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Ethan Gold: “Never Met a World Like You”

I have been doing my best to align my mission with music with my actions and way of being in the world. I also have become less shy about my politics. Especially when it comes to environmental stuff. That’s such a limited and intellectual word for what we are talking about: the biosphere. A living […]

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I have been doing my best to align my mission with music with my actions and way of being in the world. I also have become less shy about my politics. Especially when it comes to environmental stuff. That’s such a limited and intellectual word for what we are talking about: the biosphere. A living place for all the living things that exist, as far as we know, in the universe. I cannot think of a more important life value than that. So, while it’s not all I sing about, I do sing about the planet. My next album Earth City has about five songs that are planet-consciousness songs, in different ways. One of them, I put out an advance single and video last year, called “Never Met a World Like You”. My goal there is to make loving the living planet a non-political thing. I want to play to everyone, not just the people who think of themselves as environmentalists. We must change the consciousness of enough people. I know some people think musicians and artists should stay out of politics. But those same people often say they hate politicians. So, who’s left? Who exactly is supposed to care, then?


LA-based songwriter Ethan Gold presents his new single ‘Our Love is Beautiful’, the first taste of his forthcoming album ‘Earth City’. With flair and optimism, the accompanying video features people from across the globe, each becoming part of this intercontinental, ultimately human journey.

Gold makes lullabies of strength and catchy art rock for people who still dream. Personable, relatable and with depth, Gold sings about the longing for human connection in the city, and also for the natural world.

The video features footage Gold took while traveling to Tokyo & Osaka (Japan), Hong Kong, Mumbai (India), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Istanbul (Turkey), Helsinki & Tampere (Finland), Vilnius (Lithuania), St Petersburg & Moscow (Russia), Mexico City & Patzcuaro (Mexico), as well as New York, Asheville, Cleveland, Nashville, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Clips were also submitted by fans and friends in the UK, Greece, Nepal, Costa Rica, Gaza, Hungary, France, Poland, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Ukraine, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Latvia and elsewhere in the USA.

Raised in San Francisco during the long extended hangover after hippie times, Ethan Gold is son to Beat author Herbert Gold and Melissa Gold, a collaborator and girlfriend of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham — the two died together in a helicopter crash. A childhood of constant change and chaos may have led Ethan to the unique way he approaches music. Today he lives and dreams songs, sometimes writing music while asleep.

Ethan Gold recently recorded his upcoming double-album ‘Earth City’, which explores themes of longing — for human connection, for romance, for city nightlife, and ultimately for connection to the threatened natural world. This double LP is a much-anticipated step forward for an artist whose path has been curved by inner impulse and fate. Here, Gold returns to the essential path of his original vision. On a mission to “make sensitivity cool again”, he’s quiet enough to paint the delicate details of the modern age in songs, and willing to be strong enough to fight for the world as it could be.

‘Our Love is Beautiful’ follows recent singles — ‘Not Me. Us’, a call for unity in troubled times, and ‘Never Met A World Like You’, an environmental song with a highly impactful video, timed for the first climate strikes. He also performed at three LA rallies in 2019 for the first time since suffering a serious head injury in 2013. After a long recovery, he now credits the temporary dissolution of his cognitive ability with an upgraded inner power, creativity, and clarified mission: in a world that seems increasingly combative, bringing sensitive people and quieter things — music, poetry and the living earth — back into their magnificence.

Following his acclaimed ‘Songs From A Toxic Apartment’ LP (2017), 2018 brought the release of the naive-electronic ‘Expanses (Teenage Synthstrumentals)’ and Gold’s tribute to childhood favorites ‘Live Undead Bedroom Closet Covers’. Gold also handled film scoring for Blumhouse supernatural thriller ‘Don’t Let Go’ and brother Ari Gold‘s feature films ‘Adventures of Power’ and ‘The Song of Sway Lake’, which features John Grant and the Staves singing Gold’s songs.

‘Our Love Is Beautiful’ is out now digitally, including stores such as Apple Music, and streaming platforms like Spotify. The ‘Earth City’ double LP will be released later this year.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/5c557bf9e816f721c30a55ae3a99ef97


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I’ve talked about my childhood when I put out my record Songs from a Toxic Apartment, and as your readers who understand what I’m talking about will understand, I don’t want to go there again. I’ll say this: Music was my secret place as a child. I wasn’t trained until rather later than most musicians, and I’ve had insecurities about that, but another result may have been that I don’t associate music with work as much as some musicians do. It’s a space of pure creativity. As a young kid I would go to the old piano to bang out my frustration. I remember a lot of stuff that was mostly pounding with one hand and discordant stabs with the other. But there were a few kind of exotic melodies I kept doing. And then as a teenager I figured out how songs worked and started mixing music and lyrics, and loved the three-dimensional dreamscape that could create.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

My life has been full of ah-ha moments. I think for a lot of people it’s like that. Like death by a thousand cuts — life of passion by a thousand ah-has. We are fairly stubborn creatures and as most epic stories tell, most of us don’t hear the message the first time. Hopefully, at some point we don’t just hear the messages, but we act on them. Maybe your readers use this series as inspiration, reminding themselves over and over — go! go! live that dream! For me, actually dreaming songs is always an ah-ha, and that happens a fair amount for me. When my mother was killed when I was still in school, my mind drowning in thoughts of death, despite my feeling music wasn’t possible as a professional life I did feel if someone dreams songs doesn’t do music, who should? I will say a head injury I had a few years ago was also, especially for someone who had a tendency to overthink, a really obvious spur towards living what I love more fully. When I couldn’t understand emails, or cross a busy street, songs that had never been heard outside my head we’re still right there waiting for my attention. And if that doesn’t seem important, I’m really lost.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

With a strong caveat, I’ll start by saying: do everything, say yes and see where it leads. That said, this attitude can be pathological. Even with all the ah-ahs you asked about, starting out doing music my attitude was, “if I’m going to give myself the right to do what I love, I still better make it like work. I can’t allow myself to enjoy it, and I better do it like a hard #2 man, rather than a leader.” No right to stand up. So I produced other people’s music (Elvis Perkins), played in various bands (The Honey Brothers, The Size Queens), did film scores (Adventures of Power, The Song of Sway Lake, Don’t Let Go). This was partly to function in the economic system obviously, and there is certainly a pleasure in applying one’s gifts to other people’s creative hopes that are struggling to be made real. But I think I was driven by that addiction, particularly from my mother’s lineage, to being a hard worker, what was sometimes called ‘the Protestant Work Ethic’. Stay busy, never stop, rewards will come, it’s working that matters. It’s true that if you give, and see where things lead, it can get you there. The world uses action to create opportunities. So, sure, do that work, but don’t forget the underlying impulse. For me it’s been a slow evolution to honoring my own musical dreams. Sort of like a Gryffindor doing time as a Hufflepuff. I say that as someone who hasn’t read or seen Harry Potter, but a friend recently explained me that way, which I found amusing.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

Well this might sound like more work-addiction, but I feel I was lucky to have had a moment of revelation at age 20 after listening to a San Francisco Giants game on the radio, alone, fuming they had lost, and I was like “what the fuck am I doing? — this is idiotic”. I was just totally distracting myself, a stupid way to spend a couple hours, and that was what felt so awful. I vowed to do my best to not waste time with things that are unconscious techniques to avoid my big dreams. For anybody who’s their own boss, that’s an essential piece, not letting that subtle fear throw us into distractions whenever we have time away from paid work. Use your downtime on your “hobby,” and treat it with the respect that you treat your day job, with more and more respect actually, until it becomes your job. You may start out doing that hobby for others, and don’t expect to get paid well at first. Then slowly transition to living your dream. Keep stretching your ability, and your expectations of success, one day at a time. This is a daily practice.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

For me, having several identities as a musician has helped, so that I don’t get sick of myself. I do my art rock songwriter thing but I have some other projects that are very different, where my name may or may not be attached, we’ll leave it at that for now. We all contain multitudes, and especially as people these days think about themselves as brands, I personally recommend having more than one. I know not everyone is built for that. But if there’s some new little voice in you that wants to be heard, don’t ignore it. In my case with music, I either find a way to bring that little new energy into my main work, or if it’s three-dimensional and important enough, split it into another new identity. Allowing myself this has improved my mood and the result, of all the projects. It’s almost like the hobby needs a hobby which then needs a hobby. Keep that fresh blood coming into the thing you call work.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

Well, I may not have the entrepreneur’s temperament. The downsides: loneliness, insecurity, distraction. The upsides: every challenge, even those, are opportunities for growth. Meditation, self-care, learning to manage my moods. And for me, as a very head-down-do-the-work kind of person, the promotional side of things is definitely out of my comfort zone. So thank you for making this a conversation about life, rather than asking me to hype my music!

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

Honestly, I knew it would be hard, and it’s been harder than I imagined. This game ain’t for sissies, as a poster for football or a recruitment poster might have said in the 1950s. I’d like to hereby puncture once and for all the old idea that doing art is some kind of namby-pamby easy life. The rappers make this clear when they talk about it, and I actually think that’s part of the energy that made hip hop successful over the last generation, while the economy slowly got more difficult for the middle class. The music world can be a brutal slog, not just because of swimming with sharks, but because of swimming in a chaotic ocean where you don’t know which direction to go. Swimming with sharks going one way, whales going the other, some piranhas, anemones, and a whaling ship harpooning the whales. And there’s a hurricane called the internet churning the waters of the business and causing frequent rogue waves which destroy everything.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

I have had those moments and they felt really awful, usually. Sometimes, though, the thought of a real job, show up, be nice, work well enough, come home and watch tv with the wife and kids (I don’t have those in real life), yeah, that seems easy. Just plop my raft in the river and float down. Hit some rocks, just keep floating. But for me, I’m driven by a mission with the music. I overcome it by tapping into the mission again.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This isn’t really funny, but to this day I’m embarrassed for charging 100 dollars or whatever for my first job recording a band. The room I’d built was incredibly tiny, and my gear was incredibly minimal, and more importantly, my engineering skills were even more minimal. I really was not a good sound engineer at that point and it was obvious to the band immediately. I was scrambling around, clearly not a master of that task. And I wince years later that I insisted I be paid. I was trying to honor my own work, but I wasn’t ready. I should have worked for free for the first few jobs. That was a mistake I didn’t repeat when I started film scoring. I did a bunch of short films for free until I felt I was worth money to a project.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

In music, I look to people who follow their own muse, creatively and also in how to live their lives. David Bowie followed his crazy muse wherever it went including in later years managing himself and becoming a bank of sorts which is bizarre and kind of admirable, Brian Eno who made the studio his muse and stopped touring for the fair reason that he hated it, Leonard Cohen who left the business for a monastery and then returned to stadium touring in his 70s, Björk who represents for her passion and wonder, pushing her envelope as a producer and writer and performer.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I have been doing my best to align my mission with music with my actions and way of being in the world. I also have become less shy about my politics. Especially when it comes to environmental stuff. That’s such a limited and intellectual word for what we are talking about: the biosphere. A living place for all the living things that exist, as far as we know, in the universe. I cannot think of a more important life value than that. So, while it’s not all I sing about, I do sing about the planet. My next album Earth City has about five songs that are planet-consciousness songs, in different ways. One of them, I put out an advance single and video last year, called “Never Met a World Like You”. My goal there is to make loving the living planet a non-political thing. I want to play to everyone, not just the people who think of themselves as environmentalists. We must change the consciousness of enough people. I know some people think musicians and artists should stay out of politics. But those same people often say they hate politicians. So, who’s left? Who exactly is supposed to care, then?

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Do your own thing

2. When you know, nobody knows better than you

3. You don’t have to make it harder than it already is

In order to honor #3, I’ll stop there.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would want people to make their decisions with the long-term health of the biosphere in the front of their minds. Which would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, sure as you say. But I’d like to include all living things in that as well. Have you ever looked a non-domesticated animal in the eye? Have you ever looked a plant or tree in its spiritual eye? Be kind, be conscious. That doesn’t mean no-pleasure, either. There is a way to honor desire and pleasure in this life without extracting and exploiting.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be aware of what you’re doing in the moment that you’re doing it.

It’s like being so awake that the whole world and all of existence is a magical dream. I definitely fail to do this all the time. But as often as I can, bring awareness, consciousness into whatever I’m doing, walking, talking with a friend, writing, performing. If I can stay present, rather than drowning in the inner chatter of the mind coming from every direction, what we call reality opens up into its full majesty.

How’s that?

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Some artists I love who are still alive are Arcade Fire and Björk. If you can reincarnate David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, definitely give me a call.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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