It’s time to get to know Ethan Gruska. He has played a role in some of the most important indie albums of the last several years, serving as producer on Phoebe Bridgers’ Stranger In The Alps (as well as her forthcoming LP), as well as on projects with Fiona Apple, Manchester Orchestra, The National’s Matt Berninger, and more.
Now, he’s gearing up to release En Garde, his second solo album. In anticipation of the release, Gruska sat down to talk Elliott Smith, loving improv, and not being a psychic in the latest Indie Mixtape 20 Q&A.
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Textural, impressionistic, anemoia, introspective.
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
I would hope there would still be a sense of relatability at that point… 30 years is like a century now. I would also hope that the records/sonics couldn’t be too easily dated… those are the records that I love.
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?
I’ve only ever played one tiny show in London but I’ll say London because I love going to London.
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
Hard to answer but in the last few years I would say Blake Mills. He’s a friend and in the studio I made my record in, he was working in his room right across the hall, and having someone that brilliant near you, always making great stuff, makes you want to raise your own bar and aim higher… Oh and I also LOVE his songs, production and his general outlook on life.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
Russ and Daughters in New York. That’s what my DNA is made of…
What album do you know every word to?
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
I saw James Blake play live at a cemetery in Los Angeles a few years back and I found it really transcendent and it really inspired me
What is the best outfit for performing and why?
Well I did a tour once where I started wearing a hat around the second half of the tour and my merch sales went up… show didn’t change much, so I think it was the hat. So that was good… Joking aside, I like when people look relaxed and present on stage so whatever helps make you feel that way at that time.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?
Right now I like following Thomas Middleditch on Instagram (@tombini). My wife showed me some of his face filter videos and I just think his brain and improv vibe is really really funny.
What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?
What’s the last thing you Googled?
“What is a word for nostalgia for a time you never lived in?”
What album makes for the perfect gift?
Luiz Bonfa – Introspection. That’s a go to record for me for having people over… very universally relaxing.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
Don’t remember the name or place but this one very specific horrible motel on the side of the highway somewhere in the middle of nowhere… a lot of my adult life has been spent in places like that but there’s one or five that were a truly bizarre vibe… picturing it now but don’t have a name on it.
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
I have a bright green pear on my back and it’s what my last name means in Polish. Gruszka = Pear. It’s not my favorite tattoo but it’s my only one…
What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?
Don’t listen to a ton of radio but when I’m checking out top 40 stuff I’ll definitely check out a full Arianna Grande song if it’s playing…
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
My wife married me and is sweet and funny every day so that’s really cool.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
What you are sure of that is happening in someone else’s head, is just what YOU think they are thinking… you’re not a psychic. I still wish someone would tell me that sometimes…
What’s the last show you went to?
Sylvan Esso at Disney Hall. They absolutely crushed it.
What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?
So many… any Wes Anderson movie maybe…
What would you cook if Kanye were coming to your house for dinner?
I’d keep it chill and make a real good sandwich station… keep it interactive and inspiring!
En Garde is out January 24. Pre-order it here.