Steve Schecter is talking to me, not surprisingly, from the road. As the one-man operation behind Ghostwriter, Schecter has taken his dark blues across the United States and even into Europe for more than a decade. And after so many years he still carries on a romance with the road, although he confesses a certain allegiance to playing the States.
“I was inspired by guys who drove around the U.S. to shows,” says Schecter. “Schedules are hard, driving is hard—[in Europe] traveling isn’t as self-reliant.”
Self-reliance is what has kept Ghostwriter going for so long, whether it be touring, promoting or even recording. Schecter recorded his last two albums—including Ghostwriter’s latest LP, Prayin’ All the Time—on one-inch tape in his former home in The Dalles, Ore. Prayin’ is a gritty and dark record that bypasses modern blue-eyed blues for stripped-down, backwoods sermons that sound like they’re being delivered through whiskey- and smoke-damaged vocal cords. Any deals with the devil are justified.
Live, Ghostwriter can put the fear of God in you. Schecter plays his hollow-body through an amp and stomps his foot down on a customized kick-pedal tambourine, unleashing some serious power through his minimalist approach. While he misses playing in bands, as he did in the decade prior to starting Ghostwriter, Schecter’s current set-up keeps egos and personalities out of the equation while making touring easier.
“It’s tough to keep a band together for more than three or four years,” he explains. “I’ve kept with Ghostwriter because travel and recording are more sustainable.”
Outside of touring Schecter has also moved around a lot. Born in eastern Oregon, he eventually moved to Austin, Texas, for a long spell before returning to Oregon a few years ago. He made the move to Portland, Ore., last year. It was upon his return to the Pacific Northwest in 2008 that he was tapped to open for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a night that saw him performing in front of thousands at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom. Schecter insists he didn’t change his approach—he’s just as possessed in front of 300 people as he is 3,000. The Ghostwriter moniker has afforded the guitarist to perhaps become more unhinged.
“I liked having that anonymity,” Schecter says. “It separates me from the sea of singer-songwriters.” At this point it’s difficult to separate Steve Schecter from his shadowy persona. “Ghostwriter is more comfortable,” he continues. “The themes are pretty universal. Although a song like ‘Destroy Human Life’—people who relate to it are probably a little darker than me.”
Schecter insists that he’s not down on life. And our conversation isn’t filled with over-the-top analogies or hidden meanings. He’s an average dude with a wife and house who buys old records and has an affinity for Ricky Nelson. He still does warehouse work on the side.
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the Ghostwriter project. The milestone quietly came and went, according to Schecter. When asked about it, he responds like someone whose life is less about analyzing than just doing. “Ten years … I probably should have exploited that more, but to me it’s no big deal.”
It helps to be timeless. That bodes well for Ghostwriter’s still being here in another 10 years.
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