Metronome Magazine, March 2014 issue. Interview with Brian Owens, Publisher/Editor.
METRONOME: How long have you been playing and singing?
ETHAN: I've been playing piano since I was about 4 years old, singing as far back as I can remember.
METRONOME: What was it that made you say, I want to be a musician?
ETHAN: I loved sports, wasn't great at them. A lot of heart, not a lot of talent. I enjoyed astronomy, but there's way too much math involved. Used to love the old video games, but back then it wasn't something I thought could become a vocation! Music is one of the only things I've ever been good at that I felt there could be a real future in. I wasn't born with a lot of natural ability, but I have a ton of passion, and therefore put a ton of time into my music. I knew it was what I was going to do for the rest of my life when I was about 14-15 years old. Nothing else came close.
METRONOME: When did you first start playing musical instruments?
ETHAN: I began piano at the age of 4, clarinet at the age of 8, drums at the age of 10, guitar at 16, bass at 18, and the rest kind of sprouted out somewhere along the line.
METRONOME: You’re a multi-instrumentalist. Did they all come easily to you or was there a learning curve?
ETHAN: NONE of them came easy. I am the living proof that people with very little natural ability can achieve success playing any instrument they want, with enough passion and dedication. Even though I've always had this strange feeling that I could do it, I was told by many people I'd never be a performer. I failed my first year of piano lessons in college, and dozens of guitar players laughed at my guitar playing for the first ten years I played guitar (and probably still do!) But I just decided to absolutely and unconditionally pour myself completely into my music, and practice at least ten hours per day, and finally got to the point where I could perform at a reasonable level. I still practice as many hours as possible. If I stop practicing, I start slipping fast! Actually I need to take a little break from this interview, I haven't practiced any of my instruments yet today. Can we resume this later on?
METRONOME: Can you cite any particular band or person as being especially encouraging and inspiring during your early days?
ETHAN: Man I've had a lot of them. I've been very lucky. As a young adult I had people like Brian Brodeur, Shawn LePoer, Bob Harris, Lawrence Watson, Bruce Thomas, Mark Wright, and Noah Scanlan, to name a very few. I had a great teacher as a child, Sr. Germaine, who after giving me a good technical foundation to work with encouraged me to play whatever music I wanted, as long as I put my heart into it. So being able to play what I wanted made me WANT to put my heart into everything I played. I wasn't catholic but she didn't treat me any differently than the other students who were. She was awesome!
Then as I was growing up I was literally the biggest dork in school, and my friend Mark Robinson, who was a 'cool kid' but still was nice to me for some reason, introduced me to the music of Billy Joel, and I thought "Hey! There's a guy who plays rock and roll on the piano!" And I soon immersed myself in the music of Joel, John, and others. I had another great teacher by the name of Brian Burgess as an adolescent, he encouraged me to learn to sing and play at the same time and taught me a lot about music. Then I got into jazz with my friend Rich Graiko in high school, and started listening to Eric Jackson's nightly jazz radio show. Incidentally I hate how WGBH cut back on all the great jazz programming they had. They lost the button I had for them on my car stereo with that move. But anyway, I moved to Boston at the age of 17, studied with Dean Earl, and I was his last student of the day, so he used to let me stay in his office practicing piano all night after my lessons!! And it was all downhill from there hahaha! Ramen noodles and PBJ all the way!
METRONOME: In 2004 you left the bar life for good. What prompted that move?
ETHAN: Just had too many people I cared about get hurt and/or killed after being immersed in that lifestyle. As a musician playing in a bar, your job is to increase the amount of money the bar makes. You have to either draw a crowd that wouldn't normally be there, or get the regulars who would be there anyway to drink more than they would have if you weren't there.
After a few years of trying to be a great performer in the bars, I finally realized it wasn't my job to be a great performer in the bar. It was my job to sell as much beer as possible. That was what would get me booked consistently. I learned what songs got a crowd to drink more. I played drinking games with the audience between and during songs. I stopped taking breaks so the people who planned to leave during my next break would be tricked into staying until the end of the night. I encouraged people to drink up! Soon the bar owners loved me. The bar owners made lots of money when I played. I got lots of friends who used to stay home with their families to go out to the bars instead, and stay out a lot longer than they would have if there was nothing but a jukebox to listen to. Many of them got divorced, many lost their licenses, some died, some killed others on the road. I made new friends in the bars. Learned how to get them to come out more often too. Watched many of them struggle more and more with life. Saw some of them lose their lives too.
I'm not claiming responsibility for the choices other people make, but I certainly was not a good influence on people in those days, and it just got to be too much ruin, too much waste, too many mistakes. Decided I wanted to use my music to make the world a better place, rather than sell beer and put drunk drivers on the road for a living. So I had a moment of clarity sitting in Duguay's fried Chicken restaurant in Gardner MA one day. Incidentally wonderful fried chicken over there. I realized I'd been wasting my passion, using it to put drunk drivers on the road for my own gain regardless of their demise. Decided I would stop playing where people drank altogether and try and use my music purely "for good." I had met my friend Rob LaBelle there to bounce ideas off him, he's a fellow songwriter and friend, who incidentally has a new album coming out soon. Anyway, sitting there in that restaurant I wrote out a list of gigs that I would focus on getting and/or creating on the back of an unused Keno ticket, such as gigs in schools, churches, nursing homes, sober festivals, town halls, concerts on the common, studio gigs, and more. I wanted to be able to do something good for the world.
At first it was hard to get enough work to make a living compared to the bar gigs, but with a sustained effort over the last ten+ years I have learned how to entertain an audience that isn't drunk, create my own successful festivals and concert series', get enough gigs in studios, senior living facilities and more to make a good living without encouraging people to spend their time getting wasted in a bar so they can hear me play. I've been able to share my music with people of all ages and walks of life, not just the 21+ drinking crowd. And I no longer have to wonder how many people walking out of my gig are likely to be involved in a drunk driving accident on the way home and/or never make it home at all.
METRONOME: Why do you feel that you got ensnared by alcohol and was it hard to quit that life?
ETHAN: At first I was just a kid looking to play some rock and roll, anywhere. The bars were willing to pay people to play. So I got gigs now and then, playing the cover songs that I loved, and after a few years I was playing in bars 7 days a week, up to 4 gigs a day. Brunches, happy hours, dinner crowd, late night gigs, tons of private parties, lots of everything. I was making plenty of money and got free everything at the places I played. Food, drink, you name it. Its one thing to do the occasional gig in a club, but if you spend every day in that environment, its hard not to dive in pretty soon. And dive in I did. For years. It wasn't that hard to walk away from by the time I finally did, because I had seen firsthand hundreds and hundreds of times the damage alcohol can do to people and everyone around them. I think the fact that I became so immersed in it gave me a unique perspective on the deeper truths about the whole thing. What were we all really doing with our lives? Not much good. Its called getting wasted for a reason!
METRONOME: Are you a Christian? Did you seek refuse in christianity after your drinking?
ETHAN: I am a Christian. I absolutely seek refuge in my faith all the time from anything and everything that might get me down. I have to admit I do get frustrated and/or discouraged by the way some churches get a bad reputation cast on them due to other groups who call themselves Christians but don't act like Jesus Christ at all. I aim to put my feelings about God out there in a way that brings people together, and doesn't divide or scare people. I believe in Jesus Christ, the guy who loved everyone and went around doing miracles and healing the sick. Doing only good.
METRONOME: Did it help you?
ETHAN: Yes! Faith has helped me through a lot and it definitely helps me deal with vertigo and the other symptoms of Meneire's disease I wrassle with every day. For me, faith gives hope, hope sustains life, life is love, and love requires faith. I do respect other people's beliefs though, even if they are quite different than mine.
METRONOME: I understand your 2006 single “Too Late” was well received in Europe. How did that happen?
ETHAN: When I put out that single, I scoured the internet and music publications for anyone anywhere that might play or listen to my music. I felt that song was catchy and it had a chance to be more well received than some of my other songs. So I sent it out all over the place and it was played quite a bit on college radio over here in the US, and even a few commercial FM radio stations up higher on the dial, but then I started getting emails from European stations who were playing the song, that I never even contacted. I don't know how it got to them. Someone somewhere got it started. At the time myspace was really big, and in the course of a couple of weeks, my myspace friends list grew from like 400 people to almost 30,000! Now if I could just convert that ancient myspace "fanbase" into an actual current fanbase of even 1/10 that size...
METRONOME: How many albums have you recorded?
ETHAN: Really only 2 full albums of my original stuff. I have played on a ton of other albums by friends, and I made some various demos of my originals years ago, that I wouldn't really call albums.
METRONOME: What are the names of the albums and when did they come out?
ETHAN: Ain't that the way in 2007, and Sweet Release at the tail end of 2011/beginning of 2012.
METRONOME: How long did it take to record your 2007 release, Ain’t That The Way?
ETHAN: I started the tracking for it in 2005 at the old Woolly Mammoth studio, when it was in Boston. It was all finished by fall of 2006.
METRONOME: Did it feature all original songs?
ETHAN: Yes, all my own originals, however the title track, Ain't That the Way, was a co-write with my good friend Tim LaRoche, who pushed me to work on my own writing and taught me a lot about guitar, drums, and stamina!
METRONOME: Was there a theme to it or were they just random tunes?
ETHAN: There is a theme, although I didn't necessarily intend it that way originally, but that is how it came together. Listening back to it now, every song reflects on moving forward from some sort of big life change or heartbreak, whether it be loss of love, loss of life, etc.
METRONOME: Did thre album title hold any special significance for you?
ETHAN: Yes. It was my first completely original album recorded professionally, something I had aspired to for many years. I absolutely loved the people I worked on it with. I'll never forget hearing it on the air for the first time on 97.3FM WJDF, a really cool independent station based out in Orange MA. The guys over there play the most incredible variety of music, and they had me right there in the studio when they played it for the first time, and even did a little interview going into it! It was a huge thrill for me. They still play my music on that station almost daily, and while another station with higher wattage drowns out WJDF on their FM frequency in the Boston area, you can listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wjdf.com and if you tune in, there is a great chance you'll hear music from my first album, Ain't That the Way! I remember working at a factory in Orange as a kid when WJDF first came on the air, dreaming that some day they'd be playing my music, never knowing it could actually happen!
METRONOME: How did the album do commercially?
ETHAN: Honestly it did better critically than commercially. I'll let you know if I ever break even on it!
METRONOME: You list David Bowie and Peter Gabriel as vocal influences. Why?
ETHAN: Actually when I was tracking the vocals for the Sweet Release CD, Jamie Foulds mentioned how much some of the vocals sounded like them which I had been unaware of. In fact some of the backup vocals for Misled and vocals on Sweet Release sound scarily like David Bowie and Peter Gabriel, so much so that I felt I should give them some sort of credit in the liner notes. They're both awesome, and I felt very honored when Jamie made the comparison.
METRONOME: You have a great voice. Did that come naturally to you or did you have to work at it?
ETHAN: Thank you for saying that! I beg to differ, don't feel as though my voice is too great, but I appreciate the compliment immensely. I feel like I have worked hard at singing for a long time and there is always more to learn. Back when gas was cheap, I used to drive around Boston singing classic rock songs along with the radio at the top of my lungs all night while looking for a parking spot, learning the streets of Boston and how to sound as close as I could to those raspy 70's rockers. But I never felt like I got my voice to where I wanted it to be. At some point I guess I embraced where my voice was at and decided to just go with it and start recording originals. I do still work on it though.
In fact I've had to somewhat retrain my voice the last year or so. I had a freak accident last summer where a very sharp dental tool a few inches long was dropped down my throat during a routine trip to the dentist. After literally a couple hours of deliberation by the dentist, a doctor was consulted and the doctor accosted the dentist very aggressively for not sending me immediately to the ER. I was rushed to the nearest major hospital, but by then it was lodged in my small intestine. They had to put me under general anesthesia and operate for several hours to get it out. Prior to the surgery, a surgeon informed me that he estimated there was about a 15 percent chance they would be able to remove it, and if it perforated me, which it was likely to do, I could die within days or even hours!
Luckily they retrieved it, and I am still a functional human being. It did take me about 3 months to be able to swallow solid food again, and unfortunately I still struggle with swallowing solid food at times. My digestive system was permanently damaged. Unfortunately my speaking voice was changed significantly too, and I lost a big chunk of my higher vocal range. It now takes a crazy amount of warmup and practice to hit the high notes on Ain't that the Way and Glass of inspiration, which prior to that incident were about half an octave below the top of my range, so during shows when I hit the notes successfully I want to jump up and down like crazy and celebrate! So the short answer is yes, I have had to work at my voice, lately more than ever!
METRONOME: When did you start working on your latest album, Sweet Release?
ETHAN: I began writing the songs for it in 2006.
METRONOME: Where did you record the project?
ETHAN: Most of the drums were recorded in 2 days at Alan Evans' studio in 2007, and most of the rest of the album was recorded over a 5 day period in fall of 2011 at Jamie Foulds studio in Cape Breton Nova Scotia. Some additional overdubs were done in my own studio.
METRONOME: You have an unusually energetic approach to your musical performance. Is that something that you’ve developed or is it just an extension of your personality?
ETHAN: Thank you! I am definitely known to be a crazily energetic person at times, although as a songwriter initially the stuff I was writing was more mellow, then I tapped into this more energetic stuff which is more in line with who I am, in terms of insanity.
METRONOME: Are your live shows as energy filled as your studio peformance?
ETHAN: I try to make my live show something the audience will enjoy and remember. I think I'm more energetic live than in the studio. Most of my rock shows are in school auditoriums, gymnasiums, church halls, outdoor stages etc. so as long the space is big enough, I like to bring a pretty considerable lighting rig with trusses and the whole bit. In addition to being the hottest woman around, my gorgeous wife runs the light show. I go a little nuts with the lighting and sound for an audience which is rarely over a few hundred people and sometimes much less. Some people say its overkill, I say its rock and roll so there is no such thing!
As far as the musical aspect of the performance, I do a lot of the songs in a mad scientist format where I am running around playing all of the different instruments and using samples and loops so that it seems like I am playing with a band of invisible aliens. Then on some songs I bring up special guests like Adam Bergeron, "The Captain" Chris Coombs, Marissa Roberts, my wife Kelly, and various other wonderful human beings who play whatever instruments I'm not playing, so there's that aspect too. But to prove I am not more machine than man I also strip it down for part of the show and do a couple songs with just a piano and vocals and/or just an acoustic guitar and vocals to make that more intimate connection with the audience. I don't care what size the audience is, my goal when I go out there is to make sure I create an intensely positive experience for whoever is willing to listen to me!
METRONOME: You enlisted Soulive drummer Alan Evans on four of the album’s tracks. How did you meet him?
ETHAN: My childhood friend Sean Nolan was the lighting director for Soulive when they were touring about 10 years ago. Sean was my drummer at the time and Alan actually mixed one of my demos for me back then and I loved working with him. After that I was always trying to get my drummers to sound just like Alan. Finally I decided to just ask him if he would play for me instead, since he was the guy I wanted everyone to sound like!
METRONOME: Did he deliver what you had expected or did he exceed your expectations?
ETHAN: Delivered the goods way above and beyond. He really put a lot of energy into the songs, I remember after a particular take I already felt totally satisfied but he kept doing better and better takes so I didn't stop him! In fact after we tracked the drums for all the songs he still wanted to do more takes of stuff! Amazing talent and passion, and a great engineer as well. Absolutely love working with him. I'm hoping to work with him more on my next album.
METRONOME: Your song “Misled” reminded me of a Dave Matthews tune. What inspired that tune?
ETHAN: Back in 2006 when my Ain't that the way CD was all but done and sitting in the can for what seemed like an infinite period of time, I had some people I was close with whom I thought were my friends, who were quite dishonest with me, causing me quite a lot of pain. I channeled my disappointment into that song, and actually several of the songs on the Sweet Release album. Trying to turn a negative life experience into a positive! I actually wrote the main guitar riff as a little instrumental jam, then playing it and thinking about the situation I was in at the time, the melody and lyrics started coming to me, so I turned it into a song.
METRONOME: I heard a hint of Tom Waits in your song “Drifter.” What’s that about?
ETHAN: I LOVE Tom Waits man! I am so flattered and honored to be compared to him, thank you so much! I wrote that in the back of my van in an empty parking lot in 2004. So it was actually originally intended to be part of the batch of songs that came out on the Ain't that the Way CD and was recorded in large part back then as well but not totally finished. I added a couple overdubs and my beautiful wife laid down the backup vocals just prior to its release in 2011. It was written from the perspective of a homeless person who is struggling to survive, with something still to say about life and the world. As a writer I often try to put myself in character and write a song from someone else's perspective. For example the idea of my song "Over Time", which was also written in 2004, was that it was written from the perspective of the Earth as a living, breathing organism.
METRONOME: “Lick Your Lips” is fraught with sexual overtones. What inspired that number?
ETHAN: I remember I had just played a show in an auditorium to a pretty good crowd of a few hundred people in 2005. Back then I was a bit frustrated with myself for not having more upbeat numbers. I just started riffing away on acoustic and came up with a basic sketch of the song with about a quarter of the lyrics written, not much more than part of the melody but I thought I was onto something catchy. Then working with my friend Jamie Foulds he had this idea about the song being about a guy who was sitting in a restaurant and the waitress licked her lips at him. I took that thought and ran with it, and the rest of it can be about anything you want it to be!
METRONOME: How often do you perform live?
ETHAN: I actually play live an average of 12 times per week, doing jazz and boogie woogie tunes in various elder care and independent senior retirement communities throughout New England. Totally different style of music, mostly instrumental, old school. But as far as this original rock music of mine we're referring to today, I put on what I call rock concerts at least every month or so in someone's school gym, church hall etc. By the end of 2014 I hope to being doing original rock shows on closer to a weekly basis.
METRONOME: Tell me about the Tool Town concert series that you created. Where is it held and how often does it take place?
ETHAN: That takes place every summer and early fall in the town of Athol, MA. Back in 2004 when I decided to stop playing the bars, immediately I realized that there weren't a lot of paying gigs for musicians where they could play for an all ages audience, so I approached the town and asked them to let me put on a free outdoor concert series in the town's parks and in Memorial Hall when rain happened. Athol is not an affluent community at all, so many residents cannot afford to go to a concert at a larger venue out of town. And there is a lot of talent out there looking for a place to play, so it was a win/win situation.
The series is always between 4 and 11 concerts in August and September. Typically it includes performers from a wide variety of musical styles that are appropriate for a general audience. Initially it was funded by the town in part, but also over the last ten years I have had to obtain funding for it through sponsorships from local businesses, and a wide variety of fundraisers including other concerts, carwashes, meatball suppers, and much more. It is one of the most well attended concert series' in that north central MA region and I am very proud of it. There is a tremendous group of people who all work together to make it happen and I am very honored to have the opportunity to work with each of them. It is wonderful. Seeing people come out and enjoy the concerts, and watching generations of kids grow up with these concerts has been a huge thrill for me too. Many of the kids who were toddlers when the series started are now in middle and high school, and obviously the ones who were in high school and middle school when it started are all grown up now, some of them pursuing their own musical dreams.
I have also done some similar series' in neighboring towns on a smaller scale and hope to expand the model to several towns in the future as I think it fulfills a great need for cultural stimulation, and of course community bonding! Those beautiful old mill towns get picked on too much, they need something to enjoy and be proud of and a reason to come together and have fun! Musicians need to get their music out to the people in a live setting! I have been thrilled with the response on both ends.
METRONOME: Do you ever play in Boston?
ETHAN: Yes I absolutely do! More and more all the time! I always have the poster for my next show on the website at www.ethanstonemusic.com. Anyone reading this, please print out my posters and give them to all your friends. Anyone who prints out a poster and brings it to the show gets a free Ethan Stone ballpoint pen and fridge magnet set. Seriously. And a hug, if they want one. Just don't be freaked out if I don't let go too quick. I give wicked long hugs hey.
METRONOME: Any chance we’ll see a new album soon?
ETHAN: I've got a bunch of material in pre-production already, but I do take my time in pre-production because I want it to be right! So yes, definitely, just not TOO soon. I need to work on speeding up the process, so I can put out a ton of albums in this short life! Please feel free to harass me about it as often as possible, Brian!
METRONOME: Where can people go on the internet to find out more about you and to by your music?
ETHAN: They can go to my website to check out my tunes, see info on upcoming shows, read my bio, fight world hunger, email me, and more. My website is www.ethanstonemusic.com and I absolutely LOVE to get an email from a new person interested in my music so please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Of course I am also on FB at facebook.com/ethanstone and please feel free to add me. My profile picture is of my favorite drummer and best friend of all time, Jerry Chiasson who passed away last year at the age of 95. He was playing gigs with me right up until the week he passed away and had ten times the talent and energy I do! There is also a FB fan page called Ethan Stone - the musician which can be "liked". I just liked the Metronome Magazine Boston facebook page today as a matter of fact!
METRONOME: Is there anything you’d like to add before we close out?
ETHAN: Just that I am very honored to be included in this magazine, thank you so much for that. I have been enjoying Metronome for years now and it is very surreal to become a part of it and a huge thrill to be on the cover alongside some of the greatest artists in the history of music! Its a great opportunity for a guy that a lot of people may have counted out a long time ago! But God has given me a new lease on life with a beautiful wife and tons of great family and friends on my side! And the opportunity to perform and record my original music and have it mean something to somebody!!? What more could I ask for? I am extremely grateful. Thank you!
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Greenfield Recorder, SOUNDS LOCAL
By Sheryl Hunter, October 31, 2013.
Ethan Stone has always been one to give back to his community. An established singer-songwriter, who divides his time between Boston and Athol, Stone, is the driving force behind the free Tool Town Live free concert series held in Athol each summer. In 2004, he made the decision to not perform in venues where alcohol is served and since then has played countless alcohol-free benefits and concerts throughout the Northeast.
Next up, he is launching a new tour that he is calling The State of the Arts Tour, in which he will perform at various schools to raise money for school music programs.
The tour will launch this weekend when Stone returns to his alma mater, Athol High School, to perform a benefit show to help raise funds for the Athol High School music department and the Tool Town Live concert series.
The show, which features Stone and some special guests, will take place at Athol High School at 2363 Main St. in Athol on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m.
Stone is a rock musician whose music includes traces of funk, jazz and pop. He sings in a powerful voice and has said that he hopes to make the world a better place through his music.
At this show, expect him to perform material off both his albums, his 2007 debut “Ain’t That the Way” and 2011’s “Sweet Release.” Some of the guests joining him will be members of the Athol music department.
“I’m totally thrilled to be heading back to where it all started for me, Anzaldi Auditorium,” wrote Stone in a press release for the show. “I’ve been very impressed with the great work Sean Wallace and the staff and students at Athol High School have been doing with the music program there and I’m honored to be helping raise funds for AHS music and Tool Town Live, two causes that are very important to me. There will be some awesome special guests and lots of multi-instrument musical madness.”
The multi-instrument musical madness will be provided by Stone, who will sing and play guitar, bass, piano and electric drums while accompanying himself with a digital sampler and looping device. What this means is that he will be on stage alone but will be able to create the effect of performing with a full band, which makes for a show that is both sonically and visually dazzling.
“I have been working at this one-man band format for just over three years now. My first performance in that style was at a DARE graduation event back in 2010. With Alan Evans (Soul Live drummer who appeared on “Sweet Release ) busy touring the world, and my other favorite musicians busy with their own projects, I was invigorated by the challenge of doing the whole thing myself,” wrote Stone in a recent email exchange.
After trying one song in this format, he decided to perform an entire concert in this manner.
“My first full-length concert in the one-man band style was right when the “Sweet Release” album came out,” he said. “I still do the more stripped-down acoustic setup with just piano, guitar and vocals for some performances, such as when I played at the University of Washington in Seattle.”
Town Live shows concluded in September. And for those of you who enjoy seeing him perform in this manner, you’ll be pleased to know that he will set the technology aside for a few songs at this show.
“I also do a more intimate acoustic section for part of the concert and bring up special guests for a song or two so we can play as a full band with no sampling or loops, hoping that way people seeing the show feel they get the best of all worlds. So far, it has been a blast.”
Advance tickets are $8 adult, $4 for ages 18 and under and are available at Athol High School and Bruce’s Browser, 1497 Main St. in Athol. Tickets will be sold at the door and will be $10 for adults, $5 ages 18 and under. For more information visit: www.wjdf.com or www.ethanstonemusic.com
ATHOL DAILY NEWS VERSION
Stone concert to benefit AHS music department, Tool Town Live! series
ATHOL -- Athol native son Ethan Stone, known locally for organizing the Tool Town Live! concert series every year, is now setting his sights on bolstering the bottom line of the place where he began his long-running music career, the Athol High School Music Department.
With the town cutting funding to the Tool Town Live! concert series due to budgetary constraints, Stone has taken the creativity he usually saves for composing music and dedicating it to fundraising the best way he knows how, with a series of concerts starting at his own Alma Mater. The State of the Arts Tour, as he is calling it, will begin in the Anzaldi Auditorium at Athol High School Saturday night at 7 p.m., with proceeds from the concert being split between the Athol High School Music Department and the Tool Town Live! concert series, held every summer in town.
"Music in schools is so important, not only for the sake of the music itself but also for the tremendous brain-building power it has," says Stone. Just look at a person like Thomas Sudhof, who won a Nobel prize for medicine and physiology in 2010. He told the world that it was all thanks to taking bassoon lessons as a child. Sudhof says he owes his powers of analysis and concentration to studying a musical instrument! Young people are the future of our world, the question is, do we want them to be brilliant? Music is too important to be eliminated from schools. Its a cause worth fighting for."
Stone will be showcasing songs from both his 2007 debut album "Ain't That the Way" and 2011's "Sweet Release" Saturday night. Students of the AHS Music department will perform with Stone on stage during the show.
"I'm totally thrilled to be heading back to where it all started for me, Anzaldi Auditorium," says Stone. "I've been very impressed with the great work [Athol High School Music Director] Sean Wallace and the staff and students at Athol High School have been doing with the music program there, and I'm honored to be helping raise funds for AHS music and Tool Town Live!, two causes that are very important to me. There will be some awesome special guests and lots of multi-instrument musical madness, Kelly lighting the place up, Sally's dessert bars and other refreshments on sale to benefit AHS music."
Osprey Entertainment president Josh LaMarche came up with the idea for Stone to do a "State of the Arts" tour many years ago, and LaMarche and Stone have been discussing it for a long time now. "Josh has been the mastermind behind numerous successful events such as Rockin' for Wishes for the Make a Wish Foundation, Support Local Arts and Music series aka SLAM, and so much more," says Stone. "He's done a tremendous job improving our community and creating good opportunities for our young people and it is an immense honor to work with him anytime I get the opportunity."
Wallace said he is excited for Saturday's concert. He is hoping to use proceeds from the show to purchase new musical instruments for the band.
Tickets can be purchased at the door, or from Bruce's Browser. Saturday's concert is sponsored in part by 97.3FM WJDF.
WORCESTER TELEGRAM ARTICLE PUBLISHED AUGUST 15, 2013
Athol concert series, director endure
By Paula J. Owen, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
ATHOL — The Tool Town Live concert series is still going strong after a decade of local music performances despite director Ethan R. Stone's diagnosis five years ago with a disease that could cause the singer/songwriter to permanently lose his hearing.
The Tool Town Live 2013 concert series kicks off from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 17 2013 at the Uptown Common near 1500 Main St.
The free show open to all ages will feature Celtic music by Zoë Darrow and the Fiddleheads.
"This is the 10th year of Tool Town Live," Stone said. "As we close in on our 100th Tool Town Live event, I'd like to send out a huge thanks to all of the Tool Town Live performers, staff, sponsors, volunteers and other supporters for helping to make Tool Town Live a big success for all these years. Hopefully many more to come."
The 35-year-old instrumentalist and pianist, who started playing when he was just 5, said has learned to live with Meniere's disease — a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance. Characterized by episodes of vertigo and low-pitch tinnitus, it causes hearing loss that comes and goes, alternating between ears until it becomes permanent with no return to normal function.
"It affects mostly my balance," he explained. "Loud noises are what triggers it for me the most. That is pretty much the opposite of anything you want as a musician."
He said he cannot wear ear plugs because he gets nausea from the tinnitus, so he has to wear earmuffs to reduce noise levels.
"At first, it was really hard," he said. "When I was diagnosed in 2008, I couldn't get out of bed for a month. I was almost completely deaf for a month when I first got it. It was terrifying. But I gradually got my hearing back after a procedure, and your body gets used to the fact that you'll be dizzy the rest of your life and you go forward anyway."
Normal sounds to most people, like a whistle blowing, can cause the musician to fall down or experience nausea, he said.
"I came to grips with it," he said. "Now, I still have days where I don't hear very well. One day, if someone raises their voice or I hear silverware clanging, it is excruciating. Other days, I have difficulty hearing people speak."
The Berklee College of Music graduate said he is grateful he can still perform and is thankful for the support of his friends and family.
"Compared with someone who has gone blind or lost their sense of touch, smell or taste, it is pretty minor," he said. "I put it into perspective, and as much as it ... (stinks) being a musician and not being able to crank up the radio, at least I can still listen to the radio, perform and do the things I love to do. I'm very grateful for that."
Mr. Stone said one of the reasons he started the concert series was because there were no community band shows nor outdoor concerts offered in Athol, as he remembers seeing in other towns in his youth.
He wanted to change that for aspiring musicians and others, he said, with Tool Town Live. And the community came out, came together and local sponsors supported it. Although the series is homegrown in Athol and features plenty of Athol players, performers also come from several nearby towns.
Mr. Stone said he is thrilled to have Zoë Darrow and the Fiddleheads back after several years to kick off the 10th year.
"They always put on an awesome show," he said.
Zoë Darrow and the Fiddleheads is a traditional Celtic band from Blandford, Mass. Zoë Darrow, born in 1989, began fiddling when she was 4 years old and leads her trio in Scottish, Irish, and Cape Breton Fiddle tunes.
Backed up by her father Phillip Darrow on guitar and the virtuosic piano stylings of Tom Coburn, Zoë Darrow and the Fiddleheads has been performing publicly since 1999.
On Aug. 24, 2013 the blues/rock Reprobate Blues Band will perform on the Common from 7 to 9 p.m.
The last two concerts in the series will be at Fish Park, near 200 Union St., from 7 to 9 p.m. Haywire will perform country and rock music on Aug. 31 2013, and Jonathan Edwards will perform on Sept. 7, 2013.
In case of rain, the concerts will be held in Memorial Hall, 584 Main St.
Refreshments including hot dogs, popcorn, soft drinks, dessert bars and more will be on sale at the event.
For more information, visit www.tooltownlive.com.
Athol Daily News March 22, 2013
Stone concert supports the RECOVER Project
GREENFIELD -- Ethan Stone and special guests will perform a concert on Friday, April 5, at the RECOVER Project, 68 Federal St., from 8 to 11 p.m.
"I'm very excited to be bringing my '2013 tour' to the RECOVER Project in Greenfield this April for many reasons," says Stone. "I am 100 percent behind the awesome people at the RECOVER Project and all the great things they do. The RECOVER Project not only saves lives, but they embrace people who are just trying to survive, and help them live a better life. A healthy life of purpose, good relationships, and contribution to community. Most of all, the spirit of the RECOVER Project fosters an attitude of supporting each other, so they are not only saving lives, they're turning people into lifesavers. I couldn't be more thrilled to have the opportunity to connect with such an immensely great, powerful and vital organization."
The RECOVER Project is a community open to all concerned with alcohol and drug addiction. According to the founders and staff of the project, they exist to foster recovery and empower individuals, families, and the communities of Franklin County. They provide peer-to-peer support based on the guiding principles that people can and do recover from alcohol and drug addiction and that competence and wisdom reside in those with lived experience. Their core values are: Safety, Respect, Acceptance, Compassion.
Anyone who wishes to get involved can email the RECOVER Project at email@example.com or call them at 1-413-774-5489. Another way to connect is to stop by and talk to one of the coordinators or volunteers.
Boston-based songwriter/recording artist Ethan Stone originally hails from Athol. He performs exclusively in venues where alcohol is not consumed. Since leaving the bar life behind for good in 2004, he's worked hard to stimulate his craft and invest in his community. He has created and performed at countless alcohol-free benefit concerts and festivals throughout the northeast.
Ethan's debut single, "Too Late" was independently released on CD in 2006 and it has received critical acclaim and radio airplay all over the USA, in New Zealand, Japan, Canada, France, Estonia, Spain, Jerusalem, The Czech Republic, Serbia, Nicaragua, Tuvalu, Singapore, Germany and elsewhere. Ethan's debut full length CD, "Ain't That the Way" was released in 2007. Craig Semon of the Worcester Telegram, who has earned his reputation as one of the harshest critics on earth, called the CD "the greatest album to be released by anyone in 20 years."
Jay Deane, president of 97.3FM WJDF in Orange, says: "How one person can contain so much talent and not explode defies explanation! His live performances are mesmerizing."
In 2011, Ethan released his new CD "Sweet Release" with Alan Evans on the drums, from world-touring band Soulive. Evans has performed with Dave Matthews, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Living Colour, and many other giants in the music industry.
Tickets are available in advance or at the door. Sally's Scrumptious Dessert Bars, other refreshments and various soft drinks will be available at the event. The concert is open to all ages and is completely alcohol free.
The concert is sponsored in part by West Brook Tree Farm and 97.3FM WJDF, the station with the best music for every part of your day. For more information visit www.ethanstonemusic.com, www.wjdf.com, or www.recoverproject.org.