INTERVIEW: S. Carey (of Bon Iver) talks Love, Becoming a Front-Man, and San Francisco
S. Carey studied classical music at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and was lucky enough to hear the Bon Iver record long before the rest of the world. After two weeks learning the drum parts and vocal harmonies, he was invited to join the band for tour dates spanning the past few years. In his off time he accidentally recorded All We Grow, which came out last week on Jagjaguwar records. We managed to get a phonier with him as he prepped for a four week tour across the States.
The Owl Mag: Let’s talk about All We Grow and how the record came about. Did you set out to make a full album?
S. Carey: I started with only a couple of song ideas in my head and felt a strong need to be creative. I talked to my friend Jaime Hansen about recording a few tracks, which we laid down, and continued to do so whenever I had time. I hadn’t intended on writing a full album, every song just came together piece by piece over 18 months.
TOM: What was the inspiration for the songsâ€”at least in the beginning?
S. Carey: I wrote about falling in love and getting married during that time frame. All We Grow, while slow in its fruition, was written in a fast-paced period of my life. We were touring with Bon Iver all over the world, and I didn’t spend days on end in the studio. I have since gotten married and went from a ‘musician’ to someone that tours all over the world playing music. I’ve learned so much from other bands. It has definitely a period of growth. I’m not the same guy I was when we started recording.
TOM: Did you fall in love during the recording process?
S. Carey: I started writing after I had met my [soon to be] wife, so writing about falling in love with someone came out easier than if I hadn’t been in that place. We got married while I still was recording, and luckily she’ll get to meet us during the tour and come along for a few shows.
TOM: Jagjaguwar is the label that picked up the Bon Iver album For Emma, Forever Ago. Did you approach them first about releasing the record?
S. Carey: It definitely helped that For Emma had so much success under Jagjaguwar so when I went to them and showed them what I was working on, they were 100% behind it. We didn’t have to look anywhere else.
TOM: You’re about to go on a four week tour supporting The Tallest Man on Earth, basically making a big lap around the US that includes some Canada dates. Are you a little bit nervous?
S. Carey: Well, we just played a couple shows as “practice” which included an in-store in Minneapolis, and then a CD release party in a small theater. So, yes, I was nervous, but those shows went so well that it’s made me feel more comfortable with our live set. This is still a new thing for me, being the front man. I’ve always been a ‘support’ musician sitting in the back on drums. It’s a little bit easier to hide back there so it was scary to think that I’d be in front the whole time.
TOM: Talk about your slot as ‘support’ for TTMoE. He’s got quite the following, and you’re playing some rather large venues all over. Are you excited about the tour?
S. Carey: He’s (TToME) got such a distinct sound, and I’m totally inspired by his songs and his confidence. It’s gonna be awesome for me and the guys I’m playing with to hang out with Christian and watch him play every night.
TOM: Some might say that you’re riding the coattails of the Bon Iver sound. Have fans been responding in a positive way to the live show?
S. Carey: I’m pretty confident that when people hear us play, the audience will understand that we deserve to be there. I think we’re playing music that is meaningful. Being on the road playing is challenging at times, and a lot of bands can’t seem to get over that hump. I realize how fortunate we are to be in this spot. I’ve gotten extremely lucky with my individual success.
TOM: Is there any city you love to play, besides your hometown?
S. Carey: San Francisco holds a very special place with me. My sister lives in Oakland and a couple of my best friends live in San Francisco. I’ve spent a lot of time there, and really love it. Bon Iver played the Independent three years ago, and I will never forget that show. It was definitely one of our best on the tour.