Ted Wulfer’s Song for “The Ghosts”


From Ted Wulfer’s ninth studio album, the wonderful Tremolo Moon, comes “The Ghosts,” a beautifully haunting song with a poignantly spectral music video. Here’s Ted, in his own words, on “The Ghosts”:

TED WULFERS: “The Ghosts” is the first track on my new album, Tremolo Moon.  Most of my songs come together rather quickly or instantly.  Sure, there are a few that I’ll wrestle with over arrangement or that elusive verse or bridge, but the songs that have had the biggest connection with people have all been written in a matter of minutes.

“The Ghosts” was written in a couple of minutes while in Chicago visiting my Mom in 2012.  My Dad had died the year before and she and I were having a philosophical, emotional and wonderful conversation about life and loss, and what it meant to lose a life partner after so many decades.  

I keep my very first acoustic guitar that I got in high school at my mom’s house so that I can visit my old musical friend every time I’m there.  I’ve written countless songs on it over the years.  It’s an old $120 Mitchell dreadnought acoustic and I don’t get to play it all that often.  

Right after the conversation with my mom, I opened up the case and picked up the Mitchell and it was tuned to dropped D.  The very first thing that came out of it was the sweeping and haunting opening lick that became “The Ghosts.”  The lyrics followed instantly within minutes.  

My life has been full of serendipity and I’ve had several wild and wonderful ghost experiences and encounters.  Some of these have been more poignant or present than others.  I’ve been told I’m what they call a “sensitive” to such interactions and have always embraced them and acknowledged them as something special and otherworldly instead of fearing them. I’ve had numerous ghost experiences in New Orleans.  

For the lyrics, I combined the conversation that I had just had with my mom with my own personal ghost experiences and that juxtaposition came together for the song. 

Some people think the song is about death, others think it’s about relationships and others think it’s an attempt to be scary.  Whenever audiences gather numerous meanings from the same song and make those lyrics their own, you know it’s a good song. 

I am very proud of that spooky, haunting and wonderful opening lick in D that draws the listener in. If my old Mitchell hadn’t been randomly tuned to dropped D, I might not have come up with that lick.  But there’s something alluring about the lick that soothes and haunts at the same time.  For me, the key of D will do that.  I see the color blue every time I hear music in D and occasionally Db major.  It soothes and bathes the listener.  Some really emotional songs are in D and some really happy songs are in D.  I feel D connects deeply with the soul whereas other keys connect with other parts of the psyche and body.   

Whenever I play “The Ghosts” live, that intro lick really quiets and focuses the room in a beautiful way.  The audience resolves…relaxes and knows they are about to experience something.  It’s as if ghosts and spirits take over the room every time I play the song live and people really listen.  It’s a great part of the set live because if you’re cruising in full rocking mode and you want to bring the mood down but keep the energy focused, “The Ghosts” has always done the trick.

I’m also quite proud of the acoustic guitar solo.  Anytime you come up with a solo that combines melody, open strings and slight chords, you get something that sounds really big, even though you are playing something “small” up the neck.   The solo was written within a minute or two of finishing the lyrics while I was in that magical and wonderful phase of playing the new song to myself those first few times.    

I knew it was ready for stage and to record and it became a powerful and emotional part of my live set but it took a while to find an album where “The Ghosts” would find a home on both lyrically and sonically.  

In terms of production,  I wanted to create a dreamy, ethereal, atmospheric and haunting sonic texture as the foundation of the song.  I knew before recording the song that I wanted the vocal to be very rich, dry, up front and present and that the music surrounding it should have a lot of atmosphere and vibe.  It’s that energy that translates for me.  

I produced, recorded and engineered the entire song at my Los Angeles recording studio 663 Sound as I did with all of the songs on Tremolo Moon.  I started out by cooking up a drum part myself that matched the pulse of my original acoustic guitar part and then I recorded the acoustic guitar and lead vocal live while playing to the drum take.   For that part, I used my very special and now famous Gibson J-45 that I’ve had since 2003.  It’s a guitar that Bob Dylan sub-rented from me in 2016 for some rehearsals and performances while his main live rig was on a ship en route to Asia for his upcoming tour dates.  

The lead vocal is a combination of a Telefunken AR-51 tube condenser and a Shure SM-7 going through Vintech and Neve pre-amps, 1176 compressors and a special top secret transformer box.  

From there, I added “Thumper”, my trusty 1978 Fender Precision Bass that’s been on every album of mine since 2002 and dozens of albums and singles I’ve produced for other artists.  I dropped the E down to D to make sure to shake your soul as well as your loins on certain chords as they roll out of your speakers.

I enlisted the great Malcolm Burn (Bob Dylan/Emmylou Harris/Daniel Lanois/Neville Brothers) to mix “The Ghosts” and the entire Tremolo Moon album.

I pre-mixed the tune at 663 Sound and got the tracks ready for his setup at his amazing studio in upstate New York and headed out to NY to join him for the mix sessions.

When I had “The Ghosts” mixed and mastered, I had an idea about trying to incorporate some original wet plate tintype photographs I had found featuring my 1800s ancestors into the video.  Then I thought that  I’d never seen a music video that brings tintype photographs to life.  I reached out to my longtime friend and collaborator Erik Nielsen who I have done many of my music videos with over the years and who is my partner in the Gibson J-45 documentary film I’m directing currently in production.  Erik researched the tech that went into making tintype and wet plate photographs and also researched what it would take to film them and bring them to life while I wrangled storyline, props, casting, wardrobe and direction.

Would it be filmed in stop motion, would it be still frame, would it be animation or would it be something else?  

Erik figured it out and in the spring of 2019, we got together in my living room and tried out his wild innovative technique that he had figured out and my frame idea of breaking the 3rd wall. It worked.


The amazing sauntering ghost lady who haunts my video with grace and elegant beauty is my good friend Jess De Long, who is a fantastic costume designer, model and dancer.  Jess was so wonderful and perfect to cast as the female lead because she knew the precise energy and look to bring to the video combining her vast experience as a costume designer and her love of the Victorian era. 

Every time I perform this song, I dedicate it to all the ghosts and spirits who have gathered with us in the particular room/venue to celebrate and enjoy this song together with us.   We all have a lot of ghosts.  Some are no longer with us and some haunt us from the next room over.  That’s the beauty in storytelling….you tell your truth and it becomes the proof for many strangers who gain personal meanings that make the song their own to help enrich their lives until they become ghosts themselves….

That’s why we write the songs!

——Ted Wulfers – March 7, 2021

“The Ghosts”
Words & Music by Ted Wulfers


They say spirits can’t be seen
They say love lasts forever
I guess this life ain’t a dream
Knowin’ you and I aren’t together

Have you ever lost somebody
Who you loved the most
I guess maybe, to everybody
You and I are the ghosts

They say this town has been around
Since the river met the sea
I bet here there can be found
Ancient versions of you and me

Have you ever lost somebody
Who you loved the most
I guess maybe, to everybody
You and I are the ghosts

Did I see you in a dream?

Did I feel you in the air?
Do I know what’s real that seems?
Knowin’ you will always be there

Have you ever lost somebody
Who you loved the most
I guess maybe, to everybody
You and I are the ghosts
I guess you and I are the ghosts
I guess you and I….
Are the ghosts

“The Ghosts,” from the album Tremolo Moon
©2012 / 2019 Ted Wulfers wheresmymarlinmusic (SESAC)


Produced by Ted Wulfers
Recorded & Engineered by Ted Wulfers at 663 Sound
Mixed by Malcolm Burn
Mastered by Richard Dodd
Mastered for Vinyl by Ian Sefchick at Capitol Mastering

Musicians:

Ted Wulfers: Lead Vocal, Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars, Bass, Organ, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Carl Byron: Accordion
Rob Humphreys: Drums, Percussion

“THE GHOSTS” OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO

Directed by Ted Wulfers 
Produced by Erik Nielsen & Ted Wulfers
Cinematography and Editing by Erik Nielsen 
Wardrobe & Makeup Jess De Long
Starring Jess De Long & Ted Wulfers
Original 1800s Photos of Ted’s actual ancestors
from the Wulfers family photography collection.

A 663 Films Production
In association with 
Supposable Productions

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