Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Carbon leaf

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Carbon LeafOh boy do I have a treat for you guys today. I am sitting with a band that I have been a fan of for years and years and years. And they have been producing albums for longer than I can remember. These guys have proven their longevity by continuing to produce quality albums while pushing the limits on what we know as pop music. They are incredible musicians, and they just seem to get better with every album they produce. With the release of a new album and a tour to support it, I will have the chance this summer to sit with these guys again while I watch them live for the first time. I could not be happier to introduce you to Carbon Leaf.

Where did you guys all meet?

We met at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia.

How long have you all known each other?

Barry and I met on the first day of college orientation in the fall of 1989. I think that I met Carter in 1992.

Is it still all the original members from day one?

Carter, Barry and I are the only original members. Jason Neal (who you can find on the drums) joined about a year and a half ago. Jon Markel joined about six months ago.

Where did you come up with the name Carbon Leaf?

Our first gig (which was a house party) was coming up and we didn’t have a name. So, Barry (our singer) and I were brainstorming while on a rafting/climbing trip to Tennessee. The words “Carbon” and “Leaf” just sort of came together. We tried hard to think of a better name, but after Carbon Leaf got put on the flyer for the party, the name just stuck.

When did you realize that you wanted to make a run at this thing called music?

I don’t think that we aver really started out to be professional musicians. We started Carbon Leaf for fun and over a few years we got better and I think that around 1999 we finally decided that this was what we were going to do.

Do you guys have jobs outside of music?

No, we have been full-time musicians since 2002.

What are your thoughts on MySpace?

I like it.

Can I follow you on Twitter?

Yes, of course. We are @carbonleaf.

Tell me about all the guys on the stage.

Barry Privett is on lead vocals. That is Terry Clark with all those guitars, Carter Gravatt with the guitars, mandolin, lap steel, bouzouki, and etc. Jason Neal is on drums and percussion and Jon Markel is on electric and double (upright) bass.

Where are you all from originally?

Barry Privett: Norfolk, VA

Terry Clark: Fairfax, VA

Carter Gravatt: Blackstone, VA

Jason Neal: Augusta, GA

Jon Markel: Philadelphia, PA

What has been your most successful album?

Indian Summer.

Who is the ringleader of the band?

Barry. He is the singer and he is the business manager…I’d say that that definitely makes him the ringleader

Who writes all the lyrics?

Barry. We write music first as a band and then give Barry a recording of it. He then puts lyrics and vocal melodies on it and then we get back together to tweak it some more.

Where do you get inspiration for a new track?

All over! We all listen to different stuff and have different things going on in our lives to draw inspiration from.

Where do you guys practice?

My house, in my garage. In fact, the guys will be here in about an hour.

How do you decide on a producer for a new album?

We produced the first few albums ourselves and it was part of out learning experience along with how to play our instruments and write songs. We it was time to make Echo Echo, we decided that we had done as much as we could on our own and that we should bring in an outside producer to help us. We went with John Morand here in Richmond, Virginia. He co-owns a studio called Sound of Music with David Lowry from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. We did two albums with John and then decided to try something different, so we worked with Peter Collins in Nashville for the last album. For the new one, Nothing Rhymes With Woman, we decided to go back with John Morand and stay at home to record. He is an amazing guy and really helps focus us and brings out the best in us.

Tell me about the tracks on this new album that I cannot wait to hear (and review).

I have been saying that, to me, Nothing Rhymes With Woman sounds like it is the missing album between Echo Echo and Indian Summer. It’s got several songs that have an acoustic/world music influence and also has a bit of pop sheen that I love. It’s a great blend!

Do you guys tour like this all the time or just in support of new albums?

We toured non-stop from 2002 – 2007. For the first time, we took some time off of the road to write and get ready for the studio. It was really nice to be able to let the songs mature a bit before rushing into the studio.

Where can I get some Carbon Leaf merchandise?

You can get to our web store through our website, www.carbonleaf.com

My real good friend Ryan Buttrey is possibly your biggest fan. I know you don’t know him, but if he were sitting here with me today, what would you say to him?

Hey Ryan! I’m Terry, glad to meet you!

Who would win in a pillow fight between Pat McGee and Steven Kellogg?

Kellogg, no contest.

Who is the most memorable band that you have shared the stage with?

At the American Music Awards in 2002, we played between Cher and Lenny Kravitz. Other favorites have been Great Big Sea, Blues Traveler, Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers, The Alternate Routes, Gaelic Storm, and Toby Lightman.

Let’s get some pizza. What toppings?

Pepperoni.

Who does all of your graphic design?

It’s a combination of different people. Almost every project has different people involved.

What is the craziest item on your rider?

Nothing too crazy. Fruit tray, deli tray, water, beer, etc.

What is your favorite venue to play?

We have a bunch of favorites: The 9:30 Club in Washington DC, The National in Richmond, The NorVa in Norfolk, Higher Ground in Burlington, Vermont, The Bluebird Theatre in Denver, and The Showbox in Seattle. The list goes on.

What is the largest crowd that you have played for?

40,000.

The smallest?

3.

Do you ever get nervous on stage?

Yes.

Tell me about Vanguard Records.

They are a great label that is owned by the Welk Music Group. They have a great catalog of classic folk and blues artists like Joan Baez, Country Joe & The Fish and Bill Monroe and the also have a bunch of great contemporary bands like Matt Nathanson, Mindy Smith The Watson Twins and Shawn Mullins.

What are you drinking on stage?

Water and the occasional beer.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

Terry: Neil Young, R.E.M., AC/DC, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jane’s Addiction, Uncle Tupelo, U2, The Decemberists

Jon: Stone Temple Pilots, Beck, Ben Folds, Tower of Power

Barry: The Beach Boys, Queen, Mott The Hoople, Cat Stevens, Morrissey

Carter: Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Nickel Creek, Wilco, Ryan Adams

Jason: Pantera, The Big Mighty, Rush, The Mars Volta

Is there any song that makes every set list?

Some favorites for the set list are The Boxer, What About Everything, Life Less Ordinary and Let Your Troubles Roll By.

Do you guys have any pre show routines?

Not really. We try to do some vocal warm ups and then just chill.

Who designed your logo?

The new album cover is picture of a tree that Barry found on Flickr. Barry contacted the owner and we were able to buy it. Carrie Smith at Vanguard Records tweaked the photo and put to the design together.

Are you guys any good at Guitar Hero?

No. But, we’re awesome at Resident Evil 4 & 5.

Let’s say that you are about to headline a show at Madison Square Garden. Who is your opener?

(Thinks) Good question!

Where do you guys see yourselves in five years?

Hopefully we’ll keep progressing as musicians, songwriters and people!

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

Being good people!

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

Word.