When former “American Idol” Carrie Underwood‘s first single from her new album shot to the top of the Country and All-Genre iTunes charts in March 2022, the songwriters behind the tune were thrilled — until they noticed a mysterious extra person listed next to their names in the credits.
Three of Underwood’s favorite writers worked on the song “Ghost Story” together — Josh Kear, Hillary Lindsey, and David Garcia. But the liner notes also give credit to H. Wadsworth Longfellow, a poet who died 140 years before the song was written.
“I didn’t know if it was a joke or what,” Lindsey told Country Insider. It was not a joke; turns out Underwood was dead serious about including the wordsmith on her haunting single.
Underwood Added an Actual Ghost to ‘Ghost Story’
Underwood loved the tune and lyrics for “Ghost Story” from the get-go, she told CMT News in March, singing the praises of Kear, Lindsey, and Garcia.
“They are such talented, amazing songwriters who know me so well, and from the first time I heard it, I knew I had to record it,” Underwood said.
However, after songwriters craft a song, they often don’t get to have a hand in or even hear the finished product until it’s released to the public. Garcia co-produced the tune with Underwood, but the other two writers didn’t know how it would turn out, according to Country Insider.
Seeing another person receiving credit was especially concerning to Lindsey, who’s written other hit songs for Underwood, including “Jesus Take The Wheel.” It could mean splitting income from the song with yet another person, plus the music industry is full of lawsuits regarding copyrights and intellectual rights for creative work.
But a little sleuthing with ASCAP, which oversees music registration and credits, and an explanation from Garcia put her at ease. She learned it was Underwood who added Longfellow, a well-known 19th-century poet, to the credits after deciding to whisper his haunting words at the start of the single.
“We were in the studio and Carrie had just finished recording vocals for the song,” Garcia explained to Country Insider. “She came out of the vocal booth, and we both listened in the control room to make sure everything was feeling good. After listening back, she thought it might be a cool idea to have some ‘ghostly’ whispers going on in the track that you might hear faintly in the background.”
Garcia said that at the opening of the song, when listeners hear faint whispers, it’s actually Underwood reciting a couple of lines from Longfellow’s poem, “Haunted Houses.” He wrote the 40-line poem in 1858; some speculate it’s about the death of his first wife after a miscarriage. The lines that Underwood reads every-so-faintly are:
“All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.”
Because the poem is public domain, Longfellow isn’t technically one of the songwriters and there is no money owed in his name. But Underwood wanted to make sure he got credit for the words she whispered, all these years after he wrote them.
Underwood Takes Fans Behind The Scenes of ‘Ghost Story’ Video
On Aug. 4, Underwood posted a video to her social media feeds, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the “Ghost Story” music video, filmed at the famed Los Angeles Theatre, and showcases the building’s huge crystal chandeliers, marble and crystal fountain, and silk damask wall coverings. Underwood called the backdrop for her video, which premiered in April, “perfect.”
“My favorite part of filming the ‘Ghost Story’ video,” she said in the short film, “was probably just getting to try new things. I want things to look different, to feel different, to be different than anything I’ve ever done before.”
The 39-year-old mom of two also revealed that being on a trapeze in the video was “a lot harder than it looks.”
“Ghost Story” is one of the tracks on Underwood’s new “Denim & Rhinestones” album, released in June. It debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Country chart, which means all of her last 10 albums have debuted in the Top 10.