CMW Preview: Carleton Stone (Interview)

I sat down for a chat with Carleton Stone at Café Pamenar in Kensington Market back in the fall. The young singer-songwriter released a self-titled album in September 2011 and made an appearance in Toronto for the events put on for Canada’s Walk of Fame. He refers to his sound as “high energy, guitar-based pop rock with a country tinge.” The Nova Scotia native cites his Cape Breton roots as what pushed him to hone his craft because of the music scene there.

The self-titled is actually Carleton’s sophomore effort, having released an album in 2009. He says that the latest is “more mature” and he goes on to say, “Basically that first record was me writing songs in my bedroom for years. I self-produced the record, just kinda learning everything. And since then, I really connected with other writing and have been co-writing like crazy for like my project and for other people. The songs are just a lot stronger.”

Hawksley Workman produced the album, which is another factor in why Carleton feels the sound is more refined. Carleton gushes about working with Hawksley, indicating that he’s also a big fan.

“I’ve been like a huge geekly Hawksley fan for like forever. And when I was a teenager, I’d go travel around to go see him whenever he’d come out East. So when it was like time to get a producer, he was the top of my list.”

What happened next was pretty neat. It was Hey Rosetta!’s manager, a fan of Carleton’s, that contacted Hawksley about working with him. Two hours later Hawksley was on the phone with Carleton saying he was interested.

As for the experience, Carleton says, “It was everything I thought it would be.”

Hawksley had a huge influence on the album. Carleton went to Hawksley with about 45 songs to choose from and he was adamant about letting his producer choose all the songs. It turns out that this decision didn’t work against him because there was only one song that he wouldn’t put on the album that didn’t make it.

But Hawksley’s influence goes past making the executive decisions and includes “making everyone feel comfortable and keeping the work flowing, making sure everyone is in a good mood and not cranky and stuff.” Carleton can’t say enough good things about Hawksley’s great work producing the album.

Before even bringing the album to Hawksley, Carleton had done quite a bit of collaboration. “I’d say about half of the songs were written with people I write with in the community out in Nova Scotia and the other half were people that Hawksley introduced me to here.” As a result, Carleton has met some other great songwriters, shouting out Emma-Lee and Morgan Cameron Ross, saying these are people he just clicks with.

Regardless of who he may be writing with, Carleton always tries to bring his own experiences or emotions into what he writes about. “Pretty much everything I write about comes from some little seed of truth that I can connect to on a personal level. If you don’t have that, then the song can be very two-dimensional and people won’t connect with it, so I always try to relate it back to something that has happened to me. Even though the story or the situation that you’re creating could be completely fictional, it’s always kind of grounded in some sort of truth or some emotion.”

With the live show, Carleton looks to Hawksley as a role model. “I try like be engaging with the crowd and make people laugh and make people like me. I stole a lot of tricks from Hawksley. When you go see him live he just charms he pants off the crowd. I’m his little understudy of trying to bring that into my set. I’m like stealing his tricks for years.

Recently, Carleton went to Nashville to do some songwriting and tag along with Gordie Sampson, a trip he was very excited about at the time we talked. When we had talked, Carleton was incredibly busy, travelling since May, which continued with some touring in the fall through to his trip to Nashville as well as a trip to LA. He’s been working hard to promote his album, but he’s also been working hard at writing new material.

When I asked Carleton about a drinking story, he responded, “Something about drinking? I usually try to hide my shame.”

Then he decided to talk about an experience at Halifax Pop Explosion.

“Audio Blood did a showcase that we got on. There was free booze, some kind of beer and Sailor Jerry’s rum. It was just out of control. My band has been a fan of Sailor Jerry’s for quite some time. It was at this little cute art space in Halifax called the Khyber. And everyone gets in and it’s a little weird vibes and we’re playing first and it’s receptive, but it’s pretty tame. And then Sandman Viper Command played and the room started to liven up as everyone was starting to get drunk. Then Rich Aucoin played the end. By the end, I just remember what differs from the awkwardness of when we played. Then I would go to the bar and get a drink and there were members of Sandman Viper Command just pouring from the bottle of Sailor Jerry’s into people’s mouths lined up at the bar.”

He claims he didn’t partake in that, but he does go on to say, “I don’t remember what happened after that. For some reason, I can’t remember.”

While that night was all about Sailor Jerry’s, a band favourite, Carleton calls himself a Jager guy.

You have plenty of opportunities to see Carleton Stone play this week (and buy him shots). He’s playing at the Cadillac Lounge on Wednesday at 11pm and on Friday at 1am, as well as 1am at The Rivoli on Saturday. He’s also playing a couple daytime showcases: French Connection Eaton Centre at 5pm on Thursday and Sneaky Dee’s at 4:20pm on Friday.

Here’s a video of Carleton Stone doing “Fit Together” by By Word of Mouth Music.

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Categories: Canadian Music Week 2012, Interviews


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