Ethan Slater is an actor, singer, writer, and composer. Ethan created the Edge Of The World concept album with Nick Blaemire. He also received a Tony Award nomination for the Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical category for his role of SpongeBob SquarePants. YEM was able to speak with Ethan about when he started writing songs for the album, how he choose the title for the album, and what it was like being apart of the SpongBob Musical.
Young Entertainment Mag: Do you have a specific moment or memory where you knew you were going to create the EDGE OF THE WORLD concept album?
Ethan Slater: Nick and I were working on Edge of the World, and we decided to try cutting all of the book scenes in between songs. Just as an exercise. And when we did, we were blown away. The story worked so well told through song. This was right before the world shut down, but that exercise (plus playing some of the tunes live in concerts around NYC) inspired us to consider making a concept album. Then the pandemic hit and we sat on the idea for a little while before realizing: “this is a way we can make the show, keep working on the show, even if we can’t be in a theater together.” And I am so glad we did.
YEM: When did you start writing songs for the album?
Ethan: A few years ago I wrote the first 3 or 4 songs that would end up becoming Edge of the World. When Nick heard them he said he really connected with it and wanted to help me shape the thing. So we wrote more, and cut more, and wrote more, and cut more, and the process just kept on rolling.
YEM: Is there a certain time of day or place where you get most inspired to write your songs?
Ethan: I wish I had an answer to that, because then I would go to that place or time as much as possible. But alas, no. I just write most every day, and inspiration will happen when it happens.
YEM: Who or what has been your biggest inspiration to you during the making of your album? Why?
Ethan: It’s gotta be Paul Simon. My dad used to play his records when I was a kid ALL of the time: Graceland, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, you know. And it just seeped into my mind — this is the power of music in storytelling. I think he inspired my guitar playing, my singing, my songwriting, and whenever I need to connect to my inner child I run to Song About The Moon.
YEM: If you could sum up the process of making this album in one word, what would it be?
Ethan: Remote. (And yet, together).
YEM: Why and how did you choose the title “EDGE OF THE WORLD”?
Ethan: There were other names, ones that had more to do with Imagination and that side of the story. But when honing in on what this was really about, we realized that all of our characters are on the edge of something. They are clinging on in one way or another, deciding whether to leap or hold strong. That, along with the remote wilderness of Arctic Alaska, felt like the edge of the world.
YEM: What was the most challenging part about making the album?
Ethan: Being across the continent trying to make it feel like we were all in the same room. It was the biggest challenge, but also the greatest reward. Because it really did bring us all together, to feel like we were in the same place at the same time, doing the age old tradition of making music around a campfire.
YEM: What was the most rewarding part about making the album?
Ethan: Working with such outrageously talented amazing people. Especially in a time that felt so isolating (see above).
YEM: Why do you feel that the album and songs are important to share?
Ethan: It’s a story about imagination, loneliness, grief, and the world our parents build for us. I think there is something that we can all connect to in there, and I hope the album makes those listening to it feel connected. One of the things Nick and I have been saying is: this is an album that would be great to listen to in Nature. Or, if you can’t be outside for any reason, hopefully it’s an album that brings nature to you.
YEM: What was your favorite song to write and record and why?
Ethan: Being on the zoom while Norbert recorded Rocks and Things is an all time great memory. He breathes so much life into everything he sings, and it’s a really special experience as a writer to see a song that means so much to you be interpreted with such love and honesty. He just makes everything better.
YEM: What does the EDGE OF THE WORLD concept album mean to you?
Ethan: God that’s a tough question. To me, it is the core of the show. I hope people listen, and like it, and want to see it on its feet, fully staged. But the album itself tells the story of a boy trying to understand his world, and by the end of it he starts to. He starts to. Edge of the World is the story of beginning.
YEM: Now that the album has been recorded and released, what are you feeling?
Ethan: Relieved! Excited! Nervous! Hopeful! ALL AT ONCE!
YEM: What was it like to be a part of the Spongebob musical and playing lead on a real broadway stage? Do you remember that first night getting on stage, what was that experience like? And how has that show impacted your career and what are you most excited for moving forward? And is there anything you would change or would you do it all over again?