All the way from Melbourne, Australia, musician Jonny Driver brings us his debut solo record A Ghost of Hope. With his throaty alt-rock vocals and skilful guitar-playing, Driver has a rather impressive sound. We had a chance to chat with Driver about A Ghost of Hope, future plans and being a bear.
OSR: What can you tell us about the album A Ghost of Hope?
Driver: I call A Ghost Of Hope my first solo album because although it is recorded with a full band, it is primarily the result of me spending a year writing by myself in my studio. I really wanted to do something outside of the scope of what I had been doing for the past decade, which was predominately rock records. I contacted Rick from one of my favourite bands The Afghan Whigs and after exchanging some demos he agreed to produce the album. I wanted to explore the world of other instrumentation like pianos and strings and orchestral arrangement. I enlisted some awesome players I know from here in Australia and we headed to New Orleans where Rick owns and runs a studio. We recorded the album there. It was a gruelling few weeks but an amazing experience and I think the end result definitely justifies all the effort.
OSR: What is your favourite track from the album and why?
Driver: I think the opening track ‘A Day Without Blame’ is my favourite. Probably because it is such a sonic departure from the rest of my work. When that song came together it really opened my mind to all the possibilities that can present themselves if you’re willing to step outside of your usual musical zone. It taught me that with a little collaboration and a great producer, a song written on an acoustic guitar can turn into anything you want it to.
OSR: What about the least favourite track?
Driver: That’s hard to say because I cut all the songs that didn’t really come to fruition, but if I were to pick one it wound be ‘Sentiment’ for the sole reason that it starts with just vocals and one sustained note on the organ. Being a self-conscious artist, having your voice out there on its own can be a little uncomfortable to listen back to.
OSR: This is your debut solo album, did you before with other artists beforehand? If so, why the move to a solo project?
Driver: I’ve always been in bands and I’ve been writing quieter songs on the side for a long time now with the intention of one day doing more of an eclectic record under my own name. For the last six years I played in an alternative rock band called Uptown Ace. We released two albums and played lots of shows, but earlier this year our bass player moved to Sweden to join a band over there. This kind of forced my hand and rather than replacing him I decided it was the right time to finally work on my solo album.
OSR: What advice do you have for any emerging artists?
Driver: I don’t know if I’m the position to give anyone any advice, but I think one of the things a lot of bands mess up these days is releasing an album too soon. I see bands these days writing ten songs and then making an album because recording is so accessible and affordable. A debut album should have your ten best songs on it and they are never your first ten. I understand the need to have an online presence but the streaming services make it easy now to release sporadic singles to keep you relevant and moving forward. Albums are part of your legacy, so you don’t want to regret them. Write a lot, tour a lot (when you can again), find out what works best and what songs you still like after that first year, then make your album. You’ll be glad you waited.
OSR: What is the worst piece of advice you have received regarding your music career?
Driver: I was in a band once that signed a record deal which had a clause in it stating that at all times we needed to “act like rock stars”. We knew that was a red flag, but at the advice of our manager we signed the contract. We never did act as requested and subsequently didn’t last on that label very long, so I think that was some pretty shitty advice.
OSR: If you could be reincarnated as a bear what type of bear would you be?
Driver: An Alaskan Brown Bear because they seem to hibernate for the longest period of time.
OSR: What do you think is your best personality trait?
Driver: Probably my determination or my metaphorical thick skin. This is a tough industry and it’s easy to get disillusioned. I think you just have to love what you do and keep doing it regardless of what happens, whether that be good or bad. As Jimmy Eat World would say, “rock on young saviour, but don’t get up your hopes.”
OSR: What are your future plans?
Driver: Oh, what I’d give to have a concrete answer for you in regards to the future! With no touring on the cars, I just intend to try and share my music with people via avenues such as this. I have also just written a score for an upcoming film and I enjoyed that much more than I expected. Until I can hit the road again I think I’ll focus on making music that way. It is a good challenge and something that I certainly would like to get better at.
OSR: Do you have a message for our readers?
Driver: Just thanks for reading and if you can, check out the album. I’d love to hear what people think of it. In the meantime, keep creating, keep supporting independent artists and most importantly, stay safe.