Carter Lansing’s contributions to the Valley’s music scene are plentiful. In addition to his role as singer-songwriter of country rock outfit Acoustic Kitty Project, Carter is one of the region’s most prominent music volunteers and minds. We are honored to have him join us for the First Annual Lehigh Valley Underground Winter Jamboree, taking place Friday, February 10 at American Spirits Roadhouse.
Before that all goes down, Carter was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Let’s start with the basics, for those who aren’t aware, and talk about the early influences that shaped you as a musician.
I was raised on 70’s FM radio. Everything from Dolly Parton to Kiss was playing in my house. My maternal grandfather was a minister with a huge baritone voice, my aunt played piano and accordion, and I think I was just always immersed in music as long as I can remember. It took me until my 20’s to really find my own groove. I was fortunate to grow up when I did. I got to enjoy the birth of rap/hip-hop, and was a huge fan of the genre from the first time I heard Run DMC. I grew up with Disco, Country, Punk, Prog. It was really a rich palette to draw from.
For more than a quarter century, those influences have been the foundation of your songwriting, with lyrics that reflect the relationships of everyday people. How much of your material is inspired by your own life, versus the world around you?
I am a confessional writer. I wish I could tell stories like Harry Chapin or James McMurtry. But, I filter everything through my own experience. I have songs that may borrow from different times in my life or combine my perspective on events with others. But, it’s like acting. I need at least a seed of my own true emotions in a song in order for me to believe it enough to sing it. The same applies to the covers I choose. I have to feel it.
These songs are at the forefront of your band, Acoustic Kitty Project. How did you bring these guys together, and how have they brought additional life to your music?
My drummer Bill Matlack has been a friend of mine for a few years. He came out to see me playing solo one night at Pearly’s and told me I should record my material. He introduced me to Mike Carr, who runs Holland Studios and is a killer guitar player. I went in the studio, put down some bass and guitar tracks, then brought Bill in to play drums. A few months before that, I happened to run into Dan DeChellis at Connexions Gallery and we were talking about recording. Turns out he was playing on a record for a mutual friend and was looking to do some more of that kind of thing. So, I called him in to play on one or two tunes, and he stayed for the whole thing. After the record came out, Bill, Mike and Dan asked me if we were going to go out and play this stuff live. We needed a bass player. Marty Chamberlain was probably the most serendipitous thing that happened to me. We met through mutual friends and he happened to be a bass player. It was really that easy. I have never auditioned a single person for this band. It just worked.
Rumor has it that you’re working on some new material right now. What can we expect, and when?
I’m really excited about the new material. We’ve been playing a few of the tunes for a couple years in our live shows and my solo performances. But. I wrote another half-dozen brand new songs that the band hasn’t really heard before. While I’m staying in my typical voice and the country/rock genre, there is a bit more straight-ahead rock influence. I don’t have a working title for the album yet., but rehearsals have started and it will be happening whether I’m ready for it or not. We are targeting a spring release.
It’s been a few years since you released your previous record, “’Shine,” in 2013. How has the group evolved since then?
We get better every time we play together. But, it’s tough to fit a five-piece band into every venue that we’d like to play. So, we have begun working in different configurations – duo/trio/quartet – to accommodate different venues. I’m also bringing in some new blood, on occasion. One major problem with having such talented players in my band is that they are in high demand. They all play in different projects. So, I have to bring in some hired guns from time to time.
It’s fair to note that you’re regarded as a super music volunteer around the Valley, booking acts for Easton festivals including Heritage Day and Bacon Fest. Tell us about the work that goes into those events.
Booking festivals was never really a goal or dream. It was something I fell into. Heritage Day was in a bind one year and I pitched in, and have been on the board for a few years now. Bacon Fest was a similar situation. I love being able to get the local talent in front of big crowds, so everyone can see why I get so positively giddy over the Lehigh Valley music scene. I gather bands from the recommendations of friends in the scene, I get emails from regional acts and local folks I’ve never heard before. I host an open mic at Pearly Baker’s on the first Thursday of every month, so I get to meet all manner of musicians. This gives me a roster of bands to pull from. Want a ska band? I know three. Looking for acoustic cover tunes? How many slots do you need to fill?
But honestly, nothing supports local music like being able to hand cash or check to a musician. Making sure these acts are being treated with respect and compensated fairly is my biggest point of pride, and the main motivation for the hours I spend on these festivals.
How does being on the promoter end of those events give you a different perspective on the live music scene?
First, it makes me appreciate the business end of things a lot more. It can cause friction with club owners and other bookers, because I kind of know when they’re bullshitting me. And with bands, it gets frustrating to see really talented bands that are just unprofessional. When you see crappy press kits or emails with spelling errors and a dead link to YouTube, it kind of turns you off. No matter how good the music is, or how great the venue, you have to act like a professional (even if you have to fake it sometimes). Take some pride in what you do and stop phoning in the hard work. It raises the bar and makes everyone else step up their game, too.
Speaking of live events, you’re kind enough to join us for the First Annual Lehigh Valley Underground Winter Jamboree on Friday, February 10, where you’ll be playing an acoustic set. Are you excited yet?
I’ve been excited for this event since before you asked me to play!
What can we expect to hear that night?
Certainly a few tunes from “’Shine,” some selections from the upcoming album, and maybe a select cover or two. I’m notorious for not planning my set lists until the very last minute. So, I’m just as curious to find out.
That about does it! Tell us where we can learn more about you and AKP online.
AcousticKittyProject.com is the Universal Hub for all things AKP. But, you can also go to all the major social media thing-a-ma-jigs and do a /acoustickittyproject and you’ll find something, I’m sure.
Except Twitter. I don’t tweet.
See Carter play alongside Julia Sommer, Frycki, Pentley & The Lucid Dreamers, Copper Fields, and Dear Anna at our First Annual Winter Jamboree. Get your tickets at this link!