I know how it feels to be a ghost. An uninvited guest. I felt like one for the better part of half a century.
One night soon after I turned 50, I had a dream. I was wearing a hoodie, shrouded in an encompassing, healing blue light. In this dream, I stepped past a piano onto a stage and behind me, the word GHOSTE hovered white and luminous against that blue glow while a voice announced, “Now, introducing GHOSTE.”
I woke up. Yes, in every sense of the word.
When you experience loss, all the clichés hit you in the face; foremost the one about life not being a dress rehearsal. I didn’t waste a minute in reaching out to gifted producer and friend, Matt Anthony. We met at a restaurant near his studio, and I nervously explained my vision for this new album which would be a massive departure musically from anything I had ever done and would require a great deal of work on his part. I wanted to create something bold, haunting, rhythmic, vulnerable, yet empowering and totally electronic. Music that would express all that I had experienced and, in fact, gained through personal loss. And like I was asking him for the time of day, Matt said, “Great, let’s do it.”
That dream woke me from a lifetime of feeling invisible that started where it so often does. School is tough and girls can be mean. Put an awkward, odd, shy little girl into a posh, Manhattan, all-girl school for 12 years; well, you do the math; it equals brutal. I was ruthlessly tormented by a glossy-haired pack of rich, cruel girls. With surgical precision, they ensured that my self-esteem was stripped away, layer by layer, year after year. They told me that I was ugly, a waste of space; reminding me that I didn’t belong. Frankly, as a half-Jewish, scholarship kid, they were right. I had no place in their elite, blue blood clubs and parties. But the mean stuff hit its mark, took root, and I became adept at assimilating. Zelig. Able to blend into the background. A perfectly lonely little ghost.
Thankfully, I came from a fanatically musical family, and I discovered early on that I could transform my feelings of loneliness, anger, and longing into song through the ivory keys of my family’s prize possession, a Mason & Hamlin Grand. A friend who didn’t judge and always gave back. An audience of one, Mom was always my biggest fan, weeping when I sang her a new ballad, beaming and applauding with pride, making me feel like I was ready to step on stage to collect my Grammy. As far as she was concerned, I was born a rockstar.
Alas, my mother’s own childhood scars ran jagged and deep, and as her youthful beauty faded, so did her fragile hold on her own self-esteem. She believed that, the moment she turned fifty, she became invisible and she told me this in hopes of protecting me from my own inexorable fall. Unfortunately, she didn’t live to see me turn fifty. Months after the birth of my first son, at sixty, she was felled by the silent killer, pancreatic cancer. My sun went out abruptly and things went dark and quiet.
I was left reeling from the loss of my best friend, confidante, and number-on-fan. Existing more than living for nearly a full decade before, forged by loss and finally acceptance, out poured the songs for “Firefly in a Jar,” a sparse, raw, and emotionally stripped-down EP, elegantly produced by Matt, and dedicated to my mother, released just before my fiftieth birthday. During the recording of this EP, which was so much about the ephemeral nature of life, Matt and I explored adding electronic textures to some of the songs. I loved it.
Working full-time, and a married mother of two boys, I had also entered the era of caring for my father, a man who had lived life to its fullest, now stealthily being swallowed up by Parkinson’s. It was heart-rending to watch this passionate, charismatic, brilliant, bigger-than-life human fading away, inch by inch. Becoming a ghost.
But, back to that dream, music was alive and back in my life and I was wide-awake. I became a woman possessed with purpose. After work, hour upon hour, night after night, and over a period of two years, Matt and I were at his studio, crafting sounds and beats, refining lyrics and melodies, consuming spirits of the drinkable kind until the album was completed. On my 53rd birthday, one year ago, Matt sent me the only gift I wanted, the masters for GHOSTE. And lest I ever take time for granted, two weeks later, my beloved father died.
GHOSTE became more of a mission than ever. A movement to honor this incredible life my parents gave me. The life we all are given. I am still mourning my father, and miss my mother every single day, but I also celebrate the flame that burned so brightly in both of them. The fire that is in me.
At 54, I do not feel invisible. More than ever I am committed to pursuing my passion for music, and life, and I won’t waste time worrying about what others think of me. Those mean girls have become the ghosts; the annoying but not frightening sort that sometimes put your house keys in the wrong place. What, in fact, made me feel invisible was trying to be someone, something I was not. In letting go, I became whole. Visible. Seen. Heard. It’s my party, and you’re all invited!
I am deeply proud of this album and grateful that I get to rattle my chains while still alive. Whisper in your ear. Remind you that, while you breathe, it’s not too late to speak up and be heard. Fight for your passion. Like the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, I summon you to step into the light, be you, and be heard.
And I am GHOSTE. The E is silent. I am not.
GHOSTE released her debut electro-pop album on October 30th as a way to remind herself and her listeners that life does not end at 50. Popwrapped describes the album as, “Considered and concise, but never laboured, betraying a tremendous lightness of touch this is the kind of collection that rewards the luxury of repeated listenings.” The record features 10 tracks that all display her passion for life and music.
As featured on Fifty and Fabulous!