Get To Know: Shy Carter [Exclusive Interview]

Our latest Get To Know spotlight artist: Shy Carter.

Written by Jeremy Chua
Get To Know: Shy Carter [Exclusive Interview]
Shy Carter; Photo credit: Robby Klein

A gifted songwriter, lover of soul-filled music, and someone who’s passionate about people. That, perhaps, is one way to describe emerging country artist, Shy Carter.

One of Warner Music Nashville’s newest signees, Carter has been in the music industry for well over a decade, growing as a respected triple threat. The Memphis, Tennessee native has produced, written and sang on some of the biggest songs both in and out of the country genre. In pop music, he’s collaborated with acts like Charlie Puth (“One Call Away”), Meghan Trainor (“Mr Almost”) and Rob Thomas (“Someday”). Within country music itself, he’s written some of the genre’s beloved songs. They include Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue,” Billy Currington’s “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To,” “Heaven” by Kane Brown, Keith Urban’s latest hit “God Whispered Your Name” and many, many more. 

With a successful run as a songwriter, Carter is finally taking a stab at forging his own path as a country artist. When COVID robbed live music away from everyone in 2020, the singer-songwriter embarked on a socially-distanced COVID-style radio tour, where he sang for radio and media folks in their driveways, from a distance. On January 25 this year, his breezy, feel-good debut single, “Good Love” was sent to country radio. 

Carter spoke with Sounds Like Nashville over Zoom to share all about his introductory single, writing hits for Charlie Puth and Keith Urban, and his passion for spreading positivity and that “Good Love.” Check out the interview with one of our 2021 Artists To Watch and the latest Get To Know spotlight artist! 

SLN: What was life like growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, and how did country music become a part of your life? 

Shy Carter: There were a lot of different kinds of music. There was a lot of blues, soul, R&B and a lot of country music being played as well. I used to go down to Beale street, my Dad used to take me there, I played saxophone, and he used to take me down there to play with the Jazz band and stuff. I also started a little R&B group with some kids in school at around 8th grade. We were singing talent shows and stuff. I actually got more into country music as I got a little older when I moved to Michigan. I started hearing more of that Kenny Chesney and stuff. He’s awesome! He’s been like an amazing friend to me already. I love that dude. 

Who were your biggest influences growing up?

My biggest would be Billy Currington, who has become one of my best, best friends. When I was really wanting to get into it, some people were showing me his videos [for songs like] like “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right.” I felt the soul influence and R&B flavors in it. And then he went on to release “Let Me Down Easy” and “People Are Crazy.” “People Are Crazy” is one of my all-time favorites. Zac Brown Band was [also] a big influence. And people like Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton and Mac Davis. I also love Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves and George Strait and Tim McGraw. But Billy Currington and Zac Brown Band really kicked things off for me. 

Was there a moment in your life that made you certain that being a country artist was the career you wanted to pursue?

I’ve been wanting to do this since probably 2008. I was signed with Nelly at that time, so I was producing and doing the hip-hop tracks and R&B tracks for Ashanti and different people he was working with. I got the chance to go to L.A. to work with Rob Thomas, and I wrote a hit (“Someday”) with him. But I was also living in Atlanta and always coming to Nashville and hearing country music. I fell in love with just the authentic, organic storytelling and the wholesome songs of family music. And I was like, “Man, I wanna sing something like that. I wanna write something like that.” Thank God I was able to bring a little bit of flavor into the genre when we did “Stuck Like Glue” back in 2010. We wrote it in 2009, and I was beatboxing it, beating on the guitar and putting those soulful melodies to it, and they were very receptive to it. You know, I’ve been all over the place, and I finally got focused over the last few years to come down here and really focus on doing my own thing as a country music artist.

As a prolific songwriter, how do you decide which songs to pitch or keep for yourself?

Well, I gave away a lot of songs in the past to get to where I am. And a lot of people would be like “Why are you doing that? You should sing that song yourself.” But it just wasn’t the right time, it wasn’t the right set up. Now, I have this amazing team around me. There’s just so many great people at [Warner Music Nashville] and they believe in me. So, I’m being a lot more cautious with what songs I let other people hear. But sometimes, there’s just a song that fits an artist or I might write it with an artist a lot of times. A lot of songs that I do with Kane Brown, we do those together, so I know I’m going in there and writing a song for him. That’s my guy. I wanna bless my friends with great songs too, you know. But other than that, for the most part, when we go in there, I’m trying to write something for my project now.

What was it like writing Charlie Puth’s smash song “One Call Away?” Did you have the slightest inkling that it’d be the hit that it is?

Well… Sort of. (laughs) I think it’d be cool if I was like, “Nah, we didn’t, we were just writing it.” But honestly, we were sitting around a firepit and eating, and I remember someone from Charlie’s label was there and he was sitting there saying, “This is gonna be a hit, this is gonna be a hit!” as we were writing it. So I was like, “Yeah! Great!” You hope for it [to become a hit]. I hoped for it. But to actually just see it happening was amazing. And it’s a song that was written so quickly, just around a fire pit hanging out. So that was just a blessing from God, man.

Talk about penning Keith Urban’s “God Whispered Your Name.” And, how did you feel when it was released as a single? 

Dreams coming true, dude! It was really a great day in the studio, amazing writers in there with me. We just felt God moving in [the room] too. It was just one of my favorite songs and we gave it to (Artist & Repertoire executive) Missi Gallimore, who actually manages me and finds songs for Keith. I met her because she was finding songs for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw for all those years and I would pitch her songs. So she was like, “I’m gonna give this to Keith!” And I was like, “Man, that would be amazing.” I wrote it with my brother (Micah) and a couple of amazing friends, so it would be great for everybody. We just sat and waited and eventually, he said it was gonna be a single. We couldn’t be more thrilled about how the song turned out!

Last year, you embarked on a radio tour in true COVID fashion— with a mask and socially distanced. How was that like?

That experience was phenomenal! After being at home all that time and being able to get on that really nice tour bus. We had so much fun making those songs, just freestyling, playing guitar and mandolin and stopping at every state. But more importantly, being able to stop and see all those radio people and interact with them and put a smile on their face by just coming off the bus and singing. When nobody else was going out there singing to them, it just really brought a smile to their faces. That’s everything to me. That’s what I do all this for. When you see you’re bringing some of that to somebody is very rewarding. It was a lot of fun. 

How did y’all decide on “Good Love” as the introductory single to Shy Carter?

Well, we wrote a whole lot of songs, and we’re still writing songs. We wrote “Good Love” before the pandemic. It was already an important song, but as everything slowed down and there was all this pain and suffering going on, we felt it was a great song for that moment, because it was a song that came out of pain and heartbreak. It was a song we made to comfort ourselves and it just felt so good to us. So, we were like, “The world needs this right now.” It’s still going on like that, so we feel like the world needs some of that “Good Love.”

What can fans expect next? Is an album or EP coming?

Not sure which is coming first, probably an EP. But we’re definitely putting out music and music and music. I’ve got more songs coming and I’ve got some surprise stuff coming for y’all. WOOO!

If there’s one thing you want fans to know about you as an artist and as a person, what would that be?

I want people to know that I’m all about spreading that good positive message in my life and in my music. It’s all about family, love, positivity, growth, acceptance and all that kinda good stuff. And, praising God for another good day.