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Olympian Ethan Tucker signs record deal with Capitol Records

Catch the musician at the DB Cooper Music Festival Aug. 4

Olympia-born singer-songwriter Ethan Tucker to play the inaugural DB Cooper Music Festival. Photo credit: Emalee Morgan Hill

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If Ethan Tucker falls short of his goals, it won't be for lack of persistence. Signed just weeks ago to a multi-record deal with Capitol Records, the Olympia-born singer-songwriter has never been afraid to take a chance and never been too willing to take "No" for an answer.

As a teenager, the tall, soft-spoken singer took advantage of opportunities others would not have seen. He was once the opening act for the legendary Steve Miller at a Sun Valley, Idaho concert, but not because he was invited to play.

"The stage door was left unlocked," Tucker recalls. He walked in, acted like he belonged there, and told the sound engineer he was opening the show.

"I think the sound guy eventually figured it out," Tucker says. "As I was walking up on stage, he said ‘Hey, you know you're not getting paid for this, right?"

Tucker has been touring and recording his music - a mix of folk, blues, pop and reggae - since he was 16. Though he was building a growing fan base on his own, things really started to turn when his music caught the ear of superstar Michael Franti. And catching Franti's ear did not come easy.

"I basically snuck backstage at a show and asked him to listen to a song," Tucker recalls. "He said ‘No', but I kept doing it, and after about three years, I told him if he listened to the song and didn't like it, I would go away, but otherwise I would keep showing up." Franti finally relented, and he liked the song enough to ask to hear a second one. And it was that song, Tucker's infectious original, "How the Cool Kids Dance," that launched a friendship and a series of professional collaborations that has lasted ever since.

Franti helped re-write and produce the "Cool Kids" track that will be released on Tucker's Capitol debut EP later this year, and the two will be touring together in August in support of Franti's own new album.

Meanwhile, Tucker's songwriting skills and growing following on the road led to a phone call this spring from the president of Capitol Records. Tucker, now 23, had been living with his grandmother in Lacey and working in construction to finance his own recording projects. He was about to release his third self-funded album, so a record contract was not on his radar screen or his to-do list.

"I told him I wasn't really looking for a record deal," Tucker recalls. "But I was willing to listen to what he had to say." After months of discussions, Tucker was satisfied it was the right move, and on a day when his bank account had a balance of $6, he signed a record deal. Some of the material he had recorded is getting a touch up before being released first as a five-song EP and then as a full-length album. As an indication of the confidence the company has in Tucker, they have him working with legendary Grammy-winning producer Don Was, now president of Blue Note Records, who is adding his touch to "How The Cool Kids Dance," the catchy tune Tucker was inspired to write one night when he had newly returned to Olympia and was feeling insecure about attending a party.

Despite his aggressive self-marketing, Tucker says he's not an ambitious guy and would be happy making a modest living in music. It's more important that he be able to continue playing music from his broad range of musical influences rather than limiting himself to a single genre. His mom's Joni Mitchell records are imprinted in his memory. His first CD was a Taj Majal album. And at the time he started writing music, he was listening to Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. He is glad that the songs on the upcoming EP reflect that diversity. The only thing that links the songs is the fact that they are his.

"You wouldn't put any of those songs in the same genre," he explains. "I think the EP will do a good job of introducing me without typecasting me."

The Ethan Tucker Band is one of nine bands performing at the DB Cooper Music Festival, presented by the Weekly Volcano and Exit 104 Media, at the Medicine Creek Winery Sunday, Aug. 4. For complete lineup, tickets, and more information, visit

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