Carter Reeves has a spring in his step. Maybe it’s that he’s fresh off a six-year stint selling out shows across the world as half of alt hip-hop duo Aer. Or maybe it’s that his good-mood vibe is exactly what gives his particular brand of pop such an addictive bounce.
“The thing I kept asking myself was ‘what does this make me feel?” he says. “I’d rather people be having fun, that feels more impactful than having people listen to my music and cry.”
Those feel-good sounds are exactly what Reeves delivers in his debut solo EP Fresh Fruit. The tracks are sunny but not sugary, a smile in your ear, perfect for grooving out the car window as you drive along the beach. Reeves says he sees music as colors, and Fresh Fruit is all in a Miami palette: yellows, oranges, pinks.
The name of the EP comes from Carter’s favorite snacks (“kiwi’s always held it down, but I’m slowly getting into dragonfruit”) but it’s also about an artist coming into his own, ripening into a new phase of his career with music that is both tart and sweet.
Talk to Me emerged from a creative process that fed off itself. The writing team focused on writing one amazing topline, and the rest of the song-- the lyrics, the melody, the beat-- all came from those first few notes. "That writing process was a first for me, but definitely not the last," Reeves says.
Reeves says the good mood vibes fuel his creation. As he played around with the first chords of “Fresh Fruit,” he thought to himself, “this is bright, this is happy, this makes me feel like I’m walking out of my house with a pair of new shoes on.” And so the first line of the song (“It’s got me feeling like new shoes,”) comes from that feeling. It’s like a bottled happiness that feeds on itself.
That’s the mood he wants to give to others. Reeves says that over the course of his six years with his old band Aer, he experienced a profound shift in his conception of what music means both to him and to his fans. “It became a job, and then it became a gift,” he said. That gift is the simplest one of all: making other people feel good.
Reeves has always thought of music more as a mood-lifter than as a competitive discipline. Raised in Massachusetts, he grew up singing along to Hall & Oates and Fleetwood Mac with his parents, jamming to the car radio and sifting through old CDs and records. His parents encouraged him to take piano lessons— but he quit. They urged him to join the school chorus, instead, Reeves began playing around with some high school friends, and they started a band. They began to play a few gigs, and then a few more. And out of that small high school group, Aer was born.
Reeves started touring with Aer straight out of high school, which means he’s lived on his own for longer than most other 23-year olds. The pressures of doing his own laundry and paying his own bills are routine by now, and behind the youthful falsetto and hipster man-bun is an old soul. To Reeves, feeling good doesn’t necessarily mean partying till dawn. He often spends his Friday nights finishing whatever nonfiction book he’s been reading lately, although he's just off a Murakami kick.
This maturity makes him confident in what his music can do— and what it can’t. It takes a truly wise young person to recognize how much he hasn’t experienced yet, and to his credit, Reeves isn’t trying to pretend like he’s endured more pain than he has. “I don’t want to narrate people’s problems if I haven't been through them myself,” he says. “I’d prefer to be the means to forgetting about those problems.”
He offers oblivion, not catharsis. “I’m having fun making it, and I want people to have fun listening to it,” he says. “That’s what I want to give to people: a brief moment of forgetting.” As he toured the country with Aer, fans kept coming up to him to tell him how much their music had helped them through dark times. Reeves realized that music that helps people escape their problems is just as important as music that helps people understand themselves better.