There are many ways to describe Shy Carter. He is an in-demand songwriter, a soulful vocalist, and an emerging country star all at once.
Carter has spent the last decade in music, amassing a long list of songs cut by other artists—both in and out of country music.
His songs have been picked up by the likes of Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, Rob Thomas, Kane Brown, Kieth Urban, Sugarland, and more. Before even acknowledging the growing list of staple country tracks that he has been sharing under his own name, his writing credits alone make him a formidable power in the music industry.
Add his soulful voice and charismatic stage presence to the mix and you’ve got a bonafide triple threat.
Carter has been on an upward tick since releasing his debut EP, The Rest of Us, last year to rave reviews. Earlier this month, Carter had a moment to reflect on all he has accomplished while taking on his highly-anticipated debut performance at The Grand Ole Opry.
A colossal moment for the singer-songwriter, he spent most of the day hanging with his two children to ease the nerves of the demanding day.
“They’re really my heroes,” Carter tells American Songwriter. “I just realized the other day, that having interactions with anybody in life can be difficult because, there’s always something going on in business or their relationships—there are feelings that can come out. But with my kids, I never feel that way. I always just feel joy.”
“So it was really special for me to just be able to hang out with them before the night,” he adds. “We had the camera so we got to capture some of that and it just made it a peaceful day.”
Once he finally made it into the famed Opry circle, it was to the tune of a standing ovation and wild applause—instantly Carter began to relax into the milestone.
“I took a few breaths, got up there and it just felt amazing,” he says. “It was really magical.”
His headlining set featured songs taken from his EP, as well as a personal rendition of his Keith Urban cut track, “God Whispered Your Name.” As the hallelujah chorus began to ring out towards the end of the song, Carter walked out into the audience for a moment of true connection with his fans.
“It was a spiritual thing for me,” he says. “I was floating on cloud 9 afterward. I go out there and shake somebody’s hand, give them a high five and give them a hug. You know, just to be more involved with the crowd. I feel so far away from the audience up there on stage. I want to be with them and have a good time.”
As the live music scene in Nashville has been steadily ramping back up, after an onslaught of COVID-related cancellations, live shows, like his debut at the Opry, are all the more special to Carter.
“It’s really great to share the new music and just see people’s reactions,” he says. “I like to throw in some songs that have been cut by other artists as a good showcase to let them know I wrote those songs they love.”
Watch a behind-the-scenes video of Carter’s Opry debut below.
Carter shared The Rest of Us late last year, bringing together a handful of songs for his biggest release to date.
While a lot of the EP is a classic good-time country record, Carter isn’t afraid to lend his soulful vocals to some heavier themes as well. One such song is “Hard.” The piano ballad touches on a painful separation in Carter’s life. When asked about the inspiration behind the song, he throws the question back asking, “are you sure you want to know?”
He eventually recalls, “I actually was thinking about my kids in that song too. My daughter was so little and my son was not too much older. I was going through a breakup and all I could think about was the kids and how hard it would be.”
He adds, “That was me pouring my heart out about that situation. Now I feel a lot better about it. but at the time I was just concerned that we were taking the easy way. It’s usually better to go the long way around—you get the better reward.”
Carter recently shared a live recording of the track—one that bears all the emotional weight he intended.
“I get a lot of comments from people telling me they’re going through something and that the song really hits them,” he says. “I feel the best when a song is helping somebody in whatever situation they’re going through in life.”
One of the lighter notes on the album is his ode to those closest to him, “Beer With My Friends”—featuring Cole Swindell and David Lee Murphy.
“The pandemic was still going on and people weren’t able to hang out when we wrote that song,” he says. “We just wanted to write something about getting back to our friends—to just sit and have a beer with somebody who cares about you.”
Along with releasing his own material, Carter has continued to carve out a healthy amount of tracks cut by other artists— the likes of Tim McGray, Jason Derulo, Meghan Trainor, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez, Nelly, and more.
When it comes to writing for other artists, Carter tends to avoid thinking too much about what another artist would want, in favor of writing something authentic to himself.
“A lot of times I just sit down and write not knowing if it’s going to be for myself or someone else,” he said. “You can box yourself in if you worry too much about what another artist would want. If I know I’m writing for myself, I feel a bit freer.”
He continued, “If you’re writing with someone else, it’s fun to be able to write something from their perspective—to put myself in their shoes. I like that I get to enjoy the full spectrum of songwriting.”
Main photo by Cris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry