Ginger, bearded, and vaguely reminiscent of a white Aziz Ansari, Ethan Gruska is the kind of singer/songwriter you hope to see before they achieve mainstream success. His piano arrangements channel that pop-R&B feel akin to artists like Sam Smith and Kevin Garrett: syncopated rhythms with a heavy bass that seem to consume your senses. His piano skills are certainly more deft than his guitar skills, but regardless of which instrument he plays, he delivers lyrics so vulnerable, it feels like listening to someone singing their diary entries.
Gruska sang about growing up in the San Fernando Valley, loves lost and found, broken families, and some more esoteric material he admitted to writing about while quite high. What stood out most for me was the connection his honesty made with the audience.Through sitting on stage and discussing very plainly, his experiences and struggles, he was validating the fears and losses we all experience but pretend we don’t have.
“if childhood defines you, can it ever be behind you” – Gruska, “The Valley”
Known better as half of the sibling duo, The Belle Brigade, Gruska recently struck out on his own with his debut album Slowmotionary, out March 3 on Sire Records. Stripped down and comparably “raw,” Slowmotionary is marked by acoustic guitars, and generally fewer instruments, to allow a spotlight focus on his vocals. From a heavily musical family (Gruska’s grandfather is famous Hollywood composer John Williams), Gruska seems to be concerned not with fame, but with developing his musical “life” — writing, creating, developing, and improving, simply for the sake of the art form itself.
Article by Kavitha George