Most conversations about popular LDS musicians in the West nowadays seem to always land on Cary Judd. Originally from Southern California but now living in the wilderness of Wyoming, Cary’s cerebral yet always accessible tunes satisfy the prog fan and pop fan alike. His newest album is Goodnight Human, but to really experience Cary Judd, you need to see a live show. For those deep in the Mission Field, he’s also released a live (free) downloadable album from his MySpace. His website is www.caryjudd.com, and you might take notice that he’s worked with Linescratcher Scot Alexander from Dishwalla.
To find Cary Judd on iTunes, click here.
When did you start writing music? Did you ever play in any other bands?
A: I started writing music when I was about 12, before I’d ever taken a guitar lesson. I remember fiddling around on my dad’s old guitar, the action was terrible, it would cause my fingers to bleed. But I would write these little riffs. I just remember the first time I put notes together feeling like a light went on and a door opened in a corner of my brain that had never been opened before.
Within in a year of me taking to my dad’s guitar, and after 3 or 4 months of begging my mom, she finally sprang for guitar lessons. It was a really great thing. At the time I don’t think that my parents could really afford it, having a family of 5 kids and all. For some reason I think my mom had some sort of inspiration and she made the sacrifices necessary for me to take lessons. The guitar still made my fingers bleed, but it was worth it to be making music. I really only took lessons on and off for a couple of years, and then realized once I knew the basics it was easy to create my own songs.
I played in bands from junior high on up until I started doing my solo work.
Tell us about your musical influences.
A: My influences are as wide as any other musician. I think most of the music I’m drawn to is very melody driven. I love classical and jazz and would venture down to the L.A. County Museum of Art when I was old enough to drive on a fairly regular basis to see the Friday night jazz bands play and the Sunday afternoon free chamber concerts. As far as pop and rock go, there aren’t a lot of bands that I don’t like. I think, funny enough that Iron Maiden was one of the bands that influenced me to want to start playing. I saw this video of “Live After Death” and my 12 year old mind was blown out of my skull. When I was 14, I somehow convinced my dad to let me see Metallica with my older brother’s friends and that experience pretty much sealed the deal that I had to do music for the rest of my life.
I think also The Cure has also played a huge influence. Their ability to weave 3 or 5 melodies in and out of each other and write these incredibly catchy songs without even bothering with a traditional chorus was really appealing to my young ears as it is now. Of course some of the great performers and songwriters of the mid 20th century, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash also opened my eyes and have inspired me to want to write better and better songs. More recent bands that have really stimulated my appreciation of music would be Bright Eyes, Death Cab/Postal Service, Electric President, Pinback and a list that could go on for pages and pages. U2 was another early influence. My sister who is about 9 years older than me was a big fan when she was a teenager, so I still have brilliantly vivid memories of driving around blasting “Sunday Bloody Sunday” when she first got her license, I think in general she was a big influence on my musical development as most of the artists I discovered were through her, many still are and I still to this day count her as a musical mentor.
In Thousand Oaks where you grew up, were LDS kids a minority?
A: I did grow up in an LDS minority, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I certainly got teased and made fun of for it, I think it gives you a more rich perspective of how tiny and vast the world is at the same time. I’ve always felt bad for kids that grow up in a place where there’s a high concentration of their own faith, ethnicity, or political beliefs. I think that it would be much more challenging to really objectively find your spiritual self in a place where everyone is on the exact same program.
Have you ever felt like you had to choose between your music and your faith?
A: I never have. I don’t think that that is a choice that needs to be made. Certainly some of my songs would probably be PG-13, in some cases worse, but they are depictions of the human experience, which as we know aren’t always roses and rainbows, just ask Joseph Smith or any of the great spiritual teachers and prophets of the ages. I’m sure that some would hear a song like “Angel With A Cigarette”, with it’s descriptions of a drug addict and feel put off. At the same time there are others that would appreciate the perspective because they’ve been touched in one way or another by a friend or family member, or their own personal struggle with a literal addiction, or with other life struggles.
Your video for Huang Shan (The Ah-ha Song) is available to view on YouTube and your MySpace. I always wondered… what’s it like recording a music video?
A: Making that video was a really great experience. I don’t love having my picture taken (my album cover has a picture of a monkey rather than a picture of me) or being in video, but I loved every minute of making that video and I think it comes across in the finished product. It is extremely difficult and rewarding. We filmed it over the course of 2 or 3 days. We had call times at 4AM, I had to show up happy, with make up on and ready to appear excited to be there and in all reality I truly was. There are some really great things that not many people realize about that video. It was shot in the valley where I live, Teton Valley (Jackson Hole) in Wyoming. The girl in the video is my wife who I wrote the song for and about, and the locations all have sentimental associations for us.
The broken down cabin where I’m playing throughout the video is the location we had our engagement pictures taken, the location where I’m walking and singing in the first verse is where she had her bridal pictures done, and the super 8 shots in the beginning are all done near the cabin where we spent the first two nights of our honeymoon. Needless to say it was an incredibly fun couple of days for us.
What connection do you have with previous Linescratchers interviewee Scot Alexander?
A: Scot was good enough to mention me in that interview. He’s become a good friend and supporter over the last few years. We met through a mutual friend (John Stephens of the band Neve and now Stars Align) and quickly became friends. I lived in Boise where he’s at for a while and spent some good times skating and discussing our favorite obscure Cure songs. He also bailed me out and played bass on the song “Kiss Comes To Shove” on my new record. I played most of the instruments on my album myself, but the part I had for that song was just a little beyond me, so I had Scot step in, and of course as talented as he is, he took two passes and it sounded perfect. In my ideal world Scot would be my bass player on the road and in the studio. I hope he doesn’t read this and realize that I’m actually stalking him :)
Tell us about your latest album, Goodnight Human. It seems like lots of your lyrics talk about the “big things,” space, cosmology, God, and where we fit in all of it. Was this intentional or did it just seem to happen that way?
A: It just happened that way. I don’t ever sit down and decide to write a song about something. If I did the songs would come out terribly trite. The best songs I’ve written, the songs that end up on my records are usually written in a stream of consciousness way. Usually I don’t know what the song is about until it’s finished, sometimes it takes me longer to dig deep enough into myself to figure out why I’ve written it. It is a very spiritual process for me, it is where I learn things about my true self that I would not have otherwise known. Most of the best songs are also written in a very short period of time. Sometimes 20 minutes or less.
I think the subjects that come up are things I’ve been fascinated with since I was very young. For some reason the idea of mortality is never far from my mind which I think has fueled my life paths, realizing that we are in a temporary state. I recall being about 4 or 5 years old and grasping the idea that my mortal body would inevitably be laying lifeless in the ground at some point. That being said I believe that life is there for the taking and that you can discover yourself and the origin of the universe in something as simple as a blade of grass, or a budding flower. I may just be as much Zen Buddhist as LDS, I think at their essence they lead back to the same place if you allow them to.
What made you decide to release a free downloadable album (Live From Velour) online?
A: My live show has been a big part of what has won me fans over the last few years, it was a way of thanking the people that have been coming out to my shows and supporting me, simple as that. It wasn’t the most slick recording ever, and I hope to do another live album before too long, maybe release a series of them in the future.
Any tours/shows coming up?
A: I’m sticking relatively close to home this summer, mainly in the mountain west (MT, WY, UT, & ID), but in the fall will be touring extensively. We are working on that now and should have a good amount of tour dates appearing on the website by the end of August.
How can listeners support your music if they like what they hear?
A: My three albums are available on iTunes and you can get physical CDs at CDbaby.com. The best way to support is always coming out to a live show, the true reward comes in sharing the human experience with others and that is the best way to do it.