Review: Nobody at the Circus – The Ghostwriter’s Story Through Place and Song: In the One-Man Band-Annotated Lyric Book, the Path is the Goal – Music
Nobody at the Circus – The Ghostwriter’s Story Through Place and Song“/>
“I’ve spent my whole life doing something that I can’t fully explain or understand. Let alone command,” admits Steve Schecter on Page 1 of person at the circus. Schecter — an avid old Nissan pickup truck and 4-track recording who performs an abrasive variety of punk blues under the moniker Ghostwriter — refers to the songwriting. The Austin-based guitarist, foot drummer and raw vocal stylist has released 10 albums since 2003 filled with songs written quickly, with minimal revisions, to capture their natural essence. What any of them specifically means will remain to be interpreted, as their author rejects the explanation of his desperate and provocative compositions in this paperback, instead exposing the circumstances surrounding their time and place of creation. As such, person at the circus is a memoir and a philosophical treatise disguised as a lyrical book.
“I sleep better on a foam mattress/ At home too long and I’m always fidgeting/ Looks like a character you don’t mess with/ Everywhere I go I know a three dollar breakfast.” So go along the lines of 2006’s “Maverick” The darkest hour (The last adventure is here)still in Schecter’s AAAA patterned quatrain style.
As it is in the lyrics of Ghostwriter, the life of a road dog plays an important role in Circus, which details two decades of driving across America on DIY tours, playing shows, selling self-produced records and sleeping in the back of his Nissan. I’ve often joked that being a tractor-trailer driver is like being a freelance musician without the humiliating moments, but Schecter (who actually has a song called “Kinship to Truckers”) exudes a philosophy of a blue-collar artist who comes across as extraordinarily grounded and spiritually autonomous. Other themes emerging in the six chapters interspersed with epochs of lyrics are going their own way, falling in love, persevering, and living in a small town. Ghostwriter, fittingly, hails from a ghost town: Friend, Oregon – population under 20.
Of this, he writes, “I am overly sensitive to the barrage of misconceptions that rural people are cramped, dark, or worse, compared to our urban counterparts. I will concede that they are protected. In my opinion, people everywhere can be silly or narrow-minded, and city-dwellers could benefit from the principles found in rural communities. Maybe even find wisdom.
It is unusual and admirable to read a book by a musician who never writes anything to imply that he is good or successful, even if the Ghostwriter’s commitment is blatant. Without saying it categorically, the text emphasizes the profoundly significant impact that a musical career, with the mindset that “the path is the goal”, has on one’s life – even if it ends with laments that independent artists are becoming dependent on corporations and smartphones are transforming people. attention away from their surroundings. Overall, Schecter’s wisdom, humility, and perspective bring insights bigger than his music and make you wish more artists released situationally annotated lyric books. Call it a discography of life.
Person at the Circus: The Story of Ghostwriter Through Place and Song
by Steve Schecter, Gob Pile, 187 pp., $14 (paper)
A version of this article appeared in print on September 23, 2022 with the title: Person at the Circus: The Story of Ghostwriter Through Place and Song