Interview: Carsie Blanton, Rude Remarks And Dirty Jokes EP

Interview (over email, 3 May, 2013) PH: Many of your songs tell a very "real-world" story. Do you intentionally try to tell stories with your songs? Or are they attempts to capture a mood or emotion through these vignettes?Carsie Blanton: I try to be honest. That may not always mean telling a true-to-life story, but it does mean telling a story that is clear, plausible and relatable. I've always been a little annoyed by lyricists who aren't clear with their songwriting. To my mind, if you're not clearly trying to say something, you should write an instrumental. I know there are a ton of writers who don't write that way, including some of the greats (eg: John Lennon), but I've always preferred lyrical directness and clarity to abstraction. My songs are descriptive, rather than prescriptive. It's important to point that out from time to time because a lot of them (including 'Backseat') are about difficult, foolish, or painful relationships. Music has always been something that pulls me through difficult times in my life, not by comforting me but by illuminating my struggles and helping me to understand them. I hope to do the same for other people by writing about the uglier parts of life. PH: Your sound has changed a good amount between "Ain't so Green" and your current EP. How would you describe the trajectory your music has taken, if there is one?Carsie Blanton: I would describe it as "growing up". I made Ain't So Green when I was 19, and although I still really like that record, it strikes me as a younger perspective. I was sweeter, more hopeful, and less willing to push myself outside of my comfort zone. The newer recordings have an edgier, rockier, darker sound, and the content of the songs follows the same line. The first record was all about longing, falling in love, and losing love. The newer stuff is about anger, lust, passion, making mistakes. "Idiot Heart" is the title track of my last record, and it describes the theme of the record - it's about reckoning with yourself: your mistakes, your darkness, your foolishness. I have a new EP coming out on May 7th, Rude Remarks and Dirty Jokes. Those songs are even further in that direction. The single is called "Under Your Thumb", and it's about a woman who murders her abuser. I haven't intentionally ventured into those topics, it's just something that has happened naturally as I grow up and continue to be observant and creative. The world isn't all sweetness, but it isn't all darkness either. My aim is to explore all of it, experience most of it, and write about it. PH: What artists had the biggest inspiration on your music? Your singing style?Carsie Blanton: Billie Holiday, hands down, has had the biggest influence on my singing style. It's a bit surprising to some people because I'm a little white girls with a sweet, girly voice. But Billie taught me how to sing - her phrasing, her emotiveness, her melodic choices: I aim to borrow those things from her whenever possible. As a writer, my influences are pretty broad. My early influences were folksingers like John Prine, Loudon Wainwright III, Ani DiFranco - I think I learned how to write lyrics from them. They are all hilarious and clever without sacrificing sincerity or insight. Later, I got into jazz, and have been fascinated for a long time by the "tightness" of classic jazz songs by people like the Gershwins. Those songs are perfect: you can't add or remove a single word or note from "Our Love is Here to Stay" without hurting the song. Later, I got into Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, The Band: from them I've been learning about groove, mood, arrangement, and what I affectionately call "ballsiness". PH: You seem to have a pretty dedicated fanbase. How would you describe your interactions with your fans?Carsie Blanton: I think my relationship with my fans starts with live performance. I love performing, I love interacting with the audience, talking to them, hearing how they respond to my work. I sing for them, not for myself. That's been an important distinction to me. Some artists are more about satisfying their own artistic vision - I am more interested in relating to people. I also love talking to my fans at shows; it really moves me when someone tells me they had a significant experience with one of my songs or records. That's what I aim for. In the age of social media, I also spend a lot of time interacting with my fans online. I tweet, I post things on Facebook, I blog. Originally, my blog was about music, but now it's mostly about sex. I've noticed a shocking lack of levelheadedness in the culture about sex and sexuality, so I'm doing my little part to address that. I've also been making music videos - I try to make videos of the songs people really connect to, and make them in a way that enhances the experience of the song. Another aspect of my approach to my fans is that all my music is "pay what you please" - available, online and at live shows, for any price people are willing to pay. I've been doing that for several years, and my experience of it is that people really respond to being given that much trust. And I do trust my fans - I trust them and I appreciate them. I know they aren't looking to rip me off- they are looking to support me, and be supported by me. I feel really humbled and honored by my fans.
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