Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Carter Hulsey Interview

Photo by Laura Means
Have you ever been listening to an album, and when it gets to the end you are completely committed to listening to it again? Right now, that album for me is “A Note In Your Pocket," by Carter Hulsey. The singer/songwriter hailing from Joplin Missouri, has found the perfect way to create classic country/folk music with a modern twist. Much like Hulsey’s close friend, Christofer Drew of Never Shout Never, Hulsey has a knack for mixing the old with the new.

While on tour with Never Shout Never, The Maine and I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business, I had a chance to speak with Hulsey about the album and future plans.

You seem to know everyone on this tour pretty well, how far do you date back with some of these guys (Christofer Drew, Caleb Denison, etc.)?
Hulsey: Caleb moved to Joplin from somewhere in Oklahoma back when I was sixteen, so we have known each other for six years. Chris and I have been playing in bands since we were kids, so I have known him for a while. We have even lived in the same house for almost three years now. I have just met The Maine, Ace Enders and Jose Lopez from I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business, but it has been “instant family.” Never Shout is the headliner and we are all just Midwest boys, and there is a big family vibe on this tour that is hard to escape. We are all really close for sure.
With your debut LP, “A Note In Your Pocket,” how did you approach the writing process?
Hulsey: This writing process was different, in which I wrote a lot of it during the winter of last year. Chris and I had been living in an apartment at the time and he was writing a record he just put out called “Harmony,” while I was writing “A Note In Your Pocket.” I read a whole lot during that time, a lot of classic literature and listened to a lot of music. We both have record players, so we were always playing vinyl for each other. We would come up with song ideas, and it is really neat hearing the songs ideas that he had have a thousand kids signing along to, but I heard it at three o’clock in the morning when he came into my room, woke me up and said “listen, what do you think?” I would say “that’s great! What if you did this?” The same went with my stuff. He would say “this chorus is great, what if you add this right here? Or brought it back right here?” I wrote the whole record with Chris right there, and we would just bounce ideas back for his record, and my record. A lot of reading and listening to a lot of music.
Now the actual recording process was fairly short correct?
Hulsey: Yeah, we got there and though it was going to be a lot different. We thought that we were going to have a producer, but stuff didn’t work out. So we go there and we recorded all of the music in three days, and then we did all of the vocals in a day and a half. We played a great deal of it live, and then we would go back and re-track things that bled over. It was a very live record, because we were on a very tight time frame. We also thought that we were going to have some more days, and Tom, Toff and Caleb didn’t know all of the songs. Basically it was like “here is the song, now let’s record it.”(laughs) I played it once and then we recorded it. This next record, we are going to record in a couple of months, and we are going to spend a lot of time doing it.
I heard that “Don’t Waste Time” was a song written by Caleb. How did that become yours, and not a Denison song? (The Denison is Caleb Denison’s side-project)
Hulsey: Caleb is such a phenomenal song writer. He’s got a catalog of songs, that hopefully everyone will hear someday, but he was just like “this song just fits really well, let’s do it.” There might be another Caleb song on the next record too. He is so gifted, and it was an honor for me to put that song on my record for sure.
Had did “Black and Blue” come together? How did Sophia Smith come into the picture?
Hulsey: I played with her at a place in Arlington, Texas. When I heard her sing, I was immediately blown away. They did a Gregory and the Hawk cover, and just loved it. I heard that, and asked her to sing with me. I wrote the song, showed it to her via the internet, she recorded the tracks, e-mailed them to me, we plugged them in and put them on the record. I wish that we could have flown her in, but doing it all in three days didn’t leave much time for anything. She is phenomenal though.
You keep saying that you had three days in the studio, was that planned?
Hulsey: No, we thought that we were going to have a little more than a week to sit there and work through all of the songs. You know, I had a bunch of songs that never made it on the record.
Will the songs surface on the next album?
Hulsey: No. My thing with songwriting is that I just wanted to capture a certain time period. There were probably ten or fifteen songs that we didn’t even go through, because of the time constraints. They could have been alright, but they’re not, nobody will ever hear them, but that’s the way it goes I guess.
So you are going to start recording for the next record in a couple of months, are you writing for that right now?
Hulsey: Yeah, I have been writing on this tour, even though it is really hard to do. We are going to go into the studio to record a bunch of demos in December, then we will go on tour for all of January and February, then we will record it in March and it will be out in April. We will put it out really quick.
Who is that going to be released with?
Hulsey: We are going to release it ourselves independently.
Anyone that you are listening to right now, that you can see coming through in the music you are writing?
Hulsey: I did a tour with a guy named Corey Branan, and he is one of the most phenomenal artists that I have had the privilege of touring with. He turned me on to John Prine, and I have been listening to John Prine non-stop. I will always listen to Randy Newman, forever. On the whole van ride up here, we have been jamming Ray Charles. Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams and just classics. I feel bad, I don’t know much new music because I grew up on my dad’s records and they have always stuck. Anything old. I listen to a lot of Willy Nelson, The Highway Men, Johnny Cash, all of it.
What is next for you after the tour?
Hulsey: After the tour I am going to drive home, play a wedding, and then go into my house and not come out of my house for a solid month. I am going to write, record, and sleep.

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