When you ask most musicians about their background in music, you tend to hear the same things: I’ve been playing music since I was little, I played in a rock band in high school, I’ve always loved to play instruments, etc. And that’s why when I heard that producer and saxophonist, SoDown, only started playing music a few years back, I was surprised, to say the least.
Ehren Wright aka SoDown’s musical journey didn’t begin in his parents garage or at a high school talent show, instead it began at Pretty Lights show in 2010. “I went to Pretty Lights and Red Rocks and then I started going to a bunch of other shows. I was on a porch one morning, with all my homies, beatboxing, and I just thought to myself, “yo I got this.”” For Ehren, that was the moment he realized he wanted to make music, not just as a hobby, but as a career.
Ehren made the decision to drop out of school, quit his job, and start making music full time. Of course, there was the small factor of figuring out just exactly how to do that. “I didn’t really have any musical background when I started. I played guitar and cello, and piano and drums, all the shit that everyone tries when they’re young, but I never stuck with any of it. I didn’t know any music theory. But then I just dove-in headfirst and learned it all.” The saxophone was an instrument Ehren picked up subsequently, and in all of SoDown’s shows and on his tracks you can feel the importance of the instrument. So why did Ehren choose the saxophone out of all the instruments out there?
“Because it’s fuckin’ sexy,” Ehren replies in a sing-song voice. Then with a laugh he says, “because I love it, I don’t know. It’s such a sensual instrument. And it’s one of the closest representations to voice. And since I’m not the best singer, I figured I’d play saxophone.”
I asked Ehren if there was something inside him, some small voice telling him that dropping everything and making music was the right move. “No, not at all,” he replies. “But if you want to be great at something you just have to jump in. I had a few dreams. One was to be a race car driver, pro-skier, or musician.”
Ehren said that apart from driving his own car like a race car, he never pursued dream number one, and apart from having skied since he was a small child, becoming a pro never seemed very plausible.
“[Being a pro skier is] a fucking tough thing to do. If you break your leg or something you’re pretty much done. And music is what I was really passionate about at the time. You know, I’ve questioned it a thousand times, but like I said, if you really want to achieve something you have to stick with it through the bullshit.”
I asked Ehren how he deals with sticking with his music when things get tough. “I would say that I either take some time away from music or I look at how far I’ve come and I think about the positive things that have happened. There are always reasons to feel positive about it. The idea is, what else would I do? I could do a lot of things, I suppose, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I’ve committed to this so hard that I couldn’t just stop. If I stopped I would think about it a little bit later and just think, “why did I do that? That was the stupidest shit ever.””
And Ehren has indeed come along way. Playing shows all across Colorado and opening for nationally acclaimed acts, Ehren’s stage name, SoDown has become recognized across the state. I asked him what the road to success has looked like for him – how he has gone from knowing almost nothing about music, to playing sold out shows. “It looked like me in my room trying to figure out what the fuck was going on. It looked like me spending a lot of time alone in my room. Like a lot. I pretty much dropped off the face of the planet.” Ehren said it took about three years of him focusing almost entirely on music, learning everything he possibly could before he finally got somewhere.
“I started playing random little shows, and they kept getting bigger and they’re just going to keep getting bigger. I’ve got a long way to go, that’s for sure.”
But even though the road is still long, SoDown has been making his rounds. He played at Sonic Blossom this year, opened for Exmag on Halloween, and recently played a huge show with The Floozies at The Boulder Theatre.
“The Boulder Theatre is an amazing venue, I fucking love that place. So, that’s what I’ve done lately. I’ve got five shows in December, two with Unlimited Aspect and three with Vibe Street. They’re all over Colorado: Fort Collins, Avon, Loveland, Frisco, Denver.”
Needless to say, December 2015 was a big month for Ehren. And along with touring all over the state, he also released his latest EP, “Bouncetown”. When I asked Ehren what the goal was with the EP he replied: “Making the funkiest shit possible. It’s just an exploration into the groove. The swing of things. The syncopation of a beat is something that really fascinates me.”
Me, being something of a music novice, asked him to explain what exactly he meant by the “syncopation of a beat.”
“So syncopation is when you have something that’s off-beat, swinging the beat. I was experimenting a lot with that in this EP and trying to make some bouncy shit; something different. A lot of my old music is a little bit slower. I was trying to reach into the inspiration of happiness a little more.”
On the note of inspiration, I asked Ehren where else his inspiration came from.
“So much. It’s crazy. Probably how I’m feeling, mainly. If I’m feeling sad, I’ll write a sad tune. And other music definitely. I’ll hear something and think ‘oh I like that!’ and hear something else and think ‘oh I like that’ and try to combine the two.” In addition to emotional inspiration, Ehren draws inspiration from musical heroes such as James Brown, The Meters, Curtis Mayfield, and newer acts such as Big G, Griz and Bassnectar.
With so many other musical talents out there, I asked Ehren what sets SoDown apart.
“I’m making heavy funk music at this point, and there aren’t too many people doing that, besides Big G and Griz. I have my own style different from them. That’s what is gonna take me. A unique sound, a poppin' live show, and being a nice dude … hopefully.”
This confidence that Ehren possesses is something that certainly makes you feel compelled to believe the road for him from here on out will keep leading upwards. And that’s a feeling he wants to give to his audience as well. When I asked him what he wants his music to impart on his audience, his answer is clear.
“A feeling of confidence to the people. I want people to listen to my shit and think, “yeah man I got this, no problem.”
And with that attitude, well, it’s hard not to feel good about the future.