CALGARY -- For years, Canadian reggae hip hop artist Snow (a.k.a. Darrin O'Brien) has battled his demons.
His ghost, on the other hand, he just hangs out with.
"He's a wicked ghost," the soft-spoken performer says of the spirit. "Billy would mess with us."
Billy was a childhood friend of his who died three years ago in the house the musician bought for his own mother. According to Snow, Billy's ghost now inhabits the attached recording studio where he cut his latest album Mind On The Moon.
Some of the shenanigans attributed to his dear departed friend include playing instruments in other rooms, moving secured microphone stands, and generally insinuating himself into the recording process.
"But now my mother's moving and selling the house," says Snow, who plays The Palace tonight.
"I don't know if she's going to take him with her or drop him off at my house. I don't think I'll have room, but he'll be with us somehow."
If Billy had anything to do with the end result, as well as the public and critical reaction to Mind On The Moon, Snow will definitely make room for him.
The disc, which has already earned him three Juno nominations, is being touted as a successful comeback for the former chart-topper who conquered the world with his 1992 debut 12 Inches of Snow.
That album, and the first single Informer (which is listed twice in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest-selling and highest-charting reggae single in the U.S.), raised the bar to a level that proved unattainable for his next two albums.
If he'd had his druthers, Snow says he would have preferred a slower climb, but he's not one to dwell.
"How can I complain -- I had a No. 1 song, right?" he says.
The '90s was also a turbulent time for his personal life. Snow's well-documented drinking problem found him on the wrong side of the law.
"It wasn't a problem every day ... but when I did drink, it was like two or three days of drinking and at the end of it I'd wind up in jail," he says.
"I'd drink and I'd change into someone else."
Well, now he's 2* years sober, and he's changed into someone he's proud of. And that goes for his musical persona as well.
For the most part, Mind On The Moon shuns Snow's hip hop past in favour of a smoother, more R&B pop flavour.
It's an album a lot of people have been surprised by. "So was I," Snow says. "So was I. But that's me now. I was having fun ..."
And it sounds like he's having fun. Thanks, he says, to a little spirit other than Billy in his life, most of the songs on the disc find Snow in an extremely comfortable, confident and easygoing frame of mind.
"That's my frame of Justice," he says, referring to his five-year-old daughter. "Once you have a daughter ... you're a teacher now. It's like, OK, now I have to stop all this crap that I've been doing, because it reflects on her. I'm having fun and it's great."