The cancelations of events and shutdowns of bars and restaurants due to COVID-19 have affected everybody, including local musicians who have seen their regular gigs canceled and, in some cases, their lifelines profoundly compromised. As a result, we are checking in with one musician a week to see how they’re doing, what they’re listening to and if they are up to creating new music while they quarantine with the rest of the world.
This week, we caught up with local singer/songwriter Ethan Larsh, who released a brand new EP, “Drug Ballads,” during the pandemic. In fact, as you’ll see in our conversation, he wrote the songs while quarantined. In addition to the EP, we also touch on why a John Lennon song is the most appropriate song for right now, his love for the latest MGMT record and why Shepherdstown artist Bob Keel is a machine. To check out Ethan’s new EP, visit his Bandcamp page, ethanlarsh.bandcamp.com.
1. What have you been listening to while self-quarantining and what about it makes you want to listen to it these days?
Larsh: I’ve been really into the latest MGMT record. Particularly the song “When You Die.” It’s kind of a pessimistic song. I feel like it’s easy to gravitate toward that kind of thing in times like these.
2. Have you come across any livestreams/internet-based performances throughout the pandemic that have stuck out?
Larsh: I’ve been really into Quarantine Music Video Club. It’s this Facebook group where members are given a list of songs. You pick a song on the list, and it gets crossed off, so no one else can pick it. It’s fun. You get to see everyone’s take on these songs.
3. You have a new EP out — was that written entirely over the pandemic? Or were those songs already cooked up beforehand? Also, has it been a fruitful time for creating over the course of the pandemic for you?
Larsh: All but one song on the EP was written during the pandemic. It’s been an extremely fruitful time for writing. For a while, I was writing a song a day. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes not. That’s what I put on the EP — the ones I liked.
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the sort of art world being on pause for the time being?
Larsh: I think it’s given time for me to write songs. I also go on a lot of hikes and walks lately. I feel like that’s been good mentally, and also creatively. A lot of lyrical ideas will pop into my head while on those hikes and walks.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
Larsh: Hmm. I don’t know. I feel like most of the music I listen to has these sad or pessimistic overtones to them. Those songs attract me. Although, I feel like “Power to the People” by John Lennon would be an appropriate song. Or perhaps “Payback” by James Brown.
BONUS QUESTION: What artists, local or not, do you think have done a great job staying engaged musically online and what about what they’re doing sets them apart?
Larsh: Bob Keel from Shepherdstown, West Virginia. That guy puts out three Facebook live videos a week. The man’s a machine. I don’t see anyone else doing that.