You might say Handsome Ghost’s spirit arose from a personal and creative deconstruction — a classic scenario of life after death with a modern spin.
Tim Noyes began writing folk songs as a fresh-faced philosophy major at a small college, five hours west of his native Boston. After graduation, he taught high school English in New York City and played open mics in the evenings. The contrast of clubs and classrooms couldn’t last, and a publishing deal encouraged him to make the leap to full-time musician.
Eventually, Noyes grew disenchanted by the limitations of folk music. As his tastes became more eclectic, “One month I love R&B and then it’s today’s pop or 90’s hits,” the acoustic world seemed smaller and smaller until it held little interest. With a return to academia feeling more and more imminent, the singer and specter trekked to a snowbound Vermont studio for one last shot, this time with a different approach. Though he’d still sketch each song with vocals and guitar, next he’d adorn them with synths, soundscapes and various sonic accoutrements, enriching the compositions and heightening the emotion in the process.
“The electronic elements were so intriguing to me,” Noyes explains. “Certain things are off limits in other genres. I love Handsome Ghost because we’ll try anything.” The one rule he followed — a nod to his folk background — was absolutely no electric guitar.
“Blood Stutter,” a demo from those sessions, went viral on Spotify with 7 million plays and counting and drew acclaim from the likes of USA Today. Photo Finish Records inked a deal with Handsome Ghost in 2014, and Noyes headed to Los Angeles to cut his debut EP, “Steps,” with producer extraordinaire Matt Squire (Ariana Grande, Youngblood Hawke).
Far away from New England, Noyes grew to embrace his beginnings, and his naturally defenseless vocals emerged front and center. “Handsome Ghost isn’t folk music — we have big drums and production, synths etc. But I like to think that above all that stuff is the song itself, and I hope that listeners can connect with my words and melodies more than anything else.”