“I write my songs with piano,” says Chris Carpenter, “so you’re going to hear a melodic singer/songwriter if you take an ear of me. I love the wide range of song possibilities on the piano. It opens up all areas of a tune, all on one instrument.” Asked to describe his song style, he says, “I find myself with a gravitational pull towards the 1960s and 1970s, yet I try to add the flavor of my current years to it. It’s a style that connects me to my influences, enabling me to release my best stories and emotions.”
Inspired by his musician mother, Carpenter’s keyboard prowess is completely self-taught. “Pre-teens, I was nursing on Peter, Paul and Mary, Hank Williams, and Paul Simon. By the time I was a teenager, I was juggling Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Mötley Crüe. Then, eventually, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, some Phil Collins, Billy Joel, and Elton John. So my songwriting comes from 46 different angles.”
Based in Normal Heights, the former Nordstrom sales manager spent the past summer touring and recording with Grammy Award–winning drummer Bill Ray, known for his lengthy stint with North County legend Ike Turner and local bassist David Ybarra.
WHAT LOCALS DO YOU LISTEN TO ON SIRIUS XM?
1) “Scott Mathiasen is a newer artist who’s working on his first album now. Great sound, nice guy.”
2) “Kevin Martin is someone I just listened to a few weeks ago, and he’s about the closest I’ve heard to someone whose song ideas seem to resemble my own. Very cool.”
MOST EMBARRASSING ARTIST ON YOUR PLAYLIST?
“I admit it, I listen to Eminem and could perhaps even bust out eight or nine of his songs at a karaoke club. Is that so wrong?”
“I think it was when I turned seven. I was with my family at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and a ranger hiked down and brought us some tangerines and a guitar for my mom to play. With the ranger, we all sat around the campfire and ate tangerines and whatever else we made to eat, singing songs the whole time. Simple things are sometimes the most powerful.”
WHERE DO YOU HANG OUT?
“Open-mic night at Lestat’s on Mondays. If you want entertainment, nothing can beat the five- to ten-minute acts that will inspire within you a range of emotions.”
“In early 2000, when Elton John came to town, I bought tickets for some nosebleed seats at $50 each. After reaching the gate, I realized I had forgotten my binoculars, so I ran back to the car. On my return, there was a woman selling front-row-center seats for $100 each, and I just happened to have the cash. After the second song, I jumped up in my chair and pointed directly at Elton, 30 feet away, and yelled, ‘You the man!’ He shoved his finger in the air toward me, saying, ‘You the man!’ At which point I looked around to see if anyone else was witnessing this personal pantomime I was having with a musical demigod.”
BIGGEST LIE YOU EVER TOLD?
“I once told myself that making it with original songs in the music industry would be easy.”
WHO MAKES OUT IN YOUR WILL?
“Lestat’s can have my piano, to let other people use on open-mic nights. That would let me live on through the hundreds of other musicians that come to play on that stage.”
FIRST TIME DRUNK?
“Even though I’ve been on my own since running away from home at the age of 14, I don’t think I actually experienced getting drunk until I was around 16, hanging out with some friends. I remember I tried flirting with some girl I went to school with and, from her reaction, I must have looked pretty unattractive under the influence. I never liked getting drunk, but it does still happen every once in a great while.”
WHAT SONG BEST DESCRIBES YOUR LIFE?
“Probably Elton John’s ‘I Want Love,’ especially the lyric, ‘I want love on my own terms, after everything I’ve ever learned.’”
MOST MONEY EVER SPENT ON NOTHING?
“I’m pretty frugal with dough, as I generally don’t have a bunch. But I once went on a trip for a few days and spent $1100 on someone who just wanted to argue with me the whole time. I still regret that.”
RECOMMEND A GOOD LOCAL EATERY?
1) “For a quick bite, nothing goes down better than a meal at El Zarape on Park Boulevard.”
2) “For something a little more sit-down, I like Urban Solace on 30th Street.”
A COUPLE THINGS WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
1) “I was the manager for a Warner Brothers art collectors’ gallery in San Diego for four years.”
2) “I plan on being here after 12-21-2012.” ■