Nashville Americana songwriter Ethan Samuel Brown knows it well: most situations in life are not limited to a single perspective. In his self-reflective debut single, “Birthday Wine,” Brown looks retroactively into things that may or may not have gotten lost in translation.
As the leading single off his upcoming album, Meet Back Here at Sundown, “Birthday Wine” is a promising introduction to the product of an 18-month-long creative process designed to take as long as it needed to. Coming in strong with guitar solos and drama, you feel like you’re right there with him in the heat of it all.
The song is parallel to Brown himself- he doesn’t consider himself to be an artist that comes from any singular influence. In just the creative process for the album alone, he worked across multiple studios amongst multiple musicians. Similarly, just as “Birthday Wine” is a folky-rock confessional, he has been places and seen (and heard) many things. From growing up in Kentucky, to working on Meet Back Here at Sundown in Nashville, to working with other musicians who come from their own diverse backgrounds, he has taken every little bit with him as a badge of honor.
More than anything, though, while the song holds up as a vulnerable self-reflection, it encapsulates the importance of being able to humble yourself and recognize your faults. With more to come on Meet Back Here at Sundown, it can be expected that “Birthday Wine” is just the beginning of Ethan Samuel Brown’s venture into the human experience.
You’ve had a lot of experience working in multiple facets of the music industry. When did you make the decision to put out music of your own?
I’ve always considered myself an artist first and foremost. Unfortunately, as we all know, that alone isn’t very lucrative. Even when I was in school I knew I would be utilizing my education to both create music of my own and relieve some of the financial burden that comes with doing so.
How has your experience working with other emerging musicians impacted your own music?
The impact is immeasurable. It’s a constant source of inspiration. Some artists become jaded after seeing people they’ve worked with in the past wind up as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live (or whatever). Suddenly, after a few years they find the tours to be too long, the crowds to be too small, etc. I have the privilege of frequently seeing passionate, hungry, amazing performances in small venues. It keeps the fuel tank full, so to speak.
You’ve mentioned that your new single, “Birthday Wine” was a product of the hard work of a lot of people. Who are they and how did they contribute?
“Nashville Cats” as they say. The Nashville music scene is very communal. This record was tracked, mixed, and mastered over an 18-month period in 4 different studios with something like 20 people contributing to it. That’s probably too many to list here. These contributors have other credits ranging from John Prine to Pheobe Bridgers. You can find the full credit listing on my website.
How is “Birthday Wine” different from anything you’ve put out before?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I typically let a song reveal itself. I tend to stick to whatever feels organic in the moment. However, with “Birthday Wine,” I had an intent to write something catchy and concise. Something that would translate well live. I had to fight my instincts at times. I approached it from the angle of a band leader as opposed to writing it as a solo singer-songwriter.
What are your favorite lyrics in the song and why?
The lyrics make me a little uncomfortable to be completely honest. The subject matter comes from a vulnerable position. No matter how justified the confrontation is, if a self assessment is initiated by another party then your instinct is to flee, fight, and/or ignore it entirely. I think we’re seeing that in American politics right now to a degree. These lyrics were written in that cyclical period of self reflection. “I’ll try to undo my faults until we meet back here at sundown for nightly somersaults.”
How have your Kentucky roots influenced your music?
Kentuckians are prideful people. I’m always deliberately ingesting Kentucky artists, so whether it’s recycling the verbiage of Silas House or planting a Keith Whitley guitar fill in a song, Kentucky is never too far removed from whatever I’m undertaking.
Now that you’re based out of Nashville, how has living in the city developed your style?
My band has a classic Nashville instrumentation… Pedal steel, fiddle, bass, drums, guitar, and keys. I probably consider myself a folk songwriter at heart, but we are constantly operating through the lens of Nashville.
If you had to choose, which city do you consider to be the closest thing to home?
This is tricky. I’ve lived in Nashville for 10 years now which is longer than I’ve lived in any other city. However, as I alluded to earlier, I consciously tend to my Kentucky roots. This being because even though I moved around a lot in my childhood, many generations of my family were born, lived, and died in the mountains of Kentucky. The general region of Eastern Kentucky is what I consider my home. Final answer.
What has the creative process been like for your upcoming record, Meet Back Here at Sundown?
It was a slow and low process. We did the basic tracking at Smoakstack Studios toward the end of 2018. For the most part, everything else was overdubbed at Electric Nature. It was a fun challenge to record a lot of it with just one musician per session. We tended to open the sessions by saying, “Here’s the song. Let’s give it a pass from the top in 3-2-1…” We approached most of the sessions with a Neil Young-esque ‘don’t think, just play’ philosophy. Low pressure, but time consuming.
What can listeners expect to hear on the new album?
Loud, passionate, Americana and a cover of The Strokes.
What are your favorite things about Nashville aside from the music?
I’m guilty of many of the Nashville cliches… I love going to Predators games. I love hot chicken. My girlfriend is a comedian, which has given me a front row seat to the growing comedy scene which has been great. I also love the fact that if I ever want to get out of town for a weekend, Nashville is only a day drive away from the majority of major cities east of the Mississippi River.
📷 – 𝚁𝚘𝚋𝚋𝚒𝚎 𝚂𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚠𝚎𝚕𝚕