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Carter Vail on How Self-Producing His Music Has Shaped His Personal Growth

Music & Podcasts

May 31, 2023

Nowadays, there are many artists who self-produce their songs, create vibe-worthy music, and curate relatable and funny content on social media. But there are few who stand out.

Meet Carter Vail: a self-produced indie-rock artist whose music combines elements of lo-fi, disco, bossa nova and, of course, indie-rock, all while being authentic to his personality, humor and living life. He has amassed over 200k followers on Instagram and 312k followers on TikTok, regularly posting short and entertaining clips of musical musings on each of the platforms.

Reminiscent of childhood and the summertime, his songs encapsulate a playful and positive energy and are the perfect addition to your summer playlists. Carter is also the host of The Interstellar Tennis Podcast on YouTube.

The Teen Magazine had the opportunity to chat with Carter about his musical career, his inspirations, challenges overcome and tips for aspiring musicians.

Photo by Lauren Nieves

Musical Beginnings

Carter Vail grew up in Conneticut in a musical household where he developed an interest in sound early on.

"I first became interested in music when I saw the Shrek movie. When I heard ‘All-Star’ by Smashmouth, it quite literally changed my life. That was 2001, and since then, it’s really the only thing that I wanted to do."

He emphasized that the song was an important part of his development as a musician, even though Smashmouth can no longer be found in any of his playlists.

Photo by Lauren Nieves

Later on, he went to college to get a degree in Audio Engineering. "Once I graduated, I got a job working for a guitar pedal manufacturing company in Nashville. I only worked there two weeks, then quit, because I was absolutely miserable."

This marked a turning point in his career as Carter decided he wanted to be a full-time musician and producer. Not everything came easily after that.

"The rest of my band and I ate eggs and black beans for every meal for about a year (not an eggsaggeration) before we could actually afford to buy normal food, so it’s been a slow road!"

Influences and Inpirations

Having grown up in a music-loving household, two of Carter's biggest supporters and influences were his parents. "They were so cool about me being a musician," he notes. After telling his parents that he quit his job after two weeks, they encouraged him to leave, saying "yeah, get the f*** out of there."

You will probably recognize Carter's unique character through his social media posts. His eclectic demeanor and eccentric ideas distinguish him from other artists. "I’m fairly obsessive about creation in general, I like making stuff in any form, and the people that inspire me the most are the people that obsess over their own art forms."

Some of these people include renowned filmmaker Wes Anderson and singer Andy Shauf. On Wes Anderson, Carter commented, "The way all of his films fit together really gets me going. It feels as though he isn’t focused on making a movie, he’s trying to make an entire catalogue, and every frame of his films has to fit into the over arching theme of his body of work." He continued saying, "I feel the same way about Andy Shauf, all of his music fits together so nicely."

Photo by Lauren Nieves

Finding His Platform as An Artist: One Beat at a Time

When asked about what challenges he overcame in his career as a musician and producer, Carter took some time to reflect on struggles both past and present. One of the challenges he highlighted was the difficulty of finding his place as an artist within the music industry and taking things one step at a time.

"Getting any foothold in this industry has taken so long, that it’s hard to see that I have actually made any progress. Of course, looking back now, I must have, because I don’t eat eggs and beans for every meal."

Photo by Lauren Nieves

Carter also struggled with visualizing his progress overtime and celebrating accomplishments along the way.

"I think the thing that [has] been the hardest for me is remembering to celebrate victories. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the ever-moving goal posts. As soon as you reach a milestone, you tend to realize how much further there is to go. I do, however, think I’m getting better at this, which is exciting! I think all artists experience this to some degree."

Even though the road to success as an artist may seem endless, everything should be done one step at a time. Each step is a small victory, and it is important to acknowledge these victories as you progress towards the next "goal post."

Words of Advice

For those aspiring to become a musician, Carter has some helpful tips.

"The biggest hack with being a musician is learning how to do things yourself. The great career killer in this industry is overspending, but if you’re able to make everything yourself, you never run into that! That’s why I think I was able to keep going for so long. This, however, leads to a second and maybe more important tip: you can’t be precious with your art," he adds.

"I like to think of my music as a snapshot of where I was at the time it was made, both emotionally and skill-wise. I don’t try to make my music perfect, I try to make it honest, and however good I get it, I put it out, knowing that it’s probably better than what I put out before. So many of my friends who produce their own music get caught up in the perfectionist mentality, and nothing ever gets released. In short: Being done is more important than being perfect."

This raw honesty and authenticity he explains shows through in his work, and this is also what fans love about his music.

10 Quick Qs

We asked Carter a few quick fire-round questions to get to know him even better.

1. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would you go?

I would love to live on a house boat, anywhere warm. Ideally turn it into a studio, although practically having all that heavy machinery near so much water sounds like a recipe for disaster.

2. Describe your music in one word.


3. If you weren't making music as a musician/artist, what would you do?

I think there’s something romantic about being an architect, though I have never in my life done anything remotely related to architecture.

4. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world - dead or alive - who would it be?

I’d like to talk to a young Theodore Roosevelt, but my answer to this changes all the time. I think it’d probably be a very fun night.

5. Would you rather be able to speak every language on Earth or communicate with animals?

Every language. If I could speak to animals, there’s no way I’d be able to continue eating meat. Besides, I think speaking to animals would be far less useful than we think.

6. What is your biggest pet peeve?

I don’t like people that say they don’t drink water. Some people say it with a sense of pride, and I think that’s absolute nonsense.

7. What are 3 words you would use to describe yourself?

Regimented, optimistic and interested.

8. If you could have any superpower, which would you choose and why?

Teleportation. I’m writing this from a plane and I absolutely despise travel days. It’s my least favorite thing ever.

Biggest waste of a day. I’m halfway through my fourth movie right now.

9. What are your favorite and least favorite meals?

I’ve just discovered Sweet Green, and it’s incredible. I got the harvest bowl and it absolutely knocked my socks off. So that right now is my favorite.

Least favorite, I think fondue doesn’t deliver on its promise. When you hear about dipping stuff into cheese, it’s mind blowing, but the cheese is all wrong. Give me melted down Kraft singles. What’s this fancy nonsense?

10. What is your spirit animal? Why?

I’ve been told I’m a golden retriever by many of my friends. I think it’s because I’m very optimistic and love chasing things (two of my favorite traits I might add), so maybe that.

Keep up with Carter!

Keep following Carter on his musical journey through his social media platforms @cartervailmusic:

Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | SoundCloud

Listen to Carter's music:

Spotify | Apple Music | YouTube | Website

Carter Vail's latest single "We Were Kids" is out today, May 31st.

Emilia Wesolkowski
20k+ pageviews

Emilia is a high schooler from Canada. She has a passion for both writing and STEM, and also enjoys reading, learning new languages, and crocheting. She has been writing for The Teen Magazine since March 2021.