Whethan walks into room 306 at Palihouse in Santa Monica with two PR people, a bag of his own clothes, and a big smile. He’s immediately warm. He gives hugs. He’s down for anything.
The 19-year-old DJ/producer is there for a photoshoot, and for one look dons an open Vetements raincoat, shirtless, hair wet. For another he puts on one of the outfits he brought from home — a lemon-colored Madhappy sweatsuit.
It’s clear from the beginning of the day he knows what he’s doing. He can be moody, sultry, and fun. He knows how to pose, how to work a room, and has become used to this new lifestyle of shoots, interviews, and lightning fast clothing changes. He’s professional and confident, yet grounded and humble — a notion somewhat unheard of for a teenager in the music industry.
“It’s pronounced like Ethan with a W,” he explains of his Wheat Thin-esque moniker. And, he says, it was simple how he got it. “A kid in high school would pass me by in the hall every day and would call me ‘Whethan.’ I had just started making music more seriously at the time and needed a nickname.” He was 15, and like certain things do at that age, it stuck.
Now, Ethan Snoreck is officially living up to his mononymous “stage name” — something usually only reserved for industry heavyweights. With a string of high-profile, chart-topping collabs like “High“ with Dua Lipa for the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack, “Love Gang” featuring Charli XCX, and the recent hit “Be Like You” featuring BROODS, he got his feet wet touring with big names like The Chainsmokers and recently wrapped a European tour with Louis the Child.
And there’s no sign of him slowing down anytime soon. Signed by Atlantic Records, he has just released another single with London-based alt-pop duo Oh Wonder, called “Superlove,” and is gearing up for his first headline tour, “Life of a Wallflower” which will be a two-month run, kicking off in San Marcos, Texas in September.
Born in Chicago to a non-musical family, the young mastermind taught himself everything he knows by tinkering around with GarageBand on his iPad at the age of 12 — a whopping seven years ago. “It was really bad music,” he admits, but it was a hobby he quickly became obsessed with.
“I had just found Daft Punk and Skrillex, and wanted to make my own beats,” he remembers. “I’d do it all day everyday. I’d annoy my parents, annoy my grandparents, like… ‘Look at this song I made!’”
By 15, he had found his grips, upgraded to an actual computer, and downloaded the music production software program Ableton, something he still uses to make his catchy sounds. Being tech-savvy, he would regularly upload his music on SoundCloud and was elated when one of his remixes “XE3” started getting popular on Vine. (Yes, you’ve heard it.) But it wasn’t until the electronic music duo, Zeds Dead played it at the HARD Summer Music Festival when he realized that maybe he did have something legit going on.
“Because I was never really schooled in music I didn’t trust that I was making good stuff,” Whethan admits. “Confidence came after that and I was suddenly like, ‘You know… I think I can do what they’re doing.’”
And it turns out he could. He started missing some days his junior year in high school to play shows. By senior year he was touring stadiums with The Chainsmokers.
“I definitely had some teachers who were kinda fans at that point,” he laughs. In between playing giant arenas he still managed to find the time to fly back to Chicago and graduate with his friends, who he cites as the reason he’s so grounded. Sure, his friends think he’s cool and all, “but a lot of people in high school only care about, like, Justin Bieber,” he jokes.
Between touring and playing festivals he now lives in LA where he hangs out with other musicians like Louis the Child, who is similar in age and also hails from Chicago. He recently made headlines when he brought Mason Ramsey (the “yodel boy” who went viral for yodeling in Walmart) on stage during his set at Coachella. They’re both signed by the same manager, and Whethan laughs when he says, “Who knows, maybe there’ll be a country electronic album someday!”
A seasoned vet at high profile types of shows and festivals, he admits it’s actually more nerve wracking playing the smaller, more intimate gigs. “You feel the energy more,” he says. “I like what’s happening now because I have a little fan base going and people come to the shows and they’re there for me.”
“I’m starting to feel less and less intimidated with every situation I’m in,” he says. “If you’re confident in what you’re doing and you think you’re doing good stuff… then you just might do it.”
After the shoot wraps, Whethan changes out of his shoot clothes and into another outfit that he brought. This one’s a fluorescent yellow construction vest. “It’s from my first and only ever real job when I was 16,” he explains. He was a mason worker at his grandpa’s masonry factory. When he was gearing up to make the big move to LA, he glimpsed the vest, and thought, ‘Hey, that’s fashion in LA.’”
On his way out after the shoot, I look at him leave in that vest, a token of his old life draped over his shoulders, settling brightly into this new chapter in LA as he’s just on the verge of making it Calvin Harris-huge. The vest is such a simple concept… just like his name. It’s fashion if he says it is. And he’s Whethan if he wants it bad enough.
And he does.
“I’m excited for you,” I say to him as he walks out the door. He responds with a smile, “I am too.”
Lindsay DeLong is the Managing Editor of The Fullest. What she’s most excited about is for Whethan to start dating Taylor Swift. Find her on Instagram at @lindizzaster or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.