Breathe with John Merchant, Todd Long
After drawing attention to themselves in 2020 with their debut EP, ‘Headed West,’ and full-length feature ‘No Saints in the City’, the duo of singer-songwriters John Merchant (former Dutch Henry songwriter and guitarist) and multi-instrumentalist Todd Long (previously with The Verve Pipe) aka Ghots of Sunset, are set to return with their 3rd release, and first for new record label Deko Entertainment, titled Breathe.
Following the success of both Headed West and No Saints in the City, Ghosts of Sunset amicably parted ways with Golden Robot Records and sought a home for their third effort. The band met with several labels, ultimately deciding to join the rooster of Deko Entertainment. Todd explains, “Ten minutes into the first meeting; you could tell these were art-driven, artist-friendly people who, like us, are fans first, as well as accomplished recording and touring musicians. They “got it” right away”.
Continuing to establish their reputation as a driven, focused, prolific songwriting team, Merchant and Long had a new album completed and delivered to Deko by the end of 2022. Including only a handful of guest musicians, including Ricky Dover Jr. (Tuk Smith and the Restless Hearts) for two tracks, and continuing to work with their “secret weapon” Patrick Kennison (Lita Ford, Heaven Below, Union Underground), the band found themselves “boiling down” their process with an even stronger focus on melodic, anthemic rock n roll. We are Ghosts of Sunset—a melodic, hard rock band with wide-ranging influences from all genres of music.
HMA: What can you tell me about your latest release?
We work painlessly. The hardest part is always finding the time to work. As adults living adult lives, we also have responsibilities beyond the band. Being well-rounded grown-ups means finding balance in all aspects of our work and personal lives. We usually start with a musical idea. Typically, a “riff” that moves us. After establishing that, we continued to get a working musical skeleton in place while combining the melody and lyrics. The entire time, we’re shaping the music to reinforce whatever narrative we’re working with and create musical moments that build emotion.
HMA: Could you describe your artwork and how it fits your music?
The artwork on the cover of Breath is extra special to us because the little girl pictured is my partner Todd Long’s daughter, Emerson. Todd had taken the picture, and I saw it. I told him, “Man, this looks like an album cover”. We shared it with our label, Deko Entertainment, and they loved it. We wanted to make it enjoyable and placed her in a contradictory environment—scuba gear in the desert. The idea is that no matter where you find yourself, relax, BREATHE and know it will work out. Anxiety is a mental health issue for many people; it’s almost just a message of “it’s gonna be alright”.
HMA: What can you tell me about your inspirations?
Musically, Todd and I both find inspiration in great songs. That can be something from the past, from when we were young, or something brand new and maybe even stylistically polar opposite to what Ghosts of Sunset does. We are always listening for hooks, melody, and storyline.
HMA: What are your thoughts on free speech?
For me (John Merchant), there comes a level of responsibility like ANY freedom. If you are using your space responsibly, you’re typically going to consider your audience, impact, and scope. Free speech often allows us to take an unflinching look at reality and talk about it honestly. It allows us to express truths, and when you eliminate free speech, you begin to eliminate the ability to tell the truth. The truth is concrete, the truth is unwavering, the truth can hurt, the truth can heal, and the truth is powerful. Free speech allows us to tell the truth. Again, with any freedom comes responsibility. And if you’re working toward good, healing, and helping, you can’t go wrong.