From playing in a rock band to making feel-good pop music, LA-based singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Carter Reeves has had quite the musical journey. Originally from a small town outside of Boston, Carter does not come from a musical family or background but has had a passion for music for as long as he can remember.
As a youngster, he was constantly making noise around the house – banging on pots and pans like a drum set and singing off the top of his lungs like there was nobody around. “My parents were like, ‘Oh my God. If you’re gonna be yelling and bopping around, at least learn a melody or two, and make it useful,’” Carter laughs. In middle school, and then again in high school, he joined the chorus and choir and did acapella as well. But he really started taking music seriously when he joined a four-piece rock band in high school.
“We took it really seriously; practiced for five hours a day everyday and kind of planned to skip college and chase the rock band dream,” Carter says. While that, unfortunately, did not work out with all four members, Carter and fellow band member David von Mering split off to form their own two-piece band called AER.
“That’s what really solidified me in the music industry and made me a serious player in the game. It totally turned music from a hobby of mine into a potential career and, even more so, the love of my life. It used to be a fun thing to do on the weekends with friends, but now it’s become something that I can’t live without. It’s been a good journey, man – lots of ups and downs and fun projects and stuff.”
Over the years, Carter has taken on quite a number of instruments. He is most proficient in guitar but also plays a bit of piano, bass, ukulele, and basically any other stringed instrument. “No drums! You don’t wanna hear me play drums, it’s awful,” he adds.
After seven years, five albums, an EP, and countless shows, Carter and David mutually agreed it would be best to part ways and focus on their individual careers. Six months after the duo’s amicable split in 2016, Carter was already making his solo debut with the release of his first song, “Fresh Fruit.”
Since, Carter has put out many other songs, several EPs, and has even gone on a few tours supporting artists such as Somo, Abhi The Nomad, and The Hold Up.
His most recent EP, II – a follow-up to his previous EP, I – was released back in April and comprises of five tracks, including his latest single “Home Stretch,” which he describes to have “a little bit more of a dreamy, relaxed, indie sound, compared to a lot of [his] other stuff.” He also notes the song is one of his favorites released thus far. “It’s just something about the chords and the way the chords play with the melodies,” he remarks.
Another one of Carter’s favorites, and likely his most meaningful, is his 2019 single “Front Porch,” from his EP, I. “’Front Porch,’ to me, just felt like the perfect culmination of musicality – like, songwriting chords, but also lyrical depth,” he says. “I was just noodling on the guitar one day, and I had just gone through some emotional depth – I had just gotten out of a little relationship – so I felt like I had something to say.”
As of now, Carter has no plans to release a debut album in the near future. “I feel like a debut album comes when the world is asking for it, and I feel like the world isn’t asking for it from me just yet,” he explains. “It’s definitely down the line. Once I feel like I’ve got the momentum for it, I’ll definitely kick that into gear. I’d rather have people asking for it than give too much music too soon.”
Carter is also still in the process of discovering his unique sound and wants his debut album to be “everything [he imagines] it to be.”
“With these EPs, I’m having fun, exploring different styles, and kind of trying on different shoes and stuff. But once it’s time to put the album out, I’m gonna really put on my perfectionist hat.”
For now, Carter is ready to “bust into the next chapter of [his] story” and return to the stage, where he feels most comfortable and connects most with his fans.
“On the road is where I also make the biggest impression on new fans,” he adds. “I think once you see me live, you either love me or you hate me, but at least I can give you a damn good decision by the end of the night.”
His current focus is on “gaining new fans and continuing to spread the word,” he shares. “I think I have something really cool going, and I’m still trying a bunch of different things out, but I think it’s gonna be a fun story to watch and a fun journey to pay attention to, so I just want as many people paying attention as possible.”
Check out the rest of my interview with Carter below:
Do you like living in Boston, New York, or LA better?
They’re all so different to compare. Boston is where I grew up, so it has my heart and my home. My family is all still in Boston, which makes it hard to completely leave, but as a musical city, it doesn’t have much. New York was great; although, to me it felt like there was a certain ceiling trying to be a pop musician. New York is really good for indie, rock, and rap, and I felt like I wasn’t really fitting into either of those categories. From a musical standpoint, LA definitely wins because there are so many people in LA trying to do what I’m doing. Obviously, that can be a little daunting and feel a little oversaturated at times, but I’ve made so many great friends, all of whom are in music and doing similar things that I’m doing. I finally feel like I’m a part of a creative community, which I don’t feel I ever got in either of those two other cities.
Do you have any regrets, or is there anything you wish you would have done differently?
Yeah, I mean, it’s easy to look back and regret or say, “Oh, well now I know I would’ve done this differently.” After the amicable split of the duo I was in, I put music out six months after that happened, so I just totally rode momentum and continued to put music out regardless of the split. I certainly don’t regret the path that I chose, but I think after looking at some of my friends and peers who are musicians, maybe I would’ve taken a little more time to perfectly craft the brand and the look and the sound that I wanted to be known for and felt like I could grow with and scale with forever. I guess what I ended up doing was I just quickly put music out, which I still really love, but it was under a vision and branding move that I’m not sure I identify with now, but more so that I wasn’t sure was as sincere as it could have been from the beginning. So, I don’t know, maybe taking a little more time to just make sure that I feel like I’m making the right moves and make everything airtight before I drop it off into the world. You can listen to the music I put out three years ago, and you can listen to the music I put out today, and they are completely different styles, but I think that’s what’s so cool and that’s what helps to make me human, is that you listen as my taste changes and as I grow up and the things I talk about change. I think seeing that progress is really important to a fan.
What music do you like to listen to? Is it similar to the kind of music you make, or not?
It’s kind of all over the place. I always wish I could make the kind of music that I listen to, but then it always comes out being way more pop-y or way more corny or clean-cut than I always imagine. But I listen to a lot of surf rock and garage rock. I’ve been diving deep a lot into kind of older stuff, like The Beach Boys, George Harrison, John Lennon – I mean, obviously The Beatles as a whole. But besides that, I like a lot of 70s African funk and instrumental afro-beat stuff because I just feel like the grooves in all that music is infectious. It’s all about the feel, nothing’s quantized.
Who, or what, have been your recent musical influences?
Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of old country. And by old country– I can’t fucking stand country, like everything from the 80s on is garbage, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about late 50s and 60s because the storytelling is so incredible and also not to mention the chords and the chord changes are really good and give all that music such a timeless sound. I mean, you can listen to something today, and it’s got a retro feel but still sounds fresh and exciting, so I’ve been trying to learn a lot from those.
Talk to me about your creative process.
I started as a writer and a vocalist, so I kind of saw writing the song as a chore at first and saw production as a fun playground where I just got to screw around and throw stuff at the wall and see what happened. But I would say my process – I’ve gone more from trying to produce a cool beat and then writing on top of it to sitting down in front of the piano or sitting down with a guitar and just writing a song that way. I think if you can write a beautiful song with chords and melodies and beautiful lyrics, with just you and a guitar, I don’t think there’s anything you can do wrong to it after that. I mean, obviously, you could produce it out and make it sound like shit, which no one wants, but I think if you have a really strong song with just a guitar and voice, then no matter which way you spin it, it’s gonna be looked at as a really strong song. So, lately, I’ve just been trying to, like, hold a guitar, sit in my back yard, and just write some damn good lyrics and some damn good melodies. Then, take it to a computer later because you can always change things later.
What usually sparks inspiration for a song?
A few things. Definitely, if something somewhat pivotal has happened in my life, and I’ve got a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head, I certainly wanna take advantage of that and try and put the words down, even if it’s a journal entry or something simple, just so I remember how I felt at that moment. If I just rationalize it and move on, I feel like I potentially missed a significant part of my life. Whether it’s good or bad or anxious or whatever the feeling is, I always wanna try and capture how I’m feeling at that moment. But then if I hear a good song or hear a friend of mine make a song or something, that inspires me. My friends at Yes Please just sent me their next single last night, and I heard it and was just like, “Oh fuck alright,” so I ran down into the studio and started working on stuff because I heard what they did, and it just pushed me to go and do something better or, you know, it pushed me to then say, “Oh shit, they’re killing it. I hear what they’re doing here. Let me try something.” So, I would say definitely when I have something to say or if I hear something that excites me, it kinda gets me wanting to get into music and learn something new.
Which artists would you like to collaborate with?
I think these guys Surfaces are really killing it right now. I really like what they’re doing – this fun, beachy, summer pop, which I think would just line up super perfectly with what I’m doing. I would say Surfaces, or Yes Please. We have so much music that we’ve worked on together throughout the years, but I would love to just get back in the studio and work on something funky and new with them.
What do you enjoy doing aside from music?
Well, I’m currently up in Maine during this quarantine, so I’ve been surfing a lot, which has been great. I love being in the water. I typically live in LA, so I’ll surf a lot when I’m out there, too. I love to cook. For a while there, I was making this really good tajin lamb with a lemon pasta, which was pretty fucking good. It’s just fun, you know, it’s nice to play some music and put some slippers on and just get cooking in the kitchen.
What is your proudest moment?
Maybe my proudest moment, still to this day, was when I was with my last project, AER, and we played Firefly Festival in Delaware in front of like 60,000 people. It didn’t even really feel like 60,000 random people; it truly felt like 60,000 fans in the crowd, yelling the words. That was definitely the biggest project and the biggest show and the biggest period of music that I’ve been involved with so far. That still stands out to me as one of the moments where I was like, “Oh shit, this thing that used to be just a hobby, just a fun thing to pass the time, has really become a career. Not only a career, but it’s really connected with so many other people that we’ve got 60,000 people here screaming about it.”
What is the number one thing on your bucket list?
It sounds silly, especially because we’re young, and this is so common now, but skydiving. I mean, it’s like, I don’t really wanna go skydiving; that’s why I still haven’t gone. Like, it sounds scary, but to me, something on your bucket list is something that puts you out of your comfort zone and is something that, when you’re on your death bed, you can say, “At least I did this.” I feel like I’m a strong enough person where I can go skydiving, but it’s definitely not something I wake up every day being like, “Ugh, I wish I could skydive.” But it’s definitely on the list. I gotta do it at some point, you know.
If you could have the answer to any question at all, what would you want to know?
You wanna say, “Where will I be in five years? Where will I be in 10 years?” But you also don’t wanna put that pressure on yourself; you don’t wanna give it away. I guess almost having like a “hot and cold” sensor or a radar that tells you the direction that your life’s going in. If I could constantly, in real-time, know if I’m moving in the right direction, that would be really cool. I mean, it’d be funny to be making this, like, death metal song and then look in the back of my brain and have it be like, “ding, ding, ding, you’re killing it, keep going,” and then it’s just like, “Okay, who knows? Maybe this is a fun path to take.” Maybe that would dictate too much of my behavior, but I think it could be nice to have a guiding force a little bit.