CTRL Interview: A Conversation With Healy

Memphis native Ethan Healy is a man of many interests. Part of the music that has came out of Memphis has helped shaped Healy’s diverse musical palette, and it’s been apparent in the music he’s released thus far. Originally experimenting in the singer-songwriter lane, Healy knew there was no limits to his possibilities, as he then transitioned into various styles which included the sounds of hip-hop and rap.

With his debut album Subluxe, Healy became an artist on the rise. The nostalgic driven full length album helped shaped the soundtrack to every summer immediately after release. Healy gave listeners a ticket into his world of an endless summer, one that is vividly specific to his own personal experiences. On the project, Healy’s attention to detail is on full display, as he impresses with his ability to convey messages through various forms of sounds that are crucial to his never ending summer. Subluxe helped set the pace for what’s in store next.

Three years later, and Healy is ready to tackle time once again. Gearing up for the next installment to his series of events, the singer teases fans with what’s to come in the new chapter as he goes to war with the concept of time. Earlier this year, Healy released the single Nikes On, and on it he focuses on the central theme of life and how it moves at a fast pace. Once the song came into fruition, Healy then realized he had another story to tell, and he’s ready for fans to hear it.

I spoke to Healy about the single, the upcoming album, and what's in store for the future.

You’re from Memphis, and when people think of the music from there, they think of blues, rock-n-roll, soul, and southern rap. How would you say it has impacted your overall musical direction?

Memphis really helped me develop a dynamic musical palate. My parents were showing me stuff like Earth Wind & Fire, Al Green, and Isaac Hayes while my friends were putting me onto Big Star and Julien Baker. But I naturally gravitated toward southern rap the most - Three 6 and Project Pat, Dem Franchize Boyz, Crime Mob, Jeezy, Lil Wayne, TI, Mike Jones. Memphis’ diversity and unique culture taught to me an openness and fearlessness that I’ve made a part of my creativity. 

Originally you began in the singer-songwriter style but over the years transitioned into tackling various sounds which include hip-hop, what inspired this transition? 

I was playing a lot of guitar when I was just starting to make music, and I think eventually I just became curious of other sounds.  I remember after I first heard Graduation I was fixated on how well Kanye was able to fuse melody and lush instrumentation with rap. As I leaned away from acoustic stuff and into hip hop production, I always had that album in the back of my head as a reference for the type of music I wanted to make.  

Let’s talk about Nikes On, your most recent release. What was the inspiration behind it? Why was it necessary for you to release this as the first taste of new music?

For me Nikes On was the demo that really signified the start of work on LP2. It made me realize I had another story to tell. Nikes On feels like the trailer for the project as a whole. 

Nikes On focuses on the central theme of time, and how life moves at a fast pace. How did you learn to confront reality and accept the pressures that come with it?

I started reading a lot of Alan Watts in 2017, and from his books I’ve been able to get some super refreshing perspectives on life. I reminisce a lot and think of ways to go back and perfect the past, and his book “The Wisdom of Insecurity” has helped me kind of inhabit the present more. I also started seeing a therapist a few years back, and I became so much more aware of all my fear-avoidance stuff. Nikes On came to serve as a meditation and reminder to be self-aware and present in life because time never stops, and fighting it is wasting it. 

Similarly, Subluxe your debut album, was a nostalgic sounding soundtrack to summer. What effect does nostalgia have on your work?

I try to treat albums like stories, and nostalgia is the hem that holds the story’s arc together. Change is the only constant thing about life, and it’s an integral part of any great story. Nostalgia comes as a byproduct of reflecting on that change.

At the end of last year, you sort of trolled fans with your own spin to your Spotify 2019 Wrapped. So, I have to ask, where is the album? When can fans expect the new project?

The album is super close. There’s a loose end or two to tie up conceptually, and a little writing left to do, but a midsummer release feels realistic right now. 

During your REDDIT AMA, you revealed that you worked with Cautious Clay on this project. Any details you can share on what it was like working with him? 

I made this one demo back in February 2018 and immediately had this gut feeling that Josh needed to help me tie it together. This past summer we finally got the chance to link up in Brooklyn for a session. Josh works so efficiently. He also has an incredible ear for dynamics and soundscapes, and he really helped evolve that demo into the song it is today.  

It’s been said by various artists, especially by independent artists, that the second album is much more challenging than the first. Do you agree?

I feel like it all depends on the artist. When an artist’s voice gets louder, it becomes a lot more likely they’ll encounter people who don’t agree with what they’re doing - and that can be a paralyzing thought for some artists. It’s also really tough when your listeners aren’t spending every day with you watching you grow exponentially. Some listeners may be growing apart from their favorite artists, but they don’t realize it until that next album drops. I’ve changed a lot over the last 3 years, and I’m being very purposeful with how I translate that musically.  

Congrats on partnering with RCA Records btw! Why did you partner with RCA Records and what do you think they can do for your career?

Thanks man - I knew I wanted to run my next project through a label, and RCA felt like the best fit for me. Their roster aligned well with the direction I felt my music was going. So far, they’ve really helped support what I’m doing while still giving me the freedom and creative control to be myself, which is super important to me.

Don't forget to checkout Healy's upcoming studio album once it's officially released. For now, stream Healy's latest single, Nikes On


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