An interview with E.N Young
E.N Young has been a major player in the modern American reggae-rock field. After starting his own solo project and joining San Diego band, Tribal Seeds, E.N Young has been reaching out to fellow artists and helping them to produce their music. Not only is his signature sound recognizable, but it appears he likes to instill a positive message and vibe to the music he helps create. Top Shelf Reggae had a chance to talk with the busy musician on his thoughts and plans for reggae music.
Tell us how you got into your love for reggae music.
Reggae music for a lot of people changed their life, and it’s a positive, uplifting music that really hits people. It’s a spiritual, uplifting thing for people, and that message and feeling hit me hard when I was 13 when I got my first tape, a mixed tape. I started collecting records with my brother, Chunky Roots in San Diego and we started collecting reggae records. I played music from a young age, like at 5 years old I was playing piano. My parents blessed me with that opportunity and then I broke my arm at 12 years old. The doctor said that I needed something more than piano, and my dad bought me a drum set. I started playing drums, so I have a heavy musical background and was playing reggae music because reggae is what I loved.
So for reggae music, it started with you connecting to its message first and then you got into playing it?
Yeah, I mean it just both hit me hard and I didn’t stop playing it for a few years after that.
When did you officially start your record label, Roots Musician Records?
I started my record label when I first put out my solo records in 2009, and the record was released in May 2010. At that time I wanted to release my own music, and I had a lot of music over the years. I was just waiting for the right time to release it. I didn’t really plan to have a big record label. I was just gonna help artists get out and produce music. It just happened that I did my first album and got really good responses from everyone. After that, everyone started asking about producing for them, so the label just kind of happened.
You’re referring to your album Luck and Chance No More?
You mentioned you got a lot of positive feedback on your album, so any more solo projects?
Well, I was just featured in a lot of albums, I was doing some touring, and did a national tour opening for Tribal Seeds with my solo album. Then, an opportunity came for me to build a studio and because people were asking me to produce, I put all my eggs in one basket and started building a studio. I stopped doing the solo thing, and right before the studio was done, I was joining Tribal Seeds. It all happened kinda really fast. But I produced a lot of records since then, but haven’t really focused on my music too much. I was making music but haven’t been releasing it. So, at this point I’m not as intensely involved with my own music as I have been producing for other people. But I have been recording my own songs and not releasing them. Soon, in the next few months, I’m gonna release my second album.
Cool, so when did your recording studio open?
It opened in January 2013. The dream started when I first wanted to produce music, to produce it myself, and then I got all these opportunities to produce other people, which was a blessing and I’m not gonna overlook that, so I was very grateful to do that. But I need to definitely shift myself to putting out a lot of my own music.
Let’s get into some of the musicians that you have helped produce. Talk to us about a couple of them, and how it was to work with them. What did you enjoy about it?
The latest artist that I worked with that I put all of myself into, playing the drums, bass, keys and did a lot of the instrumentation, and sang on was with Leilani Wolfgramm. That one was really nice to work with because she really let me do my thing and be creative in my sense, and she came in like a powerful element. Another one was Clear Conscience’s Captain that we put out this summer. Again I sang on the tracks and did background vocals and played all the instruments. That was really nice work and I put a lot of creativity into it. Those two albums are small examples of music we put out this summer.
Right, I think the whole scene knows how busy you've been. That also leads to another question I have about you as far as helping out fellow artists. Was producing something that you've always seen yourself doing?
Yeah, I really enjoy it because when I was young, I wanted someone to come to me and help me produce my music. And I try to come out really uplifting and put everything on the table - like all my tricks and everything. So when I help artists, it’s really important to me to be that kind of role model, like a mentor with positive energy in the studio. I grew up with a different situation and it wasn’t exactly like that. I try to bring a positive energy, so that’s really important to me and it’s been a great experience.
We’ve noticed that your signature style is included in a lot of the albums that you help produce. Is that because you produce the albums, or are they requesting that sound?
When I got that first mixtape, I got heavily influenced from Jamaica. So when I go and produce music, I want that style that came out of Jamaica. I’m using digital tools and it’s not analog or anything, but I’m keeping that sound from Jamaica alive. I’m really trying to push that kind of style, like using vintage effects and time-based effects and things like that. So I’m producing anything, I’m trying to inject that Jamaican vibe into it. Not every artist wants that feel, you know. I’ve come across a lot of artists where only a few were like, “No I want it specifically like this and I don’t want this kind of effect”, or whatever. I usually just go with the flow, you know? Whatever the artist wants, I’m just there to support the music they already have and build around it.
So tell us what your thoughts are right now on the current reggae, or reggae rock scene?
Well yeah, I mean there is reggae that I’m very happy about right now. I feel I’m on the biggest wave that’s going down right now and it’s a huge wave, and a lot of the people in bands and artists are riding this huge wave that’s going on. And like you’ve already seen, some of the leaders are like Rebelution, SOJA, Iration, on the American side of things. It seems like American reggae is taking over, and it’s doing very well. It’s branching out in different areas and some are fusing it with rock, and others are keeping the original sound, but overall, I like the direction it’s going because it’s getting very popular. That message is getting out. A lot of the younger generation are getting that positive influence and energy from reggae, and that’s what’s important to me.
So you believe the whole reggae from Jamaica and American reggae music are blending more and more, and producing positive effects?
Yeah, I mean, musically, like stylewise, is definitely evolving. You have Tribal Seeds, and my sound, and The Expanders are all keeping that original sound. Like I said, you have other bands that are more rock, or farther away from reggae, but it’s good. Evolution is gonna happen and things are gonna change so, I just hope people don’t forget where it came from. We make true to that - even the sounds of today, we should understand that. I mean, stylewise, things are changing, but I hope the message stays the same. I hear a lot of positive things and uplifting messages in the music, so I hope that just continues.
With how busy you are being in the music scene, what do you do for fun outside of music?
Well, I like to exercise, like running and I try to stay fit. I like to stay active in a vegan lifestyle and I’m really into that. You’re right, I am very busy and don’t have much spare time, so those are a few of the things that I like to do outside [of music]. Also, I like to play golf a lot, but I don’t play it often.
So, you have a tour coming up with basically your record label name on it. Tell me a little bit more about that and how excited you are and what your audience can expect.
I’m very excited about this Roots Musician Tour. Beyond-I-Sight came to me and said, “Hey, we should do a showcase because you have two records under the Roots Musician label.” They also said, “What if we backed a couple of your artists and you, and showcase a little tour.” I haven’t had time to push my thing and play my solo set for a while, so I saw this as a great opportunity to pool up with other artists. They asked me about Gonzo and Leilani Wolfgramm, and I was excited to see Leilani on stage, so I know her with a great band is gonna be a huge sound. We’re doing a two week run in Cali’ and Arizona. I’m really excited about it. I’m gonna be jumping on stage with Gonzo and backing him up, and he’s gonna back me up, so yeah, I’m really excited about it.
Can your fans expect new music from you directly?
Yeah, there’s three new tracks that I’m gonna be doing. I got a 45 minute set, and there are songs that are really brand new that I’ll be singing. In addition to songs, I’m really happy to play because it’s been a while and I’ve been playing the same songs for a long while. It just gives me new fire to play.
Anything else that you want to say to your fans?
Just thank you for having a love for my message, and all the support, and much more music to come. Just be up and stay positive, and uplifted at all times. When you’re down, turn to create and turn to God, and let the light shine love, you know.