Future of Forestry is the musical project of California-based artist Eric Owyoung. Now on his sixth studio album, Eric has proven his abilities as a skilled multi-instrumentalist and arranger as well as singer and songwriter. Future of Forestry’s unique brand of cinematic alternative rock is both energetic and thoughtful.
We recently got the chance to chat with Eric about his most recent album, as well as his musical inspirations and goals. Enjoy!
Ethan Weitz: Eric, you just released a new album, Awakened to the Sound. What aspects of this record are you most excited about?
Eric Owyoung: This album feels like something that has been a long process in developing without even knowing it. I studied classical music in my youth and in college many years ago. I thought I was headed toward a career in conducting, but I ended up in recording studios doing alternative rock music. My orchestral background kept sneaking into the music during that time, though. I’ve spent years wanting to do orchestral based arrangements. This album comes without limitations on that.
Ethan: A few songs on your new album experiment with Eastern sounds and instruments. Why did you choose to include those elements?
Eric: I was actually mixing Jon Foreman’s latest EP series and he had a track on there with a sarangi. I asked Jon about it and he referred me to a guy from India named Suhail. Suhail is a 6th-generation family-taught sarangi player! It was my relationship with Suhail that really brought the Eastern sound to the album. In fact, instead of writing songs and having Suhail play on them, I had Suhail play me his instrument and then I wrote songs around his sound. It was an incredibly new experience for me.
“I’ve spent years wanting to do orchestral based arrangements. This album comes without limitations on that.”
Ethan: ‘On Giant’s Shoulders’ is our favorite song on the new album—it’s so energizing! Is there a story behind the lyrics to that song?
Eric: Along the same lines of Suhail learning from his ancestors, this song is about generational growth, insight, and revelation. We have each been given something from our parents—an inheritance. Some of it may be financial or physical, but I think that what we are given spiritually and emotionally is much more lasting. Each generation has the chance to grow upon what we’ve been given. For example, if the spirit of generosity is nurtured in a certain generation and handed down to the next, then the next generation can build on that. Its generosity can go deeper and further and have more of an impact than the previous generation. So metaphorically, each generation or individual has the chance to “stand on the shoulders of a giant” the more that we embrace what we’ve been given. That phrase is actually written on a British pound coin.
Ethan: Since you began Future of Forestry in 2006, you’ve written a lot of music—six studio albums and eight EPs, by our count. As you look back over your work, what song or album stands out as the most meaningful to you, and why?
Eric: I always hope that every album has taken the next step forward. I try not to compare my music to others or compete with others. Instead, I look at what I did last time and ask myself: Did I learn something from it and apply that to the next album? Did I take the next step to growth? Did I dig deeper for something else? In this case, with Awakened to the Sound, I can definitely answer yes to these questions.
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Ethan: In what ways have you grown as a songwriter since you first began making music? Are there any specific experiences you can point to as really formative for you?
Eric: I want to write music that contributes to people’s lives in a positive way, not a negative one. So I am realizing that there is a necessary blend of two things in order to do that: One, I must learn to be honest and transparent in my music; and two, I must have something to share or contribute, because I have walked through life and found goodness, or health, or revelation (whatever you want to call it).
In other words, honesty is great, but if I’m just being honest about how I’m swimming in despair and there is no answer to that despair, then I’ve simply used music as a place to vent. And although some people might relate to my despair, I don’t feel like my contribution in life is just to swim with others in a cesspool of despair. I have something to give when there is some sort of discovery or destination in the struggle. Some sort of breakthrough or landing place. The more I walk through life and find these things that move me forward into growth, love, peace, etc., the more I have something to write about that I feel is important.
Ethan: What inspires you and drives you to create music?
Eric: Everything. In this current season, I look out of my studio window through the forest and into Pike’s Peak in the distance. Especially when it snows, the place where I live inspires me. Nature, beauty, art—these things truly impact me and are sources of inspiration.
“I don’t feel like my contribution in life is just to swim with others in a cesspool of despair. . . . The more I walk through life and find these things that move me forward into growth, love, peace, etc., the more I have something to write about that I feel is important.”
Ethan: Your music is very cinematic and has a powerful emotional draw. Is writing music an emotional, mood-driven experience for you, or is it more intellectual?
Eric: I would say it is more emotionally driven. I am very visual, so when I am making music, I can almost see the music I want to create. Obviously, sometimes I have to stop and think on a more intellectual level, but ultimately my goal is to NOT think as much.
Ethan: You recently started an online music mentorship program. What inspired you to start the program, and how has that experience been so far?
Eric: I’ve always known that I am a good teacher, someone who knows how to approach the challenge of getting into a student’s head and figuring out how to take them to the next level. I think I have avoided teaching, though for some reason. I finally realized that with the internet, I can really help a lot of people. I was always grateful for the people who taught me what I know. I’m also grateful for the years in which I’ve learned so much. It’s amazing to be able to pass a lot of that on to others. I’ve enjoyed the Music Mentorship Program so much. I get to teach everything from songwriting to mixing and everything in between.
All photos courtesy of Eric Owyoung.