Thursday, July 26, 2012 | 11:59 p.m.
Carolina Liar Show Me What I'm Looking For
Alt-rockers Carolina Liar bring their piano-heavy rock tunes to Chelsea Ballroom at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Friday opening for The Fray and “American Idol” Season 1 and Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson.
I caught up with vocalist Chad Wolf about the band’s early success, the decision to leave their major record label and their most recent album, “Wild Blessed Freedom.”
Mark Adams: You became a band in 2006 and had hit songs all over the airwaves by 2008. To what do you attribute Carolina Liar’s success?
Chad Wolf: I think, to be honest, it’s just kind of good luck and timing more than anything else. … I think the songs are good, but we just kind of came around at that right moment when those kinds of songs were useful for a lot of things, and we got a lot of presence in places you never would have seen us. It was like a new avenue for songs to go on, places like television shows. A lot of different kinds of television shows, too, so we were able to meet a big audience on top of what we were getting on the radio.
M.A.: You mentioned that it was good timing for those kinds of songs. Why was that a good time to release your debut album “Coming to Terms”?
C.W.: I think it was just that whole “Grey’s Anatomy” thing. It was kind of a new idea, using songs, those kind of piano-driven, singer-songwriter songs with very descriptive songwriting, that could be used in these kinds of commercials and television shows and that illustrated drama. It connected. … We were one of the first bands to go full-blast like that.
M.A.: I read that you met your band members when you moved to Stockholm. Were you already working on “Coming to Terms,” or was that album a group endeavor?
C.W.: It was me and Tobias Karlsson, the other writer, for a lot of the tracks. We started doing demos at his house, he had a one-bedroom, studio kind of house in Hollywood. … That’s how Max Martin found us, through the demo of “Coming to Terms.”
M.A.: You’ve worked with some of the biggest producers in the industry; Max Martin is just one of them. How important do you think a producer is in the music-making process?
C.W.: It’s pretty important because, with “I’m Not Over,” what happened with that song was the original demo for it was really kind of light. When Max came in … we were just listening to some heavier stuff that morning, and we were, like, “Well, that would be fun if we did something along these lines.” Max grabbed the guitar and out of instinct, he started playing kind of the opening rhythm of what we had, but he played it with a ton of distortion.
Producers can add life to a song that it never had been able to see before because you get blind in your own work sometimes. Having a producer to pull you out of your head is really important.
M.A.: You released your latest album “Wild Blessed Freedom” on your own Liar record label. Does the title speak to your newfound autonomy?
C.W.: Yeah, it does. It’s a scary kind of thing; we are completely free. And it’s crazy … Craig Goldman kind of gave us his blessing when we left Atlantic Records. He gave us a good handshake and was, like, “Look, we’ve had a good relationship here, this is just something that we can’t meet eye to eye on, so I give you my blessing, and I hope you guys can make everything you want to happen with this record. … I wish you nothing but success.”
And that’s why we took that title for the record. … With a major label, you can make something happen a lot faster than you can with an indie, so it has taken us a year to get this record up to the place that probably a major label would take three months.
M.A.: What has been the most striking difference between recording music under a major label and working for yourselves?
C.W.: The decision-making process. It’s been crazy different … everything is just an instant decision. Like, “OK, this is what we’re going to do now, this is the artwork we’re going to make.” And I guess the striking difference is you see what your mistakes are quickly, and you have to be responsible for it. … This time it’s really just like you have to own every decision that you make and whenever it’s … your own money and your own time, every decision becomes really important. That’s the really striking difference.
M.A.: Where did you draw your inspiration from for the new album?
C.W.: This record was really about everything that was happening on the road at the time of the first record because we were there, and really it wasn’t a lot of time for writing and just being able to sit in the studio. We had to take the influences that were around us traveling across America and seeing what was going on. The idea of America was really inspiring for us, being in a band and seeing what was going on in the country, seeing the kind of homelessness in places -- like being in Detroit and playing this beautiful old theater, but everything around the area where we were playing was decrepit, and there were so many homeless people around.
But then, at night, whenever the show began, all of these people came out, and all of the sudden you see the spirit of Detroit in that crowd. The place was packed; there was no place to even move. And that spirit of the city was still there … the heart of all these people and that kind of hope that they still had and music and just celebrating life in that moment was very apparent, so we tried to channel that energy.
M.A.: How did touring with Kelly Clarkson and The Fray come about -- how were you approached?
C.W.: We were contacted. I guess The Fray thought we might be a good fit for the tour, and then what ended up happening was Kelly had three shows on the West Coast with Matt Nathanson. So they asked us if we could go up and play the shows and see how everything fit. We did three shows with her, driving on our own, we didn’t take anybody with us. And I think around the second show, she thought that we’d be cool enough, and everybody got along pretty well, no problems, and she brought us onto the tour.
M.A.: Where’d you get the name Carolina Liar?
C.W.: It came from this producer I was working for in Santa Monica. He never believed anything I told him. And he was going to sign this other band I had at one time called Suzy’s Parlor, and that broke apart. He kept wanting to sign me, just as a writer and producer, but he never liked any of these kind of band names I was coming up with for another project.
I was telling him some story about where I grew up as a kid, and he thought I was lying to him again, and that morning, he’s just like, “Where are you from? What city is it or state?” And I was like, “I grew up in South Carolina,” and he’s like “That’s it, you should call yourself Carolina Liar. Whatever you do from this point forward, you put a band together, whatever, call it Carolina Liar.”
M.A.: You’ve toured with some pretty well-known acts -- Rob Thomas, Gavin DeGraw, One Republic. Who’s been the most fun to work with?
C.W.: When we did the Rob Thomas tour, he was such a nice guy. That was such a good learning lesson on being on a major run like that. That was probably one of the best lessons in getting out there and doing this kind of work. Kelly’s been super nice; you know, there’s really never been any bad people. We haven’t had to deal with really any attitude on longtime tours.