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Josh Carter


"A lot of people ask me, 'how'd you get that synth sound.' I'm like, 'that's just guitar.'" Josh Carter of Phantogram talks about how learning the guitar enhanced his songwriting abilities in this episode of String Theory.

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Josh Carter:
Well, I grew up in a musical family. My mom and sister both played piano growing up, and my dad and brother played guitar. I however, didn't really play music until my late teens or so. Maybe I was trying to go against the grain, the family or something. I was really into skateboarding and all that. Then I got into playing the drums and then guitar and making beats and bought a four-track. Became obsessed with making music.

Josh Carter:
I wanted to learn how to play the guitar because I wanted to write songs. There's only so much you could do behind a drum kit, especially back then. I didn't have a laptop or anything so I couldn't produce. I was doing everything on a tape four-track and just would play a piano and little crappy synthesizers and guitar and just started writing kind of vignettes. I just wanted to play and write music.

Josh Carter:
The way I approach playing guitar is doing what's necessary for the song as I do with every instrument that I play. I'm not a shred master. I'm not a super gear head or anything like that. I just try to compliment what's going on, especially in Phantogram where we've written a lot of songs where the synth kind of carries the root note in a lot of things. I try to be tasteful with my playing. Don't go overboard.

Josh Carter:
I do remember when I first started playing Ernie Ball strings because they were the only strings I thought really existed. Growing up in a guitar playing household, I always saw packs of Ernie Ball strings laying around, so I'm like, oh. When I got my first guitar, I just automatically got Ernie Ball strings.

Josh Carter:
From when I first started playing guitar to now with my career in Phantogram and also producing for other artists, my approach has definitely changed a bit because I think more of the guitar as an accessory, unless it's just a completely guitar driven song. A lot of people will ask me like, "How'd you get that synth and or whatever?" That's just guitar. I Make a lot of atmospheric sounds on guitar. A lot of the influence behind that is Radiohead and Pink Floyd. I don't look at the guitar as simply just you're hearing guitar right now. It could be anything.

Josh Carter:
Anybody can play the guitar. You can go to an open mic night and watch some turkey shred for a half hour, but does that make him an artist? Does that make him a good songwriter? Does that make him clever? I'm not trying to say that I'm clever. I'm just saying that my approach to playing the guitar is I'm just trying to do new things and interesting things. I use it. It's a tool for me.