Ethan Gold is truly a renaissance person, songwriter, performer, composer, poet, and a California native. Fascinating is too bland a word to describe him. His family history is etched in rock and roll legend and the San Francisco literary scene at a time when the counterculture was developed on the spot. His future is unlimited and most definitely not left to fate. He was raised in San Francisco, a thoughtful child who took in everything the city offered. His father is Jewish-American novelist Herbert Gold, and his mother Melissa Dilworth was a WASP child of the East Coast, who was killed in a helicopter crash with famed rock concert impresario and holocaust orphan Bill Graham. Ethan and his twin filmmaker brother, Ari became motherless at a young age.
In this chaotic environment, Gold developed his love of music and an appreciation for Mother Earth. He taught himself several instruments and to write music. After graduating from Harvard, he moved to LA and began work as a film composer (most recently Don’t Let Go for Blumhouse/Universal), music producer, and sideman, while slowly building a body of work ranging from instrumental music to his highly personal albums. of songs. A more universal approach to songcraft is heard on his recent album Earth City 1: The Longing, which hit several well-deserved international best-album-of-2021 lists.
Normally in interviews, we cover the restaurant or the home of the artist. It was not quite post-pandemic when we met at the Los Angeles River. Ethan said he loves the blend of nature and concrete. He pointed out a plant poking through what might be impossible circumstances and that birds will soon be attracted to it-the cycle of life. It takes a sensitive soul to see the beauty in this drought-stricken river.
Early on Ethan was a proponent of kindness-long before it was common or noted by others. I met him several years ago and was touched by his gentle way of speaking, if anyone is an old soul, he is. Here is an excerpt from a long discussion on kindness:
“I’m not always kind to myself. I learned a lot about how to act by doing the opposite to myself. And then correcting how I treated myself, and then trying to do the same for others. But a lot of my intention with music is to wake people up to a bigger sense of unity. You know this from my videos for “Our Love is Beautiful”, which I filmed in countries around the world, “Bright & Lonely City”, which takes place in multiple cities, and even “Pretty Girls”, which is crowd-sourced from people, many of whom I never met, to show all the ways female-ness can express itself. This theme is a stream running under a lot of what I do. I get songs delivered to me in my sleep, so I feel it’s my job to bring messages forth.”
I asked him about breaking into the music industry. His answer was not what I expected:
“I’m not the best person to advise about that, since I’m an independent artist, and sometimes I feel like I’m in the middle of the Antarctic singing my songs. I haven’t really broken into it. It’s more like I’m making my island and sending out messages in bottles, which are the songs and videos.”
I asked about having a novelist for a father and what effect that had on him. I loved his answer. It portends why each of his albums could stand alone for the poetic lyrics, his videos are hauntingly beautiful, especially when he speaks urgently about the environment. His answer:
‘“Probably in two ways. One, the belief that making art could be a life. A lot of people abandon their creativity when they get out of childhood. I didn’t. And second, I think of my music in bigger terms than songs. I think in terms of themes that I can explore over the breadth of albums, or as I’m doing now, a trilogy. I try to make each song like a jewel that expresses itself perfectly and is lovely to experience on its own. And also, to build albums that will reward those who want to take the time to experience something deeper, with layers of meaning.”
His new album Earth City 1: The Longing is truly beautiful and very complex. A lot of the songs feel like they should be worldwide classics. To be honest I don’t understand why they’re not. I consider him to be an Indigo Child-those beings who come to us knowing so much of the world. I think that describes him as both a child and an adult. Prescient is another word that I think of when describing him. Unique, individualistic and driven to produce, he has a wide body of work that is more popular in Europe than in the US.
He is currently working on the recordings for Earth City 2. He hopes this will be an even more universal record and one that will be, as old advertisements used to say, “alive with pleasure.” It’s an album about the life of cities. Something all of us ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ can understand. I asked him if he was alluding to the Jewish heritage?
“Good catch. Yeah, just this week it occurred to me that my Earth City trilogy, which is about our alienation and our connectedness, and our yearning, has some roots in that. My father always said that Jews focus on improving the world, since there isn’t that Christian focus on the afterlife. I feel we have a long way to go. I hope Earth City helps in whatever small way art can. “Our Love is Beautiful” is a song I even started to understand in a different way, from that perspective. It’s about romantic love, and self-love, and also small-group pride. Believing in ourselves, and the transformative power of action. This seems to be an essential ingredient in the survival of a people amidst oppression.”
He, his father, and brother Ari just published some poetry, as a joint project, in Tablet Magazine. It was very well received.
“That was a credit to my brother Ari, who had the idea of corresponding with our Dad, who at 98 is nearly deaf, via exchanging poems. Poems became a way for the two of them to express things to each other, especially regrets and loss. Ari invited me to contribute, though my poems were a bit more like spice, and maybe not exactly on the family topic. It was a nice thing to have that published together, though my subject was a bit different from theirs. That said, I’m not immune to the power of history, and a poem I had published before those, as part of a global art project called Telephone, was set in the old country, or my imaginary version of it. My father’s parents were born in what’s now Ukraine and Belarus. The shtetl. My poem there was about a girl rolling on a carriage to her wedding, overwhelmed by the energy of the village and the possible futures before her.”
He is truly a wordsmith, not just pithy or clever but supremely talented. He has soulful compassion for the earth and mankind. You may join his mailing list on his website, ethangold.com. And on social media — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, he is @ethangold.