Genres: Folk, Roots inspired
Instruments: Guitar, Banjo, Harmonica Voice
Carly and I met in the Riding Mountain National Park earlier this summer and enjoyed the wonderful weather. She was incredibly sweet and kind and I was so excited to interview her. Carly’s beautifully crafted lyrics are excellently complimented with sweet melodies. I personally love her new album Ingrained, which you should definitely check out if you want to have a wonderful true folk experience.
Ashley: How long have you been playing?
Carly: I have been playing for about 10 or 11 years now and I have been writing my songs for a few years less than that. I started writing my own songs when I was 16 or 17; it’s hard to remember [an exact date]. I have been playing in various bands for years but this is my first plunge into the solo stuff.
Ashley: Why did you decide to start making and performing music solo?
Carly: It was kind of the situations where I just had to (laughs). I was playing in a band, a trio, for a couple years and we were quite serious; but it didn’t end up working out, we all went out separate ways. I had to keep playing music so I had a whole bank of songs that I wanted to get out into the world and I figured ‘I have to do this, so why not?’ It’s been really liberating in a way, it’s been a good push to explore that side of music.
Ashley: How often are you practicing your instruments?
Carly: It depends; I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a player at this point. I’m always aiming to get better at my instruments, I try to pick it up once a day and at least practice scales. It doesn’t always work out because other things get in the way but that’s one thing I’d really like to get better at: becoming a [better] player on the guitar, I feel more comfortable on the banjo. Sometimes the time isn’t there, especially when you’re songwriting as well. [Songwriting’s] my main focus, a lot of my time goes into that.
Ashley: What inspires your music?
Carly: A lot of my surroundings inspire my music. Whether it’s my natural surroundings or the people around me, things I’ve observed or stories I’ve heard from other people. I find the most common theme is the nature world; it seeps into most of my songwriting. I live in the woods now and my whole life I’ve grown up admiring nature and being inspired by it so it’s kind of natural that that would happen.
Ashley: Is there anyone you listen to?
Carly: I think probably my main musical influences have been kind of along the Gillian Welch strain of really lyrically driven songwriters. Also I really love specifically Hunter Hunter by Amelia Curran, I haven’t really listen to any of her newer stuff but that album really drew me in. Just in Winnipeg alone, there are so many artists that inspire me and continue to. It’s just amazing. I really love Scott Nolan’s work. Richard Inman is kind of an emerging artist that is really good; he’s worth checking out. The Crooked Brothers, obviously, they co-produced [my] album. I really love the sounds they get on their albums and their ability to draw them out of certain spaces and instruments.
Ashley: What is your songwriting process?
Carly: It actually varies quite a bit. Sometimes I’ll sit with a batch of poems and start with words first and kind of play with the music [and melody] afterwards. Often I just sit down with my guitar and nothing in mind and work out a melody and chord structure first then words come later. Depending on the song, some just come out and they are done and it takes 5 minutes, while some need a lot of tweaking so it can take months to finish a song.
Ashley: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Carly: I’m really proud of this album. I’m really really grateful for the opportunity to play these songs and sing them and get them into people’s homes and hearts. It’s been a real challenge at times for me to take the reins as the leader of this project. I’m so used to having a collaborative situation where I’m in a band and a lot of other people are involved so I’m just really proud of myself how much I’ve grown creatively through the process. [I’m] proud all of the work that’s gone into it and how well it’s been doing and how well it’s been received. It’s really exciting. It’s kind of crazy.
Ashley: What is the most stressful part about going on tour?
Carly: The admin side of all of it is quite time consuming and stressful at times. The booking, the tours, the PR, I’ve been doing it all independently at this point and it’s just a lot of work. It’s a lot of time on the computer and staring at the screen and on the phone. It’s all together not enjoyable but it’s all part of it and it’s put you in contact with the venue owners and you get to know people a little better that way. It all worked out really well considering I don’t have tons of experience with it.
Ashley: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous about starting out?
Carly: Just do it! Just do it. It’s daunting and there is a lot about it that can turn you off but you just have to go for it if that’s really what you want to do. There are a lot of things, like the costs and the time, that can be really scary at first but there are a lot of different ways to put music out into the world these days and if you are limited in finances you can find a way to just record a single or a record it digitally and put it out that way. There are lots of options. If you’re passionate about it, I think you should just go for it.
It takes a certain amount of drive to want to do it because it’s scary. For me, someone who has always had a full-time job and financial security, I can understand how it can be a little nerve wracking to just dive into this thing that is so uncertain and so variable. You can always go back to a job if you find that’s what you want to do in the end. It’s one of those things that if you have the opportunity you should take it.
Ashley: What do you do when dealing with nerves before a performance?
Carly: Often I don’t get too nervous anymore before shows but I actually experienced a really intense bout of nerves before my album launch party at the West End Cultural Centre [earlier this year]. That was one of the last times I had been that nervous. I don’t really have a method myself of dealing with it, I kind of just pace around and get really anxious before the show but once I’m on stage I feel completely comfortable and at home. I had a couple friends backstage with me who were just kind of hanging out and talking and distracting me, which helped a little bit. I just work through it and get on stage and it gets all better. A friend of mine used to puke every time before a performance because he was so nervous but he doesn’t do that anymore.
Ashley: What is your favorite song to perform live?
Carly: It changes depending on whether I’m playing by myself or with my partner Jesse or with a full band. It depends on the venue too. If I have the full band and the strings are set up, I really love performing Yours & Mine, that’s one on the album. Again with the full band I love performing Down This Road. It was the first single off the album. If I’m just by myself or with another person I love doing Not a Songbird with banjo. I really love how that one turned out on the album.
Ashley: How do you balance music with your other obligations (work, etc.)?
Carly: I have a lot on the go. It’s always been a balancing act, juggling [everything]. I’ve always had a job because I’m passionate about a lot of things and I work for a land conservation organization and I have for about 6 years. I am fortunate because juggling that is quite easy because they let me go on tour. We have worked out a way where I work when I’m at home and then I can go when I need to on tours. Not a lot of people are that lucky so it’s not too bad. I really like being able to balance home life with tour life. I like being at home. I’ve got a gorgeous new place so it works out well; it gives me time to write and kind of compress and reflect. I don’t know, I’ve never really struggled with time management; I’m a relatively organized person so it’s not too difficult for me.
Ashley: What’s the best advice you’ve heard since you started working in the music business?
Carly: I’ve had a lot of different advice from good friends, from people who have been doing it a long time who might be a little jaded and people who are really implanted in the industry that have a lot of advice regarding the business end of it. I think the best advice I have been given, like I told you earlier, is just keep doing it. If it’s your passion and if it’s what you want to do no matter how hard it is and no matter how frustrating the music industry can be, especially as an independent artist, just keep doing it. Just keep writing. That’s one thing a couple people have told me; just keep writing. Even if you don’t have music in your life professionally, you’ll probably have it in your life in some regards. I think that is the best advice you can give someone.
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