April 23, 2018

LJ Talks to Ernest Greene, Unemployed LIS Grad, Breakout Musician

Downtime in parents’ house leads to MySpace stardom, record deal (but he still wants a library career)

  • Making the most of unemployment
  • Second gig ever garners review in New York Times
  • This week: big gig + wedding
  • Hopes to tour before beginning career in libraries

Ernest Greene, a 2009 graduate of the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Library and Ernest Greene, Washed OutInformation Science, has made the most of his fruitless job search. (Others are also struggling, according to LJ‘s latest Placements & Salaries Survey.) He’s turned his downtime, as a synth-pop musician/songwriter known as Washed Out, into a new mini-career, which launched on MySpace and grew with enthusiastic coverage from Pitchfork and UK’s Guardian.

This week, the 27-year-old Greene performed his second gig ever, in New York City. He garnered a substantial—and mostly positive—review in yesterday’s New York Times, which called his music “wistful lo-fi pop with hints of disco and hip-hop that sounds like re-creations of songs faintly remembered.”

LJ News Editor Norman Oder, who had exchanged some emails with Greene in recent months, decided it was time to check in with (probably) the library world’s most successful musician. Greene, despite a hectic schedule–back at the family house in Georgia, he’s getting married Saturday–was gracious enough to respond.

(Photo by Grant David Keyes)

LJ: When did you start playing/writing music? How would you describe your style?
I grew up taking piano lessons as a child, then discovered rock music as a teenager, so, I learned to play guitar and started writing songs. The current sound was influenced by the music I heard growing up in the 80’s. I had a simple understanding of what it was or how it was made. Then, as an adolescent everything that was popular in the 90’s was a reaction against it. Now, 80’s music sounds fresh to me… so I write songs that are contemporary takes on the “idea” of what the music is/was.

When did you start recording?
I’ve recorded music as a hobby for the past four to five years. The current record (Life of Leisure) was written over the summer. I graduated from library school in May, and moved back to Georgia with my parents (in an effort to save money while I worked on the job hunt).Ernest Greene, Washed Out

Was it because you didn’t have a library job?
As most recent library school graduates know, it has not been the best job climate, so I had a lot of free time to record the songs. Generally, I would check for job ads during the morning/afternoon and write/record at night.

How technically difficult was that?
I recorded the album in the bedroom where I grew up with a simple studio set up around a computer. I use a combination of software programs to record, edit, and sequence the songs.

How did the songs get attention from the labels?
I was approached by a music blog in London called No Pain in Pop after they stumbled across my MySpace profile. At the time, I had only one song up on my player… so I quickly recorded a few more. Everything has basically snowballed from there. The songs got passed around the Internet and a label called Mexican Summer (based out of Brooklyn) contacted me about putting out a record.  The album is already available digitally at iTunes and will be available shortly on vinyl. A lot have already been sold via pre-sale…but I plan on selling a few from my blog that will contain an extra book of my photography.

Was the show in New York City really your second show?
Ernest Greene, Washed OutYeah.  The songs weren’t written to be performed, so I was a little hesitant. I’m also a bit of a control-freak, so I was worried about being at the mercy of sound/lighting guys. But it seemed like a really good situation at Santos Party House, and I had a friend from Florida fly up to do some live video projections that really helped. So, it turned out to be a really great experience.

What got you there? How did you get in the Times?
I was approached by a promoter at Santos Party House about the show. (I should be doing a few more NYC shows in December.) My label Mexican Summer hooked up the review. CMJ [Music Marathon] is a pretty big deal in the independent music world, so it seemed like a really good opportunity.  I slept on some friends couch for the two nights I was in town.

(Photo by Andrew Parks)

How do you hope to combine music and LIS work?
As of right now, I’m putting the job search aside. I’ve been given a lot of great offers to travel around the world performing, so I plan on taking advantage for a year or two. However, I still look forward to a long career as a librarian. I know that I’ll continue recording outside of library work, but getting married has made me really stop and think about the lifestyle of a touring musician.  I definitely prefer a quiet stack of books to a loud bar :)

(A video featuring Washed Out’s music is here, and embedded below.)

FEEL IT ALL AROUND from Northern Lights on Vimeo.

What did you study as an undergrad? What made you decide to go to LIS grad school?
I studied English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Georgia.  I then attended law school briefly, but decided that library school would be a much better fit.  At USC, I worked at the Thomas Cooper Library Reference Department (the university’s main library) during my two-year coursework. It was a really great learning experience.

What kind of library job do you hope for?
I really love academic libraries and my major course emphasis at USC was in information technologies, so I’d love to combine the two! It is definitely important that new graduates stay “up to date” on what’s happening in the field. Interviews are pretty hard to land. My approach is to emphasize the skills that a young professional like myself might have over someone more familiar with the older approach to librarianship.

Is this the craziest week of your life?
This week has been pretty crazy! I flew in to New York City on Sunday night… did press all day Monday… performed Monday night at 1am… then flew back to Georgia the next morning. Since returning home I’ve done everything from painting to yardwork getting ready for the big day! We are both excited about our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.