2017 is to see the release of the first studio album of the Edmonton-based rock band, Six String Loaded. The band is looking forward to a 2018 Europe tour. Those looking to get a preview of what`s to come, their singles Memphis, The Last Song I Ever Write, and The Web We Weave are available for download on iTunes.
The focus of this article is on their charismatic frontwoman, Naomi Carmack. Having begun in early childhood with the hymns her mother and grandmother sang, Naomi eventually found an affinity for pop music and dreamed of performing for people on stage. At 14, she won the Power 92.5 FM’s Powermix contest, an accomplishment that would mark the beginning of a tremendous shift in her perspective.
“Those teen years were confusing but very exciting,” Naomi recalled. “Being part of that contest introduced me to some great industry people, including Chris Sheppard and Gary McGowan, who left a great legacy in Edmonton’s music scene. Gary really had my back in nurturing my talent. It was strange to be in junior high going through this at that awkward teenage stage. I was trying to fit in with my peers, and not knowing if my friends liked me for me, or because I won the contest was a challenge. I envisioned that this WAS it. That I was meant to be a pop star, and my dreams would all just magically come true because of one moment.”
While a big step forward for her, there was still a missing element in her formula. Her vision for herself as a pop singer did not quite match her full vocal potential, but that would soon change with the call to rock music.
“I thought I was a pop singer in those days, but once I had taken some vocal training and spent real time in a recording studio, writing songs that actually had depth, was when I let my real voice out. I’m a big, loud, rock singer.”
Her new path would see the creation of the original incarnation of Six String Loaded, which concluded its run with a performance at Rexall Place for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The reincarnation of Six String Loaded would come when Naomi teamed up with Guitarist Matt McCotter. Together, they recorded their first song, the aforementioned “The Last Song I ever Write”. The band would then grow to include drummer Brandon Reddecliff and bassist Alanus Maximus.
I had an opportunity to converse with Naomi, and we touched on the influence of media and of artists, the evolution of her own craft and the future of Six String Loaded.
Do you think that contest shows like American Idol feed into the idea of instant success, or are they part of a teenager’s perception of stardom?
“They absolutely feed into that. Young minds are impressionable. The value they would receive through competing in those shows is an education on performance skills. Maybe some famous connections. After that, win or lose, they are not likely going to be superstars, sadly. The reality is most finish the show and do not release hits. There’s only a handful of artists who sustained huge careers from these shows. There’s so much to be said for doing the grind of playing in dive bars, earning your dues, and creating your own fan base.”
Have you had any nightmare performances, and if so, how did they help you develop?
“I’ve been lucky enough to not have a total meltdown show. We’ve all derailed from time to time (forgotten lyrics, throwing my body into guitar necks when I don’t see the bandmate next to me). I almost had a wardrobe malfunction a couple of times. I like to get a video of the show and watch it afterward to grade myself (see what I did well and what needs to be worked on). It’s helpful.”
The post-game analysis is a really smart strategy. Did you adopt this approach early in your performing life or did it take some time to develop such an analytical approach?
“I would say it was pretty early. I watched videos of the shows and would cringe at viewing myself. One thing I realized quickly was that if you make a move on stage and feel silly doing it, it will translate that way to the audience. You have to not care about looking weird and do it with confidence. Anything you do on stage with confidence looks great. Go all out or don’t do it at all!”
Do you use the onstage presence of other frontmen as a blueprint for your own improvement?
“I sure do! The ones who I grew up watching were Jon Bon Jovi, Freddie Mercury, Steven Tyler, Gary Cherokee…the list is endless!
I also learn more now from seeing bands play in my city of Edmonton. I try to see as many shows as time and money allow to support local acts. I’m also doing my homework at the same time.”
Looking forward, what creative directions are you looking to take with your music?
“Looking forward, we are writing heavier rock material as a band. We aim to have an album completed by the end of 2017.
I’ve always written lyrics and melody. Our guitarist, Matt McCotter, will usually come up with the chord progressions, and I’ll write on top of that. Brandon Reddecliff, our drummer, and Alanus Maximus, our bassist on board add their pieces to the puzzle as we go.
This writing process seems to be the way I’ve always done it. I’ve written songs by myself in the past, but I like having people to bounce ideas with. I’m not very great at collaborating on lyrics and melody, though. That’s my baby. It would be good for me to learn to do that.”
What is it about writing lyrics that makes collaboration difficult, and do you think it’s for the best, in general, for one mind to shape the words in a song?
“For me, it’s difficult to open myself up to write in the first place. Doing that with a writing partner is something I’m not always comfortable with. If I’m telling a story, I like it to come from one source, lyrically.
I suppose if it’s a fun party song and not too deep, that would be another story! Then I would just fear that my lyrics might be cheesy and dumb.
I find it much easier to write from pain than joy, unfortunately. Putting lyrics together for positive songs is hard to do without sounding cheesy. I hope that is something I can change.”
Do you think that there is something inherent in the artistic expression of positive themes that tend to pull works towards “cheesiness”?
“Not in general. Some writers can relay positive themes very well. I’m just not very experienced with it, myself.
Depends on the genre, too, and if you’re trying to relate to a 15-year-old or a 40-year-old with the message. Pop music aimed at younger audiences tends to lend itself to a cheesy, thrown-together lyric at times.
There’s an album by Bon Jovi called “Bounce”. The overall theme is about the nation pulling itself together after 9/11. They took a tragedy and created a message of hope in a time that it was needed. Same thing with Bruce Springsteen and “The Rising”. These lyricists know how to write a positive message without the cheese factor.”
That opens up an interesting question; what role do you think musicians should play in shaping the social and political landscape of a culture?
“They have a lot of influence over people’s decisions. There’s power there, so you have to be careful with it. I believe you should convey any message you like. I believe in free speech. As long as you’re not taking yourself too seriously; that’s when it can get grating.”
Are political messages something you can see entering into your songwriting?
“We have written a song called “Egomaniac”. It’s about how the propaganda machine can be brainwashing to some. It was inspired y the events going on in the US, but I wrote those lyrics months ago before we knew Trump would be elected. It was an outcome I hadn’t envisioned, but the song expressed my distrust in him and the whole system.”
To bring this around, what is in the immediate future for your band?
“We are finishing our album this year. Then we plan to travel and play Europe in 2018 (if all goes according to plan). Hit up the pubs and festival circuit.”
For now, we have a few singles to enjoy as appetizers, until Six String Loaded brings us a full album. To keep up-to-date with the band’s activities, visit http://www.sixstringloaded.com.