts, though. This project is definitely delving into the “other side” of things, but I’m not going “Monster Mash” in spite of the GHOSTE moniker!
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd, so what is something you’re currently nerding out about?
My inner nerd is very much on the outside. I am passionate about technology and education. In fact, I’m getting a Masters Degree in Education Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University. I’m about 2/3 of the way through it. Beyond that, I’m a big astronomy nerd (astrology is fun too) and I’m obsessed with reading about the universe and its fascinating properties. They just discovered what they’re calling a “Ghost Galaxy” that’s been hiding behind the Milky Way. Insane!
Then, of course, I’m very much into the paranormal. I watch all those ghost and haunting shows, much to the chagrin of my husband who isn’t a fan.