If you are part of Shawn Mendes’ fandom on Twitter, chances are you know the artist I’m about to present. In fact, his sequel to an unreleased song posted in 2015 on Instagram drew a lot of fans’ attention.
“Shawn is an artist I really look up to”, Carter told us, mainly because they both started on Vine. He also mentioned, “[Shawn] is part of this new generation of artists that have emerged from the internet and is paving a new way for people to find success”.
However, he was already known to a lot thanks to his song about the Norwegian television show, “SKAM”: Parallel Universe.
This singer, songwriter and music producer from Boston, Massachusetts, has, since then, had lots of time to progress and create unique sounds. Indeed, he started being homeschooled at the end of his Sophomore year. On this, he shared with us:
“It was truly the best decision I’ve ever made, I’ve had so much time to work on music and experience things. I’ve just never been wired to sit in a classroom all day.”
Unsurprisingly, Carter, who has “always loved music” but “started developing [his] own taste and writing music [himself] when [he] was around 11 or 12” will be studying what he loves at the California Institute of the Arts in the fall.
Although this self-taught artist, who humbly admits he “got some help along the way improving [his] technique”, ‘only’ sings, plays piano and ukulele; he is also into music production, mostly because he was, initially, interested in remixing and DJing.
“That transferred into my own music when I started writing.”
To the question ‘Who is your biggest inspiration, musically?’, Carter answers:
“I pull inspiration from so many different people! The first artist that comes to mind is Owl City: Adam Young is the first artist I really grew to love on my own and the album Ocean Eyes had a really big influence on me, creatively, for the majority of time I’ve been making music. As I’ve grown, I’ve, of course, expanded my sound and changed a lot. I absolutely adore Lorde and Pure Heroine and Melodrama are definitely huge influences on the music I’m making now.”
This variety of music he listens to is reflected in his own, that he doesn’t really want to define:
“It has always been a struggle for me to define my work because I feel as though I am constantly changing. My new album, “<3 (Heart)” is the perfect example of who I am as an artist right now. I make sad pop ballads, usually with mellow electronic production, but I know that could change at any second: six months ago I was making upbeat pop/rock songs. I don’t want to be limited by genre or vibe and Twenty One Pilots is a big inspiration for me in this way: they’ve broken down genre barriers and I think it’s awesome that they just do what they love and that their fans support them regardless of their different sounds. I hope I can get to a place where I can make music that is very different from the rest, yet can still be identifiable as me.”
His constant growth is part of the reason why Carter deleted some of his previous music from streaming platforms, including his Yellow and Drowning EPs, whose songs are still available on SoundCloud. You will also find there all the songs that didn’t make it on his album.
He explained the other reason during our interview:
“I write for myself, but I also wrote for other people. Songwriting is the backbone of what I do and because of this, I always struggle with whether I should keep songs for myself or give them to other artists. In the past, I have been a little hasty with releasing music, and have released songs that now I think would suit other artists. Because of this, I have removed a few different projects that don’t represent my brand but could fit perfectly with somebody else.”
“They are very unique because they are by far the most upbeat songs I have ever written, which is unlike me. I write ballads usually, but these two songs have helped me step out of my comfort zone and try new things.
I wrote Train in 2016 with a friend named Jade Teather: I had this idea for a song and she kindly helped me put it together with her wonderful guitar skills.
All for you was actually a song I wrote for someone else. I was approached by the team of an artist who has quite a following online. They were like “We heard some of your stuff and want you to write for us”, I was really stoked about it because it was one of my first jobs as a songwriter for somebody else. Anyways, I wrote it, sent them the demo but never heard back. I figured I might as well keep it so I made some tweaks, made it more “me”, and there it was.”
Train will be one of the songs on his upcoming album titled <3, which, he revealed, will come out August 10th. Unsigned, Carter made this entire album on his own although this seemed impossible to him only a couple of years ago.
“It is like my child and I can’t wait for everybody to hear it.”.
He shared, in exclusivity, its cover art and tracklist with us:
It is also what he is most proud of, to this day:
“It is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be, it is the epitome of me in a sound wave. This album is my story over the past few years: it talks about my mental health struggles, my heartbreak and my growth. It means more to me than anything and I hope people enjoy it.”
Although Carter has, other than the album, no plans for future releases, touring is on his bucket list and he doesn’t plan on stopping: “I’m always writing, always creating”, he says.
However, he admits his opinion on success has “definitely changed over the past couple of years”:
“I used to have a really unhealthy mindset on fame and success and the correlation between the two but all I hope now is that my music connects with people. I want them to feel a little less alone when they listen to <3”. He adds with humor that “a Grammy wouldn’t hurt”.
Indeed, Carter shared with us what he wanted to address through his music:
“I write music two different ways: I either write from experience, or from the perspective of others. My goal when writing music is to tell the person whose perspective I’m writing from’s truth, whether that be me or somebody else. I want to tell my truth and be honest in the hopes of helping others going through similar situations, or tell other people’s truths if I am inspired by their story and it connects with me. Whichever it may be, I want to do it honestly and in an authentic way.”
Given the chance to give his younger self a piece of advice, his answer joins the honesty he displays today:
“Forget the norm! I went through this really tough period where I started caring too much about the wrong things, such as what other people liked instead of what I liked. It was a learning lesson: I think authenticity beats the norm every day.”
He shared with us where he got his perseverance from: his mom. Her and his sister have always supported him and he plans on getting tattoos honoring them before moving to LA.
“I love my mom more than anything and she has always told me to reach for the stars. She inspires me endlessly.”
“I think everybody is on their own journey. I want people to tell their truth for themselves, when they’re ready. It shouldn’t be for anybody else or for a political agenda. When they’re ready, we should support them.”
To finish our interview, this 18-years-old artist shared with us his favorite lyrics from his upcoming album, <3.
“i swear i’m gonna find myself and never let it go” – from the song heart
“chasing this love of mine with a shot of an anxious mind” – from the song anxious mind
To tide you over until August 10th, you can follow Carter James on:
and listen to his previous songs and EPs, all very unique.
Carter James has, since he gave this interview, decided not to release his album.
— Carter James (@itscarterjames) July 17, 2018
Picture credits go to Amber Nichole