LA-based Ethan Burns has a debut EP titled 22 Knots on the way (9/30 on Fairfax), and it’s definitely one you’re going to want to put on heavy rotation; Burns’ soulful vocals are not to be missed, and tunes like “Homeward” are highly infectious in the best possible way. I got caught up with the troubadour over the phone a few weeks back to talk about how he developed his unique sound, what it was like moving from a quiet California town to bustling LA, and about what we can expect from him moving forward, so internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below, and be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news!
So how long have you been working on this EP that’s about to be out?
I’ve been putting it together for about the past nine months.
And so would you say it listens as a conceptual whole, or is it more of a sampling of what we can expect from you sound-wise?
It’s a bit more of a sampling of what my future styling will be.
How’d you arrive at that styling? Your voice speaks for itself, certainly, but how’d you land on what sorts of instrumentation you wanted to use?
Well, I listened to a lot of music, really; I listen to a lot of old music (blues, soul and Motown), and then with some help, it’s been pretty easy to capture that sound correctly.
So you’ve been listening to and appreciating music for a long time, but how long has music been a career aspiration for you? Has it been a lifelong pursuit?
Yeah, kind of. I taught myself how to play the guitar when I was thirteen, and I started writing songs at about fourteen, and I just never stopped.
Wow! And was your voice something you were working with off the bat? Or was it mainly the guitar at first, and then you discovered you had such an amazing singing ability?
When I used to play and sing, no one would really turn their head or anything. I tried to figure out what my voice was, and it came to a point where suddenly people started saying, “Oh, your voice sounds good!” I think it was mostly through practice and trial and error that I figured it out.
And tell me about the creative aspect of what you do; do you have a routine, or anything that you like to do when you know you’ll be working on songs?
It’s usually pretty organic. I like to attach myself to a feeling or an emotion, and I just see what I can do from there. I feel like a lot of songwriting is really heady, and too thought out and methodical, and I like to just feel something.
Which absolutely comes across in your music, and I think it’s a really nice way to allow listeners to kind of assign their own meaning to songs.
Now, you live in LA at the moment, but you’re originally from Central Coast. That’s south of the Bay but north of LA? Closer to LA than SF?
It’s about in between. I grew up in a small town called Glover Beach.
What was that like growing up?
It was pretty calm and quiet. I was home schooled, so quiet is definitely the best way that I could put it. [Laughs]
So what was the transition to life in LA like? Because I imagine that’s pretty opposite of quiet.
I love it! I like that there’s always something going on. It just feels like life is happening in LA, you know?
Totally. I really love it out there, but it is funny, because all of the stereotypical stuff you hear about it is kind of true in a lot of ways. What’s the most stereotypical thing we could find you doing in LA at any given time?
I would say that the best comparison of LA would be…you know that show Californication?
It’s basically exactly like that, I’d say.
Amazing. And so will you be straying from LA anytime soon for tour dates? Or are you mainly focused on rolling out that debut EP for the moment and then figuring it out?
Yeah, I think we’re waiting for the EP to come out before we plan anything too big; it’s mostly been one-off shows here and there.
Do you typically do a solo setting, or does it just depend?
Yeah, if I’m going across the country I’ll usually do that stuff by myself, but it just depends.
Have you always been comfortable performing on stage? Or has that taken some getting used to?
I’ve kind of always been comfortable with it.
Well that’s a built-in plus, because I know it’s not that way for everyone! Now, with the EP being wrapped, will you be working towards a full-length? Are you already doing that?
Well, there is a full-length in the future that I’ve been working on a bit. I tend to go song by song, but there is a full-length coming.
Rad. And is there anything else you’re super stoked for?
I’m just really looking forward to releasing the EP and seeing how people react to it.