“I’m challenging myself to be myself as much as possible,” Kacey Johansing tells me. The San Francisco musician is describing for me her current approach to performing live. However, the sentiment would also seem to ring true to her sophomore LP, Grand Ghosts, which she is self-releasing next Tuesday, February 26th. Johansing is a former member of both Geographer and Honeycomb and currently one-half of folk duo Yesway. In 2010 she released her solo debut, Many Seasons. The album boasted an impressive array of collaborations with SF musicians, but played more like an exciting and spontaneous musical adventure than something concise and fully-conceptualized, something that Grand Ghosts would seem to manage to do: “I’d say it’s more arranged and more focused and I had more experience being in the studio, rather than being just hyper-excited to be in the studio for the first time, as I was for the previous album.” Grand Ghosts also boasts a steady lineup that Johansing has grown quite fond of: Jeremy Harris on guitar and piano, Robert Shelton on keyboards, James Riotto on bass, Ezra Lipp on drums, and Andrew Maguire on vibraphone, glockenspiel, and percussion.
Not surprisingly, the appropriately-titled Grand Ghosts is quite a bit darker than its predecessor. It’s quite smoky and tends to glide back and forth between wisely whimsical soul and morosely profound cabaret. “I think some big things were ‘loss,’” Johansing tells me. She admits that much of the album was inspired by losses she experienced during its writing process: “The songs I’m most passionate about are those about things and people that I lost in that time.” She tells me that her two favorite tracks are “Disappearing Act” and the album’s title track: “They’re not necessarily singles; they’re these epic, grand arrangements. I put the most energy into those and I feel like they’re very cinematic and the most ‘me.’ Those are just the most ‘me.’”
Despite Grand Ghosts hitting shelves next Tuesday, Johansing already has new music in the works, which should also be dropping in the relatively near future: “I’m working on new music. It’s to be determined whether it will be a full LP, or just an EP.” In the meantime, she plans on hitting the road (“I’m doing a lot of planning for touring this spring.”) Details are yet to be finalized, although she is confirmed to play a gig with Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside on March 2nd at the Great American Music Hall, as a part of San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival. Despite the sullen heaviness of her upcoming album, she tells me that her live shows tend to evoke quite a different sentiment. She describes her performances to me as, “Epic, just having lots of fun… I think people generally have a lot of fun at my shows.”