TCB Exclusive: Q&A With Eric Owyoung From Future Of Forestry

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Future of Forestry, led by Eric Owyoung, is a Christian indie rock band stemming from San Diego, California. The group released their self-titled debut EP through Credential Recordings in 2006 and their first full length album, Twilight, in 2007. In the years following, Future of Forestry put out a series of Travel and Advent EPs. Their latest release, Young Man Follow, dropped in 2012 through Owyoung’s own Sound Swan Records. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer Owyoung to ask him some questions about his music, faith, and this year’s Advent Christmas Tour. 

What is the meaning behind the name ‘Future Of Forestry’?
C.S. Lewis wrote a poem called ‘The Future Of Forestry,’ so it was basically a stolen title. His poems, though, are not extremely well-known. He has a more ambiguous book of poems. The poem is about a time in England when the trees have all been cut down and he is speaking in a linguistical sense about the Industrial Revolution. But, what he is really talking about more than cutting down trees, is the state of the soul when we in our lives have had our trees cut down. Where is life? Where is the meaning? It seemed very relevant at the time, and it still seems very relevant to who I am and to the message of life that is kind of breathing in the music that I write.

You have such a unique sound. What artists would you say are your inspiration musically?
A long time ago, when Future Of Forestry started, it was bands such as Cigarros, Radiohead, and maybe even Bjork, just things that are weird, even though Future Of Forestry’s music is not near as “indie-artsy”. But those are really inspiring things. Now, I don’t know how to answer that, sometimes I don’t listen to music just because I’m tired of it. Other times, when I am listening to music, it’s not to draw inspiration, but just to listen to something like Alison Krauss, which has influenced the latest album Pages because she did an album with Robert Plant as a duet. It seemed down to earth, which is very different from all the layers of sound which Future Of Forestry’s done, so I really wanted to do something like that, which influenced me a lot.

You play a variety of instruments. What was your first instrument and how old were you when you started playing?
In third or fourth grade, our school had a school band, not like a rock band, and I played saxophone. My elementary teacher played bassoon, which is a really rare instrument, and for some reason, I just decided to try that. I played it through junior high and high school which got me interested in classical music, and I played in some symphonies as a young kid. From there, I started learning guitar and piano on my own and I realized how interested I was in it.

Your renditions of Christmas classics are quite amazing, as well as your live shows. What can fans expect from your Advent Christmas Tour Shows?
I think they can expect the songs that they hear on the CD come to life in a new dimension because you can only capture so much on the CD in terms of the spirit that is being delivered. When you have things, not just lights and sound, but an actual audience there to interact on a spiritual level to be a part of making it a more impactful experience, it becomes something entirely different. There’s a lot to be expected, not necessarily in the sense that it will be the same every place we go, but maybe I should say: expect the unexpected.

How did you become a Christian?
My parents raised me in a Christian home, so I knew God to a certain extent, both in a very genuine way, but also on the other hand, in a religious way. I was always struggling between the two. It wasn’t until the later years in my life that I began to confront the religious things in my life for religious sakes, instead of living in those and letting them overwhelm me, I began to put those down and come to know God in a genuine way as a Father, a loving Father. That’s what made a huge difference in my perspective and the way I live.

How has your faith grown throughout your career?
It is interesting, but I don’t often relate my faith to my career. What I’ve learned most is that when my faith is related to my career, I am not living in a genuine faith. I’m living in more of an identity of an artist. It is very common for artists to struggle with that because the public looks to artists in a certain way and the artist begins to believe that they are supposed to be that. It can be confusing in Christian music because there is an added pressure in who you are supposed to be and what you’re supposed to believe. I found that separating the two is really important. What I mean by separating is that I don’t find my identity as an artist, I don’t find my identity in music either, but I find my identity simply as me.

You originally were in the band Something Like Silas which had more of a ‘worship’ sound to it than that of Future Of Forestry. Why did the change of styles occur?
I don’t even know if I would call it a ‘style’ change because I think the music stayed the same, but the purpose of it changed. The only reason Something Like Silas was built on worship music was because that’s what I was doing in the church. I was at a church in San Diego, playing every week and that was my job and that was my life. I started to take some steps away from that. I started to write some songs that were an expression of my own individual heart, rather than writing songs that I thought were an expression of a corporate body of people. The end result was creating things that were more honest and more individual. I’m grateful for that because through that I feel that it has brought a more genuine message, rather than writing what I think people want to sing, I’m writing what is a general expression of my life that enables other people to be inspired or to share with me.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t know if I would call this advice, but the lesson that I’ve learned that has transformed everything is that I am loved by a Heavenly Father. Even though I knew that as a fact growing up and being a Christian for a long time, experiencing it was a vastly different experience. It’s not advice, but mainly just experiencing something. Somebody had to bring that message to me though.

What advice do you have for other musicians?
I often tell musicians to really get to know who they are because the music world is a very dangerous place that likes to identify people and use people. If you don’t know who you are, then you end up becoming a part of that system, rather than being you.

Our sincere thanks to Eric Owyoung for taking the time to talk with us. Keep an eye out for an interview with Future of Forestry opener Atlas Rhoads coming soon. And, make sure to check out Future of Forestry’s website to see if there is a show coming near you! 

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