Every once in a while a song will come along that literally stops me in my tracks. You know the kind of song I mean... the kind that makes the world stop for just a second and everything in it seems a little brighter and sexier... that's the kind I'm talking about. And... as luck would have it, Caught A Ghost knows a thing or two about writing those heart-stopping, world shifting kind of songs. "No Sugar In My Coffee" is one such song. I had a chance to speak with Jesse Nolan (aka the man behind the sexy soulfulness that is Caught A Ghost) about this amazing song, his creative process, and what's next for this exciting band.
The Reel Spin: Your band name, Caught A Ghost, is so original. What is the story behind the name?
Jesse Nolan: "Catching a ghost" is an old expression musicians would use when you have a good performance. To me it means letting the spirits of all your predecessors speak through you when you play.
TRS: One of my favorite songs of yours is "No Sugar In My Coffee." It is undeniably sexy, so I'm curious to know... what inspired the song?
Nolan: Thanks. [Smiles] Well, the song came from a number of different sources, as it always does. For example, Tessa [Thompson] told me that her dad had his apartment floor tiled with pennies in the 80s. Sonically I like using organic sounds as samples to construct an environment that's both natural and artificial. The song is meant to be a modern work song or a secular spiritual.
TRS: Speaking of "No Sugar In My Coffee," it was used by Boardwalk Empire for their season 4 national trailer . How stoked were you when you got the call that the show was going to use your track? Are you a fan of the show?
Nolan: I love that show. Steve Buscemi is my spirit animal. I was thrilled that they wanted to use it.
TRS: You have a very sleek style. Does your music dictate your fashion choices?
Nolan: On some level I guess so... I always liked the way that Motown, Stax, Chess, Sun Records' artists used to look in their suits. I also just have loved wearing suits forever. I used to wear suits on Friday in high school. Everyone thought it was bizarre. It was my way of celebrating the weekend. [Laughs]
TRS: It's obvious you have a wide appreciation of music from a myriad of eras. Has there been any one artist that has had a particular influence on your music?
Nolan: I don't know that I could possibly narrow it to one, but I'd say Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Stones, Dr Dre are 'my guys.' So to speak.
TRS: Most of the instruments on your recordings you play yourself. Was playing music something you enjoyed from an early age?
Nolan: Yeah. I didn't have any formal training but I always loved playing on my Casio keyboard as a kid. I actually got kicked out of music class a lot for bad behavior, because I was accelerated and would get bored. I have taught music some, and I totally sympathize with why my teacher couldn't handle me, but it's so important to nurture talent and interest in kids. That's why I've always liked composing on my own... I get to move at my own frantic pace.
TRS: You have such a creative aesthetic, and you've been known to use projections and performance art at your live shows. What can fans expect next from you?
Nolan: Well, I'm so interested in visual content, and Tessa and I really inspire each other to push our visual aesthetic in different directions. I'd love to design and operate a crazy light show when we have the budget. Also, I'd love to do more animation videos. I'm really open to a number of different media.
TRS: Your EP, Nightworks, is so dynamic it's hard to label, but it has a soulful, eclectic vibe. Can we expect more of the same when you release your debut full length next year?
Nolan: The full length will incorporate some of the tunes from Nightworks but remixed to sound way better, along with some new stuff. Very much the same vibe. We'll also be doing a bunch of remixes and other studio goodies over the course of next year which will be all over the map.
For the latest on Caught A Ghost:
Interview by Pamela Thomas