In a world that many perceive to be growing darker and more hopeless by the day, most musicians are responding by creating work that mirrors bleak sentiments. Ian Allan Young, the man behind the southern California-based reggae outfit E.N Young, is choosing to take a markedly different approach.
“Reggae music has always been an inspiration to me, and part of that influence is the positive message and energy associated with it. I feel being grateful for what we have is key to happiness and success in life. So if I’m going to speak words, I want them to be positive, and I want people to gain that feeling of hopefulness and living life to the fullest it can be lived, even through the struggles.”
Raised on the U.S./Mexico border south of San Diego, Young’s first foray into music began at age six when he was given a white upright Samick Piano that he still records and plays with today. At 12, he picked up drumming, a decision the musician credits for “revealing his musical world.” Young was first introduced to reggae by his brothers Manuel and Mike’Chunky Roots’ Marquez in his youth and has been obsessed ever sense. How obsessed, you ask? At the relatively young age of 32, he has produced a remarkable 60 reggae albums and has released four of his own.
Released in 2018, Young’s newest album Forest Wilderness features syncopated horn sections, sleek electronic percussion, and a diverse cast of guest musicians including Inna Vision and Half Pint. The album oscillates between traditional reggae offerings and catchy E.D.M. interpretations with the common theme of hope, consciousness and love tying the songs together. Young says he’s on a mission to “spread good through reggae music,” and sees himself as a part of a larger movement focused on making the world kinder and more empathetic through reggae music. “I feel that if people raise their consciousness and are aware of everything they feel, do and speak, the world would be a better place,” he says. “The first step to making a change is to know that things exist. A lot of people act and don’t think about what they do. If we all raise our consciousness and are kinder to each other, we can get a lot farther quicker as a society and people in the world we live in.”
A cynic would directly link Young’s positive philosophy with the musician’s extremely good fortunes. After bursting onto the southern California reggae seen when he was still in his teens, Young set off to pursue a solo career after playing in and producing for reggae superstar group Tribal Seeds, touring heavily through some of the world’s most coveted scenic destinations including Guam and Hawaii. In 2012, he built Imperial Studios, a pristine recording studio bordering the Pacific Ocean where he now writes, produces, and records.
By all accounts, Young lives a charmed life, but that doesn’t make his message or mission any less potent. Sit down for a conversation with the California native, and the word “grateful” is bound to come up over and over again. Young seems to be eager to tell us that we’d all be living happier, more fulfilling lives if we would only choose to pay more attention, and the preferred vehicle for this message is reggae music. Even when I bring up the topic of how technology is changing music, something widely credited for devaluing the work of musicians and saturating the industry to unsustainable levels, Young takes a positive perspective: “For me, it’s a good thing because technology allows us me reach many people quickly. I’m just rolling with the times.”
Whether you view Young’s incorruptible, positive, conscious outlook as a remedy for the many troubling problems of our times or nothing more than putting out a defiant, unrealistic spin on the modern human condition, you’ve got to hand it to E.N Young for saying something unique and wholly unexpected through music in 2019.
E.N Young performs at Brues Alehouse in Pueblo, Colorado on July 24th at 7:30. Click here for more information.