Cody Carson: Set It Off

Photo Credit:  Freddy Marschall

Photo Credit: Freddy Marschall

Cody Carson is the front man/vocalist for the group, Set It Off. As of this writing, he is about to leave for Japan for one week for the Beyond the Blue Tour, then fly back, and the next day play three shows in a row with the band, We Came As Romans, then immediately go onto the Vans Warped Tour. He’s busy, so I was lucky to catch him for an interview!

TTN: Tell us a little bit about Set It Off.

CODY:  I’m the front man, or vocalist, in the band, and the primary writer for the band with Dan Clermont. Set It Off consists of myself, Dan Clermont (guitar, writer, back-up vocals), Zach DeWall (rhythm guitar), Austin Kerr (bass guitar), and Maxx Danziger (drums). We perform what we call “orchestral rock.”

TTN: How would you describe “orchestral rock?”

CODY:  It’s basically driving guitars, real instruments, with orchestral elements involved as well. We used to play music that was not like this at all, and then halfway through our career we reinvented ourselves.  A bunch of us like horror movies and creepy music, so we started playing minor key rock and adding orchestral sounds. Our sound has been described as if Danny Elfman wrote rock music!

TTN:  Where is the band Set It Off from?

CODY: We claim Tampa Florida as our home, but honestly we are all from Clearwater, Florida, but no one seems to know where that is!

TTN:  How did you, personally, get started on this rock venture?

CODY:  I started off on YouTube. I was doing covers and people started watching and I got more views and I started to develop a fan base. People subscribed to my channel and people became very loyal and dedicated fans. I took YouTube as my promotional tool, and I kept making videos and kept updating everyone with what I was doing.  Everyone started to watch my career grow on YouTube. People liked being a part of that because they ARE a part of it.  People are coming with you on the ride and it’s just a real neat personal connection.

TTN:  How did you connect/find the other members of the group to form Set It Off?

CODY:  I knew the guys from past experiences. I played shows and went to high school with some of them. We formed the band and then started touring together.

TTN:  What was it like in the beginning, when you first started out with the band?

CODY:  You have to be prepared to do a LOT of stuff yourself as a DIY band! We immediately started touring in 2008. Our bassist would book it all to get us started. He would call venues. When you are going to tour it’s very hard to start out with a full US tour right away. That is one piece of advice I would give.  We had wanted to do a full east coast tour, but we were only able to book three days. So I would advise to anybody starting out to start in your area and then slowly book out from there. It’s an arduous process.  We did 22 or so self-booked tours, east coast, full US and even a couple of international tours.

TTN:  What was the touring like?

CODY:   A lot of bands hope they can release records and that’s it, but if you aren’t prepared to tour you can forget it.  People don’t buy CD’s like they used to anymore. You have to tour, that’s just where the money is. You have to be prepared to be away from your family and all your loved ones. You are going to be lonely touring, you will miss your friends and family but you can push through it.

TTN:  What’s going on with the band now?

CODY:  Last September we released our first full-length album on Equal Vision Records. It’s called Cinematics.  The record is called that because we have been told our lyrical content produces visual images in people’s heads. It’s really personal stories about things in my life that I metaphorically turn into some sort of story. I think that is why people connect with it.  I have a very personal song on there that is an homage to my father, who passed a week after he told me to “go for it.” The album charted on three different Billboard charts, and we were also able to donate over 5,000 dollars from the CD sales to the VH1 Save the Music campaign, which I was really excited about.

TTN:  How did you get your start in music?

CODY:  I was surrounded by music, as my parents were both musicians.  My parents took my sister and me on the road, mom sang and dad was a trumpet player. Mom taught music and I was involved from an early age in all her programs and musicals.  Then when I was 8 years old, I took a clarinet lesson from my grandfather and I kept it up. It seemed that I learned really quickly and I just kept going!

TTN:  So you went from performing on clarinet to performing rock music in a band? How did that happen?

CODY:  Yes, I went to college for clarinet. I loved my professor so much and I learned so much and became a much better clarinetist, but reality started setting in for me.  When we played our weekly recitals, people would simply “golf” clap. It was frustrating for me because we had worked our butts off, and that’s all the reaction that we would get. Maybe it’s greedy but I remembered what it was like to finish a rock song, and how the crowd would react. I started doing covers of the band, All Time Low, and posting them on YouTube. I made a video and I asked the band if I could sing on stage with them when they were in town and they said YES! So I stood on stage with them and performed and I don’t think I have ever felt so happy before that. It felt right, like this was truly what I wanted to do with my life. When I got back to college I realized I just didn’t seem to “fit in” there. My parents saw the video of me singing on stage and they told me to take a year off and think about everything because they really saw something there and wanted to support me.

TTN:  What are your goals as a musician?

CODY:  I’d like to be seen or heard by the most amount of people as possible.  I’d love to reach the size of a band like The Beatles, maybe that sounds lofty and ridiculous, but…(laughs.) I’d love to write a style of music that hasn’t been touched on.  Everyone says you can’t re-invent the wheel with music anymore and that’s crap. A lot of artists just go with what’s popular, but I think that will only get you so far. I want to create a genre of music, something that will start a transition.  I’d love to sell out an arena, and then I’d love to be an actor. I love entertaining. I don’t care to be rich, I just want to be able to raise a family and put food on the table with what I love to do. I’d like to be able to reach as many people as possible and change a lot of lives with my art.

TTN:  How have you seen your goals realized?  

CODY:  In 2004, Dan Clermont and I were in another band together and we went to Vans Warped tour. I remember thinking about how I would love to tour that, and this year we are! At the time it seemed so unreachable, so it’s great to see all our hard work paying off. For a while you don’t see any results, so you have to be patient. Also, the record has really propelled us to another level. We were touring with smaller bands, but now we went to Europe with Yellow Card, who we respect very much, and we were submitted to tour for bands that we have always looked up to.

TTN:  What advice would you give for those starting out, forming bands, and hoping to tour?

CODY:  You are only as big as you appear. You want everything to look and sound super professional. Don’t get your friend to do your photo shoots! If I could go back and start all over again I would have immediately contacted professional photographers. Everything you release has to look sleek and professional. Image is SO important.  Don’t record something on your laptop, call it an album and release it. Make sure who you work with have great resumes.  Seek out producers who have worked on music and with bands that you like, contact them and they will decide if they want to take you on.

TTN:  What’s the best advice you were ever given?

CODY:  The best advice I ever got was from Kevin Ford, my high school band director.  I was about to graduate high school and pursue clarinet as a career. He asked me who I thought my competition was. I said the fellow classmates or those in my studio. He told me no, that once I walked out that door the competition was the professionals, like Eddie Daniels (renowned professional clarinetist.) It’s a competitive attitude, you have to have your photos, your album, everything, look just as good as the professionals who are already out there or you won’t survive.

TTN:  What’s on the horizon?

CODY: The Warped Tour is a summer long festival that starts around noon each day. We will be working hard every day, all day in the sun. We are going over to Europe in the fall with a band called Tonight Alive.  They are from Australia. Other than that we are always writing.  We just got back from LA and we are about release a reissue of Cinematics with four brand new tracks. We also just shot a music video for “Partners In Crime.”  We couldn’t be more excited!

Photo Credit:  Johnathan Weiner

Photo Credit: Johnathan Weiner

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