“Sitting down to write this, I’m faced with that nagging question, do songs make any difference?”
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Dave Hause questioned this after being roused to address the recent Black Lives Matters protests… in song. Along with his brother Tim, the singer and songwriter eventually penned “Your Ghost,” an emotional track addressing the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Tamir Rice, and many other black lives to police brutality.
“It’s a privilege to write songs for a living, and I write them to try to make some sense of the chaotic world in which we live,” Hause tells American Songwriter. “I watched the footage of George Floyd’s murder from the safety of my home, and I experienced the outrage, despair, and grief that so many of us shared. My brother Tim and I got to work on this song that week as a way to try to process what we had all collectively witnessed.”
At first, Hause says they were trying to find the right tone for the track and had some obvious blind spots to the issues, and wrestled with them. “[Then] that nagging question again: am I just another white guy singing about someone else’s experience?” says Hause. “Yes, I am. But could this song make a difference, even a small one?”
Steady and haunting in its delivery of lyrics With a footprint on your shoulder, face down in the street / Another precinct that’s been rotted out / Another song of I can’t breathe, “Your Ghost,” featuring neo-folk artist Amythyst Kiah and The Suffers’ Kam Franklin, is a piercing, poignant reflection on continued violence and injustice against blacks in America.
“Music is my strongest form of protest right now, so when Dave reached out about what he had in mind for this song with Amythyst [Kiah], there was absolutely no hesitation,” says Franklin of the track—proceeds of which will also go to Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, an organization that works to post bail for their freedom. “The only way that the stories and atrocities against people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, or Tamir Rice won’t be forgotten is by telling them over and over again.”
As a soul singer, activist, writer, Franklin knows the power of words and hopes the song can push people to dig deeper. “It is my great hope that music like what we’ve created with ‘Your Ghost’ will be used to encourage people to dig into the horror, the triumph, and lessons that emerge from this moment in history we are currently living,” says Franklin. “I ask for this so that the retelling of violence, injustice, and oppression toward Black people one day becomes just that… history.”
Hause remembers a recent conversation with a fan after a show in Portland, Oregon. As he stood at the back of a club, a grizzled white guy came up to him and said, “Hey, I’m a retired Marine, military man my whole life. Your song, ‘Seasons Greetings From Ferguson’ [off 2017’s Music for Everyone] changed my whole perspective on racial justice. I have been dedicating a ton of my time to understanding and trying to make things better since I heard that song.”
It was a reminder to Hause that yes, songs can make a little difference. “They’re a way to reframe, to understand, and to convey ideas that sometimes we can’t in regular conversation and debate,” he says. “They can provide some comfort, they can start a conversation, maybe even prompt a new way to look at things. If they prompt even one person to consider something they had the privilege of overlooking before, then it was worth it.”
Of the current social climate, America still has a long way to go, but can get there.
“We all have a tremendous amount of heavy lifting to do in order for there to be equity for all in this country,” says Hause “We all need to keep pushing, keep having the hard conversations, and put ourselves in the shoes of others to try to make things right. We hope this will be part of that push.”