by: Thomas D. Mooney
There’s inherently something calming and familiar when you hear Brittany Carter sing. The If Birds Could Fly lead vocalist’s warm southern drawl naturally pulls comparisons to the likes of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. But in reality, her voice transcends genre comparisons. If Birds Could Fly would have folks lining up to hear her soulful renditions of telephone book reading if that was en vogue.
The Americana band isn’t just about Carter’s swooping singing chops though. The songwriting collaboration between Andrew and Brittany Carter run deep. Over their two albums–2012’s Ghosts and 2011’s No Place to Roam–they proved that they’re simple, emotionally stricken ballads and country folk ramblers are just the tip of the iceberg for the two songwriters.
We recently caught up with the two this past week. They’ll be performing at The Blue Light tonight, Wednesday, March 25. Watch/Listen to “Thinking Of You” below.
New Slang: So the last album you guys released was the full-length Ghosts back in 2012. What’s around the bend for you guys now? What do you guys have in the works for this year?
Andrew Carter: Yeah, we’ve been talking to a couple different people about recording the album. We met with a producer in Nashville a couple of weeks ago. I think we’ll either be going that way or–I think we’re going to be meeting up with Ray Wylie Hubbard while we’re in Texas and see if he’s interesting in doing an album or some songs. Maybe we’ll do a short release with him or something.
NS: Oh yeah? He’s one of my favorites out there. You guys with him, that’d be great to see.
AC: Yeah. He just has this sound to his recordings that are just lowdown and groovy. They’re gritty.
NS: Definitely. Is that something you guys want to capture more? The grit and groove of your songs?
Brittany Carter: Definitely. We definitely want it to be a lot more gritty than the last one. The last one was a little bit polished. We’ve written a whole lot of material over the years. It’s a lot more rock n’ roll. There’s more of a grooviness to it. The new songs are a lot different from the last album.
NS: Yeah. Three years is good chunk of time. How many songs have you written in that time? What’s at your disposal?
BC: Oh god. Too many [laughs]. At this point, it’s been so long since we recorded, we probably have 40 or 50. We’re going to have to really narrow it down.
NS: [Laughs]. Yeah. What’re you guys doing to narrow it down? What’s that process like?
BC: I guess finding everything that’s cohesive together. We’ve really had so much time off from recording, it’s just a mesh of so many different genres. It’s going to be deciding and finding what we want our sound to be.
NS: What’s literally the last song you guys finished up?
BC: Let’s see. The last song was–
AC: “Alone in the Wild.”
BC: Yeah. We wrote that song about a week ago.
NS: What’s it about?
BC: That’s a good question [laughs]. I really don’t ever know what any of our songs are really about.
NS: Fair enough [laughs]. There was this little EP you guys put out on Noisetrade a while back called “Lonely Town.” It was just an acoustic three-song. So was that more of an acoustic version of songs that could be on this next record or you guys thinking more of a stand alone EP?
AC: I don’t think so. Two of those songs were actually recorded when we did our last album. We had some time left over in the studio and we just sat down with one microphone and an acoustic guitar. We were already kind of planning our next album at the time since we were on a label at the time. We kind of went in and played just played two of those three songs. It was just a planning thing, but they sent the tracks over to us. We’re always wanting to give back to the fans who follow us and are interested in what we’re writing so we decided to put it out on Noisetrade hoping that it’d be kind of a prelude to the next album. But, we’ve been talking with a lot of different people about doing the next album and it just kind of got behind. So it’s just a stand alone, three-song EP that you can pick up at any time.
NS: Yeah. When you’re writing–obviously you’ve written a lot–how long is that typical wait before playing it in front of a crowd? Are you willing to play a song when it’s maybe not finished?
AC: Sometimes we’ll write a song the day of and play it that night. We’re fortunate enough to play with some great musicians that we can sometimes bring new stuff even during soundcheck and can fill it out live. Then sometimes we’ve got stuff that just needs a little more work and that we want to pick at. That’ll take a month or so. But, we do have some that we’ve not played out in front of crowds yet. Some of the songs that are going to be on this new record, no body has heard yet. A couple of them, we’ve just started playing out recently.
NS: You guys play a music that’s Americana at the core. It’s country. It’s folk. Some rock. You guys have a traditional feel. For the longest time, these American songs–the ones that were essential to the fabric of American music–they were handed down over the generation. I think we always look back and feel that the early beginnings were more genuine. The people singing these songs actually had more connection to them. You guys are doing the modern version of that. Do you feel there’s a bit of disconnect though? Especially with the technology we have at hand, do you feel like it’s more difficult to connect to what those previous generations felt?
AC: I think it’s definitely easier to do things now. It’s easier to record. But I think there is a connection lost. There is a difference between sitting down with pen and paper and writing a song that way. We try and do it that way as much as possible. I don’t know, it feels like if it’s in your handwriting, it almost feels like it’s more of your song than if you’re sitting at a computer or if you’re typing it in your iPhone or iPad–whatever it is. You know, we’re still people who write stuff down on calendars and aren’t using a Google calendar or something digital.
BC: We’re pretty simple in that way [laughs].
NS: I was talking with some people about this the other day. I’m sure it was like this before the time frame I’m using, but not to the extreme. Basically in small towns from the 1980s on, the local culture was scrapped. It was scraped away and the only thing left was that top layer–the MTV generation if you will. That’s what everyone is raised on and not any of the regional artists who lived in the area–I mean, unless your parents were immersed in it. Like I mentioned before, the music you play feels as though you’d be more influenced by the local music that was played in your area for hundreds of years than the top layer. So growing up, were you exposed to that regional stuff?
BC: For me, I really did grow up on pop culture. It was ’90s country. There was a little bit of old country. I spent a little bit of my childhood in Oklahoma, so I guess I never felt like I was from the mountains, so I don’t think I was ever really exposed to bluegrass or anything like that until maybe 12 or so.
AC: For me, growing up in church, I was able to hear a bunch of these musicians. Especially these back holler churches where the music is one of the biggest parts of the service. You’ve got all of these incredible players coming down from the mountain and they’re congregating. They’re going to town on their instruments. That for me, was a big part.