Shy Carter heads to London this month to play the C2C Country To Country Festival and the CMA Songwriters Series event. Cait Watters spoke with Shy ahead of his transatlantic trip.
Country to Country is, finally, upon us once again and about to bring us the big name heavyweights and – to us in the UK, at least – the newcomers. Shy Carter is one of those “newcomers”, but he’s an experienced and successful songwriter who released his debut EP, The Rest of Us, last year. A soulful singer, he’s also written hits across the genres for artists like Charlie Puth, Sugarland and Kane Brown.
I was fortunate enough to have some time with him to discuss his trip, his music and his career.
Hi Shy! Are you excited about coming over to the UK?
Super excited. It’s gonna be a blast!
Country to Country has been a long time coming. Is this going to be your first time in the UK?
I’ve been out there a few times and I love it every time. I love that place. I love the food and the culture, the music…it’s fun so I’m looking forward to it.
Will it be your first time performing here?
It’ll be my first time at the C2C. I’ve performed out there, little tours. I did a little tour with Aston Merrygold (JLS) one time. I wrote some songs with him for his solo project.
The past few years have been crazy but you released your first album (The Rest of Us) during it. What was that like? Taking such a big step, transitioning from songwriting and putting out your first solo project during such a weird time, where you couldn’t do the sort of traditional promo. Even the recording process would be a bit different.
It was difficult for sure. Yeah, the recording process wasn’t easy as we all couldn’t be in the studio together. That was a little strange but I feel like we made it happen, the product came out and, you know, it sounds good. It’s a nice representation of what I want to say and how I want it to feel. We took some creative routes as far as promoting and getting it to the radio people. It was fun being creative but it was definitely hard. I hope we can get a lot more things going as things start opening up more.
Do you think that some of those more unique ways that you had to use will be things that you consider using in the future?
I think some of it, yeah! Some of it is still usable for sure. We did a radio tour on a tour bus where we just pulled up into people’s neighborhoods, brought the speakers out and played to people in the neighborhood and the radio programmers. That was really fun, and I think that would be fun pandemic or not.
Country to Country is going to be a lot of people’s first taste of live music in a long time. How excited are you to be part of that experience for so many? It’s going to be special, isn’t it?
It’s crazy exciting, man! I mean, shoot, I’m ready to go right now! I can’t wait to see people smiling and enjoying music and dancing again.
It’s going to be a party.
That’s what I live for, man.
Do you have a particular favorite track from your album? Or is that like choosing a favorite child?
It is a little bit. I love ‘Good Love’; ‘Hard’; and ‘The Rest of Us’. But ‘Hurry’… ‘Hurry’ is my number one favorite – that makes me feel like *grooves*.
You have a collaboration with Cole Swindell on there, too. How did that come about?
I wrote the song with David Lee Murphy so he’s on that too – he’s awesome, a legend – and my friend, Bryan Simpson, who wrote a lot of the songs with me on there. We had it recorded and it was ‘Beer With My Friends’ and we felt like we needed another friend on there!
That’s definitely going to be a party song at C2C after a few drinks!
Yeah! Me and Cole, we had been wanting to do a song together and had both been fans of each other’s music so it was awesome that he came on there and helped us out.
You started off as a songwriter then transitioned into releasing your own music. How does the songwriting process differ when you’re writing for someone else, as opposed to writing on a song that you know you’ll record?
It’s not terribly different, I’m really just trying to make the best song I can make. I think I’m able to be a little more outside the box, more creative when I know I’m going to be the one singing it. I know what I want to say, what I’m willing to say and do. I know myself a lot better than I know somebody else. I’m able to have a little more freedom creatively.
You wrote with Sugarland (‘Stuck Like Glue’). How did that happen? Before you were more pop/R&B, and this was a transition to country.
Yeah, I was living in Atlanta and I was driving up to Nashville a lot and that’s when I started hearing a lot of the country music that I was liking. I saw such a similarity to R&B. Van Morrison, Tracy Chapman, Boyz II Men, who I grew up listening to from my parents or my peers. I saw such a similarity like ‘wow, country music is where that kind of song is living right now!’. I couldn’t really write that kind of song in the R&B/pop land. It wasn’t really what was going on in that world. So I started hearing it and I loved it.
I was doing sessions in Nashville, trying to get somebody to recognize me. I didn’t have much going on. Then I was in LA and I wrote that song with Kevin Griffin. We started off with that groove and beating on guitar and making sounds with my mouth. I was just having fun, just doing something creative and, halfway through the song, he was like ‘this would be great for Sugarland’. I was like ‘you could get this to Sugarland? I’m trying to get into this country thing and that would be incredible.’. It was like a dream come true. Sure enough, the drummer from his band, Better Than Ezra, was playing for Sugarland and so he sent it to him and they loved it and put it out right away.
So that was your first real foot into the country music world?
Yeah, for sure.
Did you find it hard coming from a different genre?
It was mainly easy, as far as the songwriters and stuff embracing me ‘cause they were glad to do something new and fresh. Like ‘man, you’re going to have fun here, we’re so glad to have you, let’s make this!’. They wanted to make more soulful music, too. I just wanted to make something soulful, and they knew I was coming from the heart. They know I’m soul, and when I get in the room it’s obvious. We just want to do what we love so let’s do it.
Trying to figure out the scheduling, the Nashville writers with their schedules…like if I want to write with one of them then I might have to schedule that five, six months in advance! It took me a while to catch on to the way they do things.
Obviously we know your plans for March, but what can you tease for the rest of 2022?
Doing shows, got some great music that I’m working on that I’m super excited about, a couple of other opportunities, documentaries, stuff like that. Cool stuff like that coming out this year.
So, a busy year?