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An Interview with Kim Carson
By CSO European Contributing Journalist, Christian Lamitschka.

Question: Would you please introduce yourself to the readers and tell us something about your history.

Answer: My name is Kim Carson. I was born in Oklahoma, raised in Canyon, Texas (near Amarillo) and lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. I now split my time living in Houston, Texas and New Orleans.

Iím not married, no children but I have a very nice dog named Bob that adopted me ten years ago. Bob goes everywhere with me except Europe.

Question: Country Music has many new fans in Europe who may be learning about you for the first time. How would you describe the music you play to someone whoís never seen or heard you before?

Answer: I describe our music as "renegade honky-tonk". The music on country radio today really isnít country. Itís slick and sounds like pop music. We play the raw twang sounds of the Texas roadhouses and honky-tonks. The renegade part comes from the energy and outlaw attitude of artists like Waylon Jennings or David Alan Coe.

Question: What is your current CD and how is it doing?

Answer: Our new CD is my band, "The Casualties" recorded live at the world famous New Orleans nightclub Tipitinaís. Itís doing great because the disc really lets you experience being on the front row with us that night. You hear the band talking to each other and the crowd, and you can hear the crowd responding. Itís really a dialog as opposed to a monologue.

Question: How did you find the title for the CD and what inspired you?

Answer: The title was obvious, "Live at Tipitinaís". The Casualties have been together with these same five players for almost six years. We really wanted an "audio snapshot" of our sound on stage. Weíve done three studio discs and this is our first live recording.

The band performs mostly original songs but we also enjoy throwing in some classic twang at our shows. I decided to include some of these songs from Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Ernest Tubb on the live CD. Of course we have many originals and even a jam session on a number we call "Tís Instrumental".

Question: Do you write you own songs and if not, how do you go about finding songs for your albums?

Answer: Yeah. I write most of our songs and we perform other songs we really like. It may be a song written by one of our friends like Dean Miller on "Wake Up and Smell the Whiskey" or a classic thatís requested at the show that we have fun with.

Question: Whatís your favorite song among all the songs youíve recorded and whatís the story behind it?

Answer: My favorite song for years has been "Ring of Fire" written by Merle Kilgore and June Carter and made famous by Johnny Cash. Itís a song about the overwhelming power of love. It was written when June and Johnny were falling in love with each other but still married to other people. I wish I could write a song that powerful.

Question: How much creative control do you have over your music?

Answer: Complete control. Thatís the good thing about being an independent artist. We donít have a record label trying to make us sound pop to appeal to the masses. Our sound is genuine. Itís the real deal.

Question: Thereís a lot of work that goes into a number one hit ... whatís it take to make it?

Answer: Money! To get on the charts and reach number one you need a radio promoter to send your music to the reporting radio stations and then call them every week to ask them to play the song that has been selected as the single. You also need to hire a publicist to send your music to newspapers and magazines for review and promotions. THEN, of course, the music has to be awesome. There are many Indy artists with awesome discs that no one hears.

Question: How much do your songs influence your audience?

Answer: We get stories from people regarding certain songs that have comforted them like "Not A Big Deal" or listening to the CD just made their day a little brighter.

Question: The internet is playing a bigger and bigger part in the world of music. Has the internet hurt or helped you and how would you like to see it evolve?

Answer: The internet has helped us. We can contact festivals and venues for booking, keep in direct touch with our fans. Weíre planning to release a series of "six-packs" for internet download. This is a recording of six songs that will never be released on disc. You purchase them on internet only. This saves us the cost of manufacturing discs and producing art etc. I think the internet offers many opportunities if you are creative in your approach.

Question: Who do you look up to musically and where do your musical roots come from?

Answer: My musical roots come from the classic country sounds of Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, George Jones and Waylon Jennings.

Who do I look up to? Iíll pick two. Willie Nelson is a fantastically talented songwriter, singer, performer and musician. He has FUN playing music and it shows. Loretta Lynn inspires me. When Loretta came on the scene "girl singers" didnít write their own songs but Loretta did! And she spoke her mind too. Songs like "Fist City", "The Pill" and "You Ainít Woman Enough To Take My Man". Loretta is a true pioneer.

Question: What do you think about todayís Country Music versus itís roots and where do you see it going in the future?

Answer: I donít think todayís Country Music is "Country" at all. Itís corporate. Manufactured and formulated to crossover to "a wider audience". I think theyíve blown off their core listeners and canít find their roots.

There are some exceptions. I do like Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Kelly Willis, Emmylou Harris and Alison Krause. Theyíve stayed true to their roots and had to battle to do it.

In the future pop country will die out and the real thing will survive. Artificial things never last but the true, pure things always do. People can spot a fake.

Question: If you had a chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?

Answer: Iíd bring back ownership limits to the radio industry. Around 1993 the Federal Communications Commission deregulated the media. In the past a company could own one AM and one FM radio station per market. Now a single company can own 7 or so broadcast facilities per market and dozens across the country. Instead of one person at each station deciding what songs to play, now you have one or two people at each company making the programming decisions. Thereís no variety anymore. Every station across the US sounds exactly the same.

The major labels get to these few people and can control what gets heard on hundreds of stations. The Indy artists donít have a chance in commercial radio so we have to look to satellite radio, college radio, public radio, internet radio.

Question: As an artist you have so many different things you have to do such as recording, touring, doing interviews etc. What do you like doing the best, whatís your favorite activity?

Answer: Performing is my favorite even more so than writing. It doesnít matter if Iím sick, sad or tired. When I get onstage and the audience is there and I start playing music with my friends I feel GREAT!

Question: How did you get into Country Music ... is there a story behind it?

Answer: The Casualties began as a high energy, roots rock band, as you can hear on our first CD, "dirty halo". In 1996 I was named "Best Country Artist" by OffBeat Magazine. The band couldnít believe it. We thought we were rock. Our manager said, "You think itís easy to sing country because itís easy for you, but country is NOT easy to sing."

As founding members departed I replaced rock guitar with steel guitar, and power chords with fiddle. By 1998ís "Tonkabilly" we were sounding like an alt-country band and still playing in the rock clubs.

Question: Before you became a star, where your friends and family supportive or was it a struggle?

Answer: Theyíve been SO much more than supportive. I wouldnít be doing this if my family hadnít turned me in this direction.

My friends are still supportive. They help me from time to time just to keep me from being overwhelmed. Any successful person does not make it on their own. You have to have support along the way. A team effort.

Question: Has your journey to success been a hard or an easy road?

Answer: The journey continues and itís no path for sissies! Hey, if it were easy everyone would do it.

Question: What drives you? What inspired you to become an artist?

Answer: Music has always been part of me. I really think I need it like sunshine. I had another career and my grandmother said she had always hoped Iíd be a singer. I sang around the house when I was about three years old then I got shy and never sang in front of anyone but I played piano and oboe.

When my grandma died I decided to give singing a try. In 1993 I started singing with a friends band.

Around 1994 my granddad called me and said heíd had a dream that I had written a song and it was a good song. He told me to try to write one. I wrote "Whereís A Jukebox". I began playing guitar soon after so I could continue to write.

Question: What does it take to be a Country Star?

Answer: You have to LOVE country music. If you love it all the hard work and sacrifice is worth it.

Question: Whatís unique about you that differentiates you from other artists?

Answer: Not many people do "Honky-tonk" music. Itís not considered lady-like or sexy so most women donít do it. The Nashville girls want to be beautiful and sing ballads about love. We PLAY! Iím sweating with the band, playing guitar and harmonica and singing songs about drinking, coming home late and hanging out in the honky-tonks. Not very diva-like!

Question: Whatís the best thing about being a star and whatís the hardest thing?

Answer: The best thing is getting to travel and meet wonderful people and see the beautiful, far away places.

The hardest thing is the lack of time. When people come out to see our show theyíve made plans. Theyíve gotten a baby sitter, driven to the show, paid their hard-earned money for a ticket. Then when they come up after the performance to buy a CD or just say hello, I want to have a few moments to shake their hand, look them in the eye and give them some of my attention. I think itís important. When there are a lot of people waiting to see me, I worry that I donít have the time to give that each person deserves.

Question: Whatís your greatest challenge been in the music business?

Answer: Getting it all done. Weíre currently looking for new management but right now Iím do the booking, publicity, promoting to radio and newspapers and shopping the new disc to the record labels. Thereís the website to keep up with and merchandising of tee-shirts and bumper stickers. Iíve been involved in producing the new disc and getting the art/graphics. Iím also searching for funding and thereís touring and rehearsing with the band. This leaves no time for writing new songs and practicing my guitar, mandolin, harmonica and dobro. I really want to play more dobro and mandolin on stage but Iím not good enough yet.

Question: What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which youíre proud of?

Answer: The thing Iím the most proud of is that these incredibly talented musicians want to play music with me. Iím truly honored to share the stage with these folks.

Highlights include: opening for Loretta Lynn. What a legend! Weíve done shows with many great artists but this was the highmark for me.

Weíve been named "Best Country Artist" by OffBeat magazine six times.

Weíve been invited to play the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival nine times.

Question: Whoís your biggest critic, yourself or others?

Answer: Definitely me. I get frustrated that Iím not as good of a player as Iíd like to be. And also my appearance. No matter how good of a hair day Iím having, three songs into the set and I look like a honky-tonk party doll.

Question: When you get time off, how do you like to relax?

Answer: Sleep! I also like to walk, rent videos and sit on the couch with my dog Bob. And, of course, I like to go out and hear live music (and have a glass of wine).

Question: Is there anything in your life that you would change if you could?

Answer: I would have started singing ten years earlier.

Question: What private hopes and desires do you have?

Answer: Iíd like to be like Johnny Cash and keep singing and recording until the very end and earn the respect of music lovers.

Question: Whatís the biggest disappointment in your life been?

Answer: That I havenít been able to keep "the Casualties" on the road more. We use our CD sales to pay for touring costs like gas, hotels, meals and even to pay the band members. When people copy our CDs it takes money away from us that we need to stay out there. Weíve had to cut back on the number of band members we can bring out on the road. Also, we have to stay closer to home and donít travel as often as we used to. The pirating of discs has really hurt artists at my level.

Question: Many European fans travel to Nashville for Fan Fair because of the opportunity to see so many of their favorite stars at the same time. Will you be participating and how will the fans be able to find you?

Answer: No I wonít be participating this year because Iíll be in the midst of our European tour. You can find me on my website: www.KimCarson.com for dates this summer.

Question: When youíre on tour, do you have time to play tourist?

Answer: We make time to play tourist. Ryan Donohue (bass) and I like to hike. Iím loving the Black Forrest and Switzerland! Weíve also been know to hit an Ice House or two. We want to make a trip to Italy and Spain this year. Weíve never been there.

Question: Can your European fans look forward to seeing you in concert in the future?

Answer: Yes. Weíre in Germany/Switzerland/Austria from May 3 through August 3. Weíre trying to put together some dates during this time in the U.K. and France. Look for updates on our website: www.KimCarson.com 

Question: Many music fans today get their information about artists via the internet. Do you have your own website and what information can the fans find out about you on the internet?

Answer: Our website is being updated at www.KimCarson.com with information on tourdates, bio, photos and a sample of our music. Fans can also purchase our CDs from the site. European fans can order our disc from Glitterhouse at www.glitterhouse.com 

Question: What are your plans for the future and how can new fans keep informed about you?

Answer: Iíll release another new CD early next year. Itís my first acoustic disc with Ryan Donohue on contra bass and dobro, Paul Hayes (also from New Orleans) on lead guitar and myself on guitar, harmonica and foot tambourine. Itís titled "The German Sessions" and was recorded in Beverengen at "Out-o-Space Strictly Analog" studio by Tom Spotter.

Question: Whatís the best compliment a fan has ever given you?

Answer: Weíve gotten this several times. "I donít like Country music but I really like yaíll." I tell Ďem weíre not Country, weíre honky-tonk.

Question: Whatís your favorite song that you didnít record and why?

Answer: My favorite song that Iíve written that I didnít record is called "Thereís Always Something." I havenít recorded it because itís so personal. Also itís not very honky-tonk sounding. Itís kind of minor key, blues. Maybe "She Goes Bang" will record it and make me a lot of money.

My favorite song that I didnít write is "Sunday Morning Coming Down". Kris Kristofferson wrote it, Johnny Cash sang it. Itís perfect!

Question: What message would you like to send to your European fans?

Answer: We look forward to coming back and performing for you again this summer. Each time we come and stay longer and longer. Please come say hello if you are at our concerts. Iím trying to learn Deutsch. Thank you for liking our music.

Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )

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