Sounds from the Heart
by Sean Cute
Michelle Carter translates her inspiration to others through a beautiful expression of melody and heart. Her musical roots reach deep into the soulful soil of Americana, while her soul reaches up to the heavens of metaphysiology and centered being. The sounds of old thought meet the ideas of new thought. Having moved to Los Angeles from her home of British Columbia, Carter keeps the theme of "moving on" in the most positive of ways.
She began playing music as a child, and studied classically until she shifted toward opera during her time at university. Carter came into her own soon after, and focused on being herself. She put her singer/songwriter skills to the test with her successful project, Mercury Sound Cartel, which earned the group several featured songs in commercials, films, and television shows. To spread her wings out even further, Carter went solo after a six-year run with Mercury Sound Cartel.
Instead of being locked in one group, Carter is able to move about freely in her musical creations and pick and choose collaborators. She has worked with the likes of Christine Connolly, Simon Nagel, Drew Taubenfeld, Enrique Lara, Wes Switzer, Lucky Diaz, and Shannon Hurley. This led to 2010's fantastic album, "So Simple," featuring 10 tracks of heart and honesty. A collaboration with Connolly and Nagel led to the title track for 2012's forthcoming "Tequila Nights." Producer Jeff Trott, who has worked closely with Sheryl Crow and Aimee Mann, will be recording Michelle Carter this year. "I think this next record is the closest reflection to me as an actual person than any other previous work I've done," says Carter. "I'm pretty excited about it. It's taken some time, but turning out to be well worth the wait."
So, how is the transformation and personal growth reflected in Carter's music? One only needs to listen and feel to understand the music, and perhaps to understand a bit more about one's self. "I'm a pretty positive person," Carter says. "This next record I am working on is a great reflection of my life right now."
On her 2010 album, "So Simple," the song, "Lighter and Brighter" turns a melancholy situation into happy hope, altering one's focus from an aching heart to the elated memories of the mind, while songs like "Last Cup of Tea" will pull your tears out from their roots. "Belong" tells us to "belong to what we want to see," sharing the message that we attract what we focus on, so focus on what you love. In the spirit of the New Thought Movement, gratitude is a key theme. As "simple" as it seems with the catchy riffs and melodies, it is anything but. The depth of music and message may have a simple feel, but it is the challenge to live simply that is consistently striking. Carter just makes it look easy. As "Listen To Me" says, "Let it shine, oh, let it shine, let it shine!" It sure does.
Carter's musical travels have taken her across Canada and America, including writing trips to Nashville and shows at the taste-making South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. The next leg of her journey will be in San Diego, at The Hillcrest Hoedown. Hillcrest, an artsy and hip neighborhood in San Diego's Uptown District, hosts this free annual event, which is in its second year. The Hillcrest Hoedown, held this year on Sunday, October 7 from 1 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., is free, for all ages, and features scores of vendors along with two stages, each with a 21-and-over alcohol garden. It has a Community/Country theme and features hay rides, a petting zoo, mechanical bulls, and much more. The proceeds benefit the Hillcrest Business Association, which provides neighborhood improvements and outreach at no cost to the general public. Even while moving forward, Michelle Carter is still giving back.
San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood is not just home to Vision Magazine, but also The Ruby Room, which hosts one of the Hoedown's two stages. The Ruby Room is an intimate music venue/bar with a major sound system and stage.
Carter is no stranger to any of these things. She actually came across a copy of Vision Magazine in Vancouver. "I love that it looks like a record!" says Carter, who also played a special one-off set at the Ruby Room earlier this year, to a fantastic response. The Ruby Room transforms its large parking lot into a mini-festival for one of the Hillcrest Hoedown areas, and is fully equipped with a stage, sound system, food vendors, seating, and spirits. Artists playing this year include San Diego favorites, Tori Rose, Toothless George, and Tori Rogg, among others.
Travels aren't the only thing Michelle Carter is earning these days. She has also racked up a few sponsors. "I am very lucky to have sponsors such as SKN Holistic Rejuvenation Clinic," says Carter. "Health and wellness is a natural part of my life, so it only made sense for me to incorporate likewise products into my music career." Another interesting sponsor has had their sights on Carter: Pura Vida Tequila. Pura Vida, of course, translates literally to "pure life." However, the term is as flexible as "aloha." When asked about the message she promotes in her music, Carter told me, "I think a life in balance…including a little tequila." Balance indeed!
Michelle Carter will play at The Ruby Room Stage at The Hillcrest Hoedown on Sunday, Oct. 7. The Ruby Room is located at 1271 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92103. For more information, visit www.RubyRoomSD.com and www.facebook.com/HillcrestHoedown.