On July 16, 2012 I interviewed artist Carson Henley about his new album, 100 Hours. 100 Hours is a very unique album because it was completely produced in 100 hours, and that includes every step of the recording process; writing the songs, composing the music, recording the songs, and producing and editing each track. Henley was very proud of the album, however he expressed that some days were obviously harder than others with the time limits that he gave himself.
I started off the interview by asking Henley about who his musical inspirations are, and he explained how he wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio as a child, so naturally his childhood favorites were more classic artists like Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, and Michael Jackson. The first album Carson ever bought was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For more modern favorites, Henley really admires Adele’s songwriting and vocals, as well as the Kings of Leon’s songwriting musicality.
Talk of modern day favorites led me to ask him what he tries to instill in his fans when he performs live, what type of experience he tries to give them. Carson explained that whenever he goes to a show, he stills gets very “giddy and excited” and that’s just the type of emotions he wants his fans to feel. He tries to take things he sees from watching other shows, and one thing he finds very important is breaking down the barrier between the performer and the audience. He likes to jump off the stage when he can and reach out to the audience, so that there is no separation between him and his fans.
Next we got into his album, 100 Hours, and he discussed which songs came easier and which were more difficult. Henley said that both “Aint Gonna Dry Your Tears” and “Leave The Mess” both came very quickly; “Leave The Mess” only took one day. “Once the idea came, the song came soon after,” he states for songs like “Go Under” which only took a few hours to make.
On the other end of the spectrum, songs like “ Give It Up” did not come half as easy and even forced Henley to take a break from his album because he was hitting so many walls. Carson described the entire journey of making “Give It Up” and as I listened to him describe each setback and struggle, I continued to be surprised, considering that this song ended up being my favorite on the album, striking me as such an effortless song. At 2 A.M. Henley was sitting at home, with the words still not coming after working on this song for days and days, when his younger sister Tess came home and ended up helping him get the inspiration he needed (she ended up co-writing the song with him). Aside from how hard the lyrics of this song were to grasp, the entire concept for this song was reconstructed as well. Originally Carson wanted this song to be a one chord song, and he started writing it with just a bass, however he feared that the song was going to end up being too cheesy so he started changing the direction little by little, until he had an entirely different song than what he expected. After hearing Carson tell the story of this song, it only further solidified “Give it Up” as my favorite song, reminding me of how much passionate artists give to every song they write.
I asked Carson, after all was said and done and 100 Hours was finished, if he would ever do this type of album again. He said this album gave him a lot of confidence in himself, that before this he was still doubting if he really could be a musician. Now he knows that this is what he should be doing, that he’s in the exact place he should be. However if he could go back, Henley would probably only limit the creative aspect of making this record to 100 Hours, giving himself some more time for production.
The last question I asked Henley was about his personal songwriting process. He feels that if you start with the lyrics “it’s easy to end up with poetry instead of a song,” so he prefers to start with the music, typically starting a song on his baby grand piano and then adding in his lyrics with stories of past relationships and life lessons next. Carson came off as not only an incredibly passionate artist when I interviewed him, but also an incredibly passionate person, which makes it even more clear why his lyrics are so effortlessly powerful, since they come from many of his own personal experiences.
- Victoria Espinoza