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Nothing to misunderstand

Ethan Tucker set to tour Seattle

Ethan Tucker releases Misunderstood and plans a Northwest tour. Courtesy photo

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You might say that the release of Ethan Tucker's new album Misunderstood is a triumph, the overcoming of the Record Business' particularly harsh version of Murphy's Law.

At first glance, it would seem that in the two years since he signed a contract with Capitol Records, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. But you'd never know it by talking to Tucker himself. The bluesy-reggae songwriter and rocker has been enjoying time on the road and the stage with legends and stars like Jimmy Cliff, Buddy Guy and Michael Franti. And he is as enthusiastic and optimistic as ever about the newly minted album, counting his setbacks as blessings and learning experiences.

"I wasn't looking for a record contract when it was offered to me," he shrugs. "So I wasn't going to worry when I didn't have it any more. I just knew we needed to regroup and get the record done another way."

Tucker's connection to Capitol came about when his friend and sometimes co-writer Franti, a Capitol artist himself, did the match making. Tucker found himself rubbing elbows with some music biz heavyweights, but his project would later be among the casualties of a purge related to staffing changes. Seemingly adding insult to injury, while the label had been dragging its feet, another band not only released but had a megahit song with the same title as Tucker's signature anthem "Cool Kids". Even that didn't bother Tucker much.

"Initially, I was pretty frustrated by that," admits Tucker, who with Franti, penned his "Cool Kids" song back in 2011 (and has an early version of the song on a YouTube video to prove it!). "But now I think it could end up being a good thing." The Echosmith song by the same name might have "stolen his thunder" with the title, he says, but he is confident his "Cool Kids" is an even "cooler" song and thinks his song might actually get discovered accidentally by people searching for the other song by title.

Tucker says he feels fortunate that his management team was not linked to the Capitol contract, which meant that when the label abandoned the project, he still had the support system in place to get a project done.

"I may not have the budget that I did before, so I'm scraping by to stay on the road," he explains. "But I still have the infrastructure to make it work." His management company has ties to the record label owned by the band Slightly Stoopid, who are fans of Tucker's music. While the two were playing at the same festival in Cancun last year, the Slightly Stoopid members nudged Tucker about an earlier invitation to complete and release his record on their Stoopid Records label. In contrast to the team of lawyers and accountants involved in negotiating the Capitol deal, Tucker says this deal was sealed in a slightly less formal manner.

"We shook hands over a shot of tequila in Cancun, and it was done."

Tucker then dug in for a recording binge with some of Los Angeles' top studio players, directed by Brazilian-born producer Mario Caldato, whose credits include work with the Beastie Boys, Beck and Jack Johnson, as well as many of Brazil's top musical acts, to put the final touches on a project that has been in the works for years. And this month, the fruits of all that labor finally land in the hands of fans in the form of Misunderstood, an impressive 11-song collection of roots and reggae-infused, acoustic-flavored pop that is sure to generate a buzz and expand the map of Ethan Tucker fans, especially among music lovers whose playlists include artists like Franti and Jack Johnson.

Oddly enough, even though "Cool Kids" is easily the biggest fan favorite of the songs on Misunderstood, it isn't slated to be the album's first single. It's "Crazy Tonight", a duet with Franti - that is already getting nationwide airplay - that will be Tucker's first crack at a radio hit, with a new music video due to hit the internet within days.

To be sure, Tucker is no stranger to the hard work and perseverance it will take to get his music to the next level. Now 25 years old, Tucker has been relentless in pursuit of the moment now before him, working as a dry waller to finance the early recordings he made while still a teenager and doing whatever was necessary to get his music to the people he wanted to hear it. He once opened a sellout concert for the Steve Miller Band just by walking through a side door at the night club with a guitar and convincing the sound man he was the opening act. Even his friendship with mentor Michael Franti came about by his repeatedly sneaking backstage at Franti's shows and pestering him to listen to his demo. (Fortunately, Franti eventually yielded and listened to the music rather than seeking a restraining order).

Ethan Tucker's album Misunderstood is available for sale at ethantuckermusic.com, and for download at all the usual sites, including i-Tunes, where the album includes three bonus tracks not found on the CD. Ethan Tucker and his band perform at the Showbox in Seattle on May 28 and Revolution Hall in Portland on the 29th, both shows sharing the bill with JJ Grey and MoFro and at the California Roots Festival in Monterrey, California the 30th and 31st of May. A full listing of Ethan Tucker performances is available on his website.

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