An Interview with...
In 2022, The Hometown Foundation is excited to bring various musical talents to stages around Washington County. We are looking forward to our Thursday night summer music series at Regner Park and Sandy Knoll Park, a Washington County Park as well as our annual HomeGrown Music Festival on July 10. You will see many talented folks who call Wisconsin home. Joshua M. Miller interviewed one of those artists, Carter Shilts of The Honeygoats. The Honeygoats will play live on Thursday, September 1 with Grassrats at Sandy Knoll Park.
Sitting Down with Carter Shilts of The Honeygoats
How have band members kept busy the past few years?
As a band, we’ve tried to stay as productive as possible throughout the past few years. While the pandemic put much of the music industry on hold in 2020, we were able to get into the studio and record our first album, Four Years in Three Days, towards the tail end of 2020. Individually, the spare time has led us all to new hobbies and ways of keeping busy. Jamie’s been doing a lot of fishing, David began building dobros in his shop, and the rest of us have been traveling and spending time with family.
About the Band
How would you describe the band’s sound? What makes it stand out from the crowd?
We draw influence from a wide variety of different sounds, but bluegrass seems to be the thread that connects all the seams. We all grew up listening to everything from Buck Owens to Boston, so the palette of sounds that inspired us to play is fairly broad. It’s the bluegrass instrumentation that challenges us to find the tones that inspire us and make our sound stand out.
How did the band form? What brought everyone together?
Court and David have played together for well over 10 years, and Jamie organized an open mic at the Plymouth Arts Center for a few years. It was a place where a lot of music lovers converged, and I think that’s where the rest of us became initially aware of each other. After hitting it off, our occasional jams eventually grew into a band by the fall of 2016. Curtis joined the band in January of 2020.
The Four Years in Three Days Record
The band recently released its debut album. What were you trying to achieve with the album?
We had been gigging pretty regularly from 2016 to 2020 and spent most of our attention on crafting our set list and live show. When the gigging suddenly stopped in 2020, we realized that we didn’t have much recorded material to look back on the band’s sound over all those years. Recording Four Years in Three Days was a way for us to take a snapshot of our sound at that time.
The songs were written over four years and recorded in three days. What was that experience like?
Recording these songs after playing them live for several years was an enlightening experience. We didn’t write these songs with any kind of conceptual thread connecting them, so we walked into the studio with a wide variety of different songs and had three days to connect them in a way that would give the album a cohesive sound. It gave us a chance to reexamine and analyze our own songs in a new light.
What are some of the most surprising songs you’ve written so far?
It’s either the most surprising or the most dull, but “Yota’s Song” is one we wrote about my 1996 Toyota Corolla. I wanted to write something with a honky tonk feel, but I wasn’t ready to start pumping out honky tonk heartbreakers, so I kept the subject matter less serious. Jamie said, “The chorus is too catchy for this song to be so meaningless,” so we changed a few words around and made it less about a car breaking down and more about knowing when to start over.
The Honeygoats perform at Roots Acoustic Music Co. in Plymouth, Wisconsin
What are some of your favorite gigs?
Our favorite shows are the ones when we feel most in tune with the crowd that comes to see us. There’s no specific venue that’s our favorite because the recipe for a great show can come together anywhere that music lovers exist.
On Being a Musician in Wisconsin
How has Sheboygan and Wisconsin most influenced you as a musician?
We’ve all spent most of our lives here in Wisconsin, so stories about the weather, people, and traditions naturally find their ways into our songs. “What Are We Doing Here?” Is a song about why we stay here despite the grueling winters. “Old Fashioned” is one Jamie wrote about his family’s history here in Wisconsin. “Dandelion Wine” is a response to the south’s fascination with moonshine. There aren’t many moonshiners here in Wisconsin, but dandelion wine seems to be the regional equivalent.
Connecting with The HomeTown Foundation
Why is the Hometown Foundation's mission to help local artists important to you?
The HomeTown Foundation highlights the awesome truth that great music can happen anywhere. You’ll find music lovers in every town across America, and organizations like the Hometown Foundation help bring people who love to listen to music together with people who love to play music.
Listen to The Honeygoats
Josh also interviewed these artists for the HomeTown Foundation’s 2022 concert series season.
About Joshua M. Miller
Joshua M. Miller is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, Guitar World, and the Shepherd Express, among others, He has interviewed the likes of Brian Wilson, Steve Martin, U2 guitarist The Edge, Kiefer Sutherland, and William Shatner. He resides in Kewaskum, is an avid music fan, and is a supporter of the Hometown Foundation. You can follow his writing on twitter and facebook.
Check Joshua’s features in Rolling Stone, Guitar World, SPIN, the Chicago Sun-Times and more at his website.