Talking Creativity and Gear with Brian Carl from Passion

Talking Creativity and Gear with Brian Carl from Passion

Today, we are talking creativity and of course, gear, with Brian Carl of Passion! If you play guitar on a worship team, there’s a good chance you have played some of his parts. And if you have a Kemper, you’ve probably visited as well.

Recently, the band released a live record, Follow You Anywhere at this year’s Passion Conference! So today, Jordan Holt, Worship Online Instructor and Guitarist for Kari Jobe, decided to catch up with Brian Carl and talk shop. Enjoy!

Jordan: Hey Brian! How wild was Passion this year? We had a great time, but I’m bummed we didn’t get to cross paths with all the traveling. How did everything go for the Passion band? Any standout moments?

Brian: Man, it really was so awesome. And I know, the only bummer about all of us moving around so much is that it can kind of feel like we’re ships in the night.

This year was great for us. To be honest, Passion 2019 was probably my most “relaxed” Passion experience yet. We recorded our live album just 2 months before conference, and the songs on that album are the ones we carried into conference.

I’m used to writing my final parts and working out our new songs in the halls of the venue leading up to our next session and being hyper focused on recording. It can be kind of stressful! So yeah, this year was just so good for all of us. As for standout moments- our night in Dallas was really special for me personally. I was just so full of gratitude and thankfulness as we played that night.

Jordan: Live recordings can definitely be intense, but it’s also one of the most exciting experiences. The Belonging record was pretty full-on workshopping songs and figuring out parts right up to the last minute. As a perfectionist, I find that it really takes intentionality to be in the moment and not overthink it.

I’ve continually experienced this weird thing where I usually play better when sound checks are awkward or rehearsing feels a bit chaotic. Is that just me or do you find the same thing?

What does preparation look like for you guys getting ready for a record? Is there a lot of rehearsing?

Brian: I actually totally get that. There’s something that happens when I need to “just play” in the moment and not overthink every sound and note. I usually end up discovering a new, better way to play something that I end up liking more. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, and at times I find that it slows me down and can put me in a holding pattern creatively.

There’s something helpful about “alright, let’s go!”  Until this year, Passion stuff has always happened really quickly for us. Songs are still being written and chosen up until December, which gives us about 3 rehearsals before conference/recording. It’s usually in those rehearsals I’m coming up with parts and getting things down. It’s a lot, it’s exciting, and it’s crazy, haha.

Jordan: At Worship Online I’ve had the honor of being able to listen to your stems from the recordings. I feel like you always have a great wet/dry balance with your tone and always sound polished. Are you more of a set it and leave it kind of guy or are you changing your effect dynamics throughout a song a lot?

Brian: One thing I ask myself when dialing in delay and verbs is, “How is this assisting what I’m playing and how is it helping?” If I take it all out completely on a certain part, what does it feel like?

I kind of start there, then bring the extra help that’s in those wet effects in until I feel like the right amount of space is being filled around that specific part. I definitely think I’m using less verb right now that I have before (I love verb), but I think a big part of that is just becoming more confident in what I’m playing and being OK with being heard.  I’m always tweaking and adjusting stuff on the fly. I basically have a “kind of washy” and a “washy” sound. Always somewhere between the 2.

Jordan:  I love reverb too. It’s so hard not to want to use a ton of it all the time. But when I really stand at front of house and listen to how effects translate/cut through I realize that it’s all too easy to overdo it.

I also think it’s easy to be too dry when the bands out though, hah. Oddly enough, I find myself using less and less delay these days. It’s fun to experiment with no delay and all reverb as it makes me play differently.

Brian: Exactly! Standing at FOH is what really helped me start adjusting things. That and listening to a mix with my washy/not-that-washy guitars. Our in-ears can be deceiving when it comes to dialing in all the FX stuff. A big picture reference most definitely helps and it’s something I’ve been trying to keep in mind.

Jordan: That’s a great idea. I need to try recording guitars at different wash levels (Is that a term? It is now.) and play them back at FOH. Sometimes I deliberately add a good amount of room mics/reverb in my mix to make me use less effects on my guitar.

I know you’re a big advocate for Kemper and have helped a lot of players with your profiles you have available on your site. It seems like so many people are switching to digital (myself included). Are most guys at Passion on modeling now? Do you miss real amps ever?

Brian: Man, it’s been such a cool thing to work with and explore. I remember being against the idea of them, before and after trying them once. Some time had passed and I thought I’d give profiling my amps, with my settings, a try and see if that would shift my thoughts on them.

I was really pleased with the results! And it’s only gotten better. I’ve learned a lot about the profiling process since then and it’s become a lot of fun for me.

There’s a pretty good mix of guys at Passion using both amps and Kempers. I’d say it’s split down the middle.

As for me, I think both are incredible tools. I really love amps, and still use them a healthy amount (it’s a good thing for me as a profile creator to continue to be familiar with the feel and vibe of an amp), but the Kemper has undeniably helped me get out of several bad backline situations and sounds fantastic.

Jordan: Backline amps can be incredibly used and abused. I was given a pair of british AC30’s not too long ago that both had bad tubes/noise issues. I don’t miss dealing with that one bit. Your time and wisdom has been much appreciated.

To close things out, is there any advice you would give to any musicians reading this that want to get to your level one day?

Brian: I remember when my heart started to feel and understand this was going to be a big part of my life (at least I thought so).

I was 16, there were no expectations or platforms desired, but I just remember there was something sweet in God’s presence that I felt when I played. I think the way it started for me is just taking every opportunity I had to play.

Like years and years of unpaid stuff (I didn’t know that was a thing for a long time, haha), driving hours to just get a chance to play with a band somewhere. Eventually that paid off and more opportunities came.

I try to ask a lot of questions, “How can I be better? What can I change? Do you have any feedback for me?”

“Surround yourself with people better than you and be OK with a critique from them – desire it!”

Wash the feet of those around you, especially the ones you may feel intimidated by. Serving and loving kills the root of fear. Compliment someone you feel is better than you – it’ll get your heart in the right place.

All of these things are things I’m both learning and have practiced. We’re creatives, and it’s easy to compare and open a door for some unhealthy thinking habits. I find trying to serve and build up those around us helps us stay healthy.

We want to hear from you! Comment below if you have any comments or questions we can add to the conversation! 

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