On June 5, 2007, Passions’ Eric Martsolf (Ethan Winthrop) released his first solo cd titled simply, “Eric Martsolf.” It’s a compilation of five songs including several rock/pop ballads, one whoop roaring rocker, and one that Martsolf calls a “groover, a more medium-paced song.”
The ever sort after Ethan Winthrop and much harried third of soapdom’s longest running love triangle (Ethan, Theresa and Gwen), Martsolf went off to college with the notion of one day pursuing a law degree. But the defining moment came on graduation from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Graduating with a BA in political science with honors, he fought whether to follow his head and continue with a career as a lawyer, or to follow his heart and become an entertainer. Entertainer won.
Along with a stint in a rock and roll band, working with Dolly Pardon at Dollywood, and delighting the passengers of cruise ships with his singing, he landed the role of Pharaoh in the road company of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” along with roles in 39 other musicals and plays.
The bottom line is that Martsolf was a singer long before he was an actor on Passions. But since his tenure as Ethan, he’s been so busy he never got around to making a cd.
“Finally, I found the time to do it and I made it with the fans in mind,” Martsolf tells Soapdom. The self-titled cd is a contemporary pop rock album. Martsolf compiled a team of top musicians and producers to help him get his vision down. “The keyboard guy is Madonna’s and Ozzie’s road keyboard guy,” Martsolf shared. “Dito Godwin is the producer and he produced No Doubt’s first album.” He went on to explain that the recording is very raw and pure. “There’s no computers, no sequencing, no Pro Tools, no computer tricks. It basically came right off the amplifier and on to the tape.”
The music is a blend of rock and roll with a pop element to it. “(It) has a little bit of an 80s’ influence. I am an adolescent from the 80’s so I had to incorporate that somehow,” Martsolf said. One of his influences is Journey with Steve Perry.
If you go to Martsolf’s myspace page you can hear four of the five songs. My personal favorite is “Never Be.” It contains a very unexpected chord change in the chorus and I love the surprise of it. “Liar” is the real rocker. The others are rock ballads. The one that is missing on the myspace page is the “groover.” “That one’s not a rocker, not a ballad. It swings. Has reggae feel. A rock tune, but a swing feel. The base slaps around on it a lot. It’s got a great melody that is very reminiscent of 80s,” Martsolf said.
Although Martsolf is a songwriter as well, and has published some in the past, he did not write any of the songs on this cd. “Given the time I had to work on this album, I opted to have some other very talented writers come to my aid to write them for me,” he said. “I selected based on melody. I am all about melody. I will listen to a hundred songs and the ones I can hum in the car two or three hours later are the ones that I know I want to do. It doesn’t matter what instruments you surround melody with, as long as you have that chord it’s gonna be a good song."
With the demands of his role on Passions, finding the time to record the cd wasn’t easy.
“After a day of taping, I would run to the recording studio in Hollywood. We recorded most of the album after midnight. During the time I was recording the cd, I think my wife forgot what my name was. I came in at two or three in the morning raspy, having no voice, but I knew I had to wake up at six in the morning and be Ethan Winthrop. I’d be drinking water in the car on the way to the studio tying to get my voice back. It was a rough deal. Now I know what Rick Springfield went through in the 80s.”
Springfield, coincidentally, is also one of Martsolf’s musical influences. Also coincidentally, Springfield is a soap star and recently reprised his popular role of Noah Drake on General Hospital.
“We spent a total of three weeks in the studio. It all gelled together very quickly,” he admitted. Martsolf then went on to tell us about his newest project.
”I love the stage. Whenever -- or if -- I have downtime from Passions, I will always be looking for a theatrical endeavor, a musical. I am in the early stages of portraying a character in a musical based on the music of Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler. It’s called Eclipse of the Heart. Mckenzie Westmore, who plays Sheridan on our show, would play my love interest in this. We are in the early stages, but it is something that I have been involved in and working on. I am always looking for new projects to involve myself in. The more the merrier. I would play a much younger version of Meatloaf…”
At which point, I had to comment that Martsolf is much more handsome than Meatloaf’s ever been. He giggled and replied, “you should see me in the morning before my tea or a quick shower.”
Then I shared my own experience as a girlbander. Yup, yours truly was in an all girl rock band in her high school years. I played lead guitar and sang lead vocal on most of the songs. I explained to Martsolf how I have a tinge of regret that we didn’t stick it out. We let boyfriends and college get in the way. And I often wonder what would have happened if we’d stayed together.
“It’s funny you say that,” Martsolf chimed in. “My scenario is much like yours in a sense. I was part of a band called Counterpoint out of Harrisburg, PA for about four or five years. We opened for an alternative band called Live. They’re from York PA. We opened for them at a club called the the Lampost Inn in York. They were undiscovered at that time. I was the one who was responsible for Counterpoints’ demise, too. I went and sang on Hawaiian cruse ships. I went to Dollywood and sang with Dolly for a couple of years. I wanted to explore those endeavors as well. But I always regretted it. Recently, I started talking to the drummer again about a reunion and getting back in the studio. With MP3 and the technology we have today, band members can do their own tracks individually in their home towns and then we can put it all together through computers. It’s amazing.”
Is music Martsolf’s first love?
"I’ve grown to love acting, simply for the reason that it’s better financially for a guy with twins, a wife and a new house – I’ll tell ya that. I love my position in the soap opera world. I think it’s a wonderful job and opportunity for a guy that just wants to work in entertainment. However, I’ll never let go of music. I’ll always be involved in music. That was my first love and it will continue to be an interest of mine. I’d love to mix the two up.”
Which may happen sooner than later. Martsolf revealed that Passions is actually looking into putting one of the songs from the cd into a montage sequence with Ethan and Theresa. "That would be wonderful exposure for the song and I think the fans would get a kick out of Ethan singing a song to Theresa,” he enthused.
Which brings me back to the “longest running love triangle” in soapdom – namely Ethan and Theresa and Gwen. The Ethan and Theresa story started pretty much on day one when Theresa was a young ingénue with a school girl crush on the handsome Ethan Crane. Remember all the times a clumsy-in-his-presence Theresa caused Ethan discomfort like when a cart full of fish toppled over him? It would be nice for the characters to have some time to really be together for a bit. Not for long, because it’s a soap opera and they would have to get broken up eventually, but just say even for a month of true loving bliss between Ethan and Theresa. I think the fans would eat that up.
Martsolf couldn’t agree more.
“Lindsay Hartley (Theresa) and I have often sat down and said, can’t they just let Ethan and Theresa go to Hawaii for a couple of weeks and lie on the beach with their kids and be a family instead of having a fire or a blackmailer or a wife get involved? But with soaps come conflict. There is no good story without conflict. The minute you take that away, it kind of loses some of its power. But I think that it’s a testament to the triangle and its staying power that we are still one of the “A” storylines on the show. Although not much has changed, it’s still deemed entertaining because Theresa and Ethan have this whole fate thing surrounding them. People love the whole fate thing -- that you are fated to be with somebody. I think it’s a fun fantasy and definitely escapism at it’s best.”
But is it difficult, as an actor, to keep this repetitive storyline fresh?
“That’s a great question,” Martsolf replied. “But there’s monotony in every single job. That’s our job to make it fresh, to bring new life to it. To answer your question, though, it’s funny. I’ve thought long and hard about it. Why I enjoy playing Ethan and why I decide to sign on again, year after year. My life is similar to his in a sense that I studied to be a lawyer. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do. But I followed my heart and went to be an actor in New York. I took the road less traveled. Ethan has the same battle between what he feels is responsible – Gwen – and what is really in his heart, which is Theresa. So he constantly battles mind vs. heart all the time. I kind of thought I did that on graduation day back in ‘93 when I graduated from college, I had to make that choice, too. So, I get the guy. I understand him. I wanna kick him in the butt sometimes, though. I wanna tell him to make up his mind already, for god sakes. But I feel comfortable playing the conflict because I can draw upon it.”
Which brought us to the groundbreaking future of Passions on DIRECTV. Did Martsolf think the airing of the show via a dish network would change the character in any way?
“That remains to be seen. On a personal note, I am completely excited and thrilled about the transition,” he said. “I think DIRECTV is making an unprecedented move here, bringing a network soap to a satellite network. The possibilities are endless. This is new territory for everybody involved. We, as cast members, are wondering is the show going to be more risqué? Is the language gonna change? Is the level of nudity gonna change? We could change the whole vibe of the show. But as to whether these things will change, I don’t know, but it’s such an interesting time in the sense that this has never been done before. I am just glad that the fans spoke up. It’s a tribute to them that the show is going to continue. I think DIRECTV realized – wait a minute, here’s millions of people watching this soap. That’s more than most cable prime time shows are getting. They scooped us up and there is a loyalty in the soap fan base – as you know – it’s like the country music fans, they just love you, no matter what. Till death. I am just happy to be able to give the Passions fans another chance to see it through.”
I then congratulated Martsolf on signing on to stay with the show during this transition.“I was one of the first ones to sign up, man. I didn’t waste any time. I’ve got two new twin boys. I just bought a house. Yeah, I’ll keep the job.”
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