Austin Thomas of spookyghostboy: The Bedroom Rocker Returns With New Album ‘Twenty Something’

Photo by Seiji Inouye // With a stage name like spookyghostboy, Nashville indie rocker Austin Thomas doesn’t waste a second bringing you into his hauntingly serene world.

At first glance, one would certainly want to label him “hipster” due to his signature two-toned wayfarers, disheveled brown fringe and depending on the season, fitted baseball cap or slouchy black beanie.

But on a deeper dig, you find an extroverted introvert that’s as silly as he is serious with an unpolluted appreciation of music.

Having been a fan of his since 2012, getting to see Thomas’ progression as an artist has been rewarding to say the least.

From the fuzzy, raw sounds of his first LP Blue Cove, to the uber personal and lo-fi Memories Worth Keeping to the cleaner, more soothingly electric sound of his 2016 album Losing. He just keeps getting better.

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Photo by Seiji Inouye

With intimate song themes of love, distance, death, lethargy, longing, friendship, memories, anxiety, forgiveness, blame and regret, introspection is the name of spookyghostboy’s game.

Examine past lyrics like “I’ve been starting to fantasize/Of what it’d be like to sleep at night” and you can see how his words read more like lines of poetry than song lyrics.

The combination of his flatpicking that accentuates the natural echo and twang of each string and breathy, bedroom rock vocals is utterly cathartic. With headphones in it almost feels like Thomas is in the room with you, whispering into your ear.

After all these years, it was great to finally connect with the happily quirky musician about his upcoming album Twenty Something, the Nashville music scene and why he likes fire so much.

*******

SP: So I gotta ask. Where’d the name “spookyghostboy” originate? There has to be a story behind that.
AT: Haha, yikes. You know, I really didn’t expect this name to stick. The short story is that the first music I ever made was kind of Halloween-esque. Now I bear the spookyghostboy name in irony.

SP: You’re from Houston, Texas but moved to Nashville a few years ago. Has living in “Music City” influenced you in any way?
AT: I moved to Nashville to go to university. It wasn’t until after I moved that I realized I had a lot of misconceptions about the music culture in Nashville. I was expecting Nashville to be entirely country music and didn’t think that there would be a place for my music in the scene. I couldn’t have been more wrong though. I’ve met a community of songwriters and music makers here that I collaborate with a lot. Having people to work with and learn from has definitely affected the way I make music when I’m writing spookyghostboy stuff.

SP: What kind of guitar(s) are you strumming nowadays?
AT: Right now I’m playing a couple different guitars, but the one I gravitate towards the most is my 60’s Player Stratocaster.

SP: What part of the music process do you enjoy the most? Which do you find to be the most difficult?
AT: For me, it’s always been the live show that I enjoy the most. It’s also the part that stresses me out more than anything else. Everything that I do in the writing and recording process is created thinking about the live show. I feel like the live show is kind of the peak of musical connection so I want to get it right. I do love the recording process though. I studied audio engineering actually, so I’d hope I enjoy that bit. The recording process has always been a stress relief for me, especially since I do it by myself. I kind of lock myself in my studio for a month or two and do a lot of ruminating.

SP: I’ve noticed across all of your albums one motif is of fire. Losing even has a burning (picture I think?) on the cover. What makes fire so special to you?
AT: From a songwriting standpoint, I think fire is a powerful metaphor to use. Also, the album cover on Losing was taken when me and my best friend burned all of the pictures from a relationship that had ended.

SP: I remember you being pretty good at drawing. Still do any art?
AT: I doodle a little bit now and then but nothing worth showing off haha. I mostly draw hands.

SP: “When I Go” is one of my favorite songs. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
AT: Hmm, it’s hard to pick one so I’ll give you three. Hawaii, New York or Japan. I lived in Japan for a while when I was young and have always wanted to go back.

SP: As much as you’d like to share, what can we expect from the new release?
AT: Musically, this record is a little bit of a stretch from the last. I try to change the sound a little bit with every record. A part of that change will always happen naturally but I try and force myself a little bit out of my comfort zone in terms of production. Even though some of the lyrical material on this album is pretty dark, I wanted some of the music to have a more uplifting sound than the last couple of records. Thematically, this album is like an odd coming of age journey.

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With friend and fellow musician Steven Shook. Photo by Seiji Inouye

Thomas has this rare ability to craft beautifully bittersweet songs without coming off as disingenuous, cheesy or “emo” as many who attempt do.

He is able to earnestly tap into something real, authentic, original and a bunch of other synonyms related to those words. His music demands you sit with it, really listen but most importantly feel it.

Please stay tuned to his social media here to find out how to listen to/purchase Twenty Something when it drops at the end of this month.

My Recommendations:
“When I Go” should give you a good taste for spooky’s sound and style. If the repetition of “but they’re not” doesn’t take you to another fucking dimension I’m not sure how to help you.

My Favorites:
Live performances from spooky can be rare, even if you live in Nashvegas. Between the waning sunset, outdoorsy stillness and perfectly pitched harmonies, this helps my jonesing to see a show irl.

-Stacey P.

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