published Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Taking music back to the raw

Ethen Martin performs as Barefoot and Blindfolded. He often plays guitar blindfolded as a practice tool and plans to do a couple of songs each show that way as well.
Ethen Martin performs as Barefoot and Blindfolded. He often plays guitar blindfolded as a practice tool and plans to do a couple of songs each show that way as well.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Name: Ethen Martin.

Act: Barefoot and Blindfolded.

Age: 22.

Hometown: Chattanooga.

Vocation: Musician, certified audio engineer and owner of Barefoot recording studio.

Education: School of Audio Engineering.

There is no set path for becoming a professional musician. Some folks travel the country playing for anyone who will listen while others are classically trained.

Ethen Martin, 22, figured out a few years ago that his vocation would be in music, but he thought he'd be behind the mixing board, not behind the microphone.

While attending the School of Audio Engineering in Nashville, he joined a band called I Became the Sky and played bass guitar.

Meanwhile, Martin also practiced on his acoustic guitar and wrote songs. As he completed more and more songs, he thought about playing them for other people as a solo act.

His mother helped come up with the name for his act.

"I've never been one to wear shoes, and I got into the habit of practicing on the guitar blindfolded," he said. "My mom came in and said, 'Oh, you are just barefoot and blindfolded.'"

After earning his certificate as an audio engineer, he headed back to Chattanooga and joined a group called Faces in the Trees. When the group broke up, he was offered the chance to fill the dates they'd booked and he took it, performing all over town as Barefoot and Blindfolded.

In just a few months, Martin has developed a following playing at places such as Meo Mio's Cajun Restaurant and Sugar's Downtown. He also set up his own studio called Barefoot Studio.

Martin said a trip to Picker's Exchange on Brainerd Road while he was a freshman in high school was a turning point for him.

"I got my mom to drive me there and I bought a guitar, and the sky was the limit from there," he said. "I learned I could sing a year later. I always like writing, but I just wrote whatever. I don't even know what you would call it, but before too long I had bunch of pieces, and I started putting a piece or two together."

He said when he went to the School of Audio Engineering and had the opportunity to record himself, he was able to really start listening.

"That's when things took off," he said. "That helped a lot."

Martin said he's been pleased with how things have gone so far in his young career but concedes it hasn't all been easy.

"The biggest challenge is to get people to take a 22-year-old seriously," he said. "They don't believe someone my age could actually be talented and passionate and skilled. Give me a chance to show you that I am legit.

"... I think folk music is the next big thing," he said. "It's either going to be electronica or back to the raw, and I'm trying to hop on that train."

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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