Hi Russ, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Great to be talking to you. Very excited about this new work.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Never Great Enough”?
“Never Great Enough” is my response to Trumpism. One listen to the lyrics and it’s clear that it’s something I have strong feelings about.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I saw a video of an Asian-American girl getting harassed by a biker who was not shy about his racism, nor his love of Trump. The lyrics of the song suggest that such a person might have a pretty disillusioned wife, not to mention a pretty disappointed son.
Do you plan to release a video?
The mysterious anonymous artist (or artists?) “Metalmooose” has been inspired by the songs of Russ Carrick before, and I believe he has (they have?) crafted something new in honor of the single. Stay tuned, and be sure your prescriptions are up to date!
The single comes off your upcoming album Beyond The Headlights’ Reach – what’s the story behind the title?
After I released Mix Tape History, it became pretty clear that I had an initial three album’s worth of material in me. And since the first album suggested a look into the past, I figured it would work out nicely if the remaining two albums invoked the present and the future respectively. Tense Present was a good title for capturing not only the idea of the present moment, but also how that particular moment was fraught and anxious. Beyond the Headlights’ Reach, the title for my forward-facing final album, came from a conversation I had with a recovering heroin addict. In a bit of sage advice this individual suggested that, in life as in driving, it works a lot better if you put your energy into what is actually in front of you, rather than what you imagine comes next…because–and this is a good thing–what comes next more often than not is something you couldn’t have even imagined in the first place. I’ve never forgotten that. And, in an album dealing with endings, the idea of the Big Beyond (death) naturally conjures the specter of death as well. So I guess there’s a lot going on with this title!
How was the recording and writing process?
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded and supported by fantastic professional musicians. The depth and polish of my work would not be possible without them. For example, one of my favorite sounds in alternative music comes from songs that rely exclusively on strings. I had always wanted to craft my own “indie string” song, so when it came to my string-centered track, “Fog Over Monomoy,” I was able to compose all the cello parts, but there’s no way I could have played them. Enter: Owen Graham, an accomplished cellist (currently studying at the Royal College of Music in London) who brought my composition to life. The same goes for my ode to 1980’s New Orleans, ‘Rule Prytania.” Such a song demanded a virtuoso blues harmonica player. For that I called upon Philly-area “blues harp” player Al Berke. Of course I could spend all day celebrating the guitar work of my studio partner, Emerson Torrey. Great musicians and professionals grant me the pallet to create songs just as I envision them, and I am all too happy to lay the credit at their feet.
You compared your sound to some artists including Interpol and Airborne Toxic Event – how have they influenced your writing? What other artists impacted your sound?
I’m sure every recording artist dreads the “For Fans Of” category of self-promotion. If we are all doing it right, there should really be no one artist with which to compare oneself. I chose to reference The Airborne Toxic Event for three attributes: mood, vocals, and the love of songs that build incessantly from start to finish. For Interpol, it’s about vocals and energy. Of course, if you were to dig down in my psyche for a musical source-code, you would undoubtedly come face to face with Andy Partridge of XTC. Bringing up any of these names is awfully indulgent on my part but, even if it’s mainly aspirational, credit where credit is due. And, hopefully, I have added my own small “x factor” into the equation.
What aspect of politics did you get to explore on this record?
There are three overtly political songs on this album. All deal with America’s surrender to the demons of history, thanks to the conscious efforts of unscrupulous men. Personally, I never thought the U.S. was immune to history, but I think there is still no shortage of Americans who have fallen prey to the notion that great national pathologies (such as ethnonationalism, authoritarianism, or intellectual decline) could never “happen here.” For those who have been paying proper attention, and consciously eschewing disinformation, the past decade or so has been a wake up call to the fact that – yes – it very much can happen here (and it looks like it still might.)
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Thankfully, when I turn my gaze away from the country’s intellectual and institutional rot, I can still find much to be grateful for. I have unquestionably lived a charmed life; and that has brought me a treasure trove of memories to celebrate and share. This is what I do when I imagine returning to the phantasmagoric splendor of New Orleans on “Rule Prytania,” and when I open a dialogue with the foghorns of New England on “Fog Over Monomoy.” But all is not nostalgia. On songs like “Grab Hold of the Sky” and “Break In Case Of…” the message is pretty plain: there is always unexpected wonder in the future—beyond the reach of the headlights—and one must never let go of that truth (if one is to stay sane.)
What else is happening next in Russ Carrick’s world?
Long ago I realized that, if I were to ever truly earn the designation of “musician,” I would need to be able to play piano while sight reading music. In the time of COVID, I no longer had any excuse to put off that goal. I will not be easy or quick, but I’ll be damned if I don’t get there before I die.