Anson Carter is a maverick, which is to be expected. He’s a Texan after all, and like most Texans, he’s full of contradictions. He’s a serious artist who dresses in black, but his smile is as wide as the Rio Grande. He drives to dance hall gigs in a pick up truck, but he’s just as likely to wrangle up his fans on the Internet with a website and a MySpace page. He can belt out a country song with enough power to blow the mud flaps off a semi, then turn around and strum an acoustic love song that’ll bring a lump to your throat. His songs make you want to drink, dance and have a good time, but there’s a heart and soul in his music that lets you know he’s the real deal.
You may not know Anson Carter by sight yet, but if you live in Corpus Christi, you know his voice. He’s the guy that’s been singing the praises of the Whataburger’s #5 combo for the past year on KFTX and KRYS, Corpus Christi’s leading country stations. “Whataburger #5” has done something remarkable for an unsigned artist. When Angela-Marie Lampton of SunFire Entertainment heard it in 2007, she sent a copy of “Whataburger #5” to Austin Daniels, the program director of KFTX in Corpus Christi, TX, the corporate home town of Whataburger. “I put it on the air as soon as I could,” says Daniels. “It’s a fun tune with a great guitar hook and it sings the praises of Whataburger, which is a local institution. And like Anson says, any girl who likes bacon and jalapeños on her #5 combination is all right with me. The song was our #1 most requested tune for months and months, and we’re still playing it.” Getting a radio hit with a new song from an unknown artist with no label connections is almost unheard of in today’s music world, but the sunny Texas vibe of “Whataburger’s #5” makes a Carter fan out of everyone who hears it.
“Whataburger #5” is a quintessential Texas song. Carter sings it with a good-natured growl that’s complimented by Texas honky tonk piano, a backbeat with a hint of Tex-Mex swing, and a soaring twin guitar hook that instantly imbeds itself in your brain. It perfectly captures the feeling of falling in love on a hot summer day in the Lone Star state. The song came out of a conversation Carter had with songwriter Justin Spears, who he knew from their years playing together in The Emotions, one of the most successful Texas Dance Hall bands. “Justin is one of those guys that can write a song about anything. We would talk about eating a Whataburger #5 before and after our shows. So, he decided one day to write a song about it." Carter recalls. “I remember the first time he played the song for me. It really got me thinking about the dream girl who would like all the things I like; strolling on the River Walk in San Antonio, hanging out on Sixth Street in Austin on the 4th of July, walking on the beach at Padre Island, and of course, eating a Whataburger combo #5 with plenty of jalapeños. As he strummed the last note and said, ‘How’s this?’ I knew it was special.”
Carter recorded “Whataburger” and its possible follow up “This Beer’s All Ears”, a traditional honky tonk tune, with the backing of The Emotions at Cedar Creek studio in Austin, TX. The tracks were sent to Nashville and mixed by ex-Emotion Robert “Rob” Wright, who produced Chris Cagle’s gold albums Chris Cagle and Anywhere But Here. Wright also produced “All About the Music” and “I Want To See You Naked,” two more potential tunes for Carter’s upcoming debut Honky Tonk Therapy. “‘I Wanna See You Naked,’ is a risky song, I know,” Carter says. “The lyrics are slightly risqué and the music has a weird beat that’s not usually heard in Country music, but the Texas scene doesn’t have all the rules Nashville does. It’s a fun song, and who doesn’t like being naked with the one they love?” You can listen to, and buy these songs, on Carter’s MySpace page.
Carter has high praise for Wright’s taste and musicality. “He can play almost any instrument better then most people who have spent a lifetime trying to master it,” he says. “His brain is always thinking of alternative approaches. If I got stuck on a note or the lyrical flow, he was always ready with a new way to attack it. He’s amazing to work with.”
Carter is also a hard worker. He’s his own manager, promoter, and booking agent. “I decided to take a new approach to marketing my songs. Instead of cutting a CD with one hit and nine filler songs, I decided to cut one song at a time. People are going back to buying singles again, not whole CDs. So I cut costs from a label perspective and by making songs only available for downloading, I’m not spending money putting out CD singles either. I think I’m WAY ahead of the curve on this one. When people come up to me at a gig, they don’t ask where they can buy my album. They want to know where they can download the songs.”
Anson Carter was born and raised in Houston, TX; he moved to the town of Kingwood in 1999. His father, an engineer that designs flow measurement meters (four of his designs have been patented), had a huge record collection and exposed him and his brother and sister to the rock of the ‘50s and ‘60s, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Elvis, Led Zeppelin. In middle school, teachers were assigning instruments based on a student’s ability to hear the subtle differences between tones and pitch. Cater scored high on the test, but was hell bent on being a drummer. “My parents did get me a drum kit, but I don’t think they were ever happy about the noise I created.”
At 15, Carter put together a band called Kezwick. They played a combination of country and metal and honed their chops playing at dances and house parties. “After high school, we started an all country band,” Carter says. “We were called The Midnight Cowboys. It was then I realized I had the ability to mimic singers: Tim McGraw, Kenney Chesney, Garth Brooks, George Strait. I’d change my voice to sound like them while covering their songs and people loved it.”
Carter dropped out of music to take a break, but when his friend Bart Woytek got serious about his country music career, Carter signed on as his guitar player and back up singer. They honed their act for five years, getting opening slots for the Dixie Chicks, Neal McCoy, Kenney Chesney, and Mark Chestnutt, among others. After parting ways with Woytek, he joined Double Shot, a band formed by a few ex-Emotions who wanted a piece of the Dance Hall pie. (In Texas, Dance Halls are large all age venues that act as social hubs and gathering places. They are unique to the Lone Star State and thousands of them are scattered across the landscape, providing a proving ground for musicians of all types.) From Double Shot, Carter moved on to The Emotions, the premiere Texas cover band. In their 32-year history people like David Kersh, Suzanne Karr, Chad Hudson, and Shane Jamelka have gone through the ranks. Tim McGraw's stage manager Joey Stupak and Bon Jovi’s lighting director Greg Koura launched their careers with the Emotions.
Carter sang and played guitar with The Emotions for three years before joining Rhythm of the Road, a band more committed to playing Texas style music. He continues playing nights, putting in his days working as hard as possible on the tunes for his debut album, Honky Tonk Therapy. As of now, Carter doesn’t have any intention of breaking out of the Texas music scene. “We have our own style down here and our own loyal fan base. I think once ‘Whataburger #5’ is promoted around the state it will be huge, considering how well its been received in one city. There are plenty of acts making their living around TX, so I’ll be fine staying here.”