By ERIC SCHELKOPF
The honesty and passion that Carey Ott displays in his music is hard to match.
The former Chicago resident, who now calls Nashville home, will release a new album, "Nocona," on Sept. 9. To celebrate the release of the album, Ott will perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 3 at Martyrs,' 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, and on Sept. 4 and at 4 p.m. City Winery Chicago on the Riverwalk, E. Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago.
I had the chance to talk to Ott about the new album.
Q: Great talking to you again. I think the last time I talked to you was when you had just released your solo album "Lucid Dream." Of course, you will be releasing your latest album, "Nocona," on Sept. 9. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?
Hello again, thanks for doing this. My goal is always to make something timeless.
I'm not a fashion designer. So, what's currently in vogue matters very little to me.
While writing for myself and producing songs for others, I try to keep the songs and performances as honest and in the moment as possible. I like those happy accidents that occur.
I try to leave them in, or even highlight them. I aim to keep it human.
Q: I understand you wrote the song "Nocona" with fellow Nashville artist Ryan Culwell. How did that song come together? Do you think the both of you share a musical spirit?
Yeah, Ryan is a true artist with bonus integrity. He's not gonna compromise that. I think we're both cut from the same cloth in that respect.
We both came to Nashville from these small nowhere towns (Ryan from Perryton, Texas, me from Ottawa, Illinois) with these immensely unlikely dreams. And we both faced and still face a lot of the same struggles one encounters when trying to make a living from music.
But we persevere and thrive.
On the song "Nocona," Ryan wrote all those verses in like 15 minutes. I think Ryan was reading Raymond Carver at the time, so those verses get pretty bleak.
The chorus I wanted to suggest something like "Hey, we're these resilient, amazing humans who don't give up, we're gonna make it somehow."
Q: Will Kimbrough, Cage The Elephant co-founder Lincoln Parish, and Dualtone recording artist Rebecca Roubion are among those on the album. How did you hook up with them and what do you think they bring to the table?
Will Kimbrough I met through Neilson Hubbard, who co-produced this record with me. Will played just about all the electric guitars on the record.
He is so musical. He was tuning his guitars different to fit each song. Everything he does serves the songs.
I've written and produced records with Lincoln Parish for the past year or so. We met through a mutual friend.
We always had chemistry from the beginning. He's just like me and Ryan Culwell; lives and bleeds music. [He’s an] artist. We co-wrote "Through The Waves" for this new record and he played piano and guitar on that and "Cosmic Joke."
I've been writing with Rebecca with for a couple years now. We wrote two songs for her latest record, "Sleepless Nights," produced by Lincoln Parish.
You see how this stuff happens? The songs Rebecca and I co-wrote on there are called "Anywhere I Go" and "Living Proof." I'm proud of those songs. And Neilson Hubbard (my co-producer on "Nocona") mixed "Sleepless Nights," so it's a like a musical family down here. I love it.
Q: You recently signed with IMAGEM, the world's largest independent music publisher. What drew you to the company in the first place and do you think you fit in well with the other artists on IMAGEM?
I met with 4 or 5 different publishing companies and the IMAGEM guys in New York were the ones who were most confident and most sure that I was their guy. And having Mark Ronson on their roster, I figured, these guys are doing something right.
I'm a lot like Mark Ronson, I think. I write, I do my artist thing, I make beats, sing, play guitar or bass on sessions, engineer/produce.
IMAGEM seems to go for all-purpose folks like me. The writes they have set me up with have been stellar. I love these guys.
Q: I understand that Gary Allan has recorded your song "The Hard Way" for an upcoming album. What do you think about his version of the song?
I like his version. I met him a while back and we talked about that song, "The Hard Way."
My hunch is that he's a true artist who has perhaps fallen into the trap of compromising a little too much with industry opinions. Sometimes you have to put your record out the way you want it and stop listening to all the outside voices.
Of course, what the hell do I know? That's just what I do. I don't recommend it.
Q: You've lived in Nashville for a few years now. What made you want to move to Nashville in the first place and how do you think it compares to the Chicago music scene?
I've been here since 2005. I think the concentration of musical talent here is second to none.
The writers, producers, mixers, engineers here are exceptional. I could probably throw a rock out my back door in East Nashville and hit an amazing home studio or some sick musician I never even knew existed.
Q: What's next on the horizon for you?
More music all the time. I'll be hitting the road to support "Nocona." I'm also producing a few projects right now. I'm really excited about Shelly Fairchild.
She's an amazing country soul-singer from Mississippi who's gonna be opening up for Martina McBride on tour in the next couple weeks. Look out for her.