By Ryan Meehan
Haden Carpenter was born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas. His musical journey began by singing in an Ozark Mountain church which led him to Memphis, Tennessee to study music in 2001. In Memphis, Haden honed his sound inspired by artists Otis Redding, Al Green, Booker T, Steve Earle, Don Williams, John Prine, and Stevie Wonder. After graduation he moved east to Nashville in 2008, and started writing and performing on a regular basis. In 2012, Haden joined the band of Warner Nashville recording artist Big Smo and has been touring with him as primary vocalist and guitar player, as well as being the opening act on several tour stops. In 2014, he released his first two singles “Simple Thing” and “Hustlers and Thieves” on iTunes and Google Play. His self-titled EP “Haden Carpenter” is set to release in February, 2015. Also, in 2014 the A&E reality series Big Smo premiered with Haden featured as one of the main characters. Season 2 is set to premiere in 2015. Haden describes his sound and style as “Arkansoul”. A combination of family, roots, and music which makes him who he is and creates a sound straight from the soul. We are proud to have Haden Carpenter as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What was the first song that you learned to both sing and play guitar at the same time? Which did you start out with; and what initially gave you the confidence to try your hand at doing those two things simultaneously?
HC: The first song I learned to play AND sing on guitar is “Burn One Down” by Ben Harper. I’ve been singing as long as I can remember. There’s a video floating around somewhere of me singing a solo in my kindergarten Christmas program. I was definitely the loudest one up there, that hasn’t changed much. I got my first guitar in high school (a Peavey Predator) but didn’t REALLY learn how to play until years later. While going to school in Memphis, I played gigs down at the casinos in Tunica. Sometimes we would pull 8 hour shifts, and eventually would start repeating songs. No one really paid attention to us there, so I would put on my guitar, turn it down, and basically “fake it” until I learned the songs. By the end of the gig I would have learned 2 or 3 songs. I did that for about a year.
RM: What exactly is “Arkansoul”; and what are the characteristics of that particular sound?
HC: Arkansoul is just as much a state of mind as it is a sound. It’s about remembering where you came from, taking pride in your roots, being raised with good southern values. Now take that and mix it with the sound of those great southern soul singers such as Otis Reding, Sam Cooke, and Al Green….you get “Arkansoul”
Arkansas Roots + Southern Soul = Arkansoul
RM: What did you feel that Nashville had to offer you that Memphis didn’t? Were there any other reasons aside from your musical ambitions that led you to make that move?
HC: I’ll always love the music scene in Memphis, It has such a raw element that I’ll always be attracted to and it’s where I cut my teeth. But as I got more into songwriting, Nashville was the obvious choice. I had family already living here pursuing music, so it was an easy move to make. I Packed up a U-Haul, slept on some couches, and here I am.
RM: How did you come to be friends with Big Smo, and when did you officially join the band? What has been the highlight of that whole experience for you thus far?
HC: I actually became friends with Smo the day I joined the band. I got called into an audition by a mutual friend of ours. They were auditioning several positions that day, but I was the only singer/rhythm player they had come out. After the first song, Smo stopped everything and pulled me aside and said “What are you doin’ next year”, I said “Goin on the road with you”. Been makin’ music ever since. The highlight of this experience has been the education. I’ve learned so much from this team. Everyone involved is amazing at what they do. There’s no limit to what you can do when you surround yourself with badasses.
RM: What was the exact moment it hit you that a majority of your life on tour was going to be filmed for the whole world to see? Did that freak you out at all in the beginning?
HC: I’ve been a performer for most of my life, so having the cameras around all the time was never really a big deal for me. And once we got to know the crew it made it even easier. But I think the moment it hit me is when I saw the rough cut of the first episode. I was like “Wow, this is really happening”. And yea, you have that feeling like “Is America gonna like me?”. But after the first episode aired all that went away. There were good and bad reviews, but we knew where we stood and then I was eager to get back out and do it again.
RM: I saw that you were in the studio the night of the Iron Bowl working on some new stuff…How often would you say that you find yourself in a recording studio; and what do we need to know about Battleroy?
HC: Ha! yea, and it was one of the best/stressful Iron Bowls I’ve ever seen. But there is nothing better than being in the studio, I put myself in that setting as often as possible. And I learn something new after every session. No matter what distractions I have going on in my life, I step through that door, everything fades away and it’s time to work.
I can’t say enough about Battleroy. His name says it all, the guy is a warrior. Just being around him makes you want to go be better at whatever you do. I really have no idea when that guy rests, but I feel like he has some type of robot that he hooks up to his brain that continues making music while he sleeps.
RM: As we’ve learned from watching on television, the Big S’Mo crew is clearly an interesting bunch of characters to say the very least…What are some cool things about some of the guys in the band that we might not be aware of?
HC: These guys make life on the road WAY more tolerable. We are brothers, and having lost my biological brother at a young age I don’t use that term loosely. I love these dudes. I’ll just give you a list of what you might not be aware of…: Orig is a health expert, if you’re sick he can tell you exactly what to eat to get better. Travis is one of the funniest guys I know, he is almost as good of a comedian as he is a guitar player. Ryan has the metabolism of a hummingbird, he can eat however much of whatever he wants and not change form. Eric is a master groomer, he can shave the perfect line in any lighting situation. Dan’s hair, it stays like that all the time, just incredible. And then there’s Smo’s beard… it is truly magical. It’s rumored to hold ancient secrets to the whereabouts of a lost city in Madagascar….but that’s just a rumor.
RM: Which aspect of the songwriting process is the most rewarding for you and why? Conversely, which aspect of that process do you feel you struggle with the most?
HC: That’s a tough question, it’s all rewarding. From the time you come up with a little spark of an idea, to putting the finishing touches on the song before sending it to the mix & master process, there are little victories along the way that can’t really be compared. I think the hardest part of writing for me is keeping myself out of the way, and letting the song be what it is. That’s where co-writing helps, you have another person in the room with the same goal. You keep each other on track. Someone to tell you whether it’s gold or crap, then move on.
RM: What’s up for you and the rest of the your Kinfoke in 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
HC: Oh man, LOTS of great things in store for 2015. I am releasing my self-titled EP. Launching my new website. ARKANSOUL will also be launching its site and will have products available. We’re doing a West coast/Canada tour that will be tons of fun. Our drummer Ryan Peel is releasing some music. The list goes on. Just keep up with us online, we’re not hard to find.
Official Big Smo Website: https://www.facebook.com/hadencarpenter
Haden on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hadencarpenter
Haden on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hadencarpenter
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