Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Mike Etten

Photo credit – Mike Martinez. Courtesy of Clandestine PR.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Saxophones, synths and acoustic guitars – oh my!

Pure psychedelic folk with a country tinge, singer-songwriter Mike Etten (PC Worship, Dougie Poole Band) dropped his debut solo album ‘Love Wash’ this past October via Dull Tools (co-run by A. Savage of Parquet Courts).

Notable for the singles “Drive” and “Saints,” the album also features appearances from violinist Adam Markiewicz (LEYA) and drummer Greg Fox.

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with the New York City-based multi-instrumentalist about ‘Love Wash’ and more.

Music Bugle – What was your goal for your new album?

Mike Etten – I’ve always wanted to make a record where I played most of the instruments myself and recorded it myself. In the process, I think I got better at all of that and made something that feels like an honest statement of where I was as a person and musician.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?

Mike Etten – The fact that I think there’s room to grow into other styles. I don’t want to just stick myself into a camp of one genre, specifically. I am always going to leave things open to experimentation in that way and that is exciting to me. What came out when I wrote the material for this record just felt natural, but the next thing I do might sound totally different.

Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to become a musician?

Mike Etten – Getting my first guitar when I was 13 and learning the riff to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I thought, “Okay, this isn’t so hard!” I was hooked.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

Mike Etten – My good friend Arian Shafiee recently released a new record called ‘Pastorale.’ It’s beautiful. Also, I recently discovered the recordings that Terry Riley and Don Cherry made together. Check out The Koln 1975 concert. That is amazing and Alice Coltrane’s spirituals where she sings and plays wurlitzer that were released recently, really powerful.

Music Bugle – How do you differentiate your own material to that of your respective projects?

Mike Etten – Well, it’s a pure personal statement and totally my vision. The other projects I play in, I am bringing myself and my style into their musical world to help them realize and fill out their sound.

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?

Mike Etten – I think the overall culture of social media is pretty toxic, but the ability for musicians to freely share what they make is a positive, for sure. It’s hard to say, but I think it’s difficult to not get distracted and consumed by all the stuff in your phone. 

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mike Etten – I’ve been really lucky and had a lot more time to work on music, work on some new projects and thankfully, all my family and friends stayed healthy for the most part.

Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?

Mike Etten – I’ve lived in NYC for my whole adult life and whenever I travel to other places, I miss the amazing diversity of cultures and people that make up New York. It’s truly special.

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?

Mike Etten – “It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path and to proceed,” by Ram Dass.

Music Bugle – What’s something that people might be surprised to know about you?

Mike Etten – I drink at least four-to-six cups of coffee a day! Big caffeine head. Maybe I should cut back? (Laughs)

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