EXCLUSIVE: Crimson Calamity Talks New Single “Ghost”

Featured Photo Credit: Kenzie Maroney

Since 2015, Americana duo Crimson Calamity has been refining a divine concoction of Country, Folk, Rock, and Americana. 

This sound spills over into their latest single, “Ghost.” Mallory Trunnell and Lauren Harding lament on the memories of a past failed relationship.

It’s soulstiring melody is complemented by an electric guitar feature from accomplished artist Zane Carney. 

We chatted with Trunnell and Harding about “Ghost,” its upcoming music video and more!

How did you both get interested in music?

Lauren: We’ve both had music in our blood since a very young age. My family is very musical on both sides, my Dad has an amazing singing voice and would teach us songs before we could really even understand what we were singing about. We all played instruments as kids and I began voice lessons at age 11. I was lucky enough to have an amazing school in my hometown that fostered my love for performing arts and even gave me a scholarship to college. I also had an incredible voice teacher, Larry Keith, who to this day is the best voice teacher I’ve ever worked with. I really got into songwriting in college and it totally shifted my focus away from theater. The big “aha” moment for me is when I saw Sara Bareilles perform her song ‘Gravity’ on stage with just her piano… tears just started streaming and I was like “this is what I HAVE to do with my life.”

Mallory: My grandma Ruby played the piano entirely by ear and from a very young age started teaching me how to sing, how to play a little and we’d watch all the MGM Musicals over and over together. She quickly realized I had an interest and insisted to my parents that I get lessons to learn to read music since she never got to. I started taking piano at 5, writing songs around the age of 9, mostly instrumental and mini musicals that had 3 or 4 songs in them. I then attempted to start teaching myself guitar around the age of 14 cause I wanted something I could take around with me. This is when the songs with lyrics started to really show up for me.

How did you two get connected? 

Lauren: We actually went to the same college in Los Angeles. Mallory’s brother went there too and was a good friend of mine so I would see her around, but we didn’t really connect until after college. Once we started hanging out, we knew we were soul sisters. At first, we’d write, play gigs around LA with a few other friends and tour together. That really fostered our love of working with one another.

Mallory: After lots of exploration as solo artists, we ended up being on the same page about wanting to be in a group with a harmony heavy/Americana/Roots-Rock sound. We participated in a songwriting challenge and the theme was “write about a historical event or person” so ended up writing a couple of songs together inspired by Calamity Jane, which gave us our band name. From there this soundscape of storytelling, harmony and organic instrumentation started to emerge. Looking back, it still feels like magic how it all fell together. The sound, the visuals, the branding. It kinda felt like it appeared suddenly. We got lucky.

Who did you listen to growing up and do they have an influence on your sound today? 

Lauren: I started off with a foundation of everything from Tony Bennett, to Toni Braxton, to Elton John, David Bowie, The Carpenters to Billie Holiday, a bit of Mozart and Patsy Cline. When I started developing my own tastes, I listened to the stereotypical millennial boy bands and Britney… then going into high school I really developed a diverse taste in music. I will forever be influenced by Bowie because I love him so much and I think my voice is for sure influenced by Karen Carpenter. The artists that sparked my songwriting fire were people like Sara Bareilles, Elton John, Ingrid Michaelson and The Beatles.

Mallory: My dad listened to a lot of The Beach Boys, The Animals, The Turtles, Elvis, Diana Ross, – My mom listened to a lot of Lyle Lovett, KT Oslin, Roseanne Cash, Phil Collins, Daniel Lanois, Chris Isaak, U2, The Beatles. I was super duper into bands like No Doubt, Garbage, the Cranberries, and artists like Alanis Morissette and Cheryl Crow. I think all of it had and still has a big influence on our sound for sure. It’s fun to have the amalgamation from each of our backgrounds fuse together.

What was the inspiration for your new single, “Ghost”?

We wrote “Ghost” with two of our favorite LA artists Shayon Daniels and Nicci Funicelli. It came from an idea of feeling “haunted” by someone or something that you just can’t shake. An unrequited love, an unhealthy relationship or maybe the baggage that comes from a marriage gone wrong. We have all wanted to be free of something that was holding us back from peace and happiness and we really wanted to capture that with this song. 

What was the writing and production process like?

We recorded this song and a handful of others with badass female producer Gena Johnson. She’s a genius. Not only does she have extensive knowledge from an engineering and sonic standpoint, but she’s a killer singer/songwriter too, which is the perfect combination for us. She knows how to capture the feeling of music so perfectly and really challenged us vocally to do the same. She brought in Rachael Moore as a fellow female engineer, and players like Brian Allen and Chris Powell, who are legends in their own right. Recording these songs was a dream. It was extra special getting to have the ship manned by a female producer, a female engineer, at a female owned studio (MOXE in Nashville) and mastered by Kim Rosen at Knack Mastering. Working with women on this project was really important to us, and we’ve never felt more at ease in the recording process as we have with these songs.

How did you get connected with Zane Carney and what was it like to collaborate with him on the track? 

Zane has been a friend of ours for over a decade. He’s such an accomplished musician and just a great person. This is actually our second collaboration with him… he produced our song “Horses to Holy Water” on our last EP. When it came time to finish this song, we knew that he’d just “get it.” His sound is so unique and he’s a master at evoking the kind of emotion we were looking for instrumentally. He spent a whole weekend tracking several different guitars and tones, giving us a literal cornucopia of options to pick from. That solo still breaks our hearts in the best way every time we hear it. We feel so lucky to have him be a part of it.

What was the inspiration for the upcoming music video?

We wanted to tell a visual story of two characters – one of whom is being ‘haunted’ by the lingering presence of the other. We knew we wanted a pair of dancers in a cool, old house, and we knew we wanted to work in the woods with smoke bombs for our segment. Turns out: smoke bombs are painful to deal with but they look really awesome on screen haha. Our director, Mike Darling, helped us storyboard it into reality and Angelica Star’s artistic direction brought it together beautifully day of. Fortunately, Nashville is a melting pot of talent of all varieties and an Instagram search led to finding choreographer Lizzie Clark who hooked us up with the amazing dancers, Kittrell Poe and Anna Gustafson. Watching them work together with Mike behind the camera was so inspiring. Stylist Ronna Holtz of Black Shag Vintage styled us for the shoot and made us look way cooler than we are in real life. The Nashville community is just so generous and wonderful and we’re so thankful for everyone. We’re humbled and in awe of the talent, we were able to bring together to make it happen.

If you could set fans up in the perfect environment to listen to “Ghost,” what do you imagine it looking like? 

Mallory: I think a room like Analog at The Hutton Hotel in Nashville, or The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood would be perfect. An intimate room with lots of vibe and a “presence” of its own. Definitely some candles, soft lighting, jewel tones. The Phantom of the Opera lover in me would also want a fog machine, but I think that would be too cheesy haha.

Lauren: Unfortunately, live music isn’t really an option during this crazy pandemic so I would say the perfect environment for listening to this song would be anywhere you feel comfortable crying or getting into your feelings haha.  

What can fans look forward to next? 

This song is sad and dark in nature, which is not entirely foreign for us sound wise. It’s also not unlike this year has been for a lot of folks… but just like this year, we’re ready to move forward from that darkness. Expect a brand-new side of Crimson Calamity in the new year. The songs that are on the way are full of warmth, feminine energy and earthy tones paired with visuals that reflect that vibe. We are really looking forward to exploring this softer, uplifting chapter while still maintaining the bad ass, Wild West witchy vibes we are known for.

What is one quote that you have heard or that you go by that you want to ECHO out to the world? 

“I figure if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one” – Calamity Jane

Listen to “Ghost” here.