Y the Ghost, AKA Kansas City's Jacoby Elliot, is an enigma, albeit a super-talented and ambitious one. Inspired by 1980's pop, atmospheric electronic music and "old Steven Spielberg movies," Y the Ghost's music is simultaneously uplifting and world-weary, fully-formed and, going by the video for his first single "Is Anybody Out There?", hinting at great things to come. For his Listen Local feature, Elliot gives some insight into this ambitious project and shares a preview of the next chapter in this series, "Can U Hear Me?".
Tell us about your first single “Is Anybody Out There?” What inspired it?
The song was brought on by an existential, quarter-life crisis. Growing up I had a very idealistic, sort of Disney Channel view of what life should look like. Suddenly I was thrown out into the world and realized that nothing so far had turned out the way I had imagined. For most people that realization would have come sooner, but for me it was sudden and earth-shattering. Everything was upside down, backwards, and inside-out. That feeling of confusion and increasing isolation was really starting to drive me out of my mind at a very rapid pace. I had to do something; it was truly about survival at that point. I wrote "Is Anybody Out There?" in a basement I didn't belong in on a piano that wasn't mine. I turned off all the lights and the song lit up the room.
How and where did you record it?
Using an old Roland XP-50, I started to turn the song into something more upbeat and abstract. I recorded a blueprint demo of a pop song myself, which I then took to Bret Liber at Red Roof Productions who helped me amp it up into this airy atmospheric roller-coaster ride that was polished but messy in all the right ways. I wanted the song to feel like being drunk and sad at 2am with the sound of the city buzzing around you, and he helped me make it happen. It was the first time in my life that my idealistic visions had truly materialized exactly how I imagined them, and I knew I was on to something.
Even at this early stage in your career, so much of your sound and image seem well thought-out. In fact, you describe “Is Anybody out There” as the “first chapter” in a larger project. How far out have you planned this project?
I am at a VERY early, infantile stage and the larger project is essentially my life. Each track, each video is its own chapter that captures, in a larger-than-life/theatrical way, where I'm at in that current moment. The story is unfolding naturally and organically and each project is the light in the darkness helping me get from point A to point B. I have probably 2 albums worth of ideas sort of guiding where I wanna go next, but for now I'm taking it chapter by chapter until I eventually have enough resources to tackle all the material in bigger chunks. IAOT was my way of making my presence known, to hopefully speed things up as much as possible.
What artists and/or eras do you look to for inspiration? What do you admire about these artists?
I'm sure most people wouldn't be surprised to learn that I listen to a lot of 80s pop and atmospheric electronic music, which definitely influences the framework I use to I create, but a lot of my inspiration comes from old Steven Spielberg movies. His best films are centered around something out-of-this-world extraordinary happening to a small person that is flawed and relatable, and I'm just amazed at how magically he captures that. I'm obviously not a giant Hollywood blockbuster machine, but I want my work to capture those feelings of wonder + intimacy.
What most excites you about music and creativity in Kansas City?
There's so many ideas and sounds that haven't been explored yet, or at least not enough in my opinion. There's a lot of opportunity to express something that we might be familiar with from the media or the internet but maybe not many people around here have attempted to create. I want this city to become more romantic, more glamorous, more strange, more Hollywood, more open-minded. The potential is there, we just have to create the world. If you go to the right spots, you'll see that it's already happening.