S. Carey brings solo project to Mill


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mp3 sample: S. Carey

"In the Dirt"

In his years with Bon Iver, musician Sean Carey grew into an artist he never expected. Traveling around the world, hearing new music, and singing all the time, he learned how to use the voice from within.

“I learned that I had it in me to write these songs,” he said. “I gained a lot of confidence as a writer and as a singer especially. With Bon Iver, singing every day and really just learning how to use my voice and how it’s just like an instrument.”

The Midwestern musician, now touring with his own project, S. Carey, will play at 9 p.m. Friday in the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. The show is part of his tour supporting his first solo album, All We Grow. Touring along with Carey is the Massachusetts singer/songwriter Casey Dienel, performing as White Hinterland. Admission is $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

Dienel, who describes her performances as “all killa, no filla,” has a similar story to Carey’s — she also took inspiration from traveling the globe and hearing other musicians play. Today’s performance is White Hinterland’s début in Iowa City.

“It’s particularly exciting to be so close to where some of our favorite musicians live, like Wet Hair, Raccoo-oo-oon, and Modern Life Is War,” Dienel said. “We’re also ecstatic to be sharing the bill with our friend S. Carey.”

Carey wrote the songs on his début record while on tour with Bon Iver, where he incorporated much of what he experienced into the music. He said he wrote about relationships with people and falling in love with someone new.

“I also draw a lot from my environment and being outdoors, and I guess putting myself in places where I’m just in awe of natural beauty,” he said. “I wrote a lot about kind of transforming as a human and growing as a musician and a person and kind of finding my own voice.”

The nine-piece album rises slowly in intensity with the use of ambient fills, layered percussion, and soundscapes. It then falls back to the calming quiet that resembles Bon Iver. The unique composition allows space for the listener to reflect and experience a natural sound that Carey has sought over the years.

During live shows, friends Nick Ball, Mike Noyce, and Jeremy Boettcher accompany Carey on stage. He said they try to resemble the sound of the album, but it ends up being spontaneous.

“We sort of capture the essence of the songs, I think, and we create our own interpretation of the songs. There’s definitely some parts where we just improvise, and we try to create soundscapes together,” Carey said. “So that makes it different from the record. I think it really works because that’s how the recording was — nothing was written out — it all sort of came together naturally.”

Carey, who grew up in Lake Geneva, Wis., said he has been “living the dream.” He also said that although he’s made a solo album, he’s not finished with Bon Iver.

“This is just something I’m pursuing right now, because Bon Iver is taking kind of a long break from touring and stuff, but that’s not over,” he said.

He has been around the world but still resonates the most with the people and places of America’s heartland.

“I love the Midwest. It’s just home, you know?” Carey said. “It’s really simple, it’s peaceful. Everyone’s really nice, usually. It just really has a vibe that sits with me.”

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