James Carothers — CMM’s December “Artist on the Rise” Interview

If you are searching for some authentic sounding country music, James Carothers is certainly the artist for you. With a great sense of self, and also a great sense of humor, James writes songs that are real and relatable. Hailing from Tennessee, the baritone singer may remind you of Jamey Johnson or Waylon Jennings, but he still brings a unique originality to his music that makes it his own. His latest album, “Honky Tonk Land,” features songs James penned and gives listeners great songs like “I Must Be Alive” and “New Country Singers.”

We are very excited to feature James as our December “Artist on the Rise.” We recently caught up with him to talk about how he got started in music, his take on the bro country trend, the making of his album and much more. James is an artist you want to get to know if you love country music, his music needs to be heard.

CMM:

Has music always been a part of your life? When did you know you wanted to make music for a living?

James Carothers:

Music has always been a part of my life because I grew up going to church.  Specifically, I went to the Church of Christ- so that means that EVERYONE has to sing because there are no instruments.  In those days, Church of Christ would start training you to lead worship services with singing shortly after you memorized “Jesus Loves Me.”  Later in childhood, my singer-songwriter dad had a song that he wrote on the Grand Ole Opry- “Puttin on the Dog” performed by Mike Snider.  So once I saw a few royalty checks roll in from that song, I thought that maybe it was possible to make money at it.  I started playing in bands as a teenager and eventually got a little money at bars.  Finally, as an adult, I pretty much realized that if you’re a guitar-singer man you’d better find a stable woman to get married to that has a good job.

CMM:

Who were some of your musical idols growing up? Do they still influence your music today?

James Carothers:

When I was a little boy, my dad had Bocephus’ “Major Moves” on cassette and he played it all the time in his truck.  I thought that was the greatest recording in existence. I still jam out to the “Video Blues,” that song and “Attitude Adjustment” are just completely ridiculous.  I still like that about Hank Jr.…he’d have two serious songs, two boogie-woogie songs, two editorials, two comedies, and two hits on every record (total of ten)!  So, yeah, I like the variety and I strive for that.  I’ve never met Hank Jr, I know he’s not superman (or “the man of steel”). I don’t pattern my life after him, but I think that he really knew how to make an album, and I idolized the way he did it and I still hold on to that today.  Variety: the spice of life.

CMM:

Your sound is very traditional. Do you miss that true country sound in a lot of today’s music?

James Carothers:

Yeah, I miss the old stuff…hell, I even miss the 90’s!  The main reason is cultural preservation.  If you’re a white guy from the south, then act like it! Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Michael Jackson, The Beatles were being themselves and it gave you a glimpse into humanity through the art.  I’m not saying that none of them had an angle, I’m just saying that they’re classic because they were naturals and it was about how they said things and the way they said it.  Everybody’s different and that’s cause for celebration!

CMM:

What do you want fans to know most about your music and your sound?

James Carothers:

I want them to know that THEY ARE THE REASON I have done any of it.  They are my friends and family. It’s my hope that I can be their fans too and reciprocate the love that they have shown me.  The sound is what I hear in my head and try hard to replicate.

CMM:

To date what would you say has been your biggest career pinch moment? Just one of those things you never dreamed would happen, but did!

James Carothers:

Music critic Robert Oermann in his review of my single, “I’ll Be Alive,” for MusicRow, asked, “the mystery is why a talent like this is languishing in indie land?”  I thought to myself, “hell ye-uh!”

CMM:

Your album “Honky Tonk Land” is awesome! Tell us about making that album, the process, the songwriting, and choosing the songs.

James Carothers:

First off, if you’ve got a good woman in your life, listen to her! That’s advice you better take. I wrote about 30 songs and had my wife pick the ones she liked.  It was tough because I pretty well disagreed with her most of the time.  Then, she had the audacity to critique the lyrics to these songs when they “didn’t make sense” or weren’t “grammatically correct.”  After the cops left the house, I took her advice and thinned them down, perfected them to my own specifications.   It took about two months to write 30 songs and finalize 8 of them.  In the meantime, I lined up Beaird Music Group in Nashville to do the recording.  Some “industry” people have asked me, “Why Beaird?”  The short answer is because they kick ass. The longer answer is that Larry Beaird called me up on the phone and was straight up with me.  Then, he lined up a hall of fame session that he led himself, and gave me the best engineers in town.  Apart from writing and getting my own ducks in a row, Honky Tonk Land took about three working days to complete.  I’ll go back to Beaird in a heartbeat.

CMM:

I love the song “New Country Singers.” Were you inspired to write this because of all the so called “bro-country” going on today? What has the reaction been to the song?

James Carothers:

Hell yes it was Bro Country!   Now that everyone is hip to its lameness….  I lived the whole “bond-fire, raise-hell, take-a-shot, daisy-duke, party-in-the-woods-by-the-lake-river” scene (copyright James Carothers 2014, in case that’s Song Of The Year next year on the CMAs) and let me tell ya, it usually ends up like a REAL country song.  Hey, I ain’t no dummy, REAL country is all the same too, but that’s because it starts with drinking…at least it’s three chords and the truth and not three chords, a rap, a white guy dancing with weird hand motions, and a LIE!

I tried to pitch the song to some pretty major publishers.  They all laughed and loved the song but then they told me, “well, you’re pretty much making fun of everyone we represent so we’re gonna have to pass at this point….”  My buddies and people in the bars like it though- so I’m happy!

CMM:

Country music and its fans have a special relationship. What do you like the most about getting out in front of a country crowd?

James Carothers:

To be fair, that’s the only crowd I know.  They are the best people in the world. I like it when they do the country dancing – but to be fair, sometimes it’s really bad.  I also like it when they want us to play “Free Bird.”

CMM:

Who is someone you would like to write a song with and who is someone you would love to tour with?

James Carothers:

I’d like to write a song with Jamey Johnson or Willie Nelson. I’d like to tour with Taylor Swift.

CMM:

What does the rest of 2014 have in store for you? Have you already started working on new music?

James Carothers:

I’ve honestly got another album ready to go.  I can’t wait to record it, but it won’t get recorded till 2015.  There’s some videos that are going to come out, there’s some shows that will happen, there’s some holidays where I pretend to be too busy to see the in-laws…..

We also recently reviewed James’ new album “Honky Tonk Land.” If you missed that review be sure to check it out HERE

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You can sample and purchase James Carothers’ “Honky Tonk Land” NOW on iTunes HERE and for more info on James Carothers visit http://www.jamescarothers.com/

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