Carter Makes a Comeback: An Interview with Aaron, performing at The Westcott Theater on February 24th.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and singer/actor Aaron Carters gets straight on the phone with Morgan and Gauraa from UpstateLIVE after his rehearsal in New York City to discuss his new album and tour, The After Party. He might be dripping a sweat, but he claims there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing. 

Aaron Carter: What’s up guys? Girls? 

Mary Morgan Craig: It’s so nice to get the chance to talk with you. 

Gauraa Shekhar: Yeah, finally!

MMC: We really appreciate it. 

AC: Sorry if I’m a little quiet right now, I just got out of rehearsal so I’m like really tired right now…

MMC: No problem! Um, okay, so you’re currently working on a new studio album and you’re busy with an upcoming play on Broadway, “The Fantasticks”, and now you’re also going on tour. How do you manage everything? 

AC: Oh well, I just go with the flow, I mean, I don’t really try to manage anything really, I just kind of do what I’ve got to do, you know? I love performing so much that, you know, anything I can get to perform I’m just, I’m going to do it. 

MMC: Yeah.

 AC: It’s not really something that’s like an inconvenience, you know, I mean, but… I mean logistically what it comes down to is I have a manager, you know that. It helps keep my life simple and, you know, takes care of all the business, so I can, you know, have fun and perform. 

GS: Yeah, that’s the spirit. Um, you’re working on a new album. How is that going for you? Could you tell us a little bit more about it?

AC: Oh yeah! I’m kind of taking it a little more, I mean, I’m taking it a lot more seriously this time around. Um, you know, I’ve been growing up so, it feels kind of hard for me to pick a sound that I really like, want to stick with, so um, I think there are quite a few songs that other people produced and wrote for my album. It’s going to be like a dance sound. The kind of music that all my fans grew up with, you know.

GS: Sounds exciting!

MMC: Yeah we’re excited!

MMC: Yeah totally. Do you think you’re going to put any EDM influences into it?

AC: Sorry?

MMC: Um, any EDM influences in the new album? Like electronic dance music? 

AC: I mean, there will be a little bit, but I’ll do little hybrids with my dancers like hip hop, but like pop music.

GS: Yeah, sounds good! What inspired the title of your tour, “The After Party”? 

AC: I was just sitting there one day, and it just came to me that the theme for the next album should be, “The After Party”. And I came up with it because, you know, “Aaron’s Party” was a huge success and uh, literally the beginning of my career, you know, was “Aaron’s Party”. I wanted to embrace that, you know, I love all the songs that I’ve got.

GS: So do we!

AC: Yeah, I’ve performed them and toured them and toured them all around the world and, you know, thousands of times I’ve performed the songs, and I was like, it would be cool to bring them back. 

MMC: That’s really cool, I’m glad you’re embracing that! I thought it was really clever. 

AC: Why thank you.

MMC: A lot of people are really excited to see you on tour again. What made you decide to tour this year? 

AC: Well, uh, it’s just been so long and, I mean, I guess after doing Broadway and so many consistent shows over and over and over, I just felt like my endurance, my, you know, my performance had just gotten a lot better and so has my craft. So it was nice to get out there and I can’t even tell you guys how happy I am, you know, that I get to be able to go back out on tour and do what I love, you know?  You know, it’s really cool. 

MMC: That’s awesome. What was your Broadway experience like, playing Matt the Boy and all? 

AC: Oh it’s been amazing! It’s been exhausting and exhilarating, ha. I don’t know I have all kinds of feelings about it. It’s hard work! It’s hard work. I mean,  I did “Seussical the Musical” when I was 15 years old for 6 months and you know, it was tough! It was really tough. And I remembered it. And out of all the tours and things I did, you know, it was probably the hardest thing I ever did. You know, the experience, I mean, I learned more from the actors that I’ve worked with, you know, I’m a sponge and I kind of absorb what everybody does. It’s tough, but it’s been good. I like it, but it’s tough. I like feeling exhausted like I am now. 

MMC: We want to know what the typical day in the life of Aaron Carter is. 

AC: Well, there’s no typical day per se, I mean it varies. I mean, I wake up and reach out to my phone and get right on twitter to talk to my fans immediately. 

MMC: That’s great!

AC: Yeah, that’s pretty much what I do. I go get ready to perform and I go chat up with my dancers and those people who are opening up for me. It’s kind of like a party. We just have a lot of fun!

GS: Well, speaking of dancers, we saw that you tweeted yesterday: “By the way, if you recognize some of my dancers from ABDC, that’s because they were on the show”. Are these back-up dancers touring with you?

AC: Yes! They were in The Funkadelics. They’re actually brothers, Nico Rich and Trey Rich. They bring a lot to the table and they challenge each other. They’re really amazing. 

MMC: What is the weirdest fan experience you’ve ever had?

AC: Oooooh! Well, I’ve had a fan climb up, like, thirty balconies once. I was actually started throwing paper airplanes with my autograph on them to the crowd of three thousand girls in the parking lot. And then this one girl was just out of her mind, I guess she really wanted an autograph so she really climbed thirty flight of stairs. In the end, she finally made it and ran up to me and started squealing, “Oh my god, It’s Aaron Carter!”.

MMC: Wow! Yeah, I mean, you were definitely my first crush so I can totally relate. I’m sure you get that all the time, though. I was totally one of those girls! Ha, not chasing-you-crazy, though, so don’t get creeped out!

AC: Well, I like hearing that!

GS: Okay, well, a lot of people still look at you as if you’re still that kid who kissed Lizzie McGuire under the mistletoe. What has it been like trying to grow out of that image?

AC: Well, a few million people probably know me from that, but I don’t know, I’m proud of everything I’ve done. People still come up to me today, and recognize me from all the different things that I have done. It does kind of annoy me to hear that though cos she’s my ex-girlfriend, you know; she was kind of my first love so it pulls on my heartstrings a little bit but that’s about it. 

MMC: We interviewed your opening act, singer-songwriter Justin Levinson. What do you think of his music?

AC: I actually haven’t had a chance to check him out as yet. But I’m going to, so good call. 

GS: Oh, alright. Well, he’s great. So, what was the last record you bought?

AC: Um, I don’t know. I haven’t actually bought a record in a year to be honest! I think it’s probably Aaron’s Party!

MMC: It seems like you’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of scrutiny from the media since such a young age. Obviously, you’ve handled it so well. We were just wondering what was it like growing up under the public eye?

AC: I kind of just, like, bottle my life. I try not to immerse myself in all of this stuff, you know. I just try to be the person that I am and that kind of helps me stay sane. 

GS: Your on stage routine is pretty demanding. How do you manage to stay fit on tour?

AC: I don’t know, I just do my performance routine. I try to eat as much as I can and rehearse. That’s the only way to stay fit, really.

Morgan: So what’s your favorite song to perform?

AC: Right now, it’s probably “Leave it Up to Me”. 

MMC: Cool!

GS: You’re starting off your tour on the East Coast this time around. But what’s your favorite place to tour otherwise?

AC: Um, that would be Malaysia, South America, and the Philippines. They have a great crowd. 

GS: Oh, sweet. You should definitely hit up Indonesia sometime also. I’m from there so I know they have a dedicated following. Really great energy, really.

AC: Oh, really? Will do. I mean, my whole goal with this tour really is to tour the whole year and kind of introduce the fans to my new music. 

GS: Sounds like a plan!

MMC: So, do you have a Valentine this year?

AC: Sadly, no!

GS: Aw, well, you have a bunch of fans regardless so it’s not half as bad for you I’m sure!

AC: I mean it’s hard to have one Valentine, you know. I have multiple, ha!

GS: Who’s your favorite artist right now and why?

AC: Bruno Mars. I love him! Great performance at The Grammys. Also, he’s just an incredible singer. 

GS: Great choice!

MMC: Okay, we’re going to do a Valentine’s day rapid fire, if you’re down. We’re going to say a word and then you have to say the first word that comes to your mind. 

AC: Okay!

MMC: Okay, so the first word is Marvin Gaye. 

AC: Sexual. 

GS: Alright, next word is candy. 

AC: Lollipop.

MMC: Candlelight.

AC: Romance. 

GS: Taylor Swift.

AC: Red. 

MMC: True Love. 

AC: Um, no.

GS: Beiber. 

AC: Carter. 

MMC: Long distance.

AC: Relationships.

GS: Love song. 

AC: Bump and Grind. 

MMC: Well, thanks for your time! Can’t wait to see you live at The Westcott Theater on the 24th of February!

 Don’t forget to catch Aaron perform on Sunday, February the 24th at The Westcott Theater. 

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Interview with singer-songwriter Jamie Kent, playing The Westcott Theater on February 23rd

It’s a Sunday afternoon and while every other touring artist may take the seventh day off to catch some forty winks, workaholic Jamie Kent takes the time out to interview with Morgan and Gauraa from UpstateLIVE. It’s no surprise, though; he does include singer-songwriter, concert promoter, entrepreneur, and mischief maker in his job description!

Mary Morgan Craig: Okay so before we get down to business can you tell us about this “stint” you had in a Mariachi band?

Jamie Kent: Ha ha, okay so I was in high school and there was a battle of the bands and a group of friends and I formed a mariachi band called Suko Gringo and we won the crowd award for it.

MMC: Thats awesome. Ha, the coolest kids in school I’m sure.

JK: Yeah, it was an experience.

Gauraa Shekhar: So what was it like growing up in Northampton, Massachusetts?

JK: Northampton is a really awesome town. It no doubt influenced my goals in the beginning being musician. Its a big music town I pretty much spent all my money growing up going to concerts. and when graduated high school I knew I was going to do music. I was either going to go to Berklee in Boston or Babson in Boston to either do music or music business. I did an undergraduate program for music business but continued to do music on the side at Conservatory.

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MMC: So why did you choose to apply to ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers)?

JK: Well, when you’re first starting out you kind of take the advice of people you look up to and my producer at the time had a big music library that he would sell to radio stations and film and TV. He was both an ASCAP and BMI member and he said both are tough to deal with but I get paid more from ASCAP. So I was like “Oh Cool!” and started to figure out why it was better to go with ASCAP and what’s been really great with them for me personally is they have some really great programs to develop songwriters which a lot of others don’t. Last year I got into this songwriting program out in L.A. working with some really crazy people, (including) the dude who wrote Adele’s “Someone Like You” and Keith Urban and Lee Ann Rhymes’s last two records. So, they really network well and help you connect with other great songwriters that help take it to the next level.

GS: So what is it like writing music solo compared to writing with the band or in workshops?

JK: Its definitely different. It’s got its benefits and setbacks. Solo you can really do everything that you want to do which is awesome but for me sometimes I will lose focus and get distracted by Facebook or whatever and then it’ll take me a few days to write a song whereas when I’m writing with other people and we’re in a room together, we will focus for a few hours until the song is written. You do lose control over some of the things you want and you have to make some compromises but it is a lot more productive.

GS: Kind of keeping each other on track.

JK: Yeah, exactly! And also about challenging each other. Sometimes when you’re writing by yourself you can settle but when you’re with other people they can push you and you’re like “Oh yeah, it could be better” but you don’t think of that until you’re with someone else.

MMC: We’ve heard you have a tireless work ethic but touring 200 days is a lot. What was that like?

JK: You know, I love being on the road fundamentally but I also really believe that the live show is the most important aspect to being a musician these days and important of course in order to make money and survive since anyone with a laptop and a Myspace account can be a musician these days which is cool but that also means there’s an overwhelming amount of people so if you want to distinguish yourself and take it to the top your show has to be incredible. And ya I just love playing. The more I play the better I get.

MMC: Practice makes perfect.

JK: Yeah, exactly and you know like in Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers he talks about putting in 10,000 hours into something you’re going to know it better than everyone else and do it better.

GS: If you could pick one thing you like the most about touring what would that be?

JK: Thats a good question. I love the stories that come out of it. I’m a big fan of at my shows of weaving stories into my shows and making that part of it and that does inspire songs a lot. That is where a lot of stories come from: being on tour and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and having something interesting come out of it. Often it involves like a random character that you meet in Rock Island, Illinois or wherever you might be but there’s nothing that you could ever experience by just sitting at home in the studio.

MMC: You’ve got a campaign going for your next record. You must have a great fan base, you’ve got a very successful campaign going and it looks like they’re even sponsoring your next record. How do you maintain such a strong connection with your fans?

JK: Well I think that the way I’ve been able to do it really well is because of this thing I started couple of years ago called The Collective. Its a community of my most loyal fans and in return for their contributions they get free tickets to shows, free music, free merch and they can log into a specific program where I post exclusive content and ask them questions. So like The Collective voted on my album artwork for the last two albums and like where they think we should tour, what the first radio single should be, that kind of stuff and that’s kind of kept people really involved in like my career and vice versa. I think that that’s been really helpful and since the beginning I wasn’t sure that people would continue to reinvest in the next project or the next album that kind of thing but they really have which has been awesome and they’ve spread the word to friends and it has really kind help create that loyalty.

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MMC: That’s great. I think we’ll start seeing a lot more of that kind of fan base building.

JK: Yeah, I think so. I launched it before Kickstarter even came out and then when Kickstarter came out I was like oh that will sort of become like what The Collective is on a bigger scale. Whats sort of surprising that they haven’t done yet is kind of create the community. Kickstarter is just like a project-to-project kind of thing, where they help you  make that one record and then that’s it and then hopefully they’ll go to Facebook or sign up for your email list or something like that but The Collective is about a long term community to create loyal fans. So even like we’re doing the Indie GoGo campaign for the next record but everyone who contributes gets a part in the collective so we can keep it evolved for the long term.

GS: When you first jammed with The Options was it a “love at first jam” kind of a thing or did it take some time? How did you know they were right for you?

JK: Its been an interesting journey with the options. Looking at The Options as they are now are the solidified Options. My bass player and drummer, Dan and Rhees have been with me really since the beginning. Rhees for almost 3 years and Dan for like 2 and a half years. And then our keyboard, accordian and electric guitar player Killian and Zach. They’ve been with us for about 6 months. So they are the newer Options. Rhees I met when I was first looking to form a band. He was playing with this other girl in the area who actually wanted to be on The Voice and then they had a falling out. I met him at a mutual friends party right as they were falling out and we just hit it off. He was surprised to have a band leader who treated him well and shared the money and shared everything with him. Then Dan came on shortly after through the Northampton music scene we kind of saw him and brought him on and then we had a different keyboard piano player for a while which was he was incredibly talented but we had kind of a lesson learned that personality goes a long way in a band. It’s about both talent and personality and if personality goes askew then things can not be the greatest on the road. So we made some changes and brought on a few new members who were both really awesome people and killer musicians and its been the best setup we’ve ever had and I think at shows we displace that energy as well.

GS: Cool, yeah we can definitely hear it in your sound.

JK: Cool! That’s the goal. Yeah, when you’re on the road you really want to be with people who you like and connect with. It really comes through in your music. If there’s bad energy there that will come through as well.

MMC: Your last album Navigation had a fresh Americana twang to it. What can we expect from your new, evolved sound?

JK: Its sort of taking that and pushing it. The idea behind the record is Brian Eno producing Bruce Springsteen. That’s sort of the vibe we’re gonna go for. We’ve got a couple chops that we’re pretty excited for so far. Its gonna be really kind of roots rock vibe, really song focused.

GS: Definitely like the sound of that.

MMC: As you grow as an artist, do you feel as if your songwriting process has evolved?

JK: Yeah yeah I really do. When I began I was interested in song writing and when I wrote my first one I was like wow this is sounding really cool, boom done. But I’ve become a lot more picky in my songwriting now. I want every lyric to kick ass and if it doesn’t, I won’t release it.

GS: It’s really cool that you have a lot of different work experiences under your belt, you were reviewing craft breweries for Two Foot Media nearly five years ago…was that something fun you just decided to do?

JK: Well I went to Babson in Boston. The focus is on entrepreneurship there and I kind of learned just a different way of viewing the world. Entrepreneurship allows you to turn what you love into a career or business which is fundamentally what I’m doing with music and I’ve always had a big love for Microbrew and in college a friend of mine and I decided we wanted to go on a road trip across the U.S. and sample different brews and so we convinced the magazine to hire us and we reviewed all the breweries across country and put together article on them. If you love something you can always figure out a way to make money doing it.

GS: Well we couldn’t help but notice that you’re known as a “mischief maker”. Where did that title come from? What mischief have you been making?

JK: Ha, yeah I’ve always been a mischief maker. That was kind of coined this one time when I dressed up in a costume and planted my first CD in 172 Starbucks stores in Manhattan. The video for Mischief Man films all that. So that’s where it came from and I’m always causing little bits of mischief on the road and thinking of new ways to promote shows. For example we’ll go into like the nearest restaurant and start playing with a sign that says we’re playing tonight and then just take off. Usually we confuse people and also attract some attention. We are also playing for SXSW and we have an RV that we’re gonna drive around and party in and do flash concerts.

MMC: Very cool. Sounds like fun. Do you miss your family while you’re on tour though?

JK: Definitely. But I’ve sort of gotten used to it. I’m really good up until three weeks. At three weeks I start to get a little homesick. I love life on the road but you do miss home sometimes. Northampton is a great home to come back to as well. When I’m out on the road I’m always looking for a place that’s cooler than Northhampton and I haven’t found too many.

GS: So what’s it like opening for The Wood Brothers?

JK: Yeah I mean they’re fuckin’ awesome. They’re so good. And they’re really good guys too. Just unbelievably talented as I’m sure you know but also equally as nice. Rhees has worshipped Chris Wood since he was growing up so the first time they met Rhees was really nervous but they totally ended up hitting it off and Chris turns Rhees on to they’re great players and they push us both to be better players.

MMC: Who is your favorite contemporary artist?

JK: I’m really liking Milo Green, Churchill, and First Aid Kit are like the three bands that are getting a lot of iPod time with me right now. I’m sort of on this like female male singer combo thing. But i’m always bumping like Ray Lamontagne.

GS: Is there any advice you can offer young musicians about the industry?

JK: Yeah I would say if you want to be a musician you have to be willing to work your ass off. Its so competitive and the market is so flooded with musicians you really have to work your ass off and want it  to get yourself out there. Otherwise I would say just put yourself out there like just do it. A lot of people ask me “How do I book shows?” How do I play shows?” and I always tell them really you just have to do it. Get out there, go to the venue, talk to people. The only way anythings going to happen is if you just take action and do it.

Make sure to catch Jamie Kent open for The Wood Brothers on Saturday, the 23rd of February at The Westcott Theater!

Turkuaz, Conehead Buddha and The Monk headline The Westcott Theater on February 28th

Thursday February 28th will be a triple-threat show at The Westcott Theater featuring TurkuazConehead Buddha and The Monk. Turkuaz is a 10-piece band with a crazy stage show and has moved from opening for Kung Fu this past fall to headlining in their own right a few short months later.

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Turkuaz’s stage show combines influences from Sly and the Family Stone to Talking Heads into an explosive auditory and visual circus, causing a full-frontal assault on the senses. The group has played multiple residencies at NYC’s Brooklyn Bowl, festivals including Bear Creek, Mountain Jam, Strangecreek, Equifunk and Wormtown, among others, and has toured nationally. Turkuaz on Facebook and check out their music here.

Conehead Buddha started out in Albany in the early 90s and was one of the early Jambands to come out of the Capital District. They return to play shows every so often, so they are not to be missed! The Monk was spawned out of a fusion of genres found all over the world and all across the musical spectrum. They promise to bring infectious rhythms to make you move, blazing guitar and sax to make you scream and monster melodies to make you sing. Above all, The Monk will bring the Funk, that much is guaranteed.

Doors open at 7, with The Monk and Conehead Buddha taking the stage at 7:30pm and 9pm, respectively. Turkuaz goes at 10pm. Tickets are $12 at the door, $10 online here. This is an all ages show.