Fleshing out his sound with a bigger, more electric approach, Ethan Fortenberry combines his Andy Shauf-style songwriting skills with the more expansive sounds of a slowed-done MGMT for Ethansroom’s new self-titled album.
Stream: ‘Ethansroom’ – Ethansroom
Your early twenties, as the cliché goes, is supposed to be the best time of your life. Reality however, smashes that theory to bits.
In truth, everything in your world is constantly changing — friends, interests, dreams, not to mention yourself as you move out, experience different things (good and bad), and generally become a real person. At its best your early twenties are exciting, but more commonly they’re exhausting and anxiety-riddled. You’re desperately clinging for something steady, an anchor that holds you to the floor while everything around you is in flux.
For Rome, Georgia’s Ethan Fortenberry — who performs under the name Ethansroom — this constant is his room.
“It’s my self-titled record because I feel like as a whole it’s the most accurate depiction of my room. I am my room. You are your room” says Ethan via email. “So for me to have created it, and it being the closest thing to myself, that literally means it’s the most alive thing I’ve ever made.”
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Ethansroom’s self-titled album Ethansroom, out this Friday, February 7th. His most mature offering to date, Ethansroom tackles his trademark issues — growing up, anxiety, love — with the mature perspective of someone who’s broken through to the other side. Or at the very least someone far enough in their journey to look over their shoulder.
“I think that in order to really have a grasp on reality you have to have rolled with some punches while simultaneously celebrating the mini victories that come in-between them. This record top to bottom is that in its writing, its arrangements, and its production.”
Fleshing out his sound with the bigger, more electric approach he’d flirted with on his previous full length To, From, Fortenberry combines his Andy Shauf-style song writing skills with the more expansive sounds of a slowed-down MGMT. The result hones into what makes Ethansroom different from your regular bedroom rockstar — it’s earnest and raw while impeccably produced.
“I really wanted to make this an electric record, and Josh [Warren] is the only producer I know who was able to create a balance of where I came from and what I wanted to do” says Fortenberry. “I was really digging into Phoenix and The Paper Kites newer releases while recording and I think that shows. There’s a Juno in nearly every song, samples, 80’s inspired guitar tones, while also having some elements I think are integral to my sound like that fingerpicking thing I do.”
This growth isn’t just limited to the music either.
A snapshot of Fortenberry’s life and the journey to get to where he is, lyrically Ethansroom tackles big issues fearlessly.
“Mud” deals with his reckoning with depression and anxiety after a meaningful heart-to-heart: “I was on the back end of some really scary anxiety issues and called my dad one day to kind of vent and I’ll never forget what he said. He had had similar issues some years ago and told me ‘One day you’re going to wake up and it’s going to be over. You’re going to wonder when you got there [that being a place of peace], and you’re not going to know, and it’s not going to matter. You’re there.’”
“Mud” emotes a sense of calm and hope that we all need sometimes.
Things get bad
Before they go get good
We’re all lost until
In the mud
That we made
Some time ago
Other songs, such as “Ma I Think I Found a Lady”, “Learning How To Start” and “Try Again” deal with different aspects of love and relationships—from not being able to like someone as much as you want to hiding school crushes from your parents. Like much of Fortenberry’s work, it’s so personal it creates a feeling we can all relate to.
By describing his own room so clearly, your room comes more into focus.
The standout moments of the album however, come when Fortenberry discusses growing up. Album opener “22” is beautiful, with its stuttering acoustic guitar, steady drum beat, and 80s synth overlays. Lyrically it will hit most twenty-somethings clean between the eyes. “ is the age where everyone around you is kind of getting their shit together or absolutely losing it. I was somewhere in the middle and felt like I was the only one who felt that way.”
How am I old enough
How am I unfolding
Everyone I know
Is folding up
Three of my friends are
Tying knots it feels
Like a sucker punch
No drawing blood
Just some bruising up
And I’m holding on
“Space Themed Sheets” is about “losing your youth” and will pull the strings of even the most hardened heart. “As a kid I’d ask for bedrooms for Christmas instead of toys and one year I asked for a space themed bedroom. I’d keep the sheets from that room up until I was 19 when I accidentally threw them away in a convenient store dumpster.”
While most of us were asking Santa for toys instead of duvets, we all have that memory of innocence lost forever burned into our brain.
Missing how it was
Missing those old sheets
Blue, with comets on
Now I’m spacing out
Never looking up
Cause I’m scared of it
Scared of losing touch
No one told me
Just nothing much
Ethansroom captures a time in most people’s life where you’re free falling and trying to clutch to any solid structure that will provide relief.
For some it’s a book, others that one song, and for others it’s that one unbreakable friendship. For Fortenberry it’s his room.
His latest album opens the door and lets us into his world; although at times sad, hopeful and inspiring, it’s impossible not to see yourself in it. If you’ve ever felt lost, Ethansroom is a great place to rest and know you’re not alone. Experience the full record via our exclusive stream, and peek inside Ethansroom with Atwood Magazine as Ethan Fortenberry goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his latest album!
Stream: ‘Ethansroom’ – Ethansroom
:: Inside Ethansroom ::
22 is about being an age and not wanting to be. It’s the age where everyone around you is kind of getting their shit together or absolutely losing it. I was somewhere in the middle and felt like I was the only one who felt that way.
Space Themed Sheets
As a kid I’d ask for bedrooms for Christmas instead of toys and one year I asked for a space themed bedroom. I’d keep the sheets from that room up until I was 19 when I accidentally threw them away in a convenient store dumpster. It’s about losing your youth.
Ma I Think I Found a Lady
I was obsessed with Andrew Bird when I wrote this one, and was trying to emulate that sticotto plucking he does but with my guitar. In the 2nd grade my parents would also always drive by my crush’s house (we lived in the same neighborhood) and say “There’s ******** house” and so from that day forward I never talked about girls to my parents. This one’s about what I’d say to my parents if I were to tell them I was into someone. Also my mom is on the cover for the single, hahaha.
Learning How to Start
My freshman year of college I was super into Hippo Campus and always wanted to write a song like that. I was also feeling stuck in a sense that you know you like someone, and you want to like them more, but for some reason your head won’t let you. It’s a light begging of sorts, asking the other person in the relationship to fill in the gaps that your head won’t let you, while also saying that your trying.
I was on the back end of some really scary anxiety issues and called my dad one day to kind of vent and I’ll never forget what he said. He had had similar issues some years ago and told me “One day you’re going to wake up and it’s going to be over. You’re going to wonder when you got there [that being a place of peace], and you’re not going to know, and it’s not going to matter. You’re there.” So it’s kind of just about looking back at where you were and looking forward to the day it all makes sense as well.
You Were There
I was really frustrated with God for a while. I didn’t know how to reach Him and all my efforts were filled with indifference, it felt like. This song is kind of realizing how in front of your face the face of God is.
Try Again is a song about hope. It’s looking at a relationship and understanding it has its faults but also understanding that there’s gonna be a day where it be looked at again in a new light.
Lady was written as a promise, and it’s a promise that still remains. It’s looking at the full picture and saying “I’m there.”
There was one day where I was thinking about this one girl, and I bumped into my wall and spilled my coffee. It was a big Walter Mitty moment for me. It’s about viewing someone in such a light that says “I see you, and all that comes with that.” no matter how hard that can be sometimes.
When Kingdom Come
.I was having some spiritual doubts one night and so I started reading in revelation and my initial thought was “This is all bullshit.” and it scared me to death. I had never had a thought like that before. This song and ‘You Were There’ are a part one and part two type of deal, “When Kingdom Come” being part one.
WIHYNCO (When I Hear Your Name Called Out)
This one is such a blast to play live. It ends on a 7/4 time signature which I lovvvvve. This one was the first song I wrote for the record two years ago, and has a different feel than all of the others. It’s a song about being into someone but not being in love with them.
Stream: ‘Ethansroom’ – Ethansroom
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📸 © Sam Lindsey art © Joey Brodnax, Lindsey
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