Ghost Hounds could not have asked for a more auspicious return to active duty this year.
The Pittsburgh-based rock quintet has been busy, and visible, leading up to the Nov. 5 release of Roses Are Black, premiering exclusively below, which ends a 10-year gap between albums. Ghost Hounds opened for the Rolling Stones during July in Washington, D.C. and recently played several dates supporting ZZ Top and Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band. "When you get a chance to play not only with icons but whose songs you grew up with and were inspired by, it truly is a privilege," Ghost Hounds guitarist and founder Thomas Tull tells Billboard. "It really is a blast."
Ghost Hounds' return has been a long time coming for Tull. The group released a Nile Rodgers-produced album back in 2009 but then "pretty much disbanded." Tull was hardly idle, of course; he started a family, bought into the Pittsburgh Steelers and, with his Legendary Entertainment, scored box office hits with films such as Jurassic World, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hangover and more, along with comics, digital media and other ventures. But after selling Legendary in 2017, Tull had the desire to plug his guitar in again.
"I missed music," Tull says. "I missed writing. I missed performing. I missed the camaraderie of a band. I decided this was something I really wanted to do." It's a passion, he says, that should mitigate any skepticism about his genuine devotion to the music.
"I've played guitar in a band since I was 12 years old. It's just part of who I am," Tull explains. "To me the only thing that matters is when people see the band live and hear the record, is it good or not? Are you connecting? That's all that matters and all you want to be measured by. This is certainly not a flash in the pan, something I decided to do for a couple of months. This is more of a lifetime pursuit than anything else."
Tull wrote and produced Roses Are Black with singer-songwriter David Grissom (John Mellencamp, Dixie Chicks, Joe Ely) and Kevin Rowe (Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd), with legendary engineer Eddie Kramer (Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix) also on board. The set runs the gamut, from Stones-style rockers to country-flavored ballads, along with a cover of Cliff Richard's "Devil Woman." “I think it's a direct reflection of my own eclectic music tastes," Tull says. "The Rolling Stones is my favorite band of all time, so I'm positive that, consciously or unconsciously, a lot of this is inspired by the Stones. They fell in love with American blues. They have great country songs. Those things all appealed to me. Having all those different voices, I think, is important, and that's what I want our band to have, too."
An old school Tuesday release date for the album should also provide some indication about Tull's musical orientation. "Everything about the band is a little retro," he acknowledges. "But it's not like these are bad things to be inspired by, y'know?" The present Ghost Hounds lineup, including frontman Tre Nation from Texas, is already working on its next album according to Tull, while touring and festival appearances are being explored for 2020.
"I can't decide what I like more -- playing live or being in the studio and creating," Tull says. "It's a great group of guys in the band, and we're having a blast playing together. Any time I'm involved in a creative process, whether it's making a movie or doing (music), all I know is how to make things or write things I want to hear or see. I think you have to start there, and if it resonates with people, that's fantastic. Because I'm enough of a fan first, if it works for me, it'll be something other people like, too."