Bud Carroll looks to the next level
Few West Virginia bands have more going on through the first part of this year than Bud Carroll and the Southern Souls. Fresh off an appearance at Mountain Stage, the release of a new LP, a handful of shows across the Mountain State and the beginning of a video blog about home recording set up through a major software company, Carroll took some time recently to talk to Graffiti about all these ch-ch-changes.
Graffiti: Tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to.
Carroll: I just cut a new EP with a current incarnation of the group I’ve been working with. We did it at my house and did it mostly live with very few overdubs. We’re heading into Mountain Stage this weekend. But otherwise we’ve just been playing a lot of shows, working in the studio a whole lot and doing my blog thing.
Graffiti: With recording, do you prefer to do it live, or lay down each track separately.
Carroll: It depends. I’ve done some songs where I’ve cut all the instruments on the tracks myself and sometimes I can get a good thing going that way. But some songs I’ll have certain people in mind. In that case I found it’s a lot better to have other people. The more you can have recording at one time, the better.
Recording music has become in the last several years too much about controlling things. So much of that chaotic nature gets lost in the pursuit of perfection.
Graffiti: Your music seems like it needs that energy and thrives off that live sound.
Carroll: It just depends. Everything’s different. There are some things where I know exactly how I need it to go and it has to be scripted really well and I’ll do individually to get a different feel or different sound.
At this point, there’s no hard and fast and easy way to do something. Sometimes you’ll cut a track live and it just doesn’t happen and then if you give it some time and take your time and try to track all the elements out it works a little better.
Graffiti: By the time this interview is printed you’ll have already played Mountain Stage, but as of right now, you haven’t. What are you thoughts about that appearance? Pretty excited?
Carroll: Oh, man, I’m so excited. You know what it means.
I told another guy this the other day, I was playing with the guy who used to own and run Graffiti, Michael Lipton. I was playing with his band the Carpenter Ants because they had a show in New York City and their guitarist was sick. We were playing this called Union Hall in Brooklyn and we were opening for this guy named Andy Friedman, who’s a renowned artist who’s done some illustrations of iconic world leaders and public figures for the New York Times. He said, tonight we have the Carpenter Ants and Michael Lipton, the house guitarist for Mountain Stage. And it wasn’t a big venue, but it was packed, and 75 percent of (the crowd) cheered. That’s not West Virginia, you know. That’s one of those things that so many people listen to.
NPR, I feel, is the only place you can get anything of any value and substance and quality on the radio, unless it’s like Memphis with a crazy little AM station that’s been going for 50 years. Most of your big FM stations, whether it’s talk or rock and roll or country, it’s really scripted and mandated as a result of Clear Channel’s stranglehold on terrestrial radio. And Mountain Stage is, like any of the shows on it, that’s one of the staples of it. To get to be on that, especially as a West Virginian, this is something that’s a lot bigger than I could hope to be involved in, and now I’m involved in it. It’s very humbling and I feel very fortunate to get to do that.
Graffiti: Tell us a little bit about your video blog. How’d that come about?
Carroll: Back when I was with a group called American Minor, we were managed by a guy called Rodel Delfin and I just kept in touch with him. I sent him music when I had it and thought he could find a use for it sometime.
Basically he started this company with a couple of industry vets. Everything in the music industry is changing so much. The model of the way things worked when I was 20 or 21 is completely inapplicable now. Well, he started a company called RM-64. They get stuff placed with film and television. They do a blog that’s visible to everybody, but they do a thing that’s sort of like a Myspace. It’s an electronic catalog of bands, but not everybody has access to it.
They scouts around the country that are reputable people they’ve worked with in the industry. Not everybody can sign up, though. It’s just stuff submitted by reputable people legitimately involved in the music industry. I guess I was in this database.
The company Propellerheads, who makes Reason, which a lot of hip hop artists use to make beats, is rolling out a new piece of software called Record, which is basically Reason with an audio sequencer so you can record audio from outside sources into it and mix it with electronic elements. It’s just a recording program like GarageBand or ProTools or anything like that.
It’s out, so it’s not like in beta-testing, but they’re trying to gain credibility for the program. So they got six bands from this database to do it. I was one of them. They gave us all a bunch of free equipment and a video camera and said, make music, use this equipment. use this video camera to record it. After a couple grand of equipment showed up, I said, yea, OK, no problem. It’s time to do that.
Graffiti: You can’t pass that up.
Carroll: No, definitely not.
Graffiti: Is it still too early, or have you gotten some feedback on that yet?
Carroll: Yea, everybody really likes it. I just record myself at work in the recording studio. Whatever’s going on related to that goes on there. People really seem to enjoy it, so it’s not this self-effacing thing.
Graffiti: You’ve got a gig coming up in Cleveland in March, but the rest of the shows on your Myspace page indicate you’ll be spending most of your time in the Mountain State. Would you like to get out of state a little more or are you happy playing in-state for now?
Carroll: No, it’s just kind of a question of logistics. It’s really tough to go to New York City and make $50 off the door. But I have a bunch of shows coming up that’s not listed, because I work with more than one group. I get ahold of people I know in bands and we trade out shows, just doing it the DIY, old-fashioned punk way.
Obviously, I want to play more and more, but one thing facilities another. Just having a record out is really helpful. I’m hoping that some of the kind of legitimacy of being on Mountain Stage will lend us some more opportunities.
Graffiti: You’re music seems pretty grounded and rooted in your day-to-day life in West Virginia. I just read a study that came out saying Huntington was the unhappiest place to live in the United States. Charleston was third to last.
Carroll: Wow, you’re kidding me. That’s pretty messed up.
Graffiti: I feel like your music has a fairly optimistic take, and you seem proud of where you’re from. You’re doing what you love.
Carroll: I know a lot of people who hate Huntington, they hate living there, they’re not happy with their lives, they’re not happy with the opportunities presented them. But anyplace is what you make of it. If you’re not happy with your surroundings, then do something about it.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed around. This place helps me out as much as I can help it out. Look at places like Omaha, Neb., with Saddle Creek, or Athens, Ga., with Electric Six. If you can actually create some sort of community or at least attempt to then things will flourish and thrive.
But that’s pretty mind blowing that that’s a real statistic that’s out there. I’m not one of those people that contributed to that.
Graffiti: I was kind of like you. I was a little surprised by it, but I could see where people were coming from, too. But even with your previous work with American Minor, you’ve had some success at doing what you do and being from West Virginia and living here. It’s not like it can’t be done.
Carroll: Exactly. I wonder should I go to Nashville or New York City or Los Angeles and try to do what I want to do but put all my resources into surviving and making rent. Or could I do exactly what I want to do on my own terms. The choice is simple.
Graffiti: I’m from up here in Parkersburg. It’s a smaller town and there are fewer opportunities, but people ask me occasionally why I don’t move to a bigger market. But I get to do exactly what I want to do right here and I have more money to do what I want to do because of the lower cost of living. Do you feel that way, too, in that you have extra money for equipment, yet you get to do a lot of things you’d be doing in Nashville.
Carroll: You said it, man. I don’t like to give out my address because I don’t have a nice TV or a kitchen dinette set. I have gear. And lots of it.
It’d be different if it was 1987 or something and you had to be in near a recording studio. These days you throw a rock out your front door and you’ll hit a recording studio. Using (a recording studio) as a money making endeavor is pretty tough. Every 16-year-old kid has ProTools.
I make stuff in my house and people are asking what the hourly rate was at the place where I did it. … But no, we did this in our house. That’s just the way things are nowadays, man.
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