By O’Hara Shipe
In Alaska’s jam band heavy music scene, it isn’t easy trying to carve out a niche that doesn’t fit the status quo—but that’s exactly what R&B singer Ed Washington is trying to do. A UAA Music Department graduate, Washington developed his love of music at an early age.
“My whole family on both sides loves music. My brother is out in LA pursuing music right now and my little sister has actually recorded a couple of songs with me. Also, my cousin, Mike G, was a pretty big R&B singer up here back in the day,” says Washington.
Despite his deep musical roots, the self-described high-functioning introvert initially set his sights on producing.
“Honestly, initially I didn’t want to sing. My cousin was already really amazing, and I didn’t think I could do that as well as him so what was the point? It wasn’t until I went to school at Old Dominion University for a year that I realized that I may have something special too.”
Although the looming threat of insurmountable debt eventually forced Washington to return home to finish his college degree, he continued to hone his craft. Under the direction of UAA’s Mari Hahn he performed in numerous operas as well as regularly performed in UAA’s jazz ensembles. He was even cast in UAA Theatre’s production of “Working”. But after graduating in 2016 he slowly began to fall into a deep depression that nearly spelled the end of his musical career.
“There were days when it was hard to even get out of bed,” recalls Washington. “I made some decisions that I’m not proud about, but you really lose yourself when you’re struggling with something as heavy as depression.”
After removing himself from the limelight for a few years, things are beginning to look up for Washington again. In early May he performed his first solo concert at Williwaw. A week later he opened for JMSN and followed that up as the opener for Keith Sweat, Ginuwine and Mya.
“Playing my first solo show was huge! I hadn’t expected to do it but when the original JMSN show was rescheduled, Williwaw asked if I would step in and perform. I was definitely really nervous but seeing people singing my music back to me was just amazing,” gushes Washington.
In the wake of his recent successes, Washington is determined to use his platform to spread the word about depression.
“I want to use my music as a way to tell people that things will get better—that they aren’t alone. If I had given up a year ago, I wouldn’t be experiencing all of these amazing things! Sometimes you just need that one person to help you see there’s still light, even if its only a small speck. I hope I can be that speck for someone.”
Although Washington doesn’t currently have any upcoming gigs, he’s not resting on his laurels and is hard at work crafting new music.
“I’m moving from being this solo artist partially because I wasn’t getting recognition and partially because I wanted to be more integrated into the community. So now I am working with other artists that I met at UAA to create something different. I’m excited to see what this next chapter brings!”