Johanna Warren – “circlenot astraight”

Earlier this month, celestial Pacific Northwest songwriter Johanna Warren announced her new album, Gemini I (the first of twin albums) with the sweeping “Hungry Ghost.” “circle not astraight,” the album’s second single, is more subdued but no less powerful — it’s a haunting piano ballad that reminds of me Sia’s “Breathe Me,” of all things, but Warren uses those bare bones to comment on the duality of being. “My addictions make me hate/ But my afflictions make me kind,” she sings, an equation that’s flipped on the back half of the song. “I’m a circle not a straight line.” Warren says that the song was co-written by a ghost — read her story about that and listen to the track via Consequence Of Sound below.

The first time I ever saw a ghost was shortly after he and I co-wrote ‘circlenot astraight.’ I was house-sitting, and the first time I went over to the house I fell into a trance state immediately upon entering. There was a beautiful old piano in the living room, and I felt helplessly magnetized to it–total Sleeping Beauty/ spindle vibe. Without pause, I got completely naked and sat down at the bench, and this song just poured out: all the chords, the melody, many of the words…it emerged more or less fully formed. That’s not usually how songwriting happens for me, and (at least in my conscious mind) I don’t know how to play piano. I made a voice memo on my phone and when I listened back a few days later I got full body chills: my voice didn’t even sound like mine–it was a deep, gutteral, resonant tone I haven’t been able to recreate. Full of anguish.

I had a Tarot card reading over the phone that day, and at three points during the session my reader stopped and said, ‘What? Who was that? I hear a male voice in the room.’ I said, ‘There’s no one here, but I just had a kinda far out experience and I think maybe this place is kinda haunted.’

‘It most certainly is,’ he said.

At around 3am that night I was woken up by loud clattering noises in the house. I thought it was the cats. I sat up to yell at them to be quiet, but they were both sitting perfectly still at the foot of my bed staring at me. That was decidedly unnerving, but I fell back asleep and in the early morning awoke in a state of mild sleep paralysis to the sound of gorgeous, sorrowful classical piano music drifting in from the living room. The open bedroom door perfectly framed a gaunt young man with sandy blond hair and a blue dress shirt hunched over the keys.

So, long story short, I guess you could say I had a ghostwriter… bahahah.

Gemini I is out 9/16 via Spirit House.