Ghost Hounds: On The Loose & Haunting The Charts

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By Shawn Perry

This isn’t Ghost Hounds’ first rodeo, but it might just be their best showing. I can sense that as I enter the inner sanctum of Gibson’s 10th Avenue headquarters in Nashville. I’m taken to one end of the hospitality room where I notice all of the members of the band except one relaxing in the lounge, taking photos and prepping for the second of two performances on the Gibson Garage stage. Celebrating First Last Time, their first album on Gibson Records, they played a public set that afternoon. Tonight, they’re slated to do it again for VIPs and members of the press.

Nearby, there’s a bookcase with a door. Behind the door is the vault where some of Gibson’s most valuable guitars are kept. As I would soon learn, the vault had one other valuable asset as well: Thomas Tull. He made his mark by producing movie franchises like The Dark Knight and The Hangover. But Tull is also a guitar player and songwriter, and Ghost Hounds is his baby. Like the films he’s produced, he’s learned to surround himself with the best people, who, in this case, have helped bring his songs to life.

“The musicianship of the other guys is just fantastic,” he tells me when I ask him about being in a band. With his lean physique and cool demeanor, Tull doesn’t look like a pretentious rock star. Not that he is trying to be one. From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t really matter. Ghost Hounds have the songs, the chops, a charismatic frontman, the whole package. And Gibson is totally on board.

Photo: @EdRode

“It’s a privilege to be here at Gibson for the album release we’re going to play here tonight,” he says. “I grew up very modestly. So going to the music store and seeing a Les Paul hanging up behind the counter that you weren’t allowed to touch, and to now come full circle to be here is pretty surreal.”

In 2016, Tull left the movie business to devote his time and energy to music. The Pittsburgh-based band he put together includes singer Tre’ Nation, bassist Bennett Miller, drummer Blaise Lanzetta, and keyboardist Joe Munroe.

Ghost Hounds issued their debut album, Roses Are Black, in 2019. It was followed in 2021 by A Little Calamity; then in 2022, their third full-length long player, You Broke Me, came out. With each subsequent record, all on Tull’s own Maple House label, the group developed a unique sound, a hybrid of rock, blues and country flavors that has blossomed into its own. They’ve garnered millions of streams, caught the attention of Billboard and SPIN, recorded with Slash (Tull mentions he’s “an old friend”), and even opened for the Rolling Stones. As a bona fide rock and roll band, Ghost Hounds checks all the boxes.

First Last Time is a natural progression that’s already making waves. “Last Train To Nowhere,” the lead single, has charted the U.S. iTunes Rock Charts and entered the Top 10 in the U.K. Partly with his songwriting partner Kevin Bowe, Tull wrote eight of the album’s 10 tracks. The other two are brazen, refreshed takes of Led Zeppelin’s “Hot Dog” and John Denver’s “Country Roads.”

“When the music and lyrics are done, I bring them in, show the guys, play it, and produce it,” Tull says, outlining the process. “Certainly, each of the guys brings their own vocabulary to it, which is just a great discovery when you’re in the studio together.”

Even though Thomas Tull is driving the ship, singer Tré Nation is the vessel masthead, the voice, the face, perhaps the very essence of Ghost Hounds. According to Tull, who has an eye for star quality, the singer was totally under the radar when he found him. “He was on a social media video. I saw it and was like, ‘Wait, who is this guy?’ And then when I got to meet him and hear him sing, I asked, ‘How are you not famous?’ He’s got such an incredible voice, an infectious stage presence, and is a true front man.”

Naturally, Nation is the featured character in the music video behind “Last Train To Nowhere.” Directed by Jay Arcansalin, the four-minute epic captures Nation’s character at a standstill in his life when it dawns on him it’s going nowhere. He falls into a dream where’s he’s in the wild west facing similar life decisions with a twist. Even though the band pops up here and there, you hardly see Thomas Tull. Such is his nature to let others have the spotlight.

Nevertheless, the song and the video accurately encapsulate what he was writing about. “I just thought about a guy who went through his life without a lot of roots,” he says, “choices around career and job and not having a family and living in all these different places — what does that look like or feel like when you’re getting on in years? And how would someone reflect on making those choices?”

“First Last Time” is another reflective ode where the protagonist finds themselves questioning their actions as something “you should or shouldn’t be doing,” as Tull explains it. “You’re telling yourself this is the last time ever you’re going to do this, but you’re going to find yourself on a treadmill of doing things. There’s a lot of thinking on this album about consequences, life choices and things like that.”

Photo: @EdRode

An hour later, Ghost Hounds are on the small Gibson Garage stage, playing a short set. Every player hits his mark, as all eyes are on Nation. He smoothly dips and grooves to the band’s able-bodied support, stepping onto the floor to make contact with the small crowd. His presence is demanding, contagious. One can only imagine how he and the band operate on a larger concert stage.

“One of my favorite things is when the vision that you start with is kind of your true north and you chase that,” Tull told me earlier, “and someday, you’re sitting there with a finished product saying, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted to say or wanted it to sound like.’”

Thomas Tull, handling the rhythm guitar and watching everyone else, looks as if he hit his true north milestone. You have to think he experienced that same feeling when his movies became hits. I asked him earlier about the similarities between making movies and making music, and he immediately filled in the blanks.

“I just think starting with an idea, seeing it through, being collaborative and being able to push and pull and fight and scratch,” he smiles and pauses. “You get it to a point where you’ve kind of chipped everything away and then you have what you have. There’s something incredibly gratifying about the creative process. To be able to continue to do it like this is just an incredible privilege to me.”

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