Bardicvoice Vancouver Reports, Part Two: Steve Carlson
Photo courtesy of wolfpup2000
Steve opened his session by observing that he was glad to be back in Vancouver and loved it here, and had some announcements to make. He said there were going to be two albums coming out soon and he could finally tell us a bit about them, including that Jensen was singing on one of them and was writing new songs with him for the other one. He said he'd started writing a new song with Jensen last night.
About the song we were going to hear Jensen sing on the first album, Steve noted that this time, he didn't have to persuade Jensen to sing on the album; instead, Jensen had been the one to come to him saying there was a song he wanted to sing. Steve wouldn't reveal the title, but said it would be on the album coming out at the end of September. He described the album – which will be called “Sharing The Covers” – as being mostly a collection of Steve covering songs by other artists. In addition to Jensen, there will be a female guest artist performing on it – a woman Steve also wouldn't name.
The second album coming out after the cover one will be in two volumes, with a total of 21 songs. Steve described the second album as a conceptual piece about one thing, one guy – Steve. Steve said he and Jensen wrote the opening song on the album together.
Steve said he enjoys every part of writing and performing. Inspired by people, by emotion, he considers himself a songwriter first and foremost. He said Jensen had asked him if he would consider selling his songs to other artists to perform, rather than recording them all himself, and he said of course yes – but he added that it's particularly fun going into the studio and putting a new song down, knowing that no one's ever heard this piece of music before.
He said his take on covers is sometimes completely twisted – he laughed that he sometimes hears a song so differently in his head that people can't recognize the original tune when they hear his version of it – but it's someone else's words. “I really enjoy writing my own. Love doing songs in performance, because that's when you see people smile and clap. And when they get to know it and you see groups of people singing words that came out of your head – that's a pretty heavy thing, sometimes have to swallow a lump in my throat, back off the microphone.”
How does it work, when working with someone else? Does one person do lyrics and other music, or work together, or what? “Depends on who I'm working with, people have different strengths. Certain people are really good with lyrics, others aren't. My strengths are usually lyrics and words. I really enjoy writing with J, and that has nothing to do with 'Supernatural' or coming here. We used to be roommates, and we had instruments hanging everywhere, even under the bed. He's really good, and I know he enjoys music and it relaxes him. I wish he would use that release more, but I understand why he doesn't. There's a stigma that attaches to actors who sing, which is really stupid because singing is part of an actor's training. But it's like people think an actor who also sings is claiming to be more important, or entitled to something. I think we write together well because J's very visual, and he's like me that way. We see things the same way. Usually, when we're writing together, things flow and come together pretty fast.”
Steve warned up front that people would have to buy the whole cover album to get Jensen's track, because that track wouldn't be offered as a separate download. He explained that he knew more people knew Jensen than knew him, and said the way iTunes worked, if everybody bought Jensen's track, that track – being part of Steve's album – would go up on the iTunes charts as the best seller by Steve Carlson. People would see the ranking on that song and think the performance was by him, when it wasn't. He said neither Jensen nor he wanted that, and the only way to prevent it was to restrict sales of that particular single to being available only as part of the full album.
Asked if he'd always wanted to be a musician, he said he actually went to culinary school straight out of high school because he loved cooking, and has a degree in culinary arts. He said he thought it would be a fallback if he didn't make it into music, and admitted that, at some point, he would like to open a restaurant or two that he has concepts for, but said a restaurant is a risky, fickle business (rather like music, come to think about it!) and he had to wait until he had money he could afford to lose in taking the chance. A fan suggested that Creation should run a cooking session with Steve during a con, or offer dinner by Steve, and he ran a fun riff on doing a live cooking show!
Asked if he had funny stories about recording sessions, he recounted one time when they heard a whistle in the recording while a woman was singing. They couldn't figure out why, and thought it might have been something in the preamp or the mic connection, but couldn't find anything no matter how hard they searched and tried to isolate the noise. Then one guy said it sounded almost as if she had something in her mouth, so they asked. Steve said he couldn't believe it when she said she had her retainer in!
The best story of Steve's session came when he described how they'd recorded Jensen's song, because they did it in Vancouver between takes in the "Supernatural" ADR trailer, where the guys usually record replacement dialogue. Steve said Jensen had suggested talking to Don Painchaud, "Supernatural's" audio wizard, about recording in Vancouver, and when Don sent the list of equipment he had available – including a roster of microphones that made Steve drool – he knew he wouldn't have to bring any of his own equipment at all. While they recorded, Jared walked around with his iPhone, videoing the session – and that video will form part of a music video for the song! Steve said there will be a bunch of music videos coming out for the new original album, all very informally recorded. He said they'd seen and appreciated a lot of fan videos that simply combined disconnected still photos with the music, trying imperfectly to tell a story, and decided to do their own informal videos that could integrate images with the music organically.
The Vancouver recording story had a sad ending, because the week after they recorded, there was an accident on set: the sound trailer exploded and burned to the ground. No one was injured, but that unique recording space is gone forever. Jensen called Steve – then on tour in Europe – to tell him, and Steve hesitatingly laughed that they had burned it down with that performance.
One fan asked about Jensen writing music with Steve, saying that in other Q&A sessions, Jensen had expressed discomfort with writing music. While not knowing the circumstances of that Q&A, Steve hazarded that when Jensen is writing on his own, he probably second-guesses his own writing a lot more, doubting himself and his choices. Steve guessed that Jensen is more comfortable writing with him as a partner in the effort because he knows Steve has done it before and there's a trust relationship between them.
Asked what else he's been up to, Steve said he's been working on a musical for four years, and it's about 80% done. He laughed wryly that he thinks he has lots of things he still has to do and doesn't sleep much.
Asked if there was a word he'd wanted to work into a song but hadn't been able to yet, he responded with an enthusiastic YES, but said he just did that in the new album. He wouldn't say what the word is, but crowed about previously being able to include “inebriated” and “misconstrue” in lyrics. He said the new one is a weird foreign word and he'd been talking about it with Jensen, and during the writing, the word just fit like it was meant to be there. He said he loved using internal rhymes and putting in things that are unpredictable, but not too avant garde.
Asked his idea of a romantic date, he responded that he thought spontaneity was the key to everything, and that anything too forced isn't romantic. He said he was raised by his dad to be polite, open doors, walk on the outside; things most people don't notice. He chuckled that since he loves cooking, he'd probably cook at some point. He said he thinks the best dates are things that happen that aren't expected that you deal with.
When he was asked if there were any songs or genres that made him cringe, he responded that what saddened him greatly about the world is that no one's slowing down to appreciate great art – all kinds of art. Food. Films. He bemoaned the lack of films like "Carrie" or "The Shining," movies that went for an hour setting things up before anything scary happened. He observed that people no longer had patience or any attention span, instead wanting to get to the chase, to the action. He said people wanted to get to the hook in music fast, within 30 seconds. “I hear a lot of repetition in music. That seems to be the trend. I think it's because people are so preoccupied, distracted. Everyone's working, they want things fast and easy because they have no time to appreciate things. Young people want to go out to clubs and turn their brains off. Same beat over and over. There are standard structures for some kinds of songs, verse and chorus, but I like variety.”
Asked what kind of music he listened to growing up, and who he would now drop everything to go and see, he started listing off bands and artists, including Tom Petty, Dire Straights, Sting, Paul Simon, and Prince. He said he couldn't think of a female artist he'd really been influenced by, but then hastened to reassure us that he loved women! He said he'd seen many of his idols and influences in person, including McCartney, Elton John, and the Eagles.
I know I've missed a few more musical influences and references, but here's the most important thing: Steve tweeted that he thinks the cover album – including the track by Jensen! – will be going on pre-sale Tuesday, 9/4/2012. Check for it on iTunes and in CD elsewhere! Actual release is probably around the 20th of the month.
Next up, Death himself: Julian Richings!