A chat with Carter's Chord, Carter's Chord interview, Joanna, Emily and Becky Robertson
An interview with Carter's Chord

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ALSO: Don't miss Red Rocker's review of the self-titled debut album from Carter's Chord.

Listening to the harmony-drenched debut from the all-female Nashville trio Carter’s Chord, you wouldn’t know on first glance that they were second-generation Outlaws. The girls are sisters, you see – Joanna, Emily and Becky Robertson – and their parents Barny and Carter toured with Waylon Jennings and his wife Jessi Colter for years. (They call Shooter Jennings the brother they never had.) So make no mistake, there is a feisty, independent spirit bustling throughout Carter’s Chord, their debut on Toby Keith’s Show Dog Records. We were so smitten with the girls that an interview alone simply would not suffice. First, we spent an afternoon taking their picture (see below) before a show in West Palm Beach. A month later, we came back for a chat. Gorgeous, smart, and they play fantasy football. We’re in love.

NOTE: Click the thumbnails below to see larger versions of the photos.

Bullz-Eye: Hello, ladies.

Carter’s Chord: Hey. How are you?

BE: Good, good. How are you?

CC: We’re doing good.

BE: This is going to be a fun one to transcribe. If you could, just for my sake, introduce yourselves so I can try and figure out which girl is which.

CC: That’s totally fine, and before we answer questions we’ll help identify ourselves too.

BE: Awesome. Thank you.

Becky Robertson: Because we all sound alike. But I’m Becky, I’m the oldest sister.

Joanna Robertson: I’m Joanna, the youngest.

Emily Robertson: I’m Emily, the rejected middle child.

BE: Hey, I married a rejected middle child and she’s awesome, so…

Emily: Aw, so yeah, she knows what it’s like.

BE: Yeah. And she was from a family of three girls, too.

CC: Oh, okay! There you go.

BE: First of all, before I forget, our photographer Paul said you were all really friendly and accommodating when he visited you in Florida last month. And I just wanted to say thank you and we appreciate that.

CC: Oh, no. He was great. We had a lot of fun.

Joanna, Emily and Becky Robertson on tour Joanna, Emily and Becky Robertson interview

BE: So you’re in or on your way to Mountain View, California?

Emily: Yeah, we are here in Mountain View right now, actually in our dressing room, which is about the size of a closet, so we are all huddled together but yeah, it’s beautiful up here right now. So we’re getting ready for the big show tonight.

BE: Is this your first full-fledged tour?

Becky: Yeah, this is our first major tour. I mean, we’ve done a lot of radio tour stuff we’ve been playing for a long time, but this is our first major, major tour we have ever been on. So it’s a pretty good tour to take part in.

BE: I would think so. Now how is life on the road treating you so far?

Emily: Life is awesome. I mean, it’s like a big adventure every day; it’s something different every day. We pull into this venue…well first of all; we’re on a bus with, like, seven other people, eight other people. So there’s a bunch of us on one bus so it’s like one big happy family. But we pull into these venues and everything is a little different. So you sleep on the bus and in the morning you wake up and you’re in a different place. It’s always exciting. There’s always something going on, someone to talk to, something to see. It’s a lot of fun.

BE: Well what do you do to pass the time between shows?

Joanna: It kind of varies. Sometimes we have radio visits, people to meet and sometimes we have nothing to do. We’ll just try and find something to do, we’ll listen to music. But we always have something to do on the internet or something. Becky keeps up with our MySpace (page) and you know, we’ve got YouTube and we make a lot of video blogs and stuff too, so we’ll do that if we don’t have the day already packed.

BE: What’s it like having Toby Keith as a boss?

Becky: He’s awesome. Toby is definitely, like, what you see is what you get. He is so laid back and just so down to earth. It’s really cool for us being at a label where the head of our label is an artist, because he just totally gets it and he’s very big on giving everyone their own creative freedom and he’s a really big supporter of people that write their own songs. So he’s a blast. It’s fun to be out on the road with him too, because he loves being on stage and he loves what he does and that really shined through. We definitely learn a lot from him every time we see him.

BE: What kind of response have you gotten so far as his opening act?

Emily: It’s been awesome. It’s cool because we kind of kick the whole show off. Our label mates, Trailer Choir, do a couple of songs and then we go out there and do a couple of songs. The reaction has been really, really cool. It’s surprising to see so many people in their seats right at 7:30; we go on pretty early. So far, the shows been pretty packed when we go out there, which is really cool. But it seems like we’ve got some good responses. We’ve had a lot of hits on our MySpace and we really feel like our fan base is growing.

“Our mom has two sisters and a brother and at family reunions, we’d all gather around the piano. We would fall asleep listening to them sing harmony, like the Von Trapp family.”

BE: I read about your parents’ connection to Waylon Jennings, but tell me what other kinds of music you heard around the house growing up. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the Dixie Chicks are in there somewhere.

Joanna: Yeah, we did like the Dixie…we still love the Dixie Chicks. It really, I mean it covers the gamut of what kinds of music we listen to. We always joke we all kind of skipped the ‘80s. Our parents were really into the ‘70s and ‘60s. We love Leon Russell and Eric Clapton and Marc Cohn. It’s kind of all over the place.

BE: That’s hilarious, skipping the ‘80s. Well, country music in the ‘80s was kind of in a bad way, wasn’t it?

Becky: Yeah, I don’t think we missed too much. Oh well, I probably shouldn’t say that. No, we did. I mean, growing up with the whole…we really grew up with that whole Outlaw sound and that really goes to influence a lot of what we do today. But we still, to this day, we listen to all different kinds of things. We love country. As far as country goes, we grew up listening to kind of more West Coast country stuff. Like, we also love the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt and we also grew up listening to Randy Travis. I mean, it’s just…anything you could possibly imagine, we’ve listened to it.

BE: Are your songs largely autobiographical, or do you tend to write from someone else’s perspective?

Becky: They’re mostly all autobiographical. We have a hard time just making up stuff. I think, for all of us, we always write from a first-person perspective. It might not be something we’re going through right at that moment, but it’s something we’ve gone through at one time or another. And it’s fun when we write together too, because since we’re all sisters, we know each other so well and we know what the other people are talking about and we’ve been there through the different situations and the different things that we write about. So I think that that helps, from a co-writing standpoint, we all understand each other really well.

BE:  So what did your parents say when they heard about you singing about sneaking out at midnight, like you did on “Young Love”?

Emily: Um, they probably knew anyway. We have some pretty cool parents. It was really cool having them as our parents, because they kind of understand the whole…what we’re going through with our career. They really are the world’s coolest parents, I have to say. They pretty much know everything and they’re cool with it.

BE: At what age did you realize that you sang well together enough that you could make a career out of this?

Joanna: I think it was about four or five years ago that we decided to get really serious about Carter’s Chord. You know, figure out the name of our band, start making demos and stuff like that. But we kind of sang together all our lives, three-part harmony. We grew up with harmony. Our mom has two sisters and a brother and at family reunions, we’d all gather around the piano. We would fall asleep listening to them sing harmony, like the Von Trapp family. So I think it was about four years ago that we decided we wanted to make a career out of it.

BE: How do you feel about pop stars like Jon Bon Jovi and Jessica Simpson crossing over to country? Do you welcome them with open arms, or do you kind of want to see them fall on their faces?

Becky: You know, it’s funny because so many people are crossing over to country right now and I think it’s a good thing. I mean, it depends on what the motivation behind it is. We definitely love country music for country music sake. But that’s the beauty of country music, is that it really is the music of the people, I think. As long as you’re writing songs that everybody can relate to, there’s a lot of room for a lot of different styles and different sounds in country music. And country music is very welcoming, so I guess if there’s something to crossover into, we’re probably the friendliest format. 

BE: I only have a couple more questions left. I wanted each of you to give me a song or two that you wish you had written.

Emily: Oh gosh, that is like the hardest question ever because there are so many songs that we all wish we had written. There’s a song by Marc Cohn called “Silver Thunderbird” that is really an awesome, awesome, awesome song. All three of us kind of grew up with that album, with “Walking in Memphis,” that was kind of the song…gosh, I can’t talk today. An album that the three of us grew up listening to, a song on there called Silver Thunderbird,” it’s amazing. I definitely wish I had written that song. Gosh, you guys go while I think if my second one.

Joanna: I’d say Becky and I probably both agree on this one, but one of my all time favorite songs, lyrically, is “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell. I wish I had written that song. That’s the most amazing song. I’d also say probably “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” by Counting Crows. That’s another amazing song that has just inspired me and I would love to have written that song.

“We always joke that we all kind of skipped the ‘80s. Our parents were really into the ‘70s and ‘60s. We love Leon Russell and Eric Clapton and Marc Cohn”

BE: This is great. You’re giving me answers that no one has ever given me before.

Becky: I know, that is a really hard question. This is a brand new favorite song of mine that I just heard, like last week and it’s a brand new song that’s on the radio. I just think it’s really cool so I wish that I would have written it. Lee Ann Womack has a new song called “Last Call” and it’s just totally…it’s a great country love, cheating, drinking song, which are my favorite, definitely. But that’s totally one right now that I wish I would have written.

BE: I read your press release and my favorite line, by a mile, is, “Becky is very passionate and energetic about everything, whether it's this new song she just heard or that her fantasy football team is in third place." Becky, half of our audience is going to want your phone number once they read that.

Becky: Hey, I have been the commissioner of my fantasy league for the last four years in a row. I definitely love football.

BE: That’s awesome. I actually serve as commissioner for two baseball leagues, so I get it.

Becky: You know what it’s about.

BE: I do, and I won my first football title last year, so…

Becky: Nice! So you’ve got some bragging rights, that’s good.

BE: I had first pick, so you know, LaDainian Tomlinson falls to you and then if you screw that up, that’s your problem, right?

Becky: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I think he went first in our draft last year.

BE: What are your plans once the tour is over?

Becky: Well, it’s kind of…it’s so funny because our schedule just gets filled up but we kind of just take it a month at a time. But once the tour’s over, we’re probably going to be doing a lot more radio shows. We had a couple of Christmas songs last year, so I’m sure we’ll probably do a couple of Christmas shows here and there. Then we’re just kind of taking it as it comes. Hopefully we’ll be doing a lot more touring next year, and we’ll have more songs on the radio. And the album actually comes out in stores in September, so we’ll be doing a lot of promotion around that. I’m not sure specifically what the plans are but I can guarantee it’s going to be full.

BE: Do you have any open time between now and the end of the year?

Becky: We probably will, it kind of depends. We’re out completely until the end of the tour; we’re not really going home at all. And then we’ll have a little bit of time in between…Emily’s actually getting married in October, so we’re going to have a family wedding. But then, after that, we’ll have some time here, on and off but our schedule…every time we look at the calendar there’s always something that gets filled. If we think it’s going to be a break, it usually ends up not being so.

Carter's Chord Carter's Chord Carter's Chord

BE: Please tell Emily we said congratulations.

Becky: Oh definitely, we will.

BE: There was one other question I was going to throw in which was just who you guys would most like to work with on your next record.

Becky: Oh gosh. There are so many people. You know, we’ve talked about, just because of how we grew up, we really, really want to get in the studio with Shooter Jennings and be able to do some collaborating with him. We’ve talked about that with him, back and forth, quite a bit. And then bring in his mom, Jessi Colter, and do, like, a whole Outlaw Generation, Part Two kind of thing going on. Shooter’s like a brother to us, and we just love what he does musically and we think it would so much fun to be able to collaborate with him on some stuff.

BE: Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I still haven’t seen the pictures from the shoot that we did. I’m dying to see them.

Becky: Oh, me too. After he would take them, he would show us the screen and then looked awesome, so we can’t wait to see them, either.

BE: Good luck to you girls. Best of luck with the record. My writer has already turned in his review and it’s a very favorable one, so I think you’ll like it.

Becky: Yay! Good, we like to hear that.

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