The Cadillac Three’s ‘This Town Is a Ghost’ Trades Macho Swagger for Naked Vulnerability
Grief is a weird thing, frequently and unexpectedly rocketing toward you with enough power to alter your worldview, make you feel as if you’re drowning, and even see people who are no longer there. That’s been the experience of the Cadillac Three’s singer-guitarist Jaren Johnston, who lost his father, the musician Jerry Ray Johnston, in 2022, and who wrestles with his life’s shattered sense of stability in “This Town Is a Ghost.”
The video, directed by Luke Hutcherson, matches the song’s vulnerability, along with the sense that invisible walls are always closing in: The Cadillac Three filmed it in the abandoned (and supposedly haunted) pool in the basement of the Rave in Milwaukee. But while his bandmates Neil Mason and Kelby Ray make a brief appearance, this is Johnston’s story to tell. Standing — fittingly, in the deep end of the pool — and surrounded by photos of his late father and images of his own childhood, Johnston’s nearly in tears as he sings the most personal lyrics he’s written in his career: “I see you in every truck that passes by/Louisiana tags, yeah, I pull over and cry/Oh, where did the time go?/’Cause your Rolex is still tickin’.”
“As we pulled into probably the most eerie venue in America, I steadied my hand with a cup of coffee on the bus, knowing it would be a long day,” Johnston, the songwriter behind hits for Keith Urban and Tim McGraw, says in a statement. “The ‘This Town Is a Ghost’ video shoot was me in a haunted pool all day, surrounded by pictures of my father and my life as a kid, while singing the song over and over again. As hard as some of the day was, I found it almost therapeutic, in a way. I was able to get out emotions I hadn’t released yet.”
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For a band that’s earned its loyal fanbase (The TC3 Drinking Club) with a swaggering, hard-hitting live show and anthems about living just close to over-the-edge, “This Town Is a Ghost” is a brave glimpse behind the tattooed image. It’s the song you play when you just don’t have the will to party.
Johnston, Mason, and Ray will headline their own night at next month’s CMA Fest in Nashville. “The Cadillac Three & Friends” is set for June 9 at Ascend Amphitheater and features performances by Elvie Shane (who collaborated with the band on “Hillbilly”), Tenille Townes, Randy Rogers Band, and Boy Named Banjo.