You’ve seen him perform on The Voice, he’s played with The Revivalists, you’ve heard that raspy voice at Bumbershoot and countless other music festivals. Ethan Tucker is truly the man and I had the chance to chat with him about his life growing up in the Pacific Northwest!
Tell me about you! Where are you from, what was life like growing up with your family?
I am originally from Olympia, WA. I moved around a lot as a kid through the Northwest, living in Montana for a little while and going back and forth from Twin, Falls, Idaho to Olympia. I grew up in a blended family with 5 brothers and 2 sisters. A couple of my older siblings played piano and my mother always had a guitar around. Music of all genres; from blues to rock to hip hop was always playing through the house, so, I guess you could say I grew up in a musical household.
Is there anything specifically about the Pacific Northwest lifestyle that inspires you?
I love that we are constantly surrounded by amazing nature from the mountains and rivers to the Puget sound there is never any lack of inspiration from nature. I find inspiration in all of the beautiful people and their diversity here. There are so many great musicians that all try to help each other out and cross-pollinate with our music, fans and shows. I also love that we have some of the most amazing seafood right in our backyard, whats more inspirational than grilling up some oysters and salmon that came from right down the road with family and friends?
What advice has Michael Franti given you over the years since you impressed him with your backstage jam?
Michael has always been a big brother to me since we started working together. It didn’t take us long to be come great friends during our first studio session. His first advise started with music and helping me to hone my craft of songwriting and recording. Over the years he has given me advise on not only how to build a sustainable career but also a sustainable lifestyle. He is always quick to give me a pep talk when I need it or give me a bit of his mind when he thinks I’m doing something that is not going to benefit me in the long run. he’s just my big brother so there are too many pieces of advise to mention them all.
What around you inspires you most when you are writing music?
It is hard to say what inspires me the MOST when I am writing music. I find inspiration in many things. My lyrics are usually inspired by experiences or events that touch me deeply on some level.
You recently just shot a video for your song, Feelin’ You. What inspired that song and how did the video shoot come together?
‘Feelin’ You’ was inspired by a trip I took to Mexico for the Closer to the Sun Festival. I had a recording on my phone of a guitar riff my friend and guitarist Max Watters had played at a rehearsal and I wrote the lyrics to it in my hotel room after a day of great music on a beautiful Mexican beach. I had been wanting to do a video for it for a while and had some ideas in mind, but, I had just had it on the back burner. I had sent the song to my friend Colt from Papa Bueno and he loved it. I told Colt my idea for the video and after a few conversations Papa Bueno offered to partner up with me to get the video done. With the help of some amazing hard working people on our team we got the shoot organized and had a great time getting it done.
Tell me about your experience on The Voice. What was that like and what more did you learn about the music industry?
My time on The Voice was amazing. I met some lifelong friends and had unforgettable experiences. It was a lot of work, but, I learned so much about focus in my performance. It taught me to pay closer attention to detail in my craft and how to take care of my voice; it really opened so many new doors inside myself to tap into my potential as a performer.
What made you decide to pursue music as your life passion?
I was just thinking about this the day Aretha Franklin passed away. When I was eight years old, my mom rented the movie Blues Brothers, which was the first time I’d seen Aretha perform. I probably watched the movie about twenty five times and I remember thinking ‘That’s what I want to do!’ My chance to finally make the leap into pursuing music as a career fully came when I was laid off from my job as a carpenter. When I was told there wasn’t enough work for me I filled my backpack up with cd’s and went to any place I thought might let me play and I never looked back.
What’s it like when you are preparing for a show and being on tour around the world?
I don’t have a designated pre-show ritual. I usually do something to warm up my voice and try to do something to get the blood flowing like jumping jacks or some push-ups. When I am on tour I usually try to check out whatever cool local stuff is around like restaurants or museums. Whatever I do before a show I try to make sure that I have time to relax and collect myself so I don’t feel scrambled when I get on stage.
What’s it like when you are onstage and connecting with the audience?
My onstage experience changes with each show and audience. I always get a rush of excitement when I take the stage and the crowd is amped up for the show. I always try to connect with individuals in my audience as well as the crowd as a whole. The vibe from the audience effects me, too. If the crowd is energized and stoked it makes it easy for me to get more amped myself.
I heard you have an interesting story about one of the craziest things you have done to be able to play a show.
When I was about twenty, I was in Sun Valley, Idaho and I had heard that Steve Miller Band was playing at a venue in town. I had joked with my friends about crashing the show and pretending to be the opening act for the show. Later that day I was driving by the venue that Steve Miller was going to be playing at and I thought ‘Why Not give it a shot?’ So I grabbed my guitar and walked around to the back door and checked if it was unlocked, it was. I went in to the venue and removed the red velvet rope that was blocking the stairway to the stage area. At one point a lady tried to stop me and ask where I was going I thought to myself ‘What would a rock star do?’ so I just ignored her and kept walking and she said ‘Well he obviously knows what he’s doing..’ When I got in the venue the stage manager asked if I was the opening act and I said, ‘sure..’ I was sure I was going to get kicked out at that point, but, the guy just said, ‘You gotta be done by 8:30 ok?’ So I got to open for Steve Miller totally uninvited. When I finished my set the stage manager came up to me and said, ‘You know you’re not getting paid for this right?’
What musicians from the past or present inspire you the most?
I am constantly inspired by different artists all the time. I definitely have too many to list them all, but, currently I have been listening to a lot of Anderson Paak, Jay-Z, Childish Gambino, Alabama Shakes and Bruno Mars. I always have some go to artists including Tom Waits, Bob Marley, John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan and many more.
Since this is What’s Up NW, what are your favorite Northwest places to hang out (eat, drink, chill, have fun, etc)?
The Northwest is truly one of my favorite places and the most beautiful places in the world. I love hanging out in Fremont when I’m in Seattle. There is a restaurant called Rock Creek in Fremont that is great. I love getting food and cocktails at Ricardo’s steakhouse in Lacey, where I set up my summer concert series that features amazing local talent that I select from the northwest. I also enjoy going out on the Puget Sound boating and crab fishing or hanging out at the beautiful lakes we have around Olympia.
Are there any charities that are near and dear to your heart that you work with and why?
My girlfriend is involved heavily with a charity called Homeless Backpacks that is based in Lacey. It is a charity that provides food and necessities for kids in school that may be homeless or unable to get food while they are away from school. I have had some involvement with the Do It For the Love Foundation that was founded by Michael and Sarah Franti as a way to allow people with special needs, wounded veterans and those with terminal illnesses to see performances by their favorite artists and often times even getting to meet them. No Vet Alone is another great organization that brings America’s Finest together through sports, activities and community, helping them overcome challenges resulting from their visible and invisible wounds. I also am take time myself to visit local schools and talk to the kids about following their dreams and setting goals that are attainable to reach that will help you to reach the goals that may seem unattainable.
What are you looking forward to the rest of this year and into 2019?
I am looking forward to finishing up my new album and getting some new content out! I am excited to see what 2019 will bring! It’s a wild ride doing music for a living but it has always taken me places I never imagined.
Check out Ethan’s brand new song and music video, Feelin’ You, featuring Seattle’s own Papa Bueno Tequila!