In 2014, Austin, Texas native Carson McHone was selected to be one of the songwriters of Project #ATX6. Her debut self titled EP released in January 2013. Now, McHone returns to Toronto once again to play NXNE. McHone played at the Cameron House on June 18, 2015. We chatted with McHone about songwriting and life on the road.
You’re here playing NXNE, how do you feel?
Glad to be back in Toronto. I played the festival last year solo, performing in an all Austin, TX showcase with five other songwriters from Austin. The group showcased at NXNE and at Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany last year as “Project #ATX6”, a film/music project started and run by fellow Austinite, Chris Brecht, as a way to represent the music of Austin, TX at international music festivals. A new ATX6 is back this year at NXNE and I plan on catching their showcase, I think this program opened the door for me to come back and play this year with my full band. Also, Toronto is a beautiful city and I’m looking forward to spending more time there.
When you’re at a large festival like NXNE, what makes you stop and listen to an artist? Is it the music, lyrics, performance?
All of the above. I’m not the biggest fan of huge crowds, I like that NXNE is spread out at different venues, you never know what you might walk into and what music you’ll discover in those smaller, more intimate settings.
Country music is becoming more and more popular every day, now a days there are a lot of pop-country artists out there as well. Which category would you generalize yourself into?
I’m a songwriter. I have definitely written a couple traditional country style songs, with a definitive structure, but not all my tubes are country. The words really dictate the direction of my songs and my goal is to do them as much justice as I can. In some cases, I am trying to write a straight up traditional sounding tune that is still true and honest to the words, other times there’s a story that I need to tell that is best told through simple, straightforward, catchy melody, those would be closer to “pop” music. Other times a song needs to come out all twisted and dark in order for it to be honest. I definitely am based in roots/country, I feel that writing accessibly helps me connect with an audience in performance, but at the end of the day each song has its own voice and I won’t be satisfied unless I follow that, so I don’t know how to pin point a genre at this point. It’s honest music, it’s raw, sometimes it’s polished, alt country? Americana? I hope to write songs that can stand on their own.
Who were some of your inspirations ?
I listen to all types of music. I grew up listening to bluegrass, folk, got into traditional country a little later. I remember the first time I heard “To Live is to Fly” by Townes Van Zandt, it was poetry, I love writers like that, Guy Clark, John Prine, the more I learn about melody the more I’ve been branching out, you can’t deny the simple brilliance of a great pop melody. I think it’s good to listen to a lot of different styles, even if you don’t like them, you don’t have to binge on a “genre” you don’t enjoy, but I feel I have something to learn from each artist I listen to, it’s a way of exercising my ear.
What’s the most exciting thing about being on Tour?
When you get to sleep in a bed. Just kidding. Sometimes there’s lots of stress when traveling long distances for long periods of time with a group of people, that’s when it’s really amazing and rewarding to be on stage, when you really need it, you can lose yourself in the performance and it can be really exciting and relaxing somehow at the same time.
We’re all about the Xtra Mile, how would you say you go the Xtra Mile?
Sometimes we make wrong turns and go lots of extra miles.
Traveling across the country, or to different countries, there are lots of great gigs, and sometimes there are gigs that aren’t so glorious, I think it’s really important to give each performance it’s due. The songs are worth it, band members are worth it, those people listening are worth it, if you love what you do you’ll go the extra mile no matter what, I don’t know that anyone’s interesting enough to be a diva, give everyone your all, all the time.
Check out Carson McHone’s video for “Goodluck Man” below!
[Photo Courtesy of Carson McHone]