Southern Sounds: Stephen Carey Q&A


Words by Carson Rich

How did you get started playing music?


I got my first guitar for my 11th birthday, and within about a year, I was playing along with Green Day and Blink-182 songs. Girls were impressed by this so I stuck with it. My parents have been supportive from day one and always let me choose music over everything. Music is a community and having been a part of it the majority of my life, I’ve learned everything I know from trial, error, and collaboration within that community. 


What inspired you to write country music rather than any other genre?


Country music is what gave me a voice as an artist. I grew up playing guitar, bass and drums in tons of bands and loved writing rock, hardcore, pop punk/emo songs with all my best friends, but the storytelling of country music drew me in as a singer for the first time. It inspired me to write songs for me and say what I wanted to say, and I’d never really done that before. I’d never gotten goosebumps when the hook of the first chorus lands with any other genre. It felt like a more personal level of songwriting, and I fell in love with it.


If you had to pick I want to see who are one or two of your biggest musical influences when creating new music?


My parents raised me on classic rock, pop, hair metal and Southern rock so I didn’t discover country music until later on, on my own. My high school and college years were very much a part of the Warped Tour era of music, which made a very deep impression on me. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of synthwave and indie pop. The Midnight was my #1 artist on my Spotify Wrapped this year, and I have two new songs that I’m really excited about that were heavily influenced by them. I haven’t heard anything like that in country, which is exciting. It feels fresh. 


What is something you want to try and do differently from other artists today? 


For me, it’s always been about entertaining. My passion for music comes from a place of connectivity and joy in a moment. I’ve always tried to focus on the audience experience and create unique ways to connect. I’ve also always tried to innovate within the genre and continue to make it fun for me to create and perform. I’m still such a huge fan of music, whether it’s connecting with a lyric personally or screaming all the words with a room full of strangers at shows. My favorite shows are the ones where it feels like you’re part of something and not just watching someone play songs. 


What message do you want fans to walk away with after hearing your music?


I want people that hear my music to feel like they belong, like they’re welcome. I try to write relatable and engaging songs that either tap into an emotion or can take your mind off of the weight of the world for a few minutes. 


Your songs typically bring out a fun, laid-back type of character. Do you write this way because it represents who you are or is there another reason?


Look, I love an emotional tearjerker in the right setting, but for the most part, I enjoy music as an escape and as a way to enhance an experience. No one wants to hear a soft-spoken sad bastard, plucking through a ballad when you’re crushing seltzers with your friends on a pontoon. I apply that way of thinking to my writing most of the time because I want people to have fun at my shows. I want it to feel like a party where you can laugh and cry and drink and dance together, and you never get bored.


What has been the most memorable moment of your journey in the music industry so far?


I’ve had quite a few pinch me moments, but the coolest thing I think was when my song “Summer Cool” was on the Viral 50 chart on Spotify right next to Keith Urban and Justin Timberlake. 


Where do you see yourself in the future? 


Down the road I see myself doing exactly what I’m doing right now at a higher level. I want to continue to write the best songs possible and release and perform them in a compelling way.


What advice would you give to someone starting out in their music career based on your experience so far?


Depending on the genre, it could be a different place but you have to be where what you want to do is happening. For me it’s Nashville. For someone else it could be New York or LA or Austin or Atlanta. It’s a different experience, and you can create more impactful opportunities more often when you’re part of the community you want to be in.


Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or releases that you’re working on or have shared recently?


I have a new song called RIP coming out on Jan. 12. I also have a music video and an acoustic version of “My Favorite” set to release in February. I have another four songs in different stages of production that I would like to release throughout next year as well.

About Carson Rich

Throughout his childhood, you could always find Carson Rich with his eyes glued to the screen watching Sportcenter every morning before school. Now as an aspiring sports journalist at Folio Weekly, he looks to take after the people he used to look up to. Even when he is not writing about sports, he's usually at home binging old highlights or catching up on the latest news in sports.