Last summer, singer-songwriter Robby Lester, a.k.a. the Ghostwrite, toured the country in what he says is a "fuel-efficient vehicle." Even so, he could barely afford to get from city to city. So, for this summer's tour, he's planning togo wheeless. Calling his June jaunt the "Leave the Car at Home" tour, he's traveling by mass/public transportation as he hits all points between New York and Chicago in support of his new album, Self Destructs. Lester recently spoke from a job site in Washington D.C. where he was finishing up a stint as a carpenter, a job he says is "like playing with Legos for adults."
What inspired the "Leave the Car at Home" tour?
I've been planning on it for a while. I did a big tour last summer in my car, which is really fuel-efficient, but it was not economical or practical for any reason. Gas was like $5.25 on the West Coast, and I thought, "It's just absurd to even travel like this." I'm just trying to be more responsible for my footprint.
Getting around once you're in the city seems like it won't be that difficult. How do you plan to get from city to city?
There are a couple of bus lines that are really good. They have straight shots between each city. It will actually be pretty easy.
What's the worst experience you've ever had using public transportation?
I got my CDL [truck-driving] license about five years ago because I enjoy traveling. But it sucked. Anyway, I finished up my schooling in Van Buren, Arkansas. The trucking company was kind enough to book me a trip home on a Greyhound bus. It took me 36 hours to get from Van Buren to Baltimore. I stay away from that bus line as much as possible because they don't treat their passengers like human beings. I am on that bus line twice for this tour, from Pittsburgh to Columbus and Columbus to Cleveland. But that's only because there are no alternatives. Pittsburgh to Columbus is the missing link for Megabus.
Have you made any lasting friendships?
Um, no, but I think this tour I'm going to. I have a new friend from Canada named John Creeden who does public-transportation tours, and he saw I was doing one and asked if he could come along. I said, "Absolutely." If people want to come and join in on the fun, that's awesome.
Your new album is called Self-Destructs. Was that title inspired by Greyhound?
Maybe a little bit. I titled it that because I felt like I was starting to lean back to a mentality after my winter tour that I hadn't had since I peddled drugs to the elderly for a pharmaceutical company. You wake up and think about making a dollar. Nothing else matters, and you think, "Fuck everybody else." I thought I was going to be done with music. I go through phases like that. With this album, though, I feel pretty good.
I'd describe the songs on the album as pretty minimalist indie-folk tunes. Do they lend themselves to busking?
We're going to find out this tour. I'm going to play them on the street corners once I get into town because I'll have a lot of extra time.
You have songs that reference activism and resistance. Where do you position yourself on the political spectrum?
Well, I definitely don't align myself on either side. I think that deep at heart, they're both trying to do something positive, but they're so short-sighted with their processes and ideals that they lose sight of their ideals. I'm registered Green party. I registered with them when I was 18 and haven't switched it. I feel like they're doing some good things, though sometimes they also offend me. I think it's impossible to align yourself with one party. I would like to see a ton of candidates and not this hierarchy of the ruling class.
Given that you ride public transportation, have you considered calling yourself the Ghostrider instead of the Ghostwrite?
I haven't, but maybe for this tour, I will tell people that I am the Ghostrider.