Interview with Neil Carswell
Neil Carswell recently released his second solo album. We chatted with him about his past, new album and the future.
You broke into to music scene with Copperhead. You guys had a long contract with Mercury, but the band broke up in 1995 after one studio album. What happened? Any change we’re going to see Copperhead reunion someday?
I went to, as they say in the music business, the Crossroads, as a young man. Lots of cash and temptation, a great allure of fame, the price you pay for the life. After all, no one really understood it at the time due to the fact that I was totally sober, so no one could blame it on drugs. There was a lot of publishing money involved and powers to be were scurrying around like rats to grab all they could while I was soul searching, going through a life awakening as Joni Mitchell once called it.
I’ve been there 4 major times in my life, once in May of last year, although my faith has pulled me through many times, I still seem to fall flat on my face yet still, but the love of music has been a key in perseverance throughout the years to press on, growing in the sense of better songs, style and performance. I hope to continue for many more years as a life progress in song writing.
I would love to get the band together again one day, in all probability it will never happen again, “too much water underneath the bridge,” yet, stranger things have happened to greater bands than us.
Are there still unreleased Copperhead songs lying around somewhere?
Yes, a few are left and a live record we never finished. I hope maybe Byrd and I will team up one day to fix the tracks, master and mix with producer Rodney Mills, if we can put our hands on the masters. The Live and Lost record is a compilation of some of those cuts and I feel in putting it together, I captured the band in its prime before the break up with rare studio cuts and a few live tracks.
Nevertheless, there are a few more I would like to work out, I even thought of putting out a demo record of rare cuts throughout the years as kids. The thing is, I’m swamped on new material and having to dedicate time and budgets to it, maybe one day, who knows, I’ll get the chance to put a few more tracks together from the Copperhead archives.
Your new album "Keep You Guessing" came out awhile ago, how have people been reacting to the record so far?
As a matter of fact, the record just came out a few weeks ago, I have been working on it for a while streaming the material for the fan base. I feel it is my best work ever. The response is great from the fans and all industry people. We are moving it to a European forefront in several territories and working on a North American deal as we speak, as we opted to leave our last record deal last week, so we’re in new directions with a solid radio campaign going on now with the single, “Bright Lights,” a slow process in deal making .
Can you walk us through some high points of the new album?
The whole record was a high point, from starting it in Boston Mass to Swam Scoot Mass at Berry Goodreau’s home in pre production stages to Long View Farms cutting with Stu Kimball and Phil Green, onto Ocean Way Studios in Nashville with Chris Anderson and Johnny Neel to Quad in over dub stages, then finishing it off with Ben Fowler mixing and the legendary Richard Dodd mastering, mixing it in NYC once at Unique, then finishing mixing it with 3 recalls in Nashville with Ben and Chris. My wife Melissa was with me then all the way and we had many great travels together. Now we’re divorced as the record hits the streets so there are some lows in it too, this always seem the case, pouring your heart out in a song. Nevertheless, the great opportunity pursuant by my publisher William Patton, cutting a record on 2" tape, recording old school way is unheard of these days and it is a record that I feel will always be timeless at least to me.
You had some extraordinary people participating on the new album. How did you end up working with Chris Anderson?
He was introduced to me by Johnny Neel years ago and has since become a very important partner of crime to say in recording writing and performing.
You changed the name of the album from “Southwind” to "Keep You Guessing" and dropped some songs as well. Are you going to release them later?
Before this release I released a record called, “Good Mans Journey,” these were some of the tracks I knew I would not use on the “Keep You Guessing” record and a few lost tracks I had laying around from years back. The name was changed in mid stream, I felt the CD name should be this, a title track, I didn’t want to pigeonhole the record to be a typical southern rock album, it is way more than that, I call it southern soul, a sound derived with the great musicians I worked with on the project and to the likes of working with Tom Dowd and his Memphis influence back with Copperhead as a young man with all the great soul sounds of Stax, the soul bands and artist that rubbed off on me and just stuck. This record is a growth from home style back porch bluegrass to rock and pop and R&B, a very eclectic record that took some time to mould into a cohesive work of title.
What are your thoughts about today's music scene?
I feel the pipeline is full of shit and the cream can’t rise to the top. It is great with everyone being able to do their own label thing, MySpace and all that but its turned into how good of a promoter you are, spending most your time on the internet instead of writing. Its all left brain now instead of right, no vibes as it once was with just an acoustic guitar or piano. Nevertheless, once in a blue moon you hear a real artist emerge but it’s rare. I don’t think we will ever see the stadium rock again or a renaissance of the great songwriters we saw in the 70s, now its cookie cutter country, Mickey Mouse Club, Disneyland homogenized horseshit and American Idol. The days of the Billy Joe Shavers are gone, Ronnie Van Zant, Jim Croce, Bob Seger, John Lennon, the list used to go on and on.
What’s in the near future for Neil Carswell?
Well, who knows? I’m currently working on a rock hard record, will probably be my last, called “Burn It Down,” one of my greatest records yet with a great array of rock icon players form Barry Godreau of Boston, Stu Kimball of Bob Dylan, Buckett of Bad Co., Johnny Neel of The Allman Brothers, Chris Anderson of The Outlaws, Danny Toler of The Gregg Allman Band to name a few, a guitar rock record with a great catalogue of songs I wrote in a short spell while under a great inspiration, a record from God, very hard to finish to live up to my own expectation.