On his second solo outing, Andy Black is getting ready to come back into the world more confident in himself. 'Ghost of Ohio' is a fully-fledged triumphant return, not only in his passion for music but also in his roots. It's a creative exploration the likes of which he's never done before, but the most important element comes from his reckoning with his past self - or selves.
"I've been going through self-discovery, or whatever you want to call it, for the last three years especially," he admits, reclining comfortably in a chair in a hotel lounge in West London. Andy Biersack, or Andy Black, or however you may know him ("People call me all kinds of shit!") has been battling with himself since his career began in his tender teen years.
Stemming from his formative band, Black Veil Brides, where he entirely played up to the part of disenfranchised frontman fighting against the world - even down to the accidental moniker of Andy Sixx ("It was my fucking MySpace name!"). All he was trying to do was support those who couldn't do so themselves. Headlines followed him around the world targeting him as ‘the band you love to hate', for Andy it was a push and pull of trying to find out just exactly who he is, which is how his solo endeavour came to be.
"I feel like it's my duty, as a person who's been given this opportunity, to continue to find ways to give the audience that has allowed me to do this, something new or different. One of the things previously in my career I hadn't done is really examine myself personally," he says.
"For people who have continued to buy records and show up and support me, it would feel like a betrayal of their time if I didn't say, ‘Well, now I'm going to try my hardest to delve into different areas'. It feels good to know that whether people agree with it or not, or like it or not, for me, personally I look at this record a certain way. This is very indicative of how I am as a person."
The personality that shines through on ‘Ghost Of Ohio' is one that's building Andy into the person he wants to be. He's been sober for a few years now, which brought with it its own set of struggles. "Everything I was afraid [of] all came at me at once in this menagerie of anxieties, and I had to think about all this stuff that I had spent years trying to run from," he admits with an air of disbelief.
"It wasn't until I got into the meat of writing the record that I wanted to make it about me. I didn't know how much I was going to talk about stuff or what I was willing to say, so I think it pretty quickly became that it was about me. In a direct way. Every song is ‘about' me."
His thirst to reincarnate this world around his hometown of Cincinnati, came as all things have to Andy - as a reaction; to wanting to be acknowledged by it, being disenfranchised by it all, and to face up to what's gotten him to this point.
"For a long time, it wasn't great. I wouldn't even say I was from Ohio because I felt so much angst towards it," he reveals. "I couldn't wait to get out; I felt like everybody had wronged me. It was more of over the last couple of years."
Taking a tentative pause, he continues.
"In 2014 my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. In the initial parts of her chemo treatment, I took some time off and stayed with her for a couple of weeks to help her out in any way I could. During the day when she'd be taking a nap or whatever, I'd be walking around my old neighbourhood, and it was just a whole different experience for me, not being there for a two-day trip to visit my parents, but essentially living there.
"Going to the grocery store I used to go to as a kid, and seeing people I went to high school with, and all that kind of thing. It built up my interest in being there more; it just became about seeing the positive sides, and that's really what the record is about. Where you're from, for everyone, is both the home of the best memories, and the worst memories, and it's a difficult thing to deal with if you don't live in the place you're from."
With the notion behind ‘Ghosts' being rather implicit in Andy's life, the musical aspect is where the real freedom for him comes into play. Mentioning Bruce Springsteen several times, the inspiration striking through from his use of street names as song titles and a euphoria to hammer home the realism of his lyrics, he proves the alternative American dream is alive and kicking.
Enlisting the help of various engineers, some as far away as Australia, to experiment and dip his toe into various new musical addendums to his career, Andy is always on the push forward - even when things didn't entirely start that way, particularly the titular track.
"It was written originally as just a straight ballad, one that didn't go anywhere. I played it for my wife and she said it was great, but I can always tell... because she's a songwriter, there were clues [she didn't like it], but she didn't say anything. And inversely nobody was doing anything with the song. It was just sitting there."
Explaining further on the more exploratory side of ‘Ghosts', he continues.
"It's reactionary admittedly. We live in a playlist world. I look at it and go, ‘Why am I so obsessed with the idea that we need everything to fit in the same box?' If my writing isn't going to change exponentially, what can we do to change these elements to kind of break it out of the mould of everything being essentially variations of one song?"
Which is why this album fits as the most logical step forward for Andy; he's been front and centre for so long, toying with identities and running from his past, being led by his own insecurities - but now, with it all laid out in front of him, the ghost of Ohio himself can finally be laid to rest.
Taken from the May issue of Upset. Andy Black's album 'The Ghost of Ohio' is out now.
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