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Artist Spotlight: Medium Build’s Nick Carpenter preview Phoenix show; talks new album and what’s next for the project

As the mastermind behind Medium Build, Nick Carpenter has always possessed a unique blend of charisma and musical talent that draws listeners in. This year marks a significant milestone with the release of his new album, Country, a deeply personal exploration of his roots and future. Recorded on Nashville’s iconic Music Row, the album blends heartfelt storytelling with genre experimentation, reflecting a season of transformation for the artist. 

On Monday night, fans in Phoenix are in for a treat as Medium Build takes the stage at The Rebel Lounge for a sold out show, the fifth stop on their extensive US tour. The anticipation is palpable, as Nick’s live performances are known to be equal parts concert, testimony and stand-up comedy, promising an unforgettable evening. Atlas spoke with Carpenter in advance of the Phoenix show where he opened up about the inspirations behind Country, his nomadic lifestyle and the emotional journey that led to this latest release. “It was really funny recording on Music Row,” Nick recalls. “It felt like this cosmic joke but it ended up being really fun.” 

Atlas Artist Group: How does your new album, Country, differ from your previous work in terms of sound and storytelling?

Nick Carpenter: I think every record I’ve tried to use less digital tools. So in the recording, I think it’s raw, more roomy, more live. Like every record I’ve chased trying to make it more live. And then I think in the storytelling, I’ve tried to become more direct. As a twenty-something I hid behind a lot of stuff. I hid my words, my meanings and I hid my voice behind processing. Every year I’m getting a little less embarrassed to just say exactly what I mean and play it in a simple way. I think it’s just a bit more raw, a bit more real than ever.

Atlas: What was it like recording on Nashville’s music row for this album?

Carpenter: It was really funny. I’m gonna have kind of a chip on my shoulder about music row, because I went to school in Nashville like when I was [younger] and I got burnt out by that machine and moved away for eight years to Alaska to lick the wounds and then moving back and having really like a last ditch effort. We had recorded an album that we ended up canning and then we were just looking for a place to do some time. Somebody on my publishing team was like there’s this really cheap room on Music Row. It almost felt like this cosmic joke that I was bound to go make this “my major label debut” on this street that I resent in this town that I kind of resent. 

Just so many things teed up poked me and were like, hey, are you gonna grow up? Are you gonna let go of that shit? Or are you gonna be an asshole? And it ended up being really fun. I went to the Sony Music Publishing Office every day and they were weirded out because they were always used to pro country guys coming in. So it was me and Jake walking in and starting our days at 1 p.m. and just looking like weirdos and staying up all night and they’re just like, “Okay, I don’t know what y’all doing in there, but I hope it’s good!” It was really fun. Now I drive down Music Row and I like smile and I like see that building and I’m like, oh fuck yeah.

Atlas: Can you share any challenges from the recording sessions?

Carpenter: That two weeks on Music Row was like our third attempt at making the album. We got in the room with some producers that kind of wanted more control than we wanted to give. The challenges of doing it on Music Row ourselves was just that we’re not in a fancy studio. We had to source all the gear. I called my lawyer- who was also a drummer- [and] he brought a drum kit. I called one of the guys from the label. He brought a bass amp. We had to piecemeal everything. So it was like a la carte instead of going to like this sort of guru type motherfucker that’s like, “I have everything, just come, and I’ll do everything.” 

And if you want control, you have to do more chores, right? So it’s like on this tour I’m on right now- when you’re the support act- you just get to ride along and you’re kind of babied and you get taken care of, but you don’t have a lot of control. But there’s less work, right? So then now we’re on this headliner, right? I have so much control, but there’s so many more chores. So I’d say the challenge was just Jake and I had gotten kind of spoiled by that month recording with that kind of bigwig guy. He had all these cool keyboards and all this stuff and we didn’t have any cool stuff. We literally found this old church piano keyboard in the closet at Sony. And I was like, “I guess this is it!” It had the chords and these tones and that’s what we made “Cutting Thru The Country” on. It’s kind of fun. The limitations are fun. I think you get rich and you buy every toy and then you’re not curious anymore. All the records start to kind of sound the same.

Atlas: Can you discuss any specific musical influences that were pivotal in shaping the album?

Carpenter: I have definitely just been in this left of center, folk thing the past couple of years. Like Loudon Wainwright III, like Nanci Griffith and Lori McKenna. Just really trying to get to, how do I tell a good story in three [or] four minutes? Listening to Red House Painters, trying to just get that bit of a somber vibe. I felt like after arriving on the scene and having all these cool kids around, I just didn’t want to use any tools. I was like, what’s the simplest way we can do this? Let’s bring in somebody to drum. I’m gonna play a QC guitar while they’re drumming. Let’s do the vocal live. I wanted to have more of that thing, which feels like it’s more in the kind of country Americana folk tradition.

Atlas: Do you prefer being in the studio and creating the music or being out on the road and performing it?

Carpenter: Today I’d say I’d rather be sitting in the studio, making a pot of coffee, playing with my dogs, getting stoned, writing, being creative. But you put me in the studio for three weeks and I’m ready to play these songs. So it’s just a dance. You gotta do both. I like them both. I can’t have one without the other. I think it’s the seasons. I think it’s literally winter and summer. Right now I’m playing them live for the first time and it feels amazing. But catch me in a month, and it’s gonna be like, “Get me off the road. Let me sit still.”

Atlas: Which song on the album holds the most personal significance for you and why?

Carpenter: They’re all pretty real but I’d say the realest one right now is “Known By None”. It’s an old song that I’d written a couple years ago that I hadn’t finished and then I finished it while I was going through this breakup and the last verse, I just reused the first verse but just changed some words to make it more devastating. When I was young, I wanted everyone to know me. Eventually one day you wake up alone on a couch, now you’ve got the house and the dogs and you’re just out here running. I got what I want. I get to be known by none. And so this whole past two years of Medium Build becoming successful just sort of destroyed what normalcy I had. I had a home life. I had dogs and a partner and I worked at a brewery and I’d ride my bike to work and had this very simple life. My life can still be simple, but it’s not normal. It’s not normal to be traveling eight months a year and have people DM you crazy shit and people know about your life. It kind of ate us up. But I chose music over my ex and over not only my ex but being around my family, being a great brother. Now I have to schedule time with my brother or he gets snippy with me if we don’t catch up, you know? It’s fucking hard and most days I do feel the most known and unknown. That one’s funny because it’s devastating and we packaged it in this boppy tune- that’s a real one.

Atlas: What songs seem to be connecting most strongly with the audiences that you’ve had so far on tour?

Carpenter: “Can’t Be Cool Forever” has been the one crowd banger. It’s funny because that was probably the last song that was created fully last minute. We almost didn’t put it on the record. I was just like, “I just feel like we need it. It’s kind of urgent. It’s got this vibe. I feel like I wrote it right now, I want to say it right now.” I’ve had to convince so many people in my corner that that song is good, which is hilarious. Because then the fans are absolutely obsessed with it. As soon as that one starts, people go nuts. 

“Can’t Be Cool Forever” has just been so fun. I love playing it. As soon as you start singing it, people fucking start dancing and crying. It’s a good vibe. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to not play it.

Atlas: How do you see the album influencing your future projects and musical direction?

Carpenter: We’re in this weird position right now where we’re not huge by any means, but we’re definitely fuzzy. I think the fun critical version of it is indie darling, right? It’s the classic they can’t lose, they can’t miss, everything they do is good. I feel like there’s a lot of where people look at me like, what’s he gonna do? I have never really thought about an arc. When I write, I’m not thinking like, “and then LP3, I’ll drift into this territory”. I just get stoned and see what comes out. 

I would like to stay on this path of trying to do less. I’m taking notes from Adrianne Lenker and Andy Shaw and people getting away from using their MacBooks and shit. But I also love dance music, I love drum machines. I’m just trying to find ways to make it feel…organic. I’m trying to make the live show feel like the studio and make the studio feel like the live show. I’m trying to make all of it less pompous. Sounds pompous saying it out loud, but I think you know what I mean.

Atlas: Is there anything else you’d like to share in light of this tour or the new album?

Carpenter: I’m just excited to do more. The label’s already kind of poking us about doing some deluxe or like another EP. We definitely have some leftover stuff. There’s not enough time anymore. Even in a 90 minute set, I can’t play all the great songs that we have. 

How do we make this more fun? How do we make this more creative? How do I make it feel like high school, like theater, talent show, like more back when you were young and shit felt essential, other than just like “oh, here’s that guy playing his hit song. Here he goes”. I’m just excited. I’m fucking stoked to be out here. Excited to go to Phoenix. Shows in Phoenix are always weird and wild. They always go hard. They always party hard. I’m very excited.

Catch Medium Build at The Rebel Lounge on May 20!

Photo courtesy of Medium Build