Chasing Ghosts in the Dark, an album by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Sean Hopkins, has been winning a lot of attention recently. Requesting an artist trace his inspiration for a collection of songs is asking a lot, but Sean was willing to give it a try. “I started writing the songs on this album pre-pandemic and continued through lockdown.” But it was a trip to Key West in 2019 spent watching street performers and “sunlight setting” on Mallory Square that led Sean to capture the experience with the highly atmospheric Winter’s Breath. After that, the songs really started to flow.
A Sunday morning cup of coffee on a friend’s back stoop watching church goers gather in a parking lot for a socially distanced outside service inspired the title song that begins with the evocative sound of church bells and sums up what the ritual is for many with the line “Gathering in the lot, searching for what they don’t know.”
The melancholy Tears Surround You, written on an ordinary day as Sean watched and listened to the rain pour down, suggests that raindrops and tears aren’t all that different and if the world could cry collectively, it would cry rain.
“I think overall these songs are about longing,” says Sean, “but there are happy moments in there too. Meandering the beaches and forests of Costa Rica was one of those happy moments,” and it gave him the song Wish With Me, describing his view of “a forest home that’s filled with love and grace, as distant thunder fills the sky.”
But of all the tracks, Sean says, “The most important song on the album for me is Light Shades Grey. It was written for my girlfriend when she needed to be picked up and reinforced. It was my love letter to her.” In life, Sean acknowledges poetically that “Light shades grey as we get older,” but in the next breath offers comfort with “Close your eyes. Everything’s fine.”
A resident of Washington Crossing, Sean was trained from a young age on the guitar but shifted to the bass. He played in several indie bands, eventually getting signed to an indie label and putting out a few records. “Touring at that entry level elevates the spirit but it can be trying too,” says Sean. “Most of my early gigs were up and down the East Coast from Boston to Virginia and everywhere in between, sleeping on floors and enduring long car rides.” Clubs like the 930 Nightclub in D.C., City Gardens in Trenton, NJ, the Cabaret and J.C. Dobbs in Philly, and John and Peter’s in New Hope were favorite spots. Sean says, “I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. They served as the foundation that fuels my music today.”
His career didn’t always move in a straight-forward direction. “I put music on the back burner for quite some time and picked it back up again about six years ago. But this time, I wanted it to just be me as a solo artist, so I dusted off my acoustic guitars and started writing and performing again, which led to the recording and release of this solo album, Chasing Ghosts in the Dark.”
Regarding influences, Sean says, “I’ve always had a fondness for bands like The Cure and Nick Drake, but I’ve also developed a recent love of emerging singer songwriters such as Julien Baker, Lizzy McAlpine, Josh Turner, and Phoebe Bridgers. Put all of that in a pot and mix it up, then add my own personal twist on things, and you get Sean Hopkins.”
When asked if his listeners can look forward to new music in the future, Sean answers, “Absolutely! That’s the beauty of being a singer songwriter. The process never stops. Watching a lovers quarrel from a distance—that’s a song. Having an intimate moment—that’s a song. Someone needs reassurance—that’s a song. Writing, recording, and performing is a lifelong passion that I hope to continue for many years to come.”
Chasing Ghosts in the Dark can be streamed or purchased on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp.
PHOTO CAP: Sean Hopkins