An interview with Nathaniel Carroll

Indie pop musician Nathaniel Carroll performs in Hurricane, Utah /, Matthew MontgomeryNathaniel Carroll, indie pop pianist, guitarist, and vocalist, is preparing a new album for release at some point in the future. While awaiting the release, take a listen to two tracks, “You’ll Make a Killing” and “A Lie Worth Living,” which he provided for your listening. The tracks, among his most musically mature and best-recorded, feature Carroll’s signature genuine, heartfelt songwriting. previously conducted an interview with Nathaniel Carroll in October, 2005. His music can be purchased at his web site.

Nathaniel Carroll — “You’ll Make a Killing” | download

Nathaniel Carroll — “A Lie Worth Living” | download

What’s the status on your new album?

Slow and steady wins the race.  I’d be vain if I told you that I planned on it taking over two years to record my new album, as if I’ve been carefully crafting some masterpiece in my secret underground lair.  In actuality, this album is one of many flaming chainsaws in my juggling routine.  I have the skeleton tracks (drums, piano or guitar, vocals) recorded for 10 songs, and I have 2 songs that are “good enough.”  I’ve enclosed them in this electronic correspondence for your leaking pleasure.  If track lists mean anything to anyone these days, here’s one that looks cool in my head:

1.   Married to the Sea
2.   She Walks Alone
3.   Obvious
4.   Broken Body
5.   You’ll Make a Killing
6.   A Lie Worth Living
7.   Growing Up, Growing Out
8.   Scene Kids (Have you Seen Enough?)
9.   Rx
10.  My Father’s Son
11. The Sea Married Me

Don’t hold me to that.  Don’t hold me to anything!  I want to finish these jams by the end of February or March, but my studio moved away.  I recorded “You’ll Make a Killing” with Jeremy Larson (, and it’s close to being done.  We had a lot of friends come sing gang vocals in the middle.  From the way things are shaping up, it’s turning out to be more of a rock record than the first album.  That should be fun, right?

Nathaniel Carroll explores Zion National Park, near Springdale, Utah /, Matthew MontgomeryWhat’s the geekiest thing you’ve done on tour?

I flew to New York once to play a bunch of songs for a girl with whom I was temporarily smitten.  Instead, an ex-girlfriend from Missouri showed up at the club during my set and totally freaked me out.  Afterward, the ex claimed “I was upstairs at the bar and heard your voice, so I followed it down here!  What are the odds?!”  I’d say about 100%, since it was apparent she showed up just to antagonize me.  Finally, three hours after my set, the girl arrived at the show (thanks to her boyfriend).  In hind sight, it was a pretty geeky thing to do.  I’ll make it into a teen romance comedy movie someday.

I also played a show in a tiny pizza parlor in Baltimore in exchange for the experience of making my own New York style pizza.. in the middle of Maryland.  I was elated.

I also cut kids’ hair a lot on tour.  It’s a fun bonding experience, and it requires a lot of trust.  I think I cut someone’s hair in your kitchen, actually.  Sorry if you found any clippings in your food.

Did you graduate from school yet? If you haven’t, how are your studies? If you have, what are your plans now that you have a degree?

I am currently on a sabbatical from college.  I have about 20 credit hours remaining for a degree in philosophy (another geeky venture), and will be taking classes part-time this coming summer.  I hope to finish in 2009.

To be honest, the moment I decided I didn’t want to go back to school last year, I went to the local library and got my very own library card, and I haven’t stopped reading since.  It was liberating to be in total control of my education.  I love reading, and I love learning even more.  I had hit a wall in college, and was constantly on the fence between jumping through hoops and challenging those holding said hoops.  Since then, I’ve been working full time at a law office doing legal research, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that my mind is geared toward the law.  Good lawyers can be catalysts for change.  People are jaded by the legal system because it is stereotypically insurmountable; to be honest, it’s not that scary, and it is entirely surmountable.  Though I know I will have many projects throughout my life, I can picture myself finishing law school and becoming a voice for people within the system.

The hardest part about the quest for a degree, young souls, is that a degree seems useless if you are already achieving your own goals.  I want to be able to tour the country and play music, and I was able to do that without a degree – without any training – the day I enrolled in college.  The irony is that I became inspired to write music upon entering college, and it was the very thing that stood in the way of my music.  It was thesis and antithesis.  However, having lived life “in the real world” without a college degree, I must admit that it helps you pay the bills while you do the things you love.

Indie pop musician Nathaniel Carroll performs in Hurricane, Utah /, Matthew MontgomeryWhat’s the best book you’ve read lately?

I’m reading a book right now by a neurologist named Oliver Sachs called Musicophilia.  It’s about people who suddenly hear deafening music in their head.  Some experience this due to epileptic seizures.  One New York surgeon was hit by lightening and was overcome with classical piano music, so he bought a piano and is now an accomplished composer.  Upon reading that gem, I contemplated the old kite and key trick Ben Franklin supposedly pulled.  I’m not allowed to fly kites anymore.

Who is your favorite philosopher?

Soren Kierkegaard at the moment.  He’s big on empowerment and self-motivation.  We’re in control of our lives and our response to fear and disaster.  We must not passively bounce from problem to problem, but “nip it in the bud,” to quote my second-favorite philosopher, Barney Fife.

What do you think is the nature of reality?

Dialogue… or maybe nature.  But probably dialogue.  Communication seems to be the source of great elation and even greater distress.  The state of affairs would be much better if everyone considered alternative ideologies before dispatching violence and absolutism upon those who are different.

Is time travel something you consider a possibility? If you could somehow travel across time without effecting change, where and when would you go?

My Delorean is on the fritz, so I have no current plans to transcend space or time.  I’m not sure I would go here or there, Matt.  My life is pretty adventurous as it is, and I don’t want to miss out on anything.  I don’t want to know what is going to happen, because when I came back, I would live in fear that my decisions were thereafter based on

How have your studies impacted your life? Do you find yourself in new quandaries as a result?

Studies are everything.  Now my true geek is really showing.  I frequent a certain chain bookstore (for anonymity’s sake, we’ll call it “Narnes & Boble”), and each time I visit I feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge available in those books.  I want to learn everything.  I want to design green buildings, write books (working on one right now, but I’m keeping the details under wraps for now), travel the world, release this damned record, become a lawyer, make movies, and have some kids.  I’m going to do it, too.

How do you think music affects society? Is it a result of societal influence, or is society influenced by it?

Music doesn’t affect society as a whole the way Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” or, I don’t know, “Feed the World” does.  I think music is highly personal.  For my most difficult quandaries, it seems I have to write a song and sit on it for months before I learn the lesson contained within it.  I don’t know that there is one song that can unite the world for the sake of justice or peace.  I think NPR is the answer.  I listen exclusively to National Public Radio to get inspired.  I have enough music pumping through my brain that I rarely “pump up the jam.”  I do think music affects individuals of society greatly, though.  Everyone should go listen to Pet Sounds.  The reverberation of the french horn in “God Only Knows” can make anyone weep.  It has more depth and soul than most of us can ever know.  Seriously.  It’s the best thing you’ll ever hear.

I don’t know if I wish music was more or less influential than it already is.  There is a lot of violent music out there that celebrates hedonism, racism, and sexism.  The songs I’ve written for the new album are the kind of songs I want to hear other people sing.  I want to put people on the philosophical and spiritual fence.  I like singing about the anxiety of being caught in the middle, of having to make a decision one way or the other.  Ambivalence is what makes the world go round.

Matthew Montgomery, editor in chief, interviewed Nathaniel Carroll via e-mail.

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