I've never been a prolific releaser of albums. That doesn't mean I haven't recorded a lot - I have, but mainly demos and promo material. You see, I've always had this belief that unless you fulfill three criteria, there's no need to put out albums.

First of all: do I have something to say - which means, do I have the right material, songs that need to be sung, which are not heard that much. How many versions of "Wild Rover" do you need in your collection?

Next, can I say it? And that means, would I play those songs to the best of my ability. Are they rehearsed enough, have I worked out the right arrangements, that kind of thing.

And lastly: does anyone want to hear it? After all, if you don't have an audience, then all you're doing is releasing a vanity album. I want people to buy my albums, to play them and for them to become part of people's lives, if only for a short time (till the next CD comes out!)

Over the past few years, I've been getting more and more requests for a follow-up to Many's the Mile, Love.... I've thought about it. But I didn't think a new celtic album would really be right; my last three albums have all fallen into that category and I couldn't really think of something different to add to the catalog.

In the meantime, members of the audience have also asked me about my own songs and whether they could have copies. So, as I've made demos, I've sent them burnt CDs.

That brings me on to the demos I've made. I love recording, I love being in a studio, I love working with engineers. I put a lot of effort into demos. After all, they represent the music I'm playing and are therefore very important. They bring in bookings, they help attract new listeners. So, a demo for me is almost identical to an album track; except I don't usually go so far as to master the songs, leaving them in a final mix, rough mastered state. Good enough to listen to but one step removed from releasable quality.

Then someone, hearing about my dilemma of not wanting to release a new celtic album, suggested I did either covers or original material.

I booked up Paul McKeown's studio in Baltimore and flew there for a week of recording. Just playing guitar accompaniment and singing lead vocals, I laid down a series 17 of scratch tracks, thinking that maybe a dozen might end up working. I then invited a number of friends who had expressed an interest in recording with me to take a listen and to see if they could come up with something to fit the songs. I was astounded.

Song after song began to fall in place and I pretty soon realized that I just might end up with at least 17 songs for the album. And as we worked on alternate versions, it dawned on me that virtually everything we were doing was working.

The basic recordings were done with Paul playing a variety of instruments, Henry Koretzky playing mandolin and guitar, Bruce Campbell playing bass and me playing guitar. I also took some of the songs back to Tucson and Mike Dunn's studio, where Phil Borzillo (guitar) and I worked on them. And the next stop, Gary Mackender's Homestead Studio for our work together. I also sent some to California where some friends were going to see what they could do on keyboards.

Over the weeks, everything began to fall into place. The Baltimore sessions all worked out perfectly; the Tucson sessions all worked out perfectly; and relief, the Los Angeles sessions never came to pass - the folk there were wrapped up in putting their own CD out and I could put the songs they were working on on ice. Not so with Phil. How could I leave out either version of "Alison"? The guitar work was so good. One day, you might get to hear the alternate versions of songs we were doing in LA, like "Our Winter Love" (not reggae, more Cajun-like), "Me And My Friend Judy" (much jazzier) and "I Slipped" (a much heavier version).

Then it came time for the vocals. Scratch tracks away, and back to Paul's to lay down the voices you hear on the album. Each recording I've made over the years has taught me more about music and this was no exception. Although co-producing, I wouldn't let me do anything other than my best as a singer. (Normally, my co-producer takes charge at this stage and sends me back to redo things - on this album, I sent me back until I was happy!) Dede Wyland drove over from the DC area and we did the two "Alisons" (Dede, you're amazing); Henry came back and added some of the best background vocals I've ever heard; and I added a few extra things here and there. Then clutching the recordings, I flew off to England to meet up with Jenny Ford.

Ah, Jen! When we were young and we were a duo, I loved listening to what you did and I tried so hard to learn how to be good e nough to sing with you. We often talked about recording an album, but back in those days it wasn't something that was easy (or cheap enough) to do. Now, we were with Richard at the helm and we added all her parts. I'd hoped to have Jenny sing on maybe seven or eight songs, but time was short and we only managed to do what you hear. Mind you, we also had a couple of wonderful meals, saw the Lord Mayor's Parade, met up with some of her friends and discovered the lovely Mulberry Pub next to the railway station in Farnham. (Is that where we were? Farnham? I think it was, space cadet that I am.)

Mixing was frustrating. I sat in Tucson while Paul mixed the tracks in Baltimore - not the best of situations. Back and forth on the phone, by email and on the Internet we'd go, until finally he was happy and I was happy. We had an album. It was around this time that the title changed. (No, I won't tell you what it was going to be called - I think it was such a good title, I just might use it on a different album, another time!) But writing out the liner notes and the lyrics for Gary Mackender to convert into the graphics, I realized a common theme in most of the material, if not all: me chasing after things that aren't there - my life story! It nearly became: Slowly Sinking Ghosts (see "Mother Bird"); and I came close to using: Haunted, except everyone said that was silly. And then, lying awake one night thinking about life, the universe and everything, it came to me: Chasing Ghosts.

I had a title. And I had an album.

My deepest thanks to everyone (those who recorded and those who didn't - those who inspired the songs and those who helped me write them - those who heard the songs over the years and asked for them to be recorded) for helping make this little dream of mine come true. I hope you like the album.

Jamie O'Brien

who's who on the album