Todd Carey is one of the co-writers for Meghan Trainor’s 3 AM, and frequently shares the stage with buddy, Andy Grammer. He previously hit the Top 40 charts for his After The Morning After EP in 2010. His single Nintendo has hit #1 on the Billboard Twitter Trending Charts and has accumulated over 6.5 million plays on Smule iPhone apps. Carey’s music has been featured in MTV’s The Real World and movies like Palo Alto and True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet.
We sit down with him to chat about the challenges in the music industry and his steadily and seemingly rapidly growing success.
What challenges did you feel approaching the album “Future Throwback”?
I made my first album and it was the typical story. You have your whole life to write your first album and it was just natural. I followed up with a couple EP’s and singles. When it came time to make this record, I wanted an album full of undeniably great songs. I felt like I want to match my personality better, which is engaging and upbeat, as opposed to a lot of my music that has been reflective. I wanted this album to be a little more of a party. The challenge was that I ended up writing 70 songs for this album. So, the challenge was just seeing how much I could do to create twelve really, really great songs. The first single Nintendo, which became basically a viral hit. There were like 6 million plays on this new iPhone karaoke app, and multimillion on Youtube. It was the last song we wrote, which is crazy. OMG, the video that just came out, that was one of the final songs as well. The challenge was getting through a bunch off songs to get to the cream. There were gems throughout, but the really good stuff started coming at the end. I think that is just part of the process.
The challenge was to push myself way harder that I ever have. Like way, way, way harder.
What makes a good song? Can you tell when a song is going to be good?
I think it can happen in a variety of ways. Often times you can tell right away and think “This is great” and other times you can tell that it might be good and know you need to work on it and other times you have no idea and realize later that it is good. But, most the time you think something is horrible (laughs).
What expectations do you have for yourself when you’re creating music?
I just wanted it to be more accessible, instantly undeniably great and a lot of fun this time around. I have spent a lot of time going around and playing songs that are reflective and deep. It is harder to continually play them night after night and so this time I thought it would be fun to create something more upbeat. That is what the specific challenge of this project was.
What artistic growth do you feel you have experienced throughout the creation process?
Writing; I had always written by myself. I always wrote twelve songs for a twelve song album, or thirteen songs for the twelve song album. This time I was writing 70 songs and some of them just weren’t good enough so we kept writing and pushing. It was the first time I wrote down with co-writers and it was different sitting down to write with a stranger or a friend in a room and trying to write a song; it is an experience. They are challenging you in ways you might not expect. They are telling you things like “oh, that cord may not be as good as you thought it was”. It’s just like you and I having a conversation. It is more interactive. I think it is beneficial. The challenge was to push myself way harder that I ever have. Like way, way, way harder.
Working on tracks, are you ever surprised at how good they become? Are there any that really surprised you on this album, tracks that turned out different than you initially envisioned?
With songs, it is always interesting. Some turn out better than you hoped and some might not. There are so many elements of a song from the beginning to end. The writing, the recording, production. For a song to be really great it has to pass all the tests. When a song fails, maybe we didn’t nail it properly in the studio and it doesn’t get conveyed properly to the listener. OMG for example, I knew was a good hook, but it just came out so easily in the studio, made you feel good and just had a bounce. Those little surprises can be what puts more energy into you. When we were going through recording OMG, I was thinking that it was a special, fun song, and that was suprising.
Of all the people you collaborated with on the album with, who taught you the most valuable lesson? What was it?
It really goes back to the writers I worked with. There wasn’t one pinpoint moment, but it was just work harder, go deeper, do more, essentially. Don’t be just satisfied with the first thing that always comes to you, which can often be great. I’m not saying that everything that comes to me is great, but as a songwriter, some of your very first instincts are good and you should keep them, but not a thousand percent of the time. I was one of those writers that would edit, but I think that one thing I learned from the process was to write, refine and then write more and write more. That is what I am carrying forward from this project into the next whatever I am doing.
Who was the last person to really inspire you?
Ed Sheeran is super inspiring me right now. I know it is super cliche, but I think he is a really good example of being talent savy, a great performer, great writer, media savvy, and social media savvy. He also seems like a genuinely cool guy. He is young, so it is good to see someone that talented be that young. He is a real musician, whatever that means these days. I find Ed Sheeran very inspiring.
At this point, what do you value most about this experience?
Just growth. Each project brings new audiences and this time around it jumped up. I had done a record and a couple EP’s and my little fanbase was growing and the net is just way wider. If you push hard and use a broader lens, it was surprising how that opened up my world to a new audience.
What has been your biggest challenge as an artist? How did you overcome that challenge?
I think my biggest challenge is just exposure in general. I think that every artist will tell you that. Every artist is working every day to overcome that; I’m not sure there is any answer to it. For me my biggest challenge is getting heard by as many people as possible. And, so far so good. It is still rising, so that is great. I think anyone you talk to is going to say that.
When you can’t see the bright side of life, what do you do to try and polish the dull side?
One of the things I have been thinking of a lot lately is that it is all about perspective. It’s definitely not always easy, and sometimes that is a choice you can’t make, but I have been really focusing on taking a breath and going “this is just a momentary emotion that will lead to something greater”, even if its not necessarily the bright side.
What are your goals for the rest of 2015?
I have so many goals beyond that: Take over the world, put out the next video and songs, put out more music, get my album out there, tour the world and get back into the studio. I love every element of this job. I love recording, performing, making videos. I just want to continue that cycle. There are so many. Every time I get to do something I love like be in the studio, record, or tour, it makes me hungrier to just keep doing it.
What can you always guarantee to your fans, no matter what?
I think I have just shown. One thing we do that is unique is a very direct line to my followers. It is almost like a responsibility that everyone gets some sort of response or acknowledgement. It is pretty unique among the artists I have seen. That is the type of responsibility I feel with my audience and it is a great responsibility. I am definitely in touch with my audience on a pretty frequent basis.
You really don’t see that often.
I do feel that is one of the things that is helping along the way; you just don’t see it that much. It’s definitely a challenge when you have a lot of other things happening that are moving forward. It’s an interesting balance when you’re trying to stay in touch, make everyone feel welcome and keep the ball rolling forward in other aspects. I think it is working!
Do you have any final thoughts for the readers of popYOUlarity?
Thank you so much for checking out the music. I hope you like the new single OMG. I hope you like it and that you laugh. The video is just funny, we think.
+ Debbie Fettback