– Ethan Stokes Tischler releases his first album, celebrates with a concert in Portland

Ethan Stokes Tischler Photo submitted

When I originally scheduled the following interview, it was in support of Ethan Stokes Tischler’s album release concert at the Mayo Street Arts Center in Portland on the 25th of this month. I had a little trouble communicating with him and he ended up calling me from a cafe in Camden on the 7th of last month. As I was transcribing our 24-minute conversation, he messaged me and told me about a gig he and Elsie Gawler had just booked at the Slates in Hallowell on May 14. When asked if it was an album release show, he explained that it wasn’t, but that the folk duo would be playing selections from “Across the Waking Skies” in part of their performance that night. Now let’s get into that aforementioned conversation, which started when I asked him about the response he’s received since the CD was released in February.

Tischler: So far, so good. It was wonderful to just have something to share with people in the absence, loss of live shows. I think that’s sort of what the album was born out of in 2020, at the start of the pandemic. It was like, “wow, I don’t think we’re going to be playing music much in the near future, but I want to find a way to keep this all moving.”

Q: Well, obviously you found a way.
Tischler: I started to experiment more with home recording and finally put together the whole project. It was exciting.

Q: Usually a new release brings the mandatory live support gigs.
Tischler: We have the first round of album release shows in, my God, two or three weeks; here in Belfast and then in Vermont, which I think will be one of the first opportunities to really, really share music live, outside of the album.

Q: Is this your first album?
Tischler: It’s, depending on how you count it, kind of a number three album, but it’s my first as me, like under my own name. There were a few projects that predated this one in Vermont that were a bit more of experiments that grew out of people coming together in a short period of time. They all felt like they were preparing for this one, the first real album.

Q: Now this show coming up in Portland, will it be a solo performance or will you have backing musicians with you?
Tischler: Yeah, I feel very lucky that it’s not a solo exhibition (laughs)! I’ve played solo songs before and I think one of the most delightful parts of the album was getting people in all the places to really fill out the songs, and that’s also true for the gigs.

Q: Who will you have with you then?
Tischler: I’m going to have Elsie and Willy Clemetson on fiddle and Noah Fishman on bass, and the mandolin player on the album, Greg {Pauza}, is actually going to fly out from North Carolina to play the Portland show, which is going to be awesome because he was one of the longest collaborators with me.

Q: One thing I wanted to tell you about “Across the Waking Skies” is that every song, in my opinion, is strong, there isn’t a throwaway track.
Tischler: Thanks very much. It’s really nice to hear because when we were doing it, it was like we were doing it in a vacuum.

Q: How so?
Tischler: Well, everyone on the album was recording from their various quarantine spaces in 2020 (laughs) and everyone figured out how to send their parts. I would put them in a rough mix in Lincolnville and then send all the audio to a really lovely engineer (Lane Gibson who also played piano) in Charlotte, Vermont who put all the polish on it and really put it together .

Q: Now that’s crazy because it looks like you were all together in a studio, not in different places all over the place. The technology is amazing, there is no doubt about it.
Tischler: It was what we were hoping for, but with everyone having different gear, I wasn’t sure we could pull it off. I mean, Elsie and I were able to be in the same space, but Tyler (Bolles), Caleb (Bronz) and Greg really listened to what we had done and fit in beautifully. it’s such a testament to the musicality of everyone involved.

Q: And vocally, Elsie and you harmonize so wonderfully, it was a pleasure to experience that.
Tischler: (Laughs) Well, we’ve been singing together for a long time now, so that helps. Elsie has been a total champion of all these songs, they started with voice memos we sent each other in 2016 and 2017.

Q: Is there anything else in the works that you would like to talk about?
Tischler: Yeah, for the past two years, while we’ve been working on this album, we’ve also been writing new songs, and we’re really excited about Elsie & Ethan’s debut album.

Q: Oh, cool!
Tischler: Yeah, so we’ll go for it, either spring or summer, but knowing how busy summer is, it’ll probably be fall (laughs), on a duo album. And “duo” in the sense of another great opportunity to attract all those wonderful musicians who are in the area.

Q: Regarding the Mayo Street Arts show in Portland, have you ever performed there?
Tischler: Yeah, we just spent three nights in a row there with the Gawler family just two weekends ago. It’s a really nice place with great sound.

Q: Is there anything, Ethan, that you would like me to pass on to people reading this article?
Tischler: Not really, maybe just that as the year progresses we hope there will be more and more opportunities to get out there and connect, and share in person.

Lucky Clark, winner of the 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” award, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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