Has Fender Will Travel
From the Great White North, Fretboard interviews
Carter Rush (guitarist / singer / songwriter)
It’s 1am in South Palm Beach. Carter Rush has just finished his last set for the night. The guy looks exhausted. He was working hard. Three sets and 21 songs later and a huge puddle of sweat coating the stage where he marked his spot the previous 3 hours. Loud guitars, edgy riffs, and cool vocals mixed with a tight rhythm section kept the crowd moving. I hate to keep the guy from heading home to get some much-needed rest but he’s all go.
He heads off stage, grabs a big Barney the Dinosaur towel and starts to wipe off. That’s hysterical. He grabs a pitcher of water and downs about half of it without taking a breath. Not your typical rocker.
FM: Great sets tonight Carter. You really brought it home.
CR: Thanks. We try to bring a lot of energy to each show we play. Tonight, the crowd just fed off everything we did. It’s not always like that but tonight was electric. Great crowd here.
FM: What’s with that Barney towel? That’s a first for me.
CR: My 6 year-old niece gave that to me for my birthday a few years ago. Whenever we get together, we sit on the couch and eat a bowl of Cheerios and watch Barney. You know, he gets a bad rap. For a purple dinosaur, he’s pretty talented.
FM: You know, you may be on to something there. The dude can sing and dance. Maybe we can start a campaign to bring him back.
CR: Well, let’s not go that far.
FM: Tell us a bit about yourself Carter. Where did you grow up? When did you move to South Florida?
CR: Well, I’m originally from Ottawa, Canada, born and raised there until I was 19 and then moved to the States, Nashville, actually. I tossed around there for the next 3 years, playing lots of clubs, doing some studio work, solo gigs, you know, and then formed a band doing covers and some originals. I moved to South Florida 3 years ago. Wanted a change of scenery and I like the hot weather.
FM: But Nashville is known for it’s music scene. How are you finding the scene here?
CR: It’s obviously different but there’s definitely a cool vibe here and there’s a captive audience. I see a lot more people getting out to see more rock bands now then they did just a few years ago. So, hopefully that’s the new trend.
FM: You know, I tend to agree with that. I’ve been seeing a transition from electronic music back to rock and it’s cool to see. Even in Miami. What’s your thought on that?
CR: It’s about time, eh? Don’t you think?
FM: Very Canadian that was. Love the eh.
CR: You know, I get that a lot. I don’t even know I’m doing it. But, during conversations with people, I get that same reaction a lot. “Eh, you’re from Canada, aren’t you?”
FM: I’ll bet the girls love it.
CR: I’m not complaining.
FM: Let’s get back to the music. When did you first pick up a guitar?
CR: I was about 13. Actually, I picked up the bass first. A couple friends of mine started a garage band and they needed a bass player. They had 2 guitarists and a drummer but no bass player. I knew nothing about the instrument, but I told my mom I wanted to give it a try. She bought me a used Ibanez bass and paid for some lessons. After a few months, I decided I didn’t want the lessons and I wanted to teach myself. So, that’s what I did. I’d plug my Ipod into a small Peavey practice amp and put on some tunes and I’d play along, figuring out the bass lines. A few years later, I guess I was about 16 or 17, I picked up the guitar and it was a pretty easy transition for me.
FM: How would you classify your sound? Rock, Alt rock, grunge? I hear a lot of all of that in your playing.
CR: I’d say more alt rock. I do love the rock classics from the 70’s and some from the 60’s. But, growing up in the 90’s, my influences were definitely grunge and alt rock. But, I’ve also been a huge fan of BB King for as long as I can remember. I love Nirvana, Kurt Cobain’s writing is insane. His playing was actually quite simple but he made it sound very complex. Alice in Chains. I’m a huge fan of Jerry Cantrell. Love his playing. I’m not a huge fan of the 80’s scene. Too much speed tapping going on there. No emotion. A guy like BB, he could take 4 notes and get so much feeling out of those notes. I try to emulate that in my playing.
FM: Who’s your audience?
CR: Anyone who loves good, solid guitar playing, clean sounds, great rhythm section. There seems to be a lot of those people here.
FM: What do you think about Coldplay and all the bands that sound almost exactly like them these days? You know what I’m talking about? Those big Broadway type choruses, “Ooh wahhhh, ooh ooh wah?”
CR: Oh man, I don’t want to insult anyone reading this. Let’s just say it’s not my thing. (winks) Just like what I do and I’ve got a big audience, there’s an audience for that stuff too.
FM: That’s very PC of you. What projects are you currently working on?
CR: Right now, nothing in the studio. My band is just doing a lot of local gigs and we’re preparing for a 3-month tour on the West Coast; California, Vegas, Colorado, in the Spring.
FM: Tell us about your gear. What guitar are you playing? What effects do you use? Amps? Recording?
CR: On stage, I use a Fender Strat Standard HSS. I like the tone and the feel of it. I’ve been using it what seems like forever. In the studio, I use a Fender Deluxe Strat. For amps, I use a Marshall Stack with a JVH410H head. For effects, I only use an Octava Fuzz and Distortion pedal. I’m a no frills kind of guy.
FM: What guitar do you use to record with?
CR: I always use the Fender Deluxe. Been using that in the studio for as long as I can remember.
FM: What music gets you excited and why?
CR: I listen to anything that has great musicianship to it. It can be jazz, blues, rock, reggae, even some rap that has a good musical flow. I just can’t do the electronic stuff. That goes right through me. And, man, those auto-tuned vocals that make someone sound like a whining robot, that’s gotta be the worst. Just horrible. If you can’t sing, DON’T! Don’t sing through a machine. I’ve never pretended to be the best vocalist but I can hold my own.
FM: Yes, you can definitely hold your own. Your vocals on “Deep Religion” are solid and your guitar playing is excellent.
CR: Yeah, I think that recording turned out pretty good. Once it was mastered it all fell into place. I’m very happy with it.
FM: When was the last time you listened to a new artist, band or guitar player?
CR: I’m always listening to new stuff. I love going out to lots of clubs, hanging out and listening to new bands. Some have been around for a while but a lot are new to me. Your recent interview with Abbe Davis was cool. I had to check her out. So I listened to her stuff on YouTube and I checked her out in Downtown Hollywood about a week ago. She was great. Very high energy. You were right. She has a voice like Ann Wilson and Etta James. Very powerful.
FM: Yeah, Abbe is a fantastic singer and can definitely keep a crowd’s attention. Great originals too.
FM: I ask this next question a lot because I think it gives the fans some good insight into the artist. Do you aim for the never-ending pursuit of perfection or is it better to strive for completion?
CR: Well, I used to strive for perfection but the older I get, I know that perfection is never going to happen. I used to go nuts listening to my recordings, even after they were mastered. I’d still find those imperfections. No matter how hard you try or how much time and effort you put into a recording, or in a live performance for that matter, it’s never enough. But the older I get, I realize that it’s those small imperfections that give the songs their personality.
FM: How would you describe yourself as a musician in one sentence?
CR: I am a percussionist in the body of a guitarist.
FM: Interesting. What makes you say that?
CR: Well, when I first got into music as a kid, I always wanted to be a drummer. But, my mom wouldn’t let me have a kit, made too much noise for her. But, she did get me a drum pad. I fiddled around with that for a few years and then got into bass. I still love playing the bass. All the songs I write, I begin with the drums in my head and I’ll take out that drum pad, I still have it. I’ll tap out the beat of the song that’s in my head, score it on some paper or a napkin, and then I’ll pick up the bass and add the bass line. I’m always doing the percussion first, then the rhythm, always have. Then, I’ll put the guitar in.
FM: That’s a cool change from what I usually hear. It’s very Stevie Wonder-like. You know, Stevie began as a drummer and he writes his songs the same way you do. He starts with the percussion. You can hear that in his songs.
CR: Yeah, I’ve heard that before about him. Love Stevie Wonder.
FM: Are you happy with your guitar and your sound?
CR: I’ve always been a Fender guy. I just love the warm tone from it. And, I try to keep my guitars as close to stock as possible. I’ve had to change the pickups a couple times but always replace with stock pickups. I’ve had to repair the wiring too but other than that, I’m a no thrills guy. I’m always tinkering with my sound but at the end of the day I always end up back to where I’ve always been, staying in my comfort zone.
FM: How do you spend your free time? Family?
CR: Man, I am addicted to Netflix. The autobiographical stuff. I can’t seem to get enough. Even after a gig, I’ll sometimes get home at 3am and I hop on the couch and get my Net Fix.
FM: Net Fix. I like that. What about family, friends?
CR: I’m not married but I do have a girlfriend, Rebecca. She’s great. She knew what she was getting herself into from day 1 when we first started dating. She has a great career, 9 to 5 type of thing. So, she’s able to come out to a lot of the shows. Away from that, we like to do a lot of outdoor stuff. We go hiking, mountain biking. We did that indoor sky diving thing last week. That was pretty cool.
FM: How did you meet Rebecca?
CR: Ha. You’ll love this. We met at Knausberry Farm near Homestead.
FM: Really? That’s funny. Is she Amish?
CR: Ha. She’d love that. We met 4 years ago. I went down there with a buddy to go get one of those cinnamon buns everyone raves about. You know, they’re pretty good but I’m gonna say, overrated. But anyway, we were in that long line there waiting, and waiting, and waiting and along comes this very cute girl and when she got closer I noticed she had some cinnamon sticky stuff on her cheek from one of those buns. So, when she was right by me I told her she was very cute but the cinnamon sticky stuff on her cheek made her even cuter. Four years later, here we are.
FM: Wow, that’s a first for me. Never heard anyone meeting like that. That’s pretty cool.
CR: Yep. Thank you. I thought so too.
FM: What kind of influence does Rebecca have on your song writing?
CR: I’ve written a couple songs for her. Sometimes, if I get writers block and she knows I’m frustrated, she’ll come over, close my laptop and say, “let’s go town it.” So, we’ll head out and go on an adventure. Yesterday we took a hike at Tree Tops Park in Davie. Have you been there? Cool place. It’s like a little piece of the Everglades right in your backyard.
FM: Who inspires you?
CR: My dad, definitely. He was a blue collar, hard working guy. He worked long hours and still made sure to get home and enjoy his time with the family and friends. He left it all at work. He’d come home exhausted but, man, he loved what he did and loved his family even more. I got my work ethic from him. He inspires me to be the best I can be, 24/7.
FM: With your musical accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
CR: You’re gonna think this is a bit hokey but in 7th grade, we had a talent show at school and I got to be the stage director for the first graders. We did our version of Tommy.
FM: The Who?
CR: Hell yeah! Those kids nailed it! I remember it like it was yesterday. I’d love to do something like that again.
FM: There’s a lot of community theater here in South Florida. Check into it.
CR: I think I will.
FM: Where do you want to be 1 year from now? 5 years from now?
CR: A year from now? I’d like to be opening for more national bands on a bigger stage, doing my own songs. Covers are cool but my originals are my babies. In my gigs, I try to do as many of my originals as possible. Usually about 70% of my set are originals. In 5 years, I want to be a successful touring musician with a loyal fan base. I also want to hear other artists singing my originals. That’d be pretty cool. I’d like to hear some kid saying, “hey, let’s do that new Carter Rush song.”
FM: Now, give yourself a plug. Where will you be performing over the next 2 months?
CR: I finish 5 more shows in South Florida and then, I’ll be heading to Nashville with my band for a month and from there, in March, we go to California, South to North, and finish in Washington State. Good times ahead.
FM: Thanks for staying to give this interview. I’m a huge fan. Now go home and get your Net Fix on.
Jason Yarrow, Writer