September 24, 2009

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Breaking through the tech
Todd Carey aims for a real connection
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com

It’s a sad fact of modern life that often the tools that make certain things easier make others impossible. That’s the conundrum Todd Carey explores in a new song about the ways cutting-edge communication doesn’t cut it. An emoticon isn’t a real smile, it’s just typing. Sometimes, only the human touch will do:

“No more phone calls, no more texts
No more IM, I don’t want to guess
I need you in the flesh
Not on Facebook
Not online
Camera phones won’t do this time
It’s true — I gotta be next to you.”
—“Gotta Be Next To You,” Todd Carey.

Carey spoke on the phone from his home town of Chicago as he prepared for an eastern tour that stops at Daniel Webster College in Nashua on Saturday, Sept. 26. “Gotta Be Next To You” debuted at Carey’s spring shows and recently began streaming online. It taps into audience emotions in a big way, says the singer-songwriter.

“I did a concert tour in the spring and I always led with that song because it hit people so hard. Everyone would come up after the show and go, ‘Wow, the Facebook song!’” They’d share their tales of boyfriends at far-away colleges, and other challenges of long-distance relationships.

“People were writing to me on Twitter that they were listening to it together on the phone,” Carey said, preferring not to dwell on the irony of such an exchange. “I thought that was so cool, it actually means something.”

Carey’s music has been compared to that of John Mayer (“a nice neighborhood to be in,” he told one writer) and Jason Mraz. He worked with Mraz in an Internet-based songwriting group called “The Challenge,” which also included Ari Hest and Bob Schneider.

“You get a lot of your best material by writing a lot,” he said of the group. “The idea … was to write more.” Start with a word or phrase, put it in a song, record it and send it around — keep busy. Carey didn’t end up releasing anything he wrote in the group. But he says the experience made him more comfortable with “writing anywhere … it made the process less sacred, but in a good way.”

“Gotta Be Next To You” is one of four tracks Carey recorded for a new EP with noted producer Mikal Blue, who worked with Colbie Caillat on both her smash debut album Coco and her latest, Breakthrough.

“That project was so fresh and inspiring,” he said, adding that Blue shared his penchant for writing in the studio. “We create the vibe, the stencil of the song and sew it in as you go. That’s the way Mikal worked. So we’d record some guitar, add drums, bass … we played everything.”

Carey found this approach much different than the one he took for 2007’s Watching Waiting, when everything was ready ahead of time. “In the past, and this is a totally cool way to make music, we’d get a band in the room and record.”

Home studio equipment and computer programs like ProTools facilitate a more organic recording experience, Carey said. “The end result [is] linked in with the writing process. As you’re coming up with it, it’s being put down on tape, and that totally creates this freshness that you cannot re-do.”

At Daniel Webster College, a percussionist playing the cajón, a box-shaped Afro-Peruvian hand drum, will join Carey, who says he expects a “stripped-down, student-center-type vibe” at the show.


Todd Carey
When: Saturday, Sept. 26, at noon
Where: Collins Auditorium, Daniel Webster College, 20 University Drive, Nashua
Tickets: Free
Todd Carey also plays New England College in Henniker on Dec. 1