Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An interview! With Tim Carr.

Last month, I had the opportunity to interview Greg Uhlmann, guitarist of Los Angeles band Fell Runner; this month, I have the privilege of sharing an interview with his bandmate, drummer Tim Carr. As may have been mentioned elsewhere on this site, I ran across Tim's music during a solo set of his in February 2015, when he opened for composer Jherek Bischoff in Los Angeles. He played a gorgeous vintage Harmony Patrician archtop guitar, sang sweetly and softly [not surprised to see that he feels Colin Blunstone has rubbed off on him -- see below]. And moreover, he not only played a fantastic set but then went on to back Brother, Sister and then join them to back Jherek Bischoff -- indeed, playing three sets in a row. As a drummer, he's the crucial piece that makes a good band even better, really puts in his work to act as the spine of the band. He's an extraordinary musician with multiple talents, and it's a joy to be able to have reached him.

Choir Croak Out Them Goodies: You've played drums for bands like Brother, Sister, Fell Runner, and the Americans all within the last year -- how did you get started with each respective project, and how do you divide your time among your solo work and the bands in which you take part? 

Tim Carr: All of the bands you mentioned I met or formed while I was going to CalArts. I’ve known the members of Brother, Sister for a while but have only played one show with them so far. I have been playing with Fell Runner for a few years and The Americans for almost six. Finding time for my solo work has always been one of the most challenging things. I think setting blocks of time in advance that I know I can commit to is a good start.

CCOTG: The bands you've been a part of are so completely different from one another, which perhaps speaks to your range of influences and your ability to adapt as a musician. You've spoken of your influences in terms of genre, but are there any artists who have really stuck with you over the years, the ones who've made you say "I hope to sound like ___ or be as good as ___?" And since you seemed to evolve into a singer-songwriter, did anyone in particular shape your solo sound? 

TC: I don’t think there was any one particular artist that made me decide to start writing and singing songs. Ever since I could play piano and guitar, I loved to just spend hours improvising, discovering things which eventually led to making up melodies. Then I started singing these melodies, leading me to become a “singer-songwriter.” My singing voice in the beginning kind of had an English accent, maybe it still does (…?), which was probably due to the amount of Beatles and Zombies my parents played when I was growing up.

CCOTG: As a jazz drummer, do you have any favorites or standout influences?

TC: Art Blakey, Greg Saunier, Ari Hoenig and Dave King have all had an impact on the way I play drums, both creatively and physically. Art Blakey has an authority and seriousness in his playing that I highly admire, and for the others there’s a dance-like way in which they move while they hit the drums that really moved me into what they were playing.

CCOTG: You strike me as a reader -- are there any books, poems, or songs, for that matter, that have most shaped your lyrics, your mindset, your outlook?

TC: Actually, I didn’t read very much when I was younger. I think there was some point in high school where my English teacher said your writing style is poetic. It was probably because I didn’t read the books, so my essays tended to be extremely fragmented with colorful imagery. But from then on poetry became an interest to me and I began to experiment with writing lyrics. I would just read everything at random to understand and identify voices in writing. I’m always trying to catch up on the classics. Lately I’m drawn to text that may seem mundane or conversational but has a lurking, dream-like quality. I’m also very interested in and seem to connect most to existential stories, philosophies or poems. Kierkegaard is who I’m currently reading.

CCOTG: You recently played in Taiwan, but it wasn’t your first time there. What are your ties there, if any, and since we're talking about your international presence, how did you come to release your debut with Moorworks in Japan prior to releasing it here, and will its song selection evolve before you put it out in the U.S.?

TC: Yes, I’ve been going to Taiwan almost every year since I was 19. It’s kind of my alternate life. My best friend from high school, who’s Taiwanese, moved back to Taiwan after we graduated to pursue a career as a C-pop star and became quite successful. While I’m over there I usually help write and produce his songs, in addition to playing his concerts. One year, I planned to go to Japan from Taiwan just to visit. I ended up doing a major outreach before and that’s when I got in touch with the label Moorworks. They set up a release for my songs and booked a small tour, which ended up being a wonderful solo adventure. I think I will release a similar collection of songs in the U.S. but hopefully followed shortly after by a new album, which I’m working on right now.

CCOTG: Your touring schedule is incredible. What are some of the most interesting things you've learned about the country, and the world, from traveling? 

TC: Performing while traveling, I feel, is the best way to experience a new place. I find that it’s easier to connect and understand the culture of a place when you’re there to entertain the locals as well as the tourists. I’ve been fortunate to have met and joined The Americans because they tour across the country as much as possible, performing everywhere from rural country bars to theaters in more populated cities. One thing that I think is worth mentioning about touring is that it can be very grueling, at least at the level I have been doing it. At times it feels like it’s not worth the physical and mental exhaustion, but then one experience or show will shift that feeling and those waves happen. I’ve toured a bit outside of the country in Taiwan, Japan, France and Germany. In these countries, the cultures can seem impenetrable and are much more challenging to understand because of the language barriers, especially in Asia. But there’s a mysteriousness there that I find very appealing and addicting.

CCOTG: Tell me everything you can recall about the experience of playing on Letterman with the Americans

TC: Every minute of it was surreal. I don’t think it was something I actually believed was happening until we were in front of the camera. I loved performing in that type of setting because you know you have the attention of potentially millions of people. It’s just such a rare spotlight (well, it was in my case), and being in that spotlight for the song’s length was the ultimate thrill. I have a strong desire to do it again.

CCOTG: What accomplishment are you most proud of, musical or otherwise? 

TC: One specific performance that comes to mind is my graduation recital at California Institute of the Arts. It was the first time I ever performed my own songs, singing and playing guitar. That was a big door to open because there was an identity I had that was hidden, and that concert was the unveiling. From then on I was able to grow and follow that goal, which I’m proud of, considering how daunting it was to me at the time. The songs I’ve written and recorded for my first full album (which was released in Japan and is going to be released in the U.S.) are something I spent a lot of time on, and I feel good that they are out there as a collection. And of course, being a part of The Americans and Fell Runner, there have been many triumphs and a lot progress over the years. I’ve grown and accomplished so much as a musician and collaborator playing with them.

CCOTG: You come from a musical family -- do you have any relatives that we should know about? 

TC: Both my parents and brother all play multiple instruments and sing. My brother Jason, who lives in San Francisco, is a freelance multi-instrumentalist and music teacher. I’m actually hoping to tour with him in the fall this year. My uncle, PJ, also is an incredible singer and guitarist who plays in a Beach Boys tribute band.


Tim Carr's next solo show will be a free show at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn on May 21. He will also be playing drums with Fell Runner at the Hi Hat in Highland Park (Los Angeles) on June 30.

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