Interview: Aaron Carpenter On “Attitude” & Finding His Voice
The path from social media sensation to pop star is increasingly well-trodden, but only a select few ever reach their final destination. All signs point to Aaron Carpenter being one of the success stories. The 20-year-old, who was a founding member of Magcon, didn’t rush his musical journey. Instead, he learned how to play the guitar and piano, and spent two and a half years honing his craft. That dedication paid off when “Attitude,” a soulful pop anthem, dropped in late March.
I caught up with the rising star at the famed Capitol Records Tower in Los Angeles just before the song was released. Aaron opened up about his passion for music, finding his sound and building confidence as an artist. He also spoke about new music (more bangers are on the way), filming his very first music video and hitting the studio with SG Lewis. Other topics of conversation included the possibility of an EP and defying expectations. Get to know Aaron a little better in our Q&A below.
There’s a little bit of a gap between the end of Magcon and the release of “Attitude.” What did you get up to?
When Magcon came to a halt in 2014, everyone went out to LA and just started doing their own thing. The entire time, I knew I wanted to make music. I had seen other people my peers transition from making videos online to music. I wanted to, but I just wasn’t confident enough at the time. I was so young and I was still finding my voice. I moved back to Louisiana, but I visited LA a lot. I made the decision in 2015, if I was going to make music, which is truly my passion, there’s no way around the flack people are going to give me. There’s no way around it, except straight through it.
Did the success of artists like Shawn Mendes and Jack & Jack inspire you?
Yes. Watching them do their thing is inspiring. Going from social media to a traditional mainstream media artist is not an easy thing, but if I didn’t have the social following, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have now. So, I’m very thankful.
Is there an advantage to being a latecomer? You can learn from the mistakes of others.
I think it’s hard to gauge that because every single person is case by case. It’s different for everyone. There’s no secret formula, it’s all about just being as genuine and true to yourself as you can be.
Do you remember your first studio session?
Definitely. I’ll tell you how it came about. I made the decision that I was going to make music in 2015 and posted a cover on social media. It got a good reaction, so when I turned 18, literally two weeks after I turned 18, I moved out to LA and I bought a guitar and a piano, and I sat down and started teaching myself how to play via YouTube tutorials. I started posting covers here and there, but I wanted to make my own music. It was hard. I’d never written a song before. I didn’t really know where to start.
So, I also met this songwriter. He was like, “Are you an artist?” It kind of took me back, for a sec. Then, I was like, “Yeah. I am.” Anyway, we were hanging out and he pulled up this beat, and we wrote a song. In the meantime, I also met an agent at a party and it all started coming together. I still listen back to that first song and it’s actually good. But songwriting is another confidence battle. You just have to go for it. No idea is a bad idea. I eventually recorded some songs and got a management team. I signed with them two and a half years ago.
“Attitude” sounds like early Justin Timberlake to me. Was he an influence on you?
My sister is one of the biggest JT fans on the planet. She has a cardboard cutout in her room. JT is still the background on her phone. She would always play him growing up, but I didn’t understand the depth to his music until I started making it. After two years of being in sessions nearly every day, I really began to appreciate music on a whole new level. So, I grew up listening to Justin Timberlake thanks to my sister. And my grandma’s favorite song is “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. So I listened to a lot of Stevie, Marvin Gaye and Al Green.
Is “Attitude” reflective of your other songs?
Yeah. There’s a common thread that runs through it all. It is very rhythmic, soul-pop/R&B. Another common thread is that it’s all about relationships, whether it be a mother-son relationship, a family relationship or a romantic relationship. We’re all trained as humans to hear a song and first think like, “Oh, romantic relationship.” But if you listen to some of my songs, it’s like, “Oh, this is like a deeper concept than I thought.”
“Attitude” definitely sounds like it’s about a romantic attraction…
Yeah, with “Attitude” it’s obviously about the instant attraction that I had with a girl. That is probably the one song that doesn’t have a deeper concept. All the songs are based on real stories. Whether it’s a super deep, meaningful concept or even a playful song like “Attitude,” I wrote it because I really just liked this girl’s attitude, something about it made me want to go and talk to her, and get to know her.
You worked with some incredible people. What’s it like being in the studio with Chad Hugo and SG Lewis?
SG is incredible. Before our first session, we had already met and hung out a couple times. When we finally got in the studio, we just started making great music. He actually made the track with Chad Hugo a couple weeks prior to our session. I haven’t even met Chad Hugo yet. But he’s been super supportive of everything. He’s liking all the “Attitude” promo on social media. Hopefully one day I can get in the studio with him because his music has been a huge inspiration to me, from The Neptunes and NERD. I’m obsessed.
So I had this session with Scott Harris and SG. It was my first time meeting Scott, and he was like, “I like to do this thing where the last five minutes of the session, we just put on a track and… just go.” We had actually written an entirely different song that day. And then at the end of the session, SG looked at me and he’s like, “This is a beat me and Chad made.” He played for us and I was like, “Yo. This is crazy. We have to write to this.” And then, “Attitude” came together in fifteen minutes.
Did you know it was going to be your lead single?
After we wrote the song, we all looked at each other and were like, “I am obsessed with this.” But I was worried about what my team would think. I knew they would absolutely lose it or hate it. They’re very particular. I was adamant though that this is my sound, my identity in music. Happily, they loved it too.
Is there an EP or a larger body of work ready to go?
We could put out an EP, but the songs are not 100 percent finished. I’m a perfectionist. That’s the goal, but we’re just going be recording all year to see if what comes up. I really just want people to become familiar with my music. “Attitude” is a brand new introduction to who Aaron Carpenter is as an artist. Everybody knows me as a social media influencer, but nobody really knows me as an artist. I want people to get used to me releasing music and kind of have an understanding of my identity in music. So we’re going to release a couple songs in the near future.
Have you worked with the same people on the other songs?
I only worked with Scott one time and it was with “Attitude.” He lives in New York, so our schedules are always conflicting, but I would love to get back in the studio with him. I’ve done a bunch of songs with SG. I’ve done a bunch of songs with The Roommates, they’re an incredible production duo and I actually named them. I thought they were roommates at the time, but they’re not. I worked with them a lot. I’ve had over 100 sessions with them. We have 120 songs together.
Have you filmed the video for “Attitude”?
We actually have. We’re in the editing process and I’m really excited for that. It was scary being my first music video ever. I was like, “Oh, I feel so strange.” But I had to just let go. It was so strange. I didn’t want any of my friends coming up to the shoot. I didn’t even want my managers to be there. But after the first shot, I was like, “Okay, it’s just like everything else. Be myself. Let go. And literally have fun.” Because if I’m not having fun and I’m too in my head, you’re literally going to see it.
Further down the line, will you add choreography to your videos and performances?
Yes. 100 percent. I can’t sit still when I hear any of my music. I have to at least tap a foot, at the very minimum. I’ve been in dance class for quite a while and it’s something I want to get comfortable with. Right now, it’s a new thing to me and it’s very demanding. You have to be in great shape for it. It’s something I am very interested in, but I don’t want my entire show to just be choreography. I don’t want to be a robot. I want to do some cool dance moves and move around and engage and have fun with people at the concert.
Are you nervous about how your fans will receive “Attitude”?
Absolutely. After posting the first teaser photos, I was like, “Whoa. This is a different type of nervousness than I thought.” Now I’m really starting to ask myself those questions of, “Are my Day Ones even gonna like this?” But I think they will. I’m super excited to just finally share it with them and let them get to know me on a different level as an artist.
What are your expectations for the song?
I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve been holding on to this song for so long that I couldn’t help but have expectations. But then I had a realization, I don’t remember when it was. I was in my car driving and I was listening to “Attitude” and I was like, “I love this song so much.” The fact I even get to put it out is wild. Now everyone can enjoy it and that’s the payoff. There’s no number, no milestone in my mind.
Good luck with everything!