Carter Hulsey has experienced more hardship these past few months than most. He survived a devastating tornado that hit his hometown of Joplin, Missouri, caused $2.2 billion in damages and left many of his loved ones' homes in ruins, including the studio owned by his drummer, Caleb Denison. With the help of friend and Never Shout Never frontman Christofer Drew, he's launched a campaign (Joplin Will Heal) to raise money for relief efforts.
As if that weren't enough, Hulsey was robbed of $14,000 in equipment in Seattle while on tour. Despite these setbacks, Hulsey has emerged from the pain and continued to tour and record in light of a string of bad luck. Read on to find out more about Hulsey, his influences, and his current tour with Never Shout Never, A Rocket To The Moon, Fake Problems and the Plain White T's.
Interview: Tyler Common
You've been through a lot this year. On May 22, a devastating tornado hit your hometown of Joplin, Missouri and the surrounding areas. Would you care to elaborate on what was going through your mind as this tragic event took place?
Yeah, my girlfriend and I had just got done visiting her grandma. We were on our way home [back to Joplin], going to her house while following her parents in our car. My dad called me and said, "You know, there's some really crazy storms coming. You might want to pull over." After a while, we started getting golf ball sized hail hitting the vehicle so we ended up pulling over ten minutes outside of town, and just watched the tornado come through. We drove right after it passed, straight into town. We drove to my girlfriend's house and it was gone. It looked like a warzone, I think that's the best way to describe it. We get there and our neighbors couldn't find their children, we all just went into that mode, trying to call everyone to see if they're okay. The day's almost a blur to me because of how much happened all at once. We went to my parent's house and her parent's house and they were both okay, and my drummer Caleb Denison's house was gone. We've been working non-stop to try and repair the town.
What ended up happening to Caleb Denison's studio?
It was just completely blown away. We went there that night and met up with him, his parents and grandparents. When we got there, we saw that both of their houses were gone. The next day we started piecing through things, and the studio was just scattered everywhere. My girlfriend's parents live a few miles away, and we actually ended up finding one of Caleb's drumheads there.
In light of this, you've created "Joplin Will Heal" t-shirts to raise money for the relief efforts. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Yeah, me and Christofer [Drew, of Never Shout Never] started selling the shirts to give money back to the church [Christ's Church of Joplin] and organizations for the town that really need it.
Before all of that even happened, you were robbed in Seattle while on tour.
Yeah, what happened was that earlier this year we had a few hours to sleep before we started our 26 hour drive home. We went to the hotel, and it was gated, and had a security guard, you know, the works. We go in, park the van and go to sleep for a few hours, come back outside, see all the doors of the van open and everything gone. We got over $14,000 worth of stuff stolen.
Did you end up recovering or finding any of it?
We found my guitar that my mom had given my dad nearly 30 years ago as a wedding present. It was stolen and we found it on craigslist in Seattle. The guitar wasn't that expensive but I was very blessed we got that back.
Amidst of all of this you released a new EP, What You Carry, under the moniker The Carter Hulsey Band. How did the dynamics of your music change on this particular release?
This was the first release where the other guys in my band had stuff on our record. In light of everything, it was fun to collaborate with all of my friends and see it all come to life. We did six songs and everything turned out great. We're actually going to Nashville in November to record another album, so I'm very excited about that.
Your music showcases acoustic and folksy elements. I know you're a big Bob Dylan fan, but can you discuss your influences a little bit?
Yeah, I was a kid who grew up in a house with parents that loved music. Some of my earliest memories were with my dad and my brother, where my dad had a jukebox that took quarters. He had his own vinyl—Neil Young, Bob Dylan. That was stuff we always listened to as a family. I think that's stuff I'll carry with me until I die. As for today's music, I enjoy Iron & Wine, Death Cab For Cutie, Josh Ritter, Jimmy Eat World. I carry that older stuff on my iPod that I still love to listen to but I try to take in new music as well.
You're currently on tour with Never Shout Never, A Rocket To The Moon, Plain White T's and Fake Problems. What can fans expect from your performance on this tour?
They can expect to have a good time, and maybe their parents will even like the music [laughs]. The tour's been going quite well, everyone on this tour are great guys, it really feels like a family tour. alt