Interview: Carter Tanton

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Jettison the Valley, out today on Western Vinyl, is Carter Tanton’s (Tulsa, Lower Dens, Marissa Nadley, The War On Drugs) third official solo release and also his most cohesive and personal work to date. I was able to chat with Carter about the nature of the new album, his time spent living and writing in England, and some of the singer/songwriter’s recent endeavors.

You’ve said that you consider “Jettison the Valley” to be your first true solo record due to the nature of how it was written (one song feeding the next). With that, are there any overarching lyrical themes that pervade this group of songs specifically?

You know, we mixed it over a year ago, and I began writing some songs as early as the end of 2013. My take on what they’re about now may be warped by a lot of time having passed since then. It seems a lot looser to me now than when I was making it.

How would this record look different had it been written in the U.S., deprived of your experiences abroad? Would it exist at all?

It would exist regardless of place because a couple people I was close to were encouraging me to write on the guitar again…but I’m sure roaming around a lot left an imprint in an intangible way. At least to me, knowing where I was when I wrote some lyrics, or more specifically, that I recorded all the tambourine in a really tiny bathroom in Paris, adds an undercurrent that might translate to someone else.

I read that you (nearly) exclusively engineered and recorded the music on this record, which is no small feat. What made you decide to go it alone?

I get help recording the drums from my friends at Machines with Magnets, a studio in Rhode Island. I’ve recorded like this since I first started playing though. A lot of stuff I loved growing up like Sparklehorse, Jason Faulkner, Elliot Smith…even Dinosaur Jr.‘s “Greenmind” was mostly made this way, which made me want to give it a shot. My friend Andy Bopp in Baltimore was a huge mentor in showing me the ropes of recording.

What was it like working with Sharon Van Etten? She’s a real talent in her own right and your voices blend seamlessly on the album’s first single “Twentynine Palms.” I’m curious to know if that pairing was orchestrated intentionally or a bit of opportunistic luck.

I wrote Sharon and asked her. We’ve been friends since we first toured together years ago. Yeah, she just fit so well. She’s amazing.

Are there one or two songs that you are most proud of on this record?

The title track and “Fresh Faced Claire” are ones I like a lot because they move back and forth between major and minor keys a little.

Moving to England appeared from the outside to be a life-altering decision for you, and I was wondering what the transition back to the States has been like. Do you feel that you’ve been able to implement the life lessons that you learned overseas stateside?

I don’t think it was life-altering really, not more than anything else at least. I’m still moving around quite a bit, I’ve been on tour a lot since I got back…maybe things like life lessons will become clear once I’m in a spot for a while, but I’m not sure I see things cut and dry like life lessons.

What have you been listening to lately? Any recent releases that stick out?

I’ve been listening a lot to this band Pinegrove‘s record called Cardinal and getting back into the Durutti Column.  

What are your plans following the release of “Jettison the Valley”? Do you have any tour dates/other projects/etc. in the works?

I have another full length coming out in the Fall. Very excited about that.

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About Author

IT professional by day, surveyor of all things indie-rock by night. I am a recent University of Minnesota grad with the distinct pleasure of calling the Minneapolis "Uptown" area home. Prior to this digital age, I was the friend you visited to borrow CDs by the tenfold. From my humble beginnings as a fusion jazz aficionado (thanks, Dad), I've come to enjoy music in a variety of genres and contexts. Whether it's catching a $10 steal-of-a-show over at First Avenue's 7th Street Entry, spending my Friday mornings sifting through the day's new releases (yes, I am one of the few still lamenting the death of New Music Tuesday), or strapping on a guitar for a worship set at Hope Community Church, music touches nearly all aspects of my life. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share with you (in the form of reviews, recommendations, and the not-so-irregular begging plea) my intense passion for one of humanity's greatest accomplishments in collaboration... MUSICAL PERFORMANCE. Follow me on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/1251204357

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