Tag, You're It: Billy Kernkamp Interviews Singer Steve Carson From Echo Echo

Categories: Tag, You're It
Tag, You're It is Heard Mentality's new weekly interview feature. The concept is simple: One local artist picks another local artist to interview, then the interviewee becomes the interviewer of an artist of his or her choice in the following week's issue.

Danielle Bacher/ OC Weekly
Billy Kernkamp

My relationship with Steve Carson spans more than 15 years. I can't imagine what my life would be like without his support. When I first became acquainted with Steve and his music, I was 16 and hanging outside AB Music in Huntington Beach. Steve was with his guitar player at the time, cranking a tape cassette of some songs they just recorded. I was blown away! I couldn't believe someone so young could sing and sound so mature. The songs felt real to me, and I could hear and understand their influences.

I told myself, "Oh, my God, I'm listening to the next Bono!" At that point, all I knew of the local music scene were the hardcore bands that came out of Orange County, so the idea of a band that sounded like U2 and REM from my town was a revelation. Currently, Carson is the front man of Echo Echo, which includes Bruce Yolken on bass, Darren Carr on drums, Jameson Burt on guitar and Andrew Carter on keys.  I'm so fortunate that I was given the opportunity to ask my friend these questions and share them with you.

Steve Carson
Billy Kernkamp: What do you listen for in a song? 
Steve Carson: The voice. I have to love the voice. Delivery and conviction. I don't need a virtuoso. I need to believe in the singer. Some singers have such a presence that they can sing a grocery list and you just feel it. Second, it's the lyrics. Does the message resonate with me? That always takes the experience to the next level.

Kernkamp: What do you hope for when someone listens to your music?
Carson: That they can relate, either through a lyric or the emotion I'm trying to convey in the performance--for them to walk away and know that we shared something. At a show, I want everyone in the audience to feel as if I'm singing directly to him or her.

Kernkamp: How has the landscape of the Orange County music scene changed since you first started?
Carson: There is such camaraderie now. We all respect and support one another. There's this realization that we're all doing the same thing the best we can. There is no need to oppose one another. There is also this great singer/songwriter vibe happening.   

Kernkamp: When was your first performance?
Carson: Eighth grade. I had just turned 14. It was at Stacy Junior High for the end-of-the-year assembly.  About two months before that, I put together a band with some of my schoolmates. There were 400 kids there. We played "I Will Follow" by U2. That went pretty well. To our surprise, we were encored. All we had was about a minute and a half of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by the Clash. That left something to be desired. 

Kernkamp: So, how long have you been doing music? 
Carson: There has never been a moment since I was 14 that I have not been doing it. Writing, performing, and recording music. It's been over 20 years! [Laughs]

Kernkamp: Do you have any desire to record as a solo artist again?
Carson: Absolutely not. Where I'm at is exactly where I want to be, as far as the creative side of myself. The collaboration I have with Echo Echo is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The last thing I want to do is take it for granted. I don't feel the need to write songs just to please myself anymore. I want to write songs with and for my band.

Kernkamp: How does it feel to have watched your guitar player of seven years (Jameson) grow and find his own voice outside Echo Echo?
Carson: I'm so proud. He was 19 when he auditioned for the band and was already so amazingly talented. I got to witness the complete metamorphsis of an artist. Jameson is always committed to being the best that he can be. He is a true singer/songwriter. I'm such a fan of his.  

Kernkamp: It is my opinion that rock & roll often leaves its disciples stunted and deformed. It is understood that artists are always out of step with what is considered a "normal existence," that ideal mode being college, career, marriage, children and mortgage. At this point in your life, do you feel you have sacrificed too much in chasing your muse?
Carson: When you make a commitment to anything, it is human nature always to look back and wonder if you have missed out on something. But I have come to a point in my life where I realized that being in a band, writing songs and performing is not a choice anymore--it's what I do; it's who I am. I gave up on the brass-ring mentality years ago, as in "getting a record deal and touring the world." In doing so, I have freed myself from conforming or being something I'm not. Every day, we are being sold something.  All I want is honesty. So I don't feel I've missed out on anything. I know I couldn't have done this without the support of my family and friends. 

Kernkamp: So you have no desire to do anything else?
Carson: At this time, no. I've never been good at multitasking when it comes to following my passion. I know many people that can balance a career and marriage and still be in a band. That is not me. The times I have tried that, I watched my life become a mess. I don't want to be mediocre. What's the point in having a family if I know I'm going to suck at it because I'm more concerned about writing a song? If and when I'm ready for that, I'll give it 100 percent as I have to my music. If not, I'll be a 60-year-old greeter in front of Costco saying hello to the customers and immediately handing them a flier to my next gig.  

Kernkamp: What color is your monkey?
Carson: Purple.


You can download Echo Echo's music
You can listen to Billy Kernkamp's music here.

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