Michael Carter is a talented guitarist, producer, and songwriter most notably known for his work with Luke Bryan and Cole Swindell. His skill as a bandleader can be seen during his live performances with Luke Bryan and his studio chops can be heard on a number of records coming out of Nashville.
PRS: At what age did you begin playing guitar, and when did you realize that you wanted to be a professional musician?
MC: I think it was around 12 or 13 that I really got into learning to play guitar, and knew immediately that I was going to be wrapped up in It. I don’t know the exact day, but I know from as far back as I can remember that music is the only thing I’ve ever felt comfortable and confident doing. I’m beyond blessed and fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I feel called to do.
PRS: Who are your biggest musical influences?
MC: I’ve got a pretty big variety. I started playing drums with my dad’s gospel quartet when I was five years old, and I still like gospel quartets like Gold City. I really got on fire for guitar when I discovered Slash and Guns N’ Roses. Def Leppard’s guys were my favorites as well. Then again, Garth Brooks did the same thing for me with country music. He put on the kind of show that you expected from a rock band, and I think I draw a lot from that now in our live shows (playing for Luke). So many great writers, musicians, artists, and bands that I love and have always loved: Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Journey, Phil Collins, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Alabama, Van Halen, The Eagles. I’m on board with pretty much anything from the 80s.
PRS: You’ve been playing PRS for many years now, what’s your favorite model and why?
MC: My favorite has always been and probably always will be the very first Swamp Ash PRS sent me. It wasn’t the model I was trying to get but it’s ended up being unbeatable. I know historically the Swamp Ash has been heavier in the past than in the recent models, but that older heavy body has so much sustain and character to it. It is without a doubt the go to guitar live and in the studio. Single coil and humbucker sounds are powerful. I use it for a wide variety of songs/parts, both rockin’ in your face beat the hell out of it overdriven stuff and clean ethereal ballads.
PRS: You co-wrote Luke Bryan’s hit “Rollercoaster” – can you tell us how that song came about?
MC: I wrote Roller Coaster with one of my best friends and co-writers Cole Swindell. We were out on the Farm Tour in Valdosta, Georgia several years ago which consists of us going around and setting up a big festival in the middle of nowhere on people’s farms. Anyway, Cole and I started that song in the back lounge of the bus and finished it over the rest of the tour. We both grew up in southwest Georgia, which meant that Panama City Beach was THE destination for family vacation and college trips. That song came together in a really cool way, and we just pulled from our own experiences of going to the beach and meeting then falling for girl only to have to leave at the end of the week all torn up over her. There was actually an old beach roller coaster at an amusement park in PCB but it’s since been torn down. Lot of good times spent there, and when Luke cut the song it meant the world to us. I get chills playing it every night.
PRS: When you aren’t writing music or touring, what do you like to do during your free time?
MC: When I’m not writing or touring, I’m sometimes working at my third job which is producing Cole Swindell. Cole and I have written together for years and I’ve been given the privilege to continue working with him in the studio and developing his direction and sound. He’s an amazing talent and an incredible friend. I’m thankful I get to work for him and we’re actually working on his second album right now!
PRS: Do you prefer the stage or studio?
MC: I love playing live. The guys that I idolized growing up were not just guitarists, they were entertainers. I certainly appreciate someone who is technically proficient and has great chops, but entertaining is a whole other aspect. I loved Slash, Richie Sambora, Vivian Campbell, and Phil Collen because they were rock stars. They had character and were exciting to watch. Those are the shows that I want to pay to go see. I think having the opportunity to play music for a living comes with the obligation to not just stand there and be boring while you’re playing the album lick for lick. I want people to leave our show feeling like they’ve had the time of their lives, and will always remember that night. That’s the way I felt going to shows and it’s the way I feel now being a part of them.
PRS: If you had to name one song (or record) that changed your life, what would it be?
MC: Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction. Absolute game changer. Their whole sound, look, attitude, writing; it was all just so different and influential. Slash set the standard for what I thought a lead guitar player in a huge act should be: unique, colorful, and bad ass. Their music is so good and it just took the world by storm. That record is still every bit as relevant now as it was then, in my humble and accurate opinion.
PRS: What advice would you give to the young and emerging guitarists out there?
MC: I would tell them to lock themselves in a room for hours at a time to practice, but I never really did that. I learned at my own pace and still have an insane amount of learning and work to do. I think you just have to live life, and be open to all kinds of music and styles. Learn and grow at your own pace, and take elements from everything you like and try to be your own person. If you want to do this for a living you can’t be afraid of struggling and starving just to get an opportunity at a career. If you’re loving life playing music for a living while struggling to pay rent, then you know you made the right decision!