NOTE: This feature, interview and single touch on mental health (specifically anxiety). If you or someone you know needs help please seek support through the links provided. Information to Australian support services can be found HERE. U.S. readers please click HERE & U.K. readers HERE for local services.
Following on from the release of “Wide Open” earlier in 2020, New York-based pop artist Illicit Ghost has returned with “Present“, a song that is essentially about living in the moment, but more on that later. “Well, like the song goes, yes, I’m anxious, upset, and tired,” Illicit Ghost expresses to Eat This Music at the top of our interview about her new single. “But also feeling, strong, compassionate and determined!”
“I’m doing OK,” she continues, “In quarantine I’ve been following a strict daily routine that includes meditation, exercise, and eating healthy.” In fact, it is important that Illicit Ghost follows the aforementioned routine to give her days structure and also so she can feel good and stay focused on her goals in everyday life.
Writing and producing music for Illicit Ghost is a huge undertaking, there is a lot of energy that goes into it and sometimes it gets overwhelming and feels like there isn’t enough hours in the day to do all of the work she wants. “I’m learning to pace myself,” she tells Eat This Music, “[and] take things one day at a time which definitely is helping me to become less stressed and it also puts things into perspective.”
Circling back to the above notion of what Illicit Ghost’s new single is about, ‘Present’ is additionally a reminder for Illicit Ghost, and anyone who listens, to live in the moment: “It’s about acknowledging negative feelings, thoughts, doing the work to move forward to free the mind.”
Illicit Ghost started writing this song one day when she was feeling helpless. “I opened a new Ableton session started singing and speaking randomly into the microphone,” she reveals to Eat This Music. “The first line I said into the mic became the first line of the song: “I’m just a little anxious, just a little upset, just a little tired.””
Sometimes for Illicit Ghost, just saying things out loud, like how she feels into a microphone can be cathartic for her when she listens back. So essentially, Illicit Ghost kept recording how she was feeling at the time and liked the melody of the song, so she kept it. “From there I figured out a chord structure that I liked,” she continues in our chat, “[then] added the production and then recorded my vocal and violin.” Illicit Ghost then began collaborating on the production with Elliot Jacobson (whom worked with Allie X, Vérité, Elle King). Illicit Ghost continues: “Since we couldn’t meet up because of quarantine, we sent stems back and forth to keep building the track from our respective “bedroom” studios.”
“I struggle with anxiety and OCD which interferes with my daily life. It’s hard for me to stay “present” but I’m getting better at it.” — Illicit Ghost reflecting on her music.
To coincide with the feature image of this interview – which is also the cover of her upcoming album, Illicit Ghost put her visual interpretation to full use, as she explains the significance: “The clear blue sky obstructed by the chain link fence on the album cover symbolizes feeling trapped inside my own mind.”
“I wanted people to know that if they are struggling with their mental health they are not alone,” Illicit Ghost explains to Eat This music. “There are others who have the same feelings that you have. We are all in this together, and we can all get through it together.” Illicit Ghost believes it is important to her that this song comes out now because we are living in a very uncertain time that has can wreak havoc on mental health: “It’s a reminder to stay in the present as best as you can, and to take care of yourself.”
Illicit Ghost has a few things that she is working on. “I’m finalizing more music for my first EP,” she tells Eat This Music, “which I will release this fall.” Illicit Ghost is constantly working on her weekly Instagram Live show called “Anti-Anxiety Hour,” where she has conversations with other artists about music and mental health (recent guests include Shamir, Vania, ÊMIA and Satellite Mode). “Creating a community that deals with mental health issues is really important so that we can come together each week and talk about what we’re going through,” Illicit continues.
Check out past episodes of “Anti-Anxiety Hour” on YouTube or IGTV
Illicit Ghost also curates a playlist called “Anti-Anxiety” and invites the musicians featured on it to her show. “I’m always working on finding the best new music for it each week,” she explains, “I’m also excited about music coming out this year that I’ve worked on for other artists. But mainly, I’m just trying to stay present.”