It’s bittersweet news hearing that Michael Walker will be leaving Ghostbunny
. The band has been making waves in the Austin music community, their most recent album “Silver Tongue”
leaving fans both supremely satisfied and aching for more.
Still, there’s more to come. Walker will be debuting his talents as a producer in Ghostbunny’s forthcoming single, “Get Over You”, out soon.I talked with Walker about his decision to leave Ghostbunny, memories made along the way and his plans for the future.
OV: I know you’ve talked about the many rich experiences you’ve shared with Ghostbunny over the years. Is there any memory in particular that stands out in your mind– something you’ll take with you always when you think of the band?
MW: I’ve been with the band for about three years and when I joined it wasn’t even the original lineup. It was, and still is, a band that has endured turnover for various reasons through the years. That always impressed me. There is something to be said about a band that keeps going. We had one uphill battle after another to go from a band playing whatever gig we could get to being a band who had something to say. But it’s worked, I think/hope.
I’ll always cherish the space that Ghostbunny provided me to grow as a professional and as a musician. In capacity as either manager, guitarist, or producer, I grew immensely and that isn’t something you should ever downplay. I am so grateful for those who helped me along the way.
I also love the last album Ghostbunny put out in 2015 called Silver Tongue. I don’t revisit it very often, but I recently put it on at home and gave a thorough listen-through. Listening to it as loud as possible felt really good and a bit nostalgic. I’m proud of that record and feel especially fond of the lessons I was taught by Matt Meli
while making it. He did an extraordinary amount of work engineering, producing, and mixing the entire thing, not to mention playing keys and synth on it. He took our performances and sonically shaped them into something that, when I listen to it, I think “wow that’s what Ghostbunny sounds like.”
I’ll always cherish the time we spent getting that one off the ground and all that Matt taught me in the process.
OV: You talk about a profound hunger to step up your skill level and begin anew. What do you think sparked that?
MW: When I started playing with Ghostbunny, I wouldn’t have looked at myself and said “I’m the greatest musician alive!” I could barely play the guitar. So it took years of really focused effort and a lot of courage to get to a place where I took critical feedback as a means to get better rather than an affront to my ego. I had some really great musicians tear me apart too. It was great and I mean that un-ironically.
For example, Zac Catanzaro (who now plays drums for Walker Lukens and The Sidearms
) crushed his drum tracks for the last album in as little as two takes all while he was sick. It was ridiculous to watch that and then feel like a flailing child holding a guitar in the studio and thinking “I HOPE THIS SOUNDS OKAY LOOK MOM I AM DOING IT.” Luckily, with that kind of struggle came some very patient mentors.
And still today I want to get better. I practice all the time and try to push myself outside comfortable patterns. I ask for and listen to feedback. If someone else is willing to lend their ear and time to offer critiques, you should listen and take it seriously. To me it’s crucial to constantly hone skill with really mundane practice and vulnerability.
I also recently feel a bit addicted to writing songs, melodies, etc. I write all the time even if it sucks. Just to get the ideas out of the head gives them the space and possibility to emerge as something usable and, if I’m lucky, something that speaks to a listener.
I’ve also been able to have access to some great engineers and producers who have mentored me and helped me wrap my brain around what it takes to get something recorded. Those are the people that hold such underplayed power in the industry, especially for small bands. They take an idea and help you develop it into something real that you can share and look back on later.
Ghostbunny’s forthcoming single, “Get Over You,” will be my debut as a producer. We took a demo track from years ago, stewed with a lot of different ideas, and were able to make a pop song out of it with the most lush textures. Forrest Culotta
is a fantastic engineer/mix engineer and an absolute joy to work with. Spending long hours spent working with everyone in the band to get excellent tones/performances was such a fun way to get to know my musical partners even better. It was a rich and expansive experience to play that role. Long after my departure from Ghostbunny, I’ll still be very proud of the work everyone did on that song.
To more succinctly answer your question, I’m not sure what sparked it. I guess there came a moment when I committed to myself that I would be a professional musician. Once you do that, turning back feels cowardly. The only way forward is discipline. It’s a paramount principle in merging artistic sensibility and skill.
OV: Was the primary motivator behind this decision musically inclined or otherwise personal?
MW: To pretend that there’s a distinction between the musical motivations and personal motivations to leave doesn’t make the most sense. They aren’t mutually exclusive aspects of being in a band. Ghostbunny is a group that I took pride in and wanted to evolve both commercially and artistically while growing personally. To take on a band involves getting into complicated relationships with other people while sharing intimate details about your life/heart/etc.
So yeah, any time you commit yourself to being vulnerable enough to share music or a van for days on end is immensely personal. It was like being in a polyamorous situation without sex to relieve the tricky stuff. Obviously there was tension, but also lots of catharsis too when we’d really make some great sounds together. I was devoted to that project without question.
Ultimately we find times in life when we must draw a boundary between the energy we pour into something and the thing itself. It usually comes down to the fulfillment we’re getting from it. And that’s what happened with Ghostbunny. Both personally and musically I felt like it was time for me to move forward. There’s definitely a sense of alacrity in the move and the notion of growth is exhilarating.
OV: In your own words, the band “has been an incubator for [your] mind and craft”. How important would you say it is for your growth as a musician to leave the comforts of familiarity to venture into uncharted territory? Do you see yourself moving in a different direction with your new project?
MW: Pema Chodron has a great saying that she delivered in a lecture once – “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” That resonates with me.
I think if we’re honest with ourselves about how things are going, we can find a way to open up enough to let go of comfort without a lot of struggle. Doing something that feels safe is easy, but it also teaches us to cling to what we know. It stifles the creative process. Growth occurs when we look outside and make ourselves vulnerable enough to do something entirely new and unknown. That’s when it gets interesting.
It takes a lot of exertion to do that kind of work without being self-aggressive. By self aggression I mean judging your own basic abilities, regretting your choices, or even giving up entirely. There’s always a gentler way to move forward in life. I hope that’s what this transition looks like for me in retrospection. For now it’s just me singing new songs into the void, but that’s what I mean right? You have to surrender not just as a musician, but as a human being if you want to grow.
And to your second question, the new project will absolutely move in a different direction. Everyone involved has vastly different musical backgrounds and ideas, but we are so enthusiastic about our democratic process and the space we’ve created to write together.
We’re all committed to being creatively critical, but we’re treating every idea with dignity and respect. Nothing is off the table from a writing perspective and the space is safe to express yourself, but we’re all working to agree on the best version of what gets put out. The cream always floats to the top and we’re just seeing what kind of milkshake we’re making. Our process is great fun and there’s natural energy in the room when we do it.
OV: What are your future plans? Do you see this as being a solo adventure?
MW: Definitely not a solo venture. The yet-to-be-named group is a quintet consisting of me, Joey Listrom, Jacob Combs, Markus Jones, and Brandon Raehl. We’re all equal part contributors to the writing and instrumentation.
Normally new bands are really tough to get going, but the nascency of this group feels particularly special because we’ve already hit a nice stride in songwriting and discourse right out of the gate. We’ve got about 15 songs we’re working through to determine what we’ll eventually release and negotiating how we’ll do it most creatively. I can’t wait to share the new sounds with you guys.
The new band name is forthcoming but stay tuned. Also of note– Michael will be playing one more show with Ghostbunny for Pennyfest at Empire Control Room August 20th so be sure to see them off! You can purchase your tickets here.