He’s just not using that as his band name anymore.

A few weeks back, east coast alt-country singer songwriter Carleton Stone played Metro Square for Canada’s Walk of Fame. Two days earlier he had his self titled album release show at The Dakota Tavern. I spoke with him after the show about the East Coast scene he comes from, how it differs from Toronto, and what it was like making the album with Hawksley Workman in Blue Rodeo‘s studio.

Yes, he used to go by a much longer band name, but recently decided to stick with his own name. “It used to be called Carleton Stone Drives the Big Wheel but then it was just so confusing for people, they were like ‘What is this? It’s like a made up name like Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?’ But when I play on the East Coast it’s still all the same guys, same band, we just changed the name. I got a rock and roll name so why complicate it?”

I asked about how he got Hawksley Workman on board to produce the album, and what the recording process was like. “Hey Rosetta’s manager was a fan of mine, and we were looking for a producer… and I’ve loved Hawksley forever, so he was kinda the top guy on my list, and Hey Rosetta’s manager just sent an email [to him] and then for two hours Hawksley was on the phone with my manager being like ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ We did a solid week of tracking at Blue Rodeo’s studio, then me and him went up to his little house studio in Huntsville drinking wine and recording acoustic guitars. It was a couple months, the whole thing.”

After years of self managing and working hard to get his sound out there, he signed with Halifax based folk/roots label Groundswell Music. “I had met Ian at the East Coast Music Awards a few years ago, the year I was nominated for my first record, he came and saw a showcase, he was really into it… We didn’t start working together right away but I worked my butt off, played tons of shows last summer and he saw me play again at the end of August and he called me the next day and was like ‘yeah I wanna work together.'”

He points out how much the help of songwriter Gordie Sampson did for his career – “A few years ago when I was just getting going Gordie Sampson took me under his wing and took me into this writing world. He took me on his writing retreats that totally changed my life – [I went] from being that stupid guy in his room trying to think of that perfect line beating your head against the wall – now 98% of the writing I do is with other people. The first songwriting retreat with Gordie was last summer – going into that I had a handful of songs for a new record, I had no management, no label, and as soon as I came back from that everything just started to happen. It’s been non stop ever since.”

When I asked how he feels about the positive reception of the album, he gets right to the point. “Here it is, if it’s what you’re into then you’ll like it and that’s cool, if it’s not, well, I can’t change for anyone, so I just feel really happy. The people that like it seem to be really into it.”

Although he is based out of Cape Breton, he spends a lot of time working on his music in Toronto. Having never been to Nova Scotia I was curious about the difference between the music scene there compared to here. “It’s really easy to get sucked into this east coast celebrity thing if you’re from out there. People [on the East Coast] are generally really loyal. If they go see you and like you they’re like a member of your army, so you could be walking down the street in Halifax – say you’re Joel Plaskett walking down the streets of Halifax it’s like, everyone knows who Joel Plaskett is – where here in Toronto it’d be a lot different, so I’m just kind of a little weary of being that guy, cause you can feel pretty good about yourself. Say I’m walking down Spring Garden Road in Halifax and everyone knows who I am – it’s like, I don’t really care about that, I just want to reach as many people as I can, so Toronto is the obvious place to come. Hawksley’s been so great at setting me up with songwriters and musicians so I totally feel a part of this scene now.”

As is the case for many musicians, a talent for making music runs in his family. “Both my parents are singer songwriters, not like professionally or anything, but there was always music in my house all the time so I just thought it was normal. When I was like three years old they got me my first actual little guitar, so I was banging on that… I took a couple lessons around 10 and started writing my own stuff when I was about 15, and since then I was just always writing.”

When it comes to his biggest musical inspirations, him and I share very similar taste. “Ryan Adams was probably my biggest influence as a teenager, and obviously Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan too – those would be my Holy Trinity.”

I had to find out which album of 2011 will top his best of the year list, and unsurprisingly he made a solid choice. “Bon Iver, his new one that came out in June, I listen to it like every night.”

Be sure to check out his new album available for preview and to buy here (I highly recommend listening to the gorgeous song “Bad Decisions” if you’re unfamiliar with his work), and catch him on tour now on both coasts:

Nov. 4 @ Rodd Grand Ballroom, YARMOUTH, NS (*Nova Scotia Music Week Showcase)
Nov. 5 @ Hideout, RED DEER, AB (w/ Tom Wilson)
Nov. 6 @ Ironwood, CALGARY (w/ Tom Wilson)
Nov. 8 @ The Exchange, REGINA, SK (w/ Tom Wilson)
Nov. 9 @ West End Cultural Centre, WINNIPEG, MB (w/ Tom Wilson)
Nov. 11 @ Wunderbar, EDMONTON, AB
Nov. 12 @ Red Herring Pub, ST.ANDREWS, NB (w/ The Heartbroken)
Nov. 13 @ Bourbon Quarter, SAINT JOHN, NB (w/ The Heartbroken)
Nov. 16 @ Harmony House, HUNTER RIVER PEI (w/ The Heartbroken)
Nov. 17 @ Capital Complex FREDRICTON, NB (w/ The Heartbroken)
Nov. 18 @ Governor’s, SYDNEY, NS (w/ The Heartbroken)
Nov. 19 @ The Seahorse Tavern, HALIFAX, NS (w/ The Heartbroken)
Nov. 20 @ Marigold Theatre, TRURO, NS (w/ The Heartbroken)

 Lisa