Mr. Carter Davis Talks Upcoming Album Recorded in Apple Stores
Driven by the simple motive to share music in a meaningful way with the people around him, Mr. Carter Davis makes his way into a solo project after touring the country for his upcoming album, Hotels. Davis, a refreshing vocalist and folk pop artist in the Dallas music scene, recently released the first single off the album also named "Hotels" (listen below). Traveling around the country, Davis recorded a true concept album, stopping in different Apple stores in each city to perform and record a unique song. We sat down with Mr. Carter Davis to dive into his musical background, influences and his vision to record this album across the U.S.
Take us back to your early musical background. Can you tell us little about how you got started?
Yeah, I don’t really have any crazy stories about how I got started. I hear all these people’s stories like, I was homeless for 10 years and then I picked up a Ukulele, ya know. All these struggle stories are awesome, but I don’t have that. I’m kind of jealous of, but I’m kind of not because I didn’t have to go through it. But everyone gets to the point of where they are differently.
I started with piano when I was 12 — my mom actually forced me and my older sister to take lessons. I was really bad at piano, I didn’t like sitting down and practicing. Somebody at my church back then was giving guitar lessons, so I just picked up guitar and started taking lessons. In between there sometime I started playing bass for youth group at the same time I was learning guitar. The reason I like guitar is because it’s just chords, no right hand left hand, sitting down practicing for hours. With piano, if you don’t have a keyboard, you actually have to go into a room and sit down and play and play. With a guitar you can take it everywhere.
So when did you first get into songwriting? What was your first music project outside of your youth group?
I got into songwriting for fun, like with my brother and our friends, we would just write punk songs. We would just write songs about our day-to-day stuff like sports, friends, and just random stupid stuff. We would just try to make it as funny as possible. Then I wrote my first song at 14 about my first girlfriend that broke my heart. One of those two-week classic stupid breakups, basic bullshit. I really enjoyed it, it was very therapeutic to me that I could write something down, explain everything on paper, put it in front of me, sing it — and then I was done with it. After that, I just loved the idea of songwriting, and having nothing and building something.
My dad’s a cabinet builder and I’ve always helped him out with it. With music you never really have the pieces to build something tangible like you do with boxing together a cabinet and installing it. Music isn’t like that. It’s more of a mental building process. So for me having that industrial, systematic mind but not having a passion for carpentry, I’ve really placed that systematic thought process into songwriting. I guess I just fell in love with it after writing my first song.
What were some of your musical inspirations or influences growing up?
So I have a big family. I have four older sisters and a younger brother. We used to go everywhere together and whenever we were in the car my parents, who are kinda strict and Christian, wouldn’t let us listen to new pop. So we listened to a lot of oldies, a lot of late 50’s and early 60’s singer-songwriters, as well as some country. So I listened to a lot of VInce Gill, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Jim Croce, James Taylor a lot. Whenever we would go on a family road trip we would listen to James Taylor’s greatest hits — the whole time. Just a ton of oldies, The Beatles, The Monkees, anything to do with the Parent Trap and The Brady Bunch (laughs).
Tell us about your upcoming album. What type of sound or vibe did you want to portray?
I just grew up really family-oriented. Every year we went to Galveston in the summer and made it a trip a few years in a row. And people always ask, “What do you want your music to sound like?” And I’m like, I want it to be like you’re going on a road trip to Galveston — so it’s not like the best road trip — but you’re with family, you’re drinking, it’s perfect, it’s imperfect, it’s nostalgia, folk, beachy — just all these different elements. So for this new album, I want it to be as if you and your loved one are going on a road trip and that trip is obviously across the great United States of America, right (laughs). But it’s also just kind of a trip through your relationship.
So tell us about the trip you did recording in Apple Stores across the country.
Man, I have no idea how that came about in my head. I was recently trying to think of where the idea came from. It was last year at this time that I completed it, but of course it took me about 6 months to prepare for it. And when the final album comes out it’ll be about a span of two years from idea to execution. So basically, I sat down and planned 10 different cities and tried to pair a song with that city, but then also tried to plan out my album as well. So I’m sitting there thinking, I’m going to be there this day recording this song, so what song fits with that city and where does it fit in the album cause it’s chronological as well? I started in Dallas, I went straight to L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, cut across to Chicago, to New York, Nashville and then back to Dallas. I cut out a lot of cities. Originally I was going to also stop by New Mexico, Phoenix, Portland, Detroit, Boston...it was like 14-15 tracks and I just couldn’t make it happen in the amount of time I needed to.
Did you have all the songs written before you went on that road trip or were you writing along the way?
I had about five or six finished and I had about three or four ideas and there’s 10 songs together. So I had five songs I knew this is what the song is about, this is where I’m going to play it. So, the single that was just released, “Hotels”, I wrote it about L.A. so that was a no-brainer. The song I did in Dallas, “You Feel Like Home”, it’s about my family since I grew up in Dallas. So I started placing these like that. I “lived” in Seattle for six months, well an extend stay, but I wrote a song about storms cause it’s always shit weather out there. Then I had a song about New York, but it wasn’t finished — just had the idea. Then I had another song called “For The Love Of The Lake” — I knew Chicago had a lake, so I just fit them in where it went. Then for Nashville I didn’t have anything planned, so I wrote a song that summed up the whole trip since it was our last stop before coming back to Dallas. It’s the only song that’s actually about making the album.
What was your motivation behind taking this trip across the country?
The biggest thing I was thinking about was this documentary we were putting together. We created a short documentary about 15 to 20 minutes long about how the album was made. I was thinking content-wise, who’s going to be interesting on camera that I can talk to about making music and pursuing your dreams. The underlying theme of everything was relationships and how the business of music is relationships. Those relationships you make as you’re making or playing music on- or off-stage makes the music gratifying. At my release show, I knew everybody in the room and I let them know how happy I was to know everybody there, listening to my songs, singing them back to me — literally making my dreams come true. Ever since I started writing songs I was in my room crying and becoming emotional just with the thought of sharing my songs with people and them singing my songs back to me. And every time I’ve wanted to stop doing music, I’ve always thought back to that moment because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do — share music with people. So with the whole trip, all these elements were combined. I try to think of everything together and in sync. The trip I took, going around hanging out with friends and friends of friends, is all combined with wanting to share my music and myself to people.