Q&A with the eclectic Carter Fox

We sat down with bassist and producer Carter Fox. He recently released a serene single, ‘Sit Back and Lift Off’, which is available to stream on all platforms. Affectionately dubbed the “Soulful Traveling Spaceman Bassman,” Carter Fox has forged a remarkable career as a musician, songwriter, producer, and artist. His solo work has garnered worldwide acclaim, with standout tracks like ‘Cosmic Sunset’ topping Apple Music’s Easy Listening Charts and ‘Eclipse’ landing on numerous Spotify Editorial Playlists, amassing over 2 million streams.

Overflowing with talent, Carter has also recently authored ‘How to Effectively Release & Promote Your Music as an Independent Artist,’ which quickly rose to #1 among new releases in Amazon’s Music Business category. This book aims to simplify the music industry for emerging artists, drawing on Carter’s extensive experience navigating its complexities.

Stream ‘Sit Back and Lift Off’ while you read our interview with him below. 

1. Describe your sound for us. What do you want people to feel when they hear your music? 

I like to call it ‘chill-fi’ music (with a ‘Carterman groove’ inspired by Nujabes and DJ Premier and many years of enjoying hip hop and jazz growing up). It’s a little bit cinematic, a little bit jazzy, a little bit rock, a little bit ambient and experimental, but at its core, my music is chill, groovy, and takes you on a musical journey through space and time. 

I hope people feel good, ‘inspired’ to be a better self, after hearing my music or seeing a show or watching a music video of mine. Feeling positive about life, where we can go as a society, and what they can achieve. I hope my music inspires people to look up at the stars at night and want to know more about the world, the universe, and how we can all make this place such a wonderful one for ourselves and the future. And, also, I hope they feel the groove! Sometimes that’s a ‘get up a dance’ groove or just a ‘nod your head to a deep rhythm’ vibe. But I hope my music moves and inspires listeners from around the world, and hopefully, around the universe!

2. Which 3 artists have influenced you the most growing up?

Gerald Veasley is a legendary bassist and smooth jazz artist who is also from Philadelphia AND plays the bass as the lead instrument! He’s played with jazz legends like Grover Washington Jr, Joe Zawinul, and basically everybody in that world at this point. My father is such a lover of music, and specifically smooth jazz, where my brother and I would always be listening to Grover Washington, Jr, or Dave Koz, or Boney James, or Gerald, or whoever was playing on WJJZ 106.1 when we’d be driving somewhere. As I got into music (first playing classical upright at age 8, then trombone in the school band at 9, then FINALLY getting a bass guitar when I was 12 after breaking my wrist at age 12…). I, too, really enjoyed contemporary jazz, straight ahead jazz, fusion, big band, and meditation instrumentals. And, again credit to my dad, when I was 12, he got me into this bass teaching weekend Gerald runs called Bass Bootcamp (I was the youngest at the time, and now have taught there after 20 years!), and he became a mentor, a business partner, a good friend, and one of my favorite people and most influential artists.

Red Hot Chili Peppers were the band that gave me my ‘rock edge’ growing up. When I first heard Blood Sugar Sex Magic (thanks to my first bass guitar teacher Billy Childs of the band Britny Fox), my mind was blown at the sound of Flea’s bass, the way he was ‘melodic’ in his basslines, and general badassness of the band altogether. I learned tons of their music growing up and my very very first recording project was recording ‘All Around the World’ with a couple friends of mine who already were making music and doing all sorts of cool things. If it weren’t for the Chili Peppers, I wouldn’t have leaned into more than jazz, and ended up playing with all sorts of fun bands in high school, still while exploring my own music, even playing in a ska band in high school I got signed to a small indie label! Every band I play in pretty much as a Chili Peppers moment at some point.

Eminem’s The Eminem Show probably changed my life. So much so that I got a censored version when I was 12, and bought the uncensored version for myself when I was 18 (just for the sake of doing it!). But I’ll also be honest, it wasn’t ‘what’ he was saying (because I don’t think I truly understood the meanings a lot, like young kids typically do, nor do I really ‘listen’ to lyrics over the music most of the time anyway). The WAY he said things, his melody and flow, and ability to write, those were amazing to me. It made me want to rap, or at least try. There isn’t much recorded of Carter the Rapper, but I’ve written stuff, had plenty of fun freestyling with my friends in college (shoutout to the same friend Neno from earlier). But the other aspect was the production. Dre’s work on it is crazy! Square Dance, Sing For the Moment, Til I Collapse, My Dad’s Gone Crazy. The whole thing is a masterpiece and I still enjoy it! And it led me down the hiphop rabbit hole of 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Biggie, Tupac, Dre, Kendrick, so many great artists and their great producers.

3. How did you discover your particular sound? What made you decide to pursue production in addition to musicianship in bass?

I think I kinda fell into my sound. Meaning I was most certainly not trying to create this vibe at first, because originally I was originally trying to make smooth jazz music. Then I was trying to make electronic dance music (like 2009 Skrillex kind of EDM). Then I was making all this other kind of music with other people as a bandmate and session player (R&B, rock, metal, rap, country music). THEN, my friend (shout out Neno!) played me Joe Budden’s Mood Muzik Volume 4 and introduced me to DJ Premier’s beats. I went into ‘learn to sample’ and create beats type of music, got heavy into Biggie, started working with some of the members of the Roots crew in some projects even! And just how my music kind combines all these genres, I kinda combined all this experience into this ‘sound’. I knew I was getting somewhere when my neighbor in my apartment complex at the time texted me ‘I dig this!’ at 1am.

I pursued production because, though I love bass, and I am a bassist and play the bass when I have the choice, I also wanted to create the ‘whole picture’ and be able to create anything I heard! Or try to at least. And work with others to create the music they heard. I kinda want to do and know everything I can about music and the business (which is also why I’ve managed, booked, am my own publisher, deal with labels, etc.). But I’m glad I was playing bass for a few years before I learned about DAWs (was probably playing for 7 years then I learned about Ableton, then explored Cakewalk, Pro Tools, Logic, etc.). Why not continue exploring all you can? Each new instrument, tool, gear, etc., is expanding your knowledge, sharpening your skills, and giving you a chance for new creativity!

4. What are the most important pieces of equipment to you? 

I think that would be my basses. Benny (my 5 string Benavente Bass guitar) has been my main one for almost 18 years and even came back to me after being stolen from my car (along with my very first bass guitar). That was a crazy story. After a gig, I was exhausted, left them in my car (like an idiot) thinking I was ok. Came back to a smashed window and no basses. One month later, my dad found them on Ebay while doing insurance claims and matched them up because of the specific marks on my bass. Thank you, dad! I also love my Benavente 6 string fretless, Fender Jazz, and Ibanez Soundgear basses I use! I also have a fun electric upright Kydd bass that sounds like the upright, but is much easier to carry around.

Special shoutout to my laptop that does great work (Apple if you were wondering). And to Aguilar Amps who are amazing and have such a powerful, clean sound from the smaller clubs and studio to the arenas. And to loop pedals. Because I just love having fun with looping ideas and creating music from thin air that way. And shoutout to my M-Audio KeyRig 49 I got freshman year of college, 15 years ago. Still works great!

5. What outside of music inspires you to create?

Science – physics, astronomy, and cosmology specifically. I love music and I love space. These disciplines relate to the universe: physics describing it, astronomy exploring it, and cosmology studying its history. And I’ve always had a fascination and passion with the cosmos. I remember loving field trips in grade school to planetariums and how I want to have a show in one to this day. I remember years ago diving deeper on my own into physics to understand light and the early universe (thanks to my engineer friends for lending me the textbooks), and how we are here. And how we are space dust. And how the universe is constantly expanding at the speed of light even right now! It makes me want to create music about that. About the laws of physics. About how a photon birthed at the beginning of time existed until this very moment, but ro that photon, everything was an instant (that’s what my album Epoch is about). I could go on (and may even do so in some new writing I’m working on). Some of my songs are named after books by Neil deGrasse Tyson,  Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, and Dr. Stephen Brown. I love listening to Star Talk, watching Cosmos (Sagan’s and Tyson’s), learning about what’s going on in astronomy and physics, the amazing things we’re discovering!

Media like anime, action and historical movies, documentaries about space and history, and video games with amazing stories and soundtracks all just put me in a really creative and inspired headspace. Sometimes a song inspires me to create another song. Sometimes an epic scene and story arc. (I love the classics like Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, Death Note, FMA, One Piece, some of the new ones are great like Solo Leveling, Tsukimichi, and some that I just discovered while watching random stuff like K (check out the soundtrack on this one!! Talk about great beats!). Games like Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3, New Vegas, 4. I enjoyed the new Dune, the Sonic movies (because the game!), and my favorite movie ever is probably Jamie Foxx’s Ray. Also, I LOVE to laugh. I think everyone needs to laugh before going to bed. Shoutout Impractical Jokers and Futurama for being some of the best ways to crack me up.

Nature also really inspires me, as well. To just meditate and to be in nature, in the calm away from everything we’ve developed (hey, technology is amazing, but hearing the birds, the river flow, the wind in the trees, as cliche as it sounds, it’s cliche for a reason). There’s something spiritual in connecting deep to nature, to the planet, that also connects us deeply to the universe at large, since everything has a balance, so says physics! I enjoy a great ‘walking meditation’, which really results in me being able to calm my mind, focus myself, and create. 

6. If you could work with, or perform alongside any artist living or passed, who would it be?

It’s a dream of mine to perform and work with Stevie Wonder! I grew learning to love his music and learning a LOT of his songs. Sir Duke’ is so ingrained in my muscle memory (along with others like ‘I Wish’, ‘Master Blaster’, ‘Do I Do’, ok I’m going to stop because this will turn into his list of songs). 

Super honorable mention to Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, and Ray Charles for being those I’d truly truly truly be blessed and honored to have had the opportunity. Mr. Jones, I’m here if you need me!

7. Most artists say that if they weren’t artists they would be mailmen/women… what would you be?

Shoutout to all the amazing mailmen/women out there! You all do great work! 

If I weren’t an artist… I would love to be an astrophysicist! If  you couldn’t tell by this convo, my other music, or anything like that, I love space. But I also love studying it and learning more about it, how it came to be, what else there is to know! And if my math skills aren’t that great, I’d love to try acting! 

I think my friends and family would say if I weren’t a musician, I would’ve been a great lawyer, though.

8. What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

I just completed a new album I’ve been working on with the great folks at Swedish label Insert Tapes. It features some really great musicians and friends of mine and crosses into the chillhop, jazz, rock, ambient, electronic worlds that I’ve been known to orbit. New singles should start to be coming out this summer as we explore themes of things that once we thought or still are physically impossible (or perhaps, improbable)! Time travel, wormholes, intergalactic exploration! 

I’ll also be back at MoonGroove Music and Arts Festival this July (a Friday through Sunday weekend festival and I’m playing on Sunday July 21st) in Mohnton, PA, be touring with Freddie Jackson across the US and British Virgin Islands over the next few months, and working on setting up more performances this fall and winter. 

And along with the music, which features some of my super talented friends, I’m working on a book to go along with the album about music’s connection to space, space’s inspiration on music, and how space and music intersect with humanity. A little different than the book I just put out that was #1 in new releases in Music Business books on Amazon


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