Thus, Mar 11, 2004
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Musician finds his own style of songs
Musicians love to cite the hip artists who ignited their own
aspirations. Usually, their less-than-cool defining musical moments
get crammed in a corner of their guitar cases.
Local singer-songwriter Jim Carlson has drawn inspiration throughout
his career from a wide range of skilled musicians, including John
Prine, U2, Ryan Adams and the British band James.
Wausau man also has come clean about the performer with negligible
indie cred who awakened his desire to live the musical life: Barry
"The defining moment is rather embarrassing," said Carlson, 33.
When Carlson was a kid, he wandered into the room when his mom and
her friends were watching a TV special featuring the singer who made
his name with such treacly tunes as "Mandy" and "I Write the Songs."
"His music isn't that good, but boy did he have command over the
women in the room," Carlson said.
"I remember thinking, 'That's cool. I want to be a rock star.'"
For more than 15 years, Carlson has played stages in the area and
across the country in a number of bands and as a solo performer. He
also has delved into the technical end of the business, producing
other artists and working on crews at live performances for local
and nationally known musicians. Each year, he runs the stage at
Wausau's Big Bull Falls Blues Fest.
Around town, Carlson performs several standing stints at local
establishments as a solo artist and with a number of local musicians
who regularly drop by his shows to join in. He's also a founding
member of the perpetually impetuous band Doc Holiday.
Carlson's sets include his originals and select covers of songs by
Prine, U2, Johnny Cash, Grandaddy and other artists he admires.
"I'm not a human jukebox," he said. "If it doesn't mean something to
me personally, I don't play it."
Carlson's melodic, minimalist folk songs are as out of vogue as one
of Manilow's polyester pantsuits. That's why he titled his first
full-length solo release "Out of Fashion."
"The type of music I do will never be the 'American Idol' style,"
Carlson said. "In today's musical climate, I'm as out of fashion as
I can be."
The album, which came out in January 2003, has found a significant
audience, despite its not-quite-primed-for-Top-40 sound, Carlson
said. He's working on two follow-ups - a mellow album that will
highlight his finger-style guitar work and a more rock-oriented
"I really enjoy the folk stuff, but there's a part of me that wants
to get out and growl and have a little fun," he said.
After years of immersion in all aspects of the music business,
Carlson has refined what he wants as an artist. And it's not
"What I do isn't for everyone," he said. "I'm at a stage of my
career musically that I'm OK with some people not liking what I do."
Carlson never might play to arena-size audiences as he fantasized
about as a kid, but he said he derives a great amount of
satisfaction from performing his music in the more intimate setting
of a coffeehouse or bar.
"That communication with a small group of people - it's what keeps
C.E. Hanifin, Wausau Daily Herald
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