As founding members of Futurebirds, friends and kindred sprits Carter King (Cartezz) and Daniel Womack (Womz) have evolved as artists, musicians and men by becoming comfortable in their own skin and embracing the feeling of being stripped down and exposed on stage, igniting intimate experiences with their audiences, and intuitive grooves on stage and on the road with their fellow bandmates.
Red’s: How did the two of you meet? What made you want to make music together?
Cartezz: I met Womack at UGA. The first time I saw him, he had a big plastic bottle of liquor in his hand and a totally insane look in his eye. I thought, “There is no way I’ll ever be friends with this guy.” 12 years later, we’re friends and business partners. The only aspirations from a professional standpoint we had at the time were to play the 40 Watt Club. That was the peak of my rock-and-roll goals back then. If it ended there, I was cool with it.
Womz: Carter always wanted to start a band. I was all for it, even though at the time I couldn’t play much more than an E chord. We played a few shows under a different name with a different line up. After playing one terrible set, Carter decided to just end it. After we loaded out he grabbed me and told me that we were starting a new band, which would eventually be…Futurebirds.
Red’s: What got you involved in music the first place?
Womz: Well, I’ve always loved music. Who doesn’t? My older brother played guitar. I loved the way his hands looked when he played and I just wanted to know how to DO that. But he would never take the time to teach me. When I was a sophomore in high school, the boy’s quartet was going to be non-existent. I talked 3 of my friends into joining with me suggesting that it’d be hilarious and we’d get a day out of school to compete if nothing else. We were terrible but I loved it. I finally got a guitar when I was 16. After another buddy of mine taught me a few chords, I was addicted. I’m still addicted. I’ll know how to play it some day.
Cartezz: It goes back further than I can remember. Music was always around my household. My sister introduced me to the Grateful Dead at a young age. And I was really obsessed with getting a “gun-tar” when I was very little. I started playing trumpet first in the third grade, turned to the drums in fifth grade and finally got my hands on a Yamaha Stratocaster from Sam’s Club in sixth grade. Once I learned how to read tabs, it was all over.
Red’s: When did you write your first song? What inspired it?
Cartezz: I think it was seventh grade. My buddy Anderson and I would stay up all night, staying awake however we could, drawing weird pictures, playing music, and talking about all the big things we were going to do with our lives. Out of one of these nights came a little gem called, “Mexico” about running away to some small beach town on the coast of Mexico and meeting a beautiful woman—hopefully one that had an affinity for braces and khaki shorts. Then, over a decade later, I found myself one day, bummed out, a few doors down from his house where we dreamt all those big dreams, and I was still in the same damn place. The song ’Virginia Slims’ came pouring out of me right then and there.
Womz: The first song I ever wrote was about my girlfriend in pre-school. Her name was Mary-Lucy. I still remember the melody. It was actually pretty dark. In high school my friends and I would write these silly rap songs about teachers and current events and I’d beat box (perhaps some of my best work). But the first song Carter and I ever wrote was Dirty D about an old diesel truck I drove in high school. It was the first song-writing experience involving an actual instrument for me. I immediately bought a MacBook on credit, so I could record with GarageBand. Shortly after that, I wrote MJB, which was the first song I ever wrote on guitar. It was by inspired by my best friend getting kicked out of a Christian rehab.
Red’s: How has your songwriting evolved?
Cartezz: I feel like the music side of things always came way more naturally to me than the lyrical side of things. So in recent years, I’ve been trying to focus more on that. That means not settling for what works, but really pushing to make sure you are identifying and achieving, lyrically, what you mean to with a song. Sometimes the focus is on the flow; rhythm and phonetics, like a Bob Dylan type thing, where delivery is king and the meaning may be open to people’s own personal interpretations. Other times you have something you want to say in clear, plain English where there is no cryptic veil, like you’ll find in a lot of John Prine or old country songs.
Womz: It’s changed a lot and still is I think. I’d like to think I’ve gotten a lot better at music in general over the years. I’ve put in a whole lot of work! Maybe it’s in the way I think about putting words together. Keeping a consistent tone. It’s challenging. I have to work hard at it but I love it. There’s not a day that goes by, a moment really, where I’m not working on a song or thinking of making music in some way.
Red’s: How would describe your music-making process?
Cartezz: You can’t force it. That never works. You just always have to have that antenna up for whenever that thing, whatever it is, beams you a transmission. I remember writing the riff and first verse to Johnny Utah in Nashville while on our first tour. I was lying hungover on a friend’s couch. I recorded it to my phone before it vanished, as those things quickly do, and I was able to finish it later. You’ve just always got to be open to the inspiration.
Womz: Constant and always evolving. Mainly I try to stay honest. Gotta keep it real.
Red’s: What are you working on right now?
Womz: We released Portico I back in November of last year. We’ll be releasing the Portico II EP very soon. We were back in the Portico a few weeks ago recording demos for our next full-length record, which will be our fourth one. We’re very excited about it. We had such a blast working on them. Cant wait to get ‘em done and out there.
Cartezz: Doing the best work we can every damn day and night! We’ve got a lot of great things in the works right now that we are very excited about. A bunch of new recordings, and a bunch of new tour dates taking us out to the west coast next month.
Red’s: What should folks expect from Futurebirds upcoming tour?
Cartezz: We’re going out west in late April and May, which I am always excited about. We play shows in Missoula, Portland, Seattle, Bend then headed south to Santa Cruz and San Francisco, before making our way to LA. We’ve got a lot of dates in between too including a first-time stop in Sacramento, which I’m really excited about. I hear is beautiful this time of year…
Womz: Expect a good time and bring your dancing shoes!
Red’s: What inspired your recent string of intimate shows?
Cartezz: Playing in the super stripped-back fashion is just a really nice change of pace. Womz and I did a couple in California last year when we had some time off. They turned out way better than we could have hoped. It’s a completely different approach to performing. It’s exercising a different muscle that really makes us better performers, writers, and musicians. The energy is way more palpable between you and the audience. It’s a totally naked feeling that gives a real rush of adrenaline that’s just different from the rush of playing with the band. You have to embrace that vulnerability, throw your arms around it for better or worse and just hope people dig it.
Womz: We did a couple of these shows last fall out west and had such a good time doing them we decided to do more! It’s a great change of pace from touring with a full band….a lot more low key and in the moment. We get a chance to hang with folks and talk about songs. It’s more vocally centered. A little more focus on harmony and other subtleties. It was really good time for everyone.
Red’s: What do you turn to creatively outside of music?
Womz: Well inspiration can come at any time, and when it does, you gotta go with it. Too precious to put off! Everybody in my opinion is always seeking inspiration, whether they realize it or not. That feeling of connection and clarity - It’s moving. And making something of it, a song perhaps, is a very gratifying feeling. It’s worthy of the chase.
Cartezz: Life is all about inspiration. It’s that buzzing feeling you get in your fingertips when you’re out for an awesome drive in the country, or meeting that new person who you instantly feel like you’ve known all your life, it’s trusting yourself to set out into an abyss of uncertainty, and truly knowing that you’ll be better off on the other side. There’s a lot of inspiration, and clarity of vision, to be found out in the unknown.
Red’s: What influences your style?
Womz: Motion! I decided on the flag because I thought it’d be fun to whip around on stage and accent my movement. Kinda like my hair…ha.
Cartezz: There’s a whole boatload of things that influence my style. I try to keep it halfway respectable, halfway presentable, a hair outlandish, mostly comfortable. I’ve always been drawn to a great thrift-store find. I love the idea of a piece of clothing having a whole other life before its time with me, like we are just crossing paths for a bit, before it moves on to someone else after being left somewhere on tour, or indefinitely ‘borrowed’ by a friend. It’s like a good relationship or something…
Red’s: What are your musical icons/influences?
Womz: There are lots! When it comes down to it tho, I’d say all the obvious ones: Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin. As I got older, I got more into the Dead, Gram Parsons, Flying Burrito Brothers.
Cartezz: Man that’s something I hate to put in a box, cuz it’s a pretty endless and fluid list. The Grateful Dead has been the longest and strongest influence; The Stones has been a long-running thread along with Pink Floyd. Those all came into my life at a very impressionable age.
Red’s: What’s the best way to gain access to your music?
Womz: Any digital media outlet, Soundcloud, Spotify, YouTube, and always go to futurebirdsmusic.com our iTunes.
Cartezz: We’re at all your favorite music watering holes. But truly the best way to access our music is to come out to a show and experience it right alongside us.
Red’s: What are you listening to now?
Womz: Ryan Adams new record Prisoner.
Cartezz: Lambchop put out a new record that’s pretty amazing. Khraungbin’s record and Big Baby D.R.A.M. have been in heavy rotation too as of late. I also just recently discovered this guy Allan Wachs, who is amazing. It’s this awesome mid-70s hippy-swamp, bluegrassy/country thing. As much as people want to hate on the digital age, I discovered it on Spotify. It’s pretty insane to have almost every record ever at your fingertips…
Red’s: Any last words?
Womz: I hope to see everyone out there.
Cartezz: (Silence) Ha, no. That question sounds like I’m about to be shot by a firing squad.