Austin has such a strong tradition of local music. Everyone is so supportive of each other and there’s this amazing culture surrounding local artists. We chat with Carry Illinois about their honest writing and their new music.
How did Carry Illinois start?
Carry Illinois began in late 2013 after the previous band I played in, The Blackwells, parted ways. I knew I wanted to keep writing and playing my own songs, but didn’t want to go back to being a solo singer-songwriter. I spent several months experimenting with different sounds, effects, and instrumentations, ultimately recording a new EP with studio musicians. With newly recorded tracks in hand, I found bandmates through mutual friends. We practiced the songs for several months within a new pop/rock context, and played our first official show in March 2014.
How did you find your sound?
We discovered the sound of the band through complete collaboration. I wrote my most honest work, influenced simultaneously by the songwriting legends of the 60’s and 70’s and by 90’s pop rock. I then handed the songs over and gave the band full reign to be inspired, explore, and develop a lush musical backdrop. My bandmates are incredibly talented and creative, so it was easy to trust them with my vision.
Tell me about Work In Progress, I love the title what’s the meaning behind it?
Thank you! I have struggled to find and love myself, be ok with the body I live in, and grow stronger from my painful emotional past. Progress, for me, is about accepting imperfection, working towards embracing uniqueness and beauty, and learning to cope with a new emotional framework off of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. No human is perfect. We are all constantly evolving creatures who need support and love. We all have to work to become our best selves.
The songwriting is so honest, was it hard confronting those darker themes?
I have spent many days filled with doubt, self-hatred, depression, and anxiety. It was scary and sometimes difficult to find the right words, but writing about my deepest fears was the best way for me to move towards self-love, self-acceptance, and healing. I know this path will be rocky and uncertain, but I am optimistic and ready to move forward.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
When my good friend and bandmate John Winsor took his own life in 2016, I didn’t know whether I could go on playing music. I spent several months grieving and living day to day in utter disbelief that he was gone. Remembering that he loved me and always supported my art, I knew that I had to continue on because he would have wanted me to. It was extremely difficult, but I started writing again knowing that he would have been so proud to see me doing what I love most.
Why stay an Austin band? What do you like most about the music scene here?
Austin has an incredibly supportive and tight-knit music community that is like nothing else I have experienced. With so many musicians in one place, there is never a shortage of inspiration or talent. I have made life-long friends and feel more supported by my community than I have anywhere else. While it is a rapidly changing work in progress, I love that the Austin music scene is brimming with talented folks who come together to celebrate unique and passionate art, and want nothing more than to see one another succeed.