Singer-songwriter Ethan Fogus will release his latest project, Southbound, on October 14th. The follow-up to 2013's A Door Swings Back is a change of pace for the artist who chose to step away from abstract, often sad, lyrics to focus on the positive on the well-crafted collection that blends various genres (folk, country, roots rock) into songs poignant and rollicking. Ethan kindly took the time to answer a few questions via email about the album, inspiration and much more.
Before we get into the record, can you give some background as to what drew you to music and why you chose to pursue it professionally?
This is a great question and a one that I ask myself a lot—what put the music inside of me and what made me see the world through songs. As a kid I was always singing to myself - I think singing helps me rationalize my world. And writing gave me a way of interacting with a world that frightened me. Also my parents loved music. They were not musicians, but they were always bringing songs into our home.
Pursuing music professionally, meeting other musicians and forming community has arisen out of a need of mine to say “I’m not alone". Over the years I’ve become less interested in “is this song important to the world?” And more concerned with “is this song important to me?" I think the world can never have enough songs. Does it need all of them? I don’t know, but more is certainly a good thing.
Did you write all of the songs yourself and were they all new songs, or were some ones that you had in your pocket?
I wrote these songs by myself after reading Pat Pattison’s awesome book Writing Better Lyrics. The record was written pretty quickly--probably in four months or so. I learned to write/demo quicker with my iPhone and Garageband. I’d come home from work and spend an hour working on some lyrics, spend some time thinking of chords, and write some accompaniment parts. I’d take my dog for a walk around the neighborhood and think about each song and what they wanted intuitively from me...and tried to get there.
Two songs: “Lock The Door” and “Southbound” were leftover from a previous record I made that never quite materialized.
Originally from Kentucky, Camille Rae knew she wanted to pursue music since childhood. After graduating from Univeristy with a degree in music education, Rae spent some time teaching, but eventually made the move to Nashville to pursue her dreams. In 2015, she released her debut album, I Need Me, which included her charting single, “Shadows Dance Tonight" and found her supporting artists such as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Maddie and Tae, and more. Recently, Rae released her new single, “But I Want You,” and graciously took some time to talk abot the track, what's ahead, and more.
Your musical journey began at quite the young age.
Oh yes. I started singing in choir and talent shows when I was three and began writing and playing guitar at age twelve. I went to university and received a music education degree from the University of the Cumberlands and after graduation, I taught high school choir and drama before I left to pursue a career as an artist full-time.
Was there a defining moment that spurred you to pursue music full-time when you did?
I’d always wanted to go right into artistry, but life sometimes takes different directions. I got offered a teaching job, and I enjoyed it, but I knew in my heart that I was meant to be an artist, so I decided that I needed to pursue music - because if I didn’t I’d regret it.
Being that you sing, play and write, do you have any specific inspirations or influences?
All of the 90’s powerhouse female vocalists like Reba, Martina, Faith, and Trisha were big influences on me. As for my guitar playing, Jewel really influenced me there - she plays with the same folky finger-picking style I do. And with my writing, 90’s country, which had the stories that are the heart of country music, really inspires me. When I write, I like to say something, to have something ring true, and put a message out there.
Michigan quintet Greensky Bluegrass' new album, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted - deemed "their best work to date" by Denver Magazine - was released on September 23rd and quickly made its debut at #3 on the Billboard Bluegrass Albums chart, as well as bowing #13 on the Top Americana/Folk Albums chart. Released via the band's own Big Blue Zoo Records/Thirty Tigers, the album is a wide-ranging collection demonstrating the band's musical diversity and proficiency on eleven tracks that range from those with an intense energy to more subdued ballads. While on the road, banjoist Mike Bont took some time to talk about the album and more.
There's such a blending of musical textures on the album; five studio albums in, did you do anything differently this time around?
I feel like this record is a continuation of the last two that we released. Over the course of those records, we figured out our sound and this record is a good example of stuff that’s very, very us.
The record was recorded at two different studios, Echo Mountain and Mountain House, which is something that isn't seen too often.
Recording that way was time-based, really. We had a certain amount of time to record the first session and we didn’t want to rush to complete the album, so we gave ourselves a second window to finish off what we started. That space between sessions gave the music a little bit of time to breathe.
Did the songs change between the sessions?
No, not really. It was really just more layering. The first session we laid out the tracks and some vocals and the second was just vocal work.
Nashville recording artist and Colorado native Tyller Gummersall released his latest album, Long Ride Home, earlier this year. The traditional country project, produced by Lloyd Maines, was well received by fans and media alike and found Gummersall securing spots supporting artists from James Otto to Jim Lauderdale. Gummersall, who recently released his timely new single "Turned Around World," kindly took the time to talk about the song, reflect on a busy year and look at what's ahead.
We last spoke prior to the release of Long Ride Home and it seems that you've definitely had a busy year.
It's been a good few months for sure. The album was well received by radio, fans, and outlets like Cowboys & Indians and American Cowboy, which was really exciting. I had the opportunity to open for people like Cole Swindell, James Otto, and Jerrod Niemann. Because Cole's music is a little bit different from mine, I was curious to see how we would be received, but the crowds who came to see him also responded to my music. And it was cool to see that, at least as the fans are concerned, there is room for both types of music.
On the other end of the spectrum, I recently had the opportunity to open for Jim Lauderdale, which was just an incredible experience. He's a legend and such a great guy - he was one of the only people who made a point of being present for my set and hang out afterward. He is an incredible songwriter and performer and really inspired me to raise my writing and performing game.
Adam Sanders grew up in Florida where he spent much of his youth surrounded by music. During the summers, he spent time in different studios with his uncle, professional musician, Scotty Sanders. Sanders fell in love with the recording process and after high school, moved to Nashville where he was soon writing songs that would be cut by artists like Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan. His previous singles, "Nothin' To Do But Drink" and "Thunder" were well-received by The Highway and Rolling Stone, respectively. Now as Sanders transitions from songwriter to fulfilling his dream of becoming an artist, he is readying the release of his fourth single, "About To." Sanders kindly took the time to talk about the single, what's ahead and more.
You came to Nashville right out of high school; being involved in music is something you knew you wanted to do from very early on?
Since the day I was old enough to talk, I never had any other dreams or aspirations - moving to Nashville was my only goal. My family, for the most part, all play and sing. They knew I had a love and drive for music and they supported me all the way.
As you have written hits for others including Cole Swindell, Dustin Lynch, and Luke Bryan, did you always want to be a songwriter, or was the ultimate dream to be an artist as well?
From day one I always wanted to be an artist. I remember around age eleven or twelve, my uncle, who has played with everyone from George Jones to Sam Hunt, encouraged me to start writing songs. So I took a chance and started writing; I had a knack for it and fell in love with the process. Fast Forward a few years later, I’m in Nashville with the right group of guys, writing.
Taking their name from a Bob Dylan song, Hollis Brown was formed by Queens-natives Mike Montali (lead vocals/guitar) and Jonathan Bonilla (lead guitar) in 2009. They soon added Andrew Zehnal (drums), Adam Bock (keyboard/vocals), and Scott Thompson (bass) to form a quintet who has achieved significant success touring the U.S and beyond, headlining their own shows and supporting artists such as Jackie Greene, The Zombies, and Counting Crows. The band’s latest vinyl EP, Cluster of Pearls, was chosen as one of the 300 select releases throughout the world for Record Store Day 2016 and the band recently had their first showcase at AmericanaFest. Founding members Montali and Bonilla kindly took the time to talk about their roots, albums and what’s ahead.
Hollis Brown originated in New York. How did you guys come together?
MM: We started in Queens writing songs in John’s garage. Eventually, we had a bunch of songs and had to put a band around it. We started playing gigs at NYC clubs, then Philly, then DC and it just kept growing from there. We’re still growing, trying to write the best songs we can, centering around live instruments and acoustic guitars creating an edgy roots rock sound that we all relate to.
Richard Lynch's traditional country music embodies the way he was raised as well as his present day, farm-dwelling lifestyle. For almost four decades, Lynch has written, sung, and performed his songs as an independent artist. His latest album, A Better Place, was named the Pure Country Album of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists as well as having recently won a Josie Award for Traditional/Classic Country Album of the Year. Lynch kindly called to speak about the album, what's ahead and more.
Many people might be new to your music, but you have been involved with music for quite some time.
I have a lifelong love of that traditional country music and have been playing and performing for a long time - my first paid gig was in 1978, so I have a few miles behind me (laughing). My Dad was a talented singer and entertainer and I was influenced by him an awful lot. In the morning at the farmhouse, we would have the radio blasting listening to all of the great tunes of those earlier eras. Then when I was eight, Dad brought me on stage to sing a Buck Owens song and I was hit by the country music bug.
Your last album, A Better Place, which was released in 2015, garnered quite a few awards including AWA Traditional Country Album of the Year.
That record has been an amazing success for us. It’s overwhelming to see how much airplay it has had and how many awards the album has earned. In fact, it’s still amazing to see how many different folks around the world have an interest in it and respond to this traditional country sound. Recently, I was told it had been in perpetual rotation for the last fifteen to sixteen months in thirty-two countries. It’s pretty impressive.
It is! And it speaks to the fact that there are many country music fans out there who appreciate that traditional country sound.
I think you touched on something pretty amazing there. I’m not much a fan of today’s country music; I like to keep the traditional sounds going. I know that I’m not the only one out here doing it, but it seems like a lot of other folks are looking for something to connect with too. My music has that familiar country sound with prevalent steel guitar and fiddle and heartfelt lyrics that tell a story. I think that has a lot to do with the success we have had.