Backstage with Ethemia

Having released debut album just nine months after forming and already planning a stateside tour, contemporary acoustic duo Ethemia shares the secrets of its success with SoGlos.

So, Ethemia, tell us about yourselves. Who are you, what do you do and how did you come up with the name?

There’s just the two of us in Ethemia, Michaela Mott and myself, Berny Poulton – we’re both guitarists and singer-songwriters that play contemporary acoustic music likened to Fleetwood Mac and The Civil Wars.

We were born and bred in Gloucestershire and still reside in the Cotswolds. I was Michaela’s guitar teacher but after a few months refused to take her money as I felt that she belonged to the same tribe as myself. In other words, she had the intensity and ability to prolifically write songs from the same place.

We originally wanted to call ourselves Bohemia, however, after checking several music websites we found that there were already too many Bohemias in the world! We really wanted to keep the logo we designed around the letter ‘i’ and the name Ethemia just came to Michaela, working out perfectly as it has ‘them’ in the centre.

After checking out this name, we found there were no bands to rival us and in July 2011, Ethemia was born. You Google it and get us!

And what stage are you at, 16 months on?

Well being signed is not what it used to be and we believe that everyone has a chance to cut their own path in the music industry. We are certainly cutting ours.

Our faith and belief in ourselves musically has enabled many opportunities to come our way and we are thankful for them all. However, we cannot stress enough that it is hard work that pays off.

After only being together for nine months our commitment to record our songs saw us produce debut album Quirk of Fate – the title says it all. All 12 tracks are different and have been described by listeners as ‘heartfelt, diverse and insightful.’

You mentioned a likening to acoustic greats of the past. Who would you say are your main influences musically?

We have been compared to Fleetwood Mac and The Civil Wars, which of course is very flattering, however our music comes more from personal experience and feeling.

We feel that comparisons to The Civil Wars are more to do with our chemistry and close relationship both onstage and off. In performances, our individual strengths have been hailed as ‘a strong combination, echoing the partnerships of Lennon and McCartney and Simon and Garfunkel.’

I believe that I have no conscious influences other than my mother singing around the house all the time, while Michaela has been inspired by a variety of musicians and songwriters, from Barbara Streisand to KT Tunstall.

And who generally goes to your gigs?

We are blessed that our music seems to appeal to a wide audience across all generations. No matter what age, people have often been moved to tears and have felt the need to come and talk to us about it.

Gig-goers have said how touched they’ve been by the sincerity of our music and lyrics and have felt at times that we are singing to them as individuals. We cannot stress enough how much we genuinely appreciate all the kind comments and support we get from our fans, new and old.

Where’s your favourite venues you’ve played at in the county?

Rather than favourite, we have a number of venues that are special to us. Our first gig was at The Old George Inn, in South Cerney, where our chemistry was first highlighted.

The launch of our album saw us headline the first Acoustic Festival of Original Music and took place at The Vaults in Cirencester, so this is also close to our hearts.

And The Brewery Blues at New Brewery Arts offered us a special night performing alongside award-winning Blues artists, Babajack.

So Cirencester is the place to be to hear Ethemia. Where would you most like to play elsewhere in the county?

It would be awesome to play a full concert at Gloucester Guildhall or Cheltenham Town Hall. However, we are continually surprised by the magic that can happen in smaller intimate settings.

When you do take some down-time from music, what do you get up to?

Well we both love spending time with our families who enable us to be the people we are and are part of our incredible journey. Without them we couldn’t achieve all we have and be as fulfilled as we are. Anyone who knows us will agree that we love people and love chatting!

Have you ever thrown a television out of a hotel window?

We are both smiling at this question! Michaela would love to throw a custard pie at me in a hotel room, but the television would be far too expensive.

Ever done something you really regret in the morning?

We have certainly done that… most likely eating too much fast food in the early hours, far too many times to remember!

Can you recommend one album to SoGlos readers that you don’t think they will have discovered yet?

We were going to say Pure Intention, the title of our second album… but sanity prevailed.

We would highly recommend all albums by The Blims. Take a listen to Working Class Poetry – it’s awesome. Such a talented Welsh band, which rocketed to number one on the iTunes chart with hit single ‘Sidesteps and Sideburns’ in March 2012. We had the privilege of performing with them recently – it was a fantastic experience.

That was the rugby anthem for 6 Nations this year, wasn’t it? We’re sure that went down a treat with local rugby fans. So what’s your number one ambition?

It was, yes. Though we have many short term goals, our biggest ambition is for our music to reach as many people as possible, wherever that takes us.

Any claims to fame?

Jamming with the world-famous acoustic singer and banjo player Peggy Seeger, who’s the sister of songwriter Pete Seeger, the man behind ‘Where Have all the Flowers Gone’.

We have also been incredibly well supported by 16 radio stations to date, and blessed with airplay in America across a variety of states. We are hoping to tour the US in 2013.

Wow, that’s impressive. So what advice would you give to local bands trying to make it in the industry?

Work your behinds off gigging, say yes to everything and expect nothing. Be relentless and believe in yourself and your music. And remember that famous bands and musicians have also played to empty rooms.

David Bowie played in a venue to a handful of people just weeks before he became famous. You don’t have to follow anyone, just cut your own path.

And where can SoGlos readers catch you performing in the near future?

We’re performing live on Winchcombe Radio on Saturday 22 and Stroud FM on Saturday 28 December 2012.

Otherwise, locals can watch us for free when we take to the stage at Café Rene in Gloucester on Wednesday 23 January 2013.

Great. And finally, where can SoGlos readers expect to see you in a year’s time?

We haven’t calculated the extent of our journey so far but know it will reveal itself to us when we arrive. Gut feeling… the sky is definitely not the limit. Watch this space and see where our Quirk of Fate leads us!

By Shelly Elcock

© SoGlos
Thursday 29 November 2012

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