Can you talk to us more about your song “Sadderdays”?
“Sadderdays” is a representation of the struggle that we all face constantly throughout life. The idea of competition has embedded itself into the human culture. Naturally, we look to the crowd and define our beliefs, morals, and concepts of success by what we see everyone doing around us. Maybe we want fame and fortune, so we move like famous people do. Maybe we want wealth, so we move like the wealthy do. Instead of doing our own dance of life we are far too eager to fall into step with the crowd, ignoring the fact that conformity can destroy our individuality.
Did any event inspire you to write this song?
I wasn’t really inspired by one particular event, but rather by a slow realization of myself. I have always been very different from my peers and a large portion of my life was spent trying my best to fit in — afraid of what people might think or do if they realized that I’m different from them. The only time I did not feel that way was when I was creating my own music. As I grew into my late teens, that changed. Suddenly I discovered that if I wanted a music career, I would have to shape my music around what people wanted to hear. My fellow musician friends would criticize my music for being “too slow” or “not mainstream enough”, and the insecurities I already felt about myself crept into my musical space. For a few years I operated in this space, trying to write and perform the way others would want me to, until one day I sat down to write and nothing came out. It was as if the energy of music that used to flow through me in a younger age had disappeared and been replaced by fear, ego, and pride. This was my breaking point. I had to make a decision right there to never use other people to define my sound. I will never again use music as a tool to please people, rather I will use it to express my individuality and soul to the world, and those who I need to touch will be touched.
“Sadderdays” does not end as happily as that. I ended it with the death of the soul (creativity, individuality — call it what you will), because not everyone breaks free from the chains of conformity. Unfortunately, many people spend their entire lives in step with the crowd, trying to please. My greatest goal with my music is to be an example to those people of what freedom of individuality looks like.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
Oh wow! The filming process was very fun. I saw the video in my sleep one night and took it as divine inspiration. I was determined to create the exact video that I imagined in my head. With a tiny budget and limited time, it would have seemed impossible to put it together, but once I set my mind to something, it’s going to happen. This video put my resourcefulness to the test. I called my boyfriend — who is a videographer — and told him about the idea, and he was on board immediately. We made calls, thrift shopped for outfits, and scrambled to find a field like the one in my dreams.
I couldn’t be more grateful, though, to the team that made this possible. I called up my friends, asked if they wanted to be in a video, and they all came out. We walked to a field in the back of a neighborhood (almost got kicked out), and we had an amazing time. Video shoots can take a while, so as we waited, we laughed, talked, sang, and just enjoyed each other. I want to really thank the star of the video, the beautiful dancer who goes by the name of “Miss Jr.”. She choreographed her moves based on my explanation and I really feel that she perfectly expressed my vision.
The single comes off your new album The Gem In I – what’s the story behind the title?
The title of my album plays with two concepts — the concept of the Gemini zodiac sign and the concept of finding one’s beautiful spirit within. Interestingly, when I first curated my songs for this album, I did not have a specific message in mind. I wanted to get product out so people could know my sound. But, the months that followed shook up my whole understanding of what music means to my life and to those I touch with it. The next few months brought me through trials. I had a brush with death, got very sick, and began to come face to face with my demons. Slowly, I realized that the songs that I had chosen for my album were therapeutic for me in that time of life. The more I worked on the album, the deeper I began looking into myself, my memories, my pain, my detachment from self, and I wanted to find myself.
My sister and I are both Gemini’s and I remember us discussing our similarities one day. The album name came up, and she said “what about The Gem In I”, but separate “Gem” “In” and “I”. Right then I knew that was it. I was a Gemini searching for myself — searching for the Gem in I. After that the purpose of my album was made even more clear. It was an introspective tool to help nudge people into the journey of finding themselves as it did me. I am grateful, because since dropping the album, the feedback has all overwhelmingly proved that it does just that for people.
Looking back I can definitely say, there was a Dara Carter before The Gem In I and there was a Dara Carter after The Gem In I. I had transformed.
How was the recording and writing process?
“Sadderdays” came to me one day while I was doing homework for a graphic design class. As it played in my head, I decided that I really liked it because it was different than anything I’d written or heard. Immediately I went over to the piano and started playing the chords I was hearing in my head. My songs typically have a ton of changes in them, but I wanted to keep this one simple. So, I repeated the same three chords for the entire song and decided to let my melody and lyrics tell the story. From there it was easy, I let the words come to me as I usually do when writing.
I don’t ever worry about what my songs are going to say, I just let it happen and interpret them later. In fact, sometimes I won’t know what a song I’ve written means until weeks later. “Sadderdays” was interesting though, because it took me a while to pin the meaning down. Everytime I listened back to what I had written, it meant something different. But, the consistency was in the line “was I a non believer? Did not believe in me?” I knew the song came from a place of not trusting in myself to be myself.
Recording “Sadderdays” was an experience! I was working with a great producer by the name of “Professor X”. I love working with him because many producers try to push my sound towards their sound, but Professor X allows me the freedom to have my own sound, then he helps craft a production around it. He also pushes me in the vocal booth. He’s not satisfied until I have put everything I can into a song vocally. For “Sadderdays,” recording was fun. Initially, I sang the song straight through with the normal power of my voice, but it didn’t feel right. We scrapped it and recorded it all over again, but this time I gave it a more delicate touch with my voice. From there, we were sold.
What role does Georgia play in your writing?
I consider my writing global. My sound is unique and can be felt by people around the whole world. I am a Georgia peach though! I was born and raised in Georgia, and I must say that the nature here that I find myself around helps me to get my creativity flowing. I love to sit out on the porch and experience the vibrancy of nature, and that feeling often translates into a beautiful song.
What aspect of yourself did you get to explore on this record?
“Sadderdays” allowed me to experience my vulnerability. It forced me to face the pride that I had built up in myself. I had to ask myself questions like “Do I really believe in myself?” and “Am I trying to fit in with the crowd”. I am so thankful for the inspiration to write the song because since then I have been able to explore my individuality and build trust in myself.
Any plans to hit the road?
I plan to go on tour in 2019. I’m ready to spread my messages as far as my life can take me. Look out this year for my second album!
What else is happening next in Dara Carter’s world?
I am dedicated to promoting unity through individual growth, community care, and global consciousness through creativity, motivational speaking, and philanthropy. I have a project coming up called the ‘Color Me Project’, where I will be hosting panelists such as the dean of Morehouse, state officials, and more to start conversation in the community for positive growth and awareness. I am also working with state officials to implement my program SCAB (Schools Against Bullying) into the local school systems. While music is the centerpiece of my brand, I plan to make positive changes through my other forms of expertise.