Local singer Ethan Tucker is making his own breaks

Driven ‘Cool Kids’ singer Ethan Tucker among talent featured at Olympia’s fall Arts Walk

Contributing writerSeptember 20, 2013 

Olympia native and singer-songwriter Ethan Tucker will play the 1230 Room in Olympia on Oct. 4.

COURTESY PHOTO

Singer-songwriter Ethan Tucker, who recently landed a record deal with Capitol Records, owes his success to more than just talent.

The Olympia native has been mentored by Michael Franti, opened for the Steve Miller Band and played at festivals across the country, thanks to a winning combination of daring and determination.

Tucker, whose music is a blend of soulful blues, reggae and folk, will perform in Olympia as part of Arts Walk in October before heading out on tour with Franti. Tucker’s Capitol Records EP is due this fall.

Though he hails from Olympia and has a lot of family here, Tucker spent most of his childhood in Idaho, where he moved with his mother at age 5. He first made a name for himself playing shows there from the time he was 16.

He moved back to Olympia in 2011 and has been heard at the 4th Ave Tav and other local music venues. But these days, he’s spending most of his time on the road.

Tucker isn’t afraid to ask for what he wants — or sometimes even to claim it outright.

“If you want something, go get it,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “If you want a job, you don’t go to the janitor’s closet; you go to the boss’ office.

“You never get anything if you don’t ask for it. The worst anybody can say is ‘no.’”

When he approached Franti, Tucker got plenty of no’s. He’d go backstage at the musician-poet-activist’s concerts and ask Franti to listen to a song.

“He was a big influence on my songwriting,” Tucker said. “I started sneaking backstage at his shows and saying, ‘Hey, man, I would like to show you a song.’ I just wanted him to hear what his influence had inspired.”

Finally, Tucker brought his guitar along. “People probably thought I was part of the band, because I looked like I knew what I was doing,” he said. He spoke to a few band members and then approached Franti again.

Franti liked what he heard enough to ask for more, and when Tucker played the song “Cool Kids,” Franti was hooked.

“He was like, ‘We have to record this,’” Tucker said. “I went to his house in San Francisco and recorded the song with him.”

“Cool Kids” is slated to appear on Tucker’s first album for Capitol, due out next year.

The encounter with Franti wasn’t the only time the young musician acted like he knew what he was doing at a concert: He once opened for Miller in Sun Valley, Idaho, not because he was invited to do so but simply because the theater door had been left unlocked.

“I just walked in with my guitar,” he said. “I told the guy I was opening, and I opened the show. It was a small venue; that’s probably how I got away with it.”

He’s been performing since age 16 and produced his first album, “Take Me to the Mountains,” at the age of 17. In 2010, he followed up with “Lost Between,” and he was at work on a third independent album when Capitol Records came calling in the spring.

Franti is likely Tucker’s highest-profile fan, but he’s not the only one. Tucker’s live performances have earned him comparisons to Ben Harper and Dave Matthews.

In a 2010 Twin Falls (Idaho) Times-News article about the release of “Lost Between,” fellow musician Pierre Tusow praised Tucker’s authenticity.

“His stuff comes from the heart,” Tusow said.

Ethan Tucker

What: The Olympia native, who’s been mentored by Michael Franti and recently signed a recording contract with Capitol Records, will play as part of Arts Walk. Also on the bill: Big Blue Van.

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 4

Where: 1230 Room, 111 Washington St., Olympia

Tickets: $5; the show is open to ages 21 and older.

More information: 360-943-5611 or 1230room.com

Also: Tucker will open for Franti & Spearhead at 8 p.m. Oct. 5 at Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle. Tickets are $32.50. 877-784-4849 or stgpresents.org/moore

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