By Dale McGarrigle
ELLSWORTH — Sometimes it’s just fate.
Griffin Sherry, Max Davis, and Sean McCarthy grew up together in the Buxton-Hollis area of southern Maine.
But it wasn’t until decades later, in June 2012, when the trio started playing music together as Ghost of Paul Revere, who will play at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29, at The Grand in Ellsworth for the first time.
The group started innocently enough: “I was playing some solo shows in Portland, at the Dogfish Cafe, and they used to join me so they’d get free beer,” Sherry recalled in a recent interview. “Eventually, we decided to start writing music together.”
As for the bizarre, historical-sounding band name, it came to Sherry in a dream, while he was a fine-arts student in Western New York.
“I woke up and couldn’t shake that name,” Sherry reminisced. “The idea was that [Ghost of Paul Revere] could be a band that could pass as any style or genre of music that I wanted it to at the time. It could be any cast of rotating musicians. Once Max and Sean joined up and we started writing music together, we decided to take my name right out of it and keep it as Ghost of Paul Revere.”
Guitarist Sherry, bassist McCarthy and banjo player Davis share the vocalist duties for the band.
So how did Ghost’s rich holler-folk sound, full of luscious melodies and layered harmonies, develop?
It was accidental, Sherry explained. Davis was learning the banjo while Sherry was relatively new to the acoustic guitar. To fill out their sound, they teamed up with McCarthy and made him relearn the bass.
“The sound kind of developed around the instruments that we had,” he said. “It wasn’t really a conscious choice. We started at the tail end of the New Folk/Americana movement, which was gaining popularity. But for us, we were trying to write songs that were interesting.”
Who are the group’s biggest influences?
“I think you could say The Band and The Beatles are both really big influences for us,” Sherry said. “I grew up listening to stuff like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and Elvis and Rush. Max was more on the singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan-esque side. And Sean was a big fan of Springsteen and some musical theater stuff. So we were all over the board. It was very eclectic.”
The band has recently grown into a quintet, adding Chris Gagne on drums and Jackson Kinchleoe on harmonica and lap steel guitar. Expanding the group has helped Ghost to expand their sound.
“Originally the sound was more of a traditional folk/bluegrass idea, where it could just be us around one microphone,” Sherry said. “Now we’ve become less afraid of using tools at our disposal to make different sounds sonically with the introduction of a drummer and a multi-instrumentalist. We’re realizing more of the sonic landscape that we always wished we could when we had a smaller setup.”
The founding members share the songwriting chores.
“We all bring the songs we’ve been writing to the table when we’re looking at starting to do work on a new record,” Sherry explained. “We just experiment with them and see which songs fit the group and which songs don’t. I would say that a song chosen would be 85 percent complete and everyone else adds their part to make up the song which appears on the record.”
Ghost of Paul Revere has always been a band best experienced live.
This fact is reflected on their earlier recordings, which either feature live cuts or versions of songs that could be easily duplicated on stage.
But, as their musical confidence has grown, their approach to the studio has changed.
“With an album, we’ve gotten more to a sense of it being more intentional from start to finish,” Sherry said. “For me, that morphs into a mentality that we could make records that didn’t have much to do with the live show or how the songs were presented live but could be a complete thought from start to finish, that we didn’t have to strain to try to replicate live. That meant we could do things such as adding strings or horn sections or Wurlitzers or clavs, whatever we wanted to experiment with at that time to kind of build up that sonic landscape.”
The Ellsworth show is near the end of 2019. So what are the group’s goals for 2020?
“Next year will herald the release of a new record and our first major return to Europe, which is very exciting,” Sherry said. “We’re also working on the final details for [special band event] Ghostland 2020, which should be one heck of a time.”
For tickets for the Ghost of Paul Revere show, call The Grand at 667-9500 or visit grandonline.org.