Singer-songwriter Carlin Tripp has been making a name for himself in the local music scene of New England. He recently released his major debut album Back to the Soil on PB and Jay Records which was the result of about two-and-a-half year’s worth of work and about eight months of songwriting. The songs on this album were inspired by Tripp’s travels across the country where he spent the majority of his time playing the acoustic guitar and writing songs. When he eventually recorded the album, each track was produced to the tone of the acoustic guitar, creating a vibe in the vein of Neil Young or Tom Petty’s Americana rock and roll albums. He is currently supporting the album with several tour dates, including an opening slot for guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist Simon Fitzpatrick (both of Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy) at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass., on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 at 8 p.m. Since Tripp has a busy schedule, we’re grateful for the time he spent in answering our questions and we’re looking forward to what the future holds for him.
Limelight Magazine (LM): You released your first major album, Back to the Soil, in November. How long did it take you to record this album? Are you pleased with the finished product?
Carlin Tripp (CT): Back to the Soil was the result of about two-and-a-half year’s worth of work and about eight year’s worth of songwriting. And to be totally honest, I didn’t run into the folks I was actually going to record the album with until I had already invested a bunch of time in a different studio and burned through one Kickstarter budget. It was a big decision to scratch that first project and move on with Jay Psaros and PB and Jay Records, but one that I’m glad I made. So, from the end of 2013 and through 2014, we had different sessions at Mojo Studio in Franconia, NH, and at Jay’s studio in Rockland, MA, and that’s when the songs really started to come to life. The album is everything that I hoped it would be; it was recorded with sincerity and without an agenda, totally independently. All the money was raised through crowdfunding and out of pocket. It was great to be able to record it my own way and not have to answer to anyone.
LM: You mentioned on your Facebook page that you tried to “capture something true to the roots of American music” on Back to the Soil. Can you elaborate on this?
CT: I spent the majority of my twenties travelling around the country, driven by a desire to experience as much of the landscape as I possibly could, and to take advantage of the opportunities that came to me. I spent the majority of that time playing the acoustic guitar, writing songs, and working whatever kinds of jobs came my way. For me, the acoustic guitar was a means to travel, a way to meet people, a way to relate to the world and the experiences I was having. So, when we recorded the album, we produced each track to the tone of the acoustic, that being the root of everything. We jammed as a three-piece band. Tony on drums, Jay on bass, and myself on the acoustic guitar and we went from there. I was trying to record the album the way that seemed most natural, without a lot of overdubbing, without too much technology. I wanted to record a good old Americana rock and roll album in the way that Tom Petty, Neil Young or The Band might have done it.
LM: How long does it typically take you to write a song? Can you walk us through your own personal songwriting process?
CT: Songs are tough to predict in my world. I’ve never had much success writing songs by planning it out, sitting down with the intention to write. Most of my songs have been the result of constantly having a guitar in my hands, always searching for new sounds, new ideas to play with. So, the music always comes first for me, I will map out some chord progressions, and then play them over and over again until I am comfortable enough that I can begin to experiment with vocal melodies and song ideas. And even at that point I may have to write a couple of different songs to the same music until it hits just right. When that happens, the song will basically write itself in about a day, but it can take a long time to get to that day. I’m not one to get anxious about when I’m going to write that next song, I try to keep it as enjoyable as possible and not ruin it with a lot of unnecessary pressure or anxiety. If a song doesn’t feel natural to me, I can’t stand to try and play it in front of other people.
LM: The song “Hands of Love” features Hayley Sabella who we’ve previously featured in Limelight. How did this collaboration come about?
CT: I met Hayley shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings when a bunch of musicians were brought together for the One Voice “Dirty Water” recording, a benefit record for the victims. I met a bunch of great people that day, including Jay Psaros, and the three of us hit it off and spent most of the day hanging out. After that, there were some shows in New Bedford and I invited Hayley to come down and play, which she did, and it was awesome. She is an amazing songwriter and performer. At one of these shows I introduced “Hands of Love” to her, having had the idea of the song being a conversation between a man and woman, and she picked it up right away, and we played it live, and it went over quite well. She was such a willing collaborator. I feel quite lucky that she agreed to work with me on this one. Performing and recording with Hayley is a real treat.
LM: Do you have any favorite songs off Back to the Soil?
CT: “Deer in Headlights” is certainly one of my favorite songs on the album and one of my oldest songs. It was written during the winter when a friend of mine came to visit me from New Mexico and we had a brief romantic interlude, if you will. Something that I wanted to last, but really couldn’t hold on to. “Watching Me Fall” is another – a rowdy song about new love, always such an exhilarating experience. I really got to jam with the band on this one. It kind of has that folk pop feel to it, rock and roll drums and a bouncing bass line. And “Jack in the Night” will always be a song I use to reflect on a time when I was torn between finishing a college degree and wanting to live a life without constraints or institutional expectations. It’s a song that I wrote while camped out at home, in between colleges, not knowing what my next move was going to be.
LM: Looking back on your life, when did you decide that you wanted to become a musician?
CT: I honestly don’t know if I ever “decided” to be a musician, honestly. I just started playing the guitar, learning songs and writing songs, and it’s always been that one thing I’ve never had to force myself to do. I was 18 when I borrowed my first acoustic guitar and it quickly became a fixture in my life. I was always such a desperate music fan, so enchanted by the records I had grown up listening to. And when this opportunity to recreate these moments started to become real, with my own hands, and my own voice, I was all in. Being a musician is a dream that I am constantly trying to manifest into reality more and more all the time. It’s an amazing pursuit that will last my entire lifetime, and as I grow and change, so will my music and my performance. I feel so lucky that I get to do this and have met so many great new friends as a result.
LM: Who are some of the biggest influences on your music?
CT: I have always been a huge fan of jam bands and more recently the new rise of singer-songwriters. I grew up listening to classic rock and my mom’s record collection. I’ve gotten into so much music, but deep down at the core of my musical upbringing I remember Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles, the Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms, and Paul Simon’s Graceland. I was also a huge fan of the Phantom of the Opera record sung by the Broadway actors and actresses. After that, I got really into Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Michael Jackson tapes and then it was the Grateful Dead, Phish, Dave Matthews, Neil Young, Wilco and so on and so on. Nowadays, I get really inspired by my friends and contemporaries, such as Jake Hill, Jay Psaros, and Hayley Sabella, I love hearing the new stuff that these three are coming out with and they inspire me to write in a way that is much different than in the past, when it was just me on my own.
LM: You have a gig coming up this Saturday, Dec. 20th, at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, opening for Paul Bielatowicz and Simon Fitzpatrick who are members of Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy. Are you looking forward to this show and playing the Narrows for the first time?
CT: Paul and Simon are the kind of musicians that I really look up to in a different way. These guys are virtuosos and I admire their dedication and what surely must be an insane work ethic that has allowed them to become so technically on point. It’s quite an honor to open the show for them at the Narrows, a place where so many of my heroes have performed. This opportunity is definitely a pinnacle in my career as a singer-songwriter and I can’t thank the folks at Limelight Magazine enough for offering it to me.
LM: Besides music, what are some other things you like to do in your spare time?
CT: My spare time, which there seems to be less and less of these days, is spent in a couple different ways. Besides music, my other big hobby is rock climbing, which I have been into for about eight years now. I spent a ton of time working in a rock gym and climbing as much as I possibly could before my musical life really started getting busy. My good friend, George, and I have climbed some of the largest cliffs up in New Hampshire and I’ve climbed at some pretty amazing spots in Kentucky, Vegas, Wyoming and Colorado. During the summer, I try to spend my time in and around the water, mainly kayaking, swimming, and sailing. I love being outdoors in the peace and quiet of nature.
LM If anyone is interested in purchasing your music, where can they go to do so?
CT: My music is available on iTunes, Amazon and streaming on Spotify and Youtube. You can also order physical copies of my CD from my website, which is http://www.carlintripp.com.
LM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CT: George Harrison once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there,” and that, to me, sums up my life as a musician. I love the excitement of the unknown and the what’s next. My experience has been an amazing sequence of doors opening and chance encounters and I’ve tried to treat every performance and opportunity with as much sincerity and passion as I possibly can. I can’t thank everyone enough for helping me carve out my own little life in the great big musical history of humanity; I wouldn’t trade it for anything.