An album release from Carter Holland and Jones Candler Kolbinsky give off a personal and honest atmosphere with a range of beautifully performed songwriting approaches that range from singer-songwriter and folk to Indie pop, contemporary rock, and so much more all rolled up into this one sort of wondrous record that has enough character to really draw you in and keep you right where it wants to.
The Distant Cousins is brimming with persona and an eclectic display of guitar tonality that lets each song have a sort of character of its own in a way then this lets the songs speak to you.
The thing that I end up loving about this record is that you don't really know exactly what to expect next but after only a few songs you know that it's going to be lush and it's going to be starting somewhere and growing into something else at a certain point along with all this honesty that just hits you right up front.
For Carter Holland this seems like songs that speak for chapters of his life and for Jones Candler Kolbinsky, it was a beautiful and final way to collaborate with a childhood friend.
You see, the story of this album is that Carter Holland unfortunately passed away in late 2021 and left behind some unfinished songs.
Jones being a childhood friend was approached by Holland's mom who asked him to try and finish and release the songs Holland left unfinished.
Now, this is definitely no easy feat because you want to honor your friend and his songwriting and I personally feel like even without knowing who did what on a lot of these songs, it came out beautifully and Carter's personality shines through and just about every track.
These tracks are influenced by classic rock and classic folk which both lend a hand to his songwriting approach in different ways throughout the record.
I love how the textures come together and how the dynamic balance of the record gives off a particular energy that really sticks and stays solid throughout the whole release.
Of 19 track record with the last track itself by Carter Holland alone so it's a beautiful closure to the album.
This record has layers that can be peeled back and some surprises around the corners along with a knack for being able to write songs that stick in your head for hours after they've ended.
There's a lot of heart on this album and even without the story being what it is, that heart is so prevalent giving Carter that presence and warmth throughout a lot of these songs.
With such a unique story and such a robust and full-bodied record, we wanted to have a sit-down with Jones Candler Kolbinsky to learn more about the situation and how the record ended up coming together in the end.
Here's what happened.
RAG: Hey Jones! The Distant Cousins album was wonderfully performed and bursting with character! Can you tell us how this record came to be?
Distant Cousins came into being through unfortunate circumstances. One of my closest childhood friends passed away rather unexpectedly in late 2020 from a heart attack in his sleep.
His name was Carter Holland, and we had been musical companions since we were 10 years old. We met at a summer camp in Alabama, where we would jam on our acoustics every evening.
Carter was an exceptional songwriter and instrumentalist, but he never got around to putting out an album of his own, aside from a few singles that he released on Soundcloud over the years.
After his funeral, Carter's mother revealed to me that Carter had plans to release an album, and she asked me to finish the record in order to honor his creative legacy.
RAG: How did it feel to finish this record for Carter?
I definitely feel proud to have done this for such a dear friend and his family, but I won't lie to you it was rather difficult. Obviously this was an emotionally taxing endeavor and every step was a new challenge. I wanted to fully honor Carter's personality and his unique recording style. I knew from the beginning that it wasn't going to be easy.
Finishing the album felt truly surreal. It was both a joyous and harrowingly wild ride. I had multiple visitations in my dreams from Carter's ghost, where he literally asked about how the album was coming along. That shit is certifiably stressful!!! I though i was going mad, but I chose to focus more on the joy brought by this record than the void left in Carter's absence. His parents are really wonderful people and they've been incredibly appreciative of the final product. That's the only thing that matters, in my opinion.
I put a LOT of pressure on myself to get good takes, mix it well, and treat it with the respect it deserves. I think it paid off!
RAG: This is a pretty big record; how long did it take for you to complete this in the end?
So, Carter was an analog purist. He used nothing but old cassette recorders, a Radial Workhorse with 500-gear cartridges, and miles of cables going into old preamps and compressors. He even had a reel-to-reel tape machine that he would record demos with. It took up damn near half of his bedroom!
He often opted to not use a click-track while recording, which was a major pain in my butthole, but I was determined to use as much of Carter's recording techniques & original playing as possible. It made things take longer than I wanted them to, which became a valuable lesson in acceptance and presence! I would often stop and restart my approach to his songs, because I didn't know whether to completely re-record his songs, or to touch them as little as possible.
Some of them were VERY lo fi, and some of them didn't need to be changed at all. Finally, I ended up with a Frankenstein'd album of sorts, which was a combination of Carter's playing and my own.
When it was all said and done, the record ended up taking me a little over 2 years to finish... but it was worth it!
RAG: Do you have a home studio set up where you worked on this?
I do! Funny enough, most of the gear that I use in my studio was given to me by Carter's mother after his passing. I've routed a lot of his gear into my interface, and I have a lot of plugins myself. It all made for a very unique and honest sound while I was tracking.
I recorded all of my tracks in my bedroom, but most of the mixing work was done by my good friend Max Nunes at his studio "The Ballroom" here in Nashville. He brought out the magic of the record as far as I'm concerned and is always an exceptional person to work with.
The album was mastered masterfully by my good friend Ross Collier, who is a professional mastering engineer. He's also the CEO of the Nashville Omnicord Supply Company! He made sure everything was level, limited well, and was professional sounding. He was a joy to work with too!
RAG: I think this is a unique and beautiful thing you did and feel that will resonate with listeners as well. Is there anything you'd like to add?
Pursue your music and your joy with unrelenting fervor! Cherish the relationships in your life which have a musical element to them. Start a band and love your bandmates. Put your music out into the world without hesitation. Tell your family members that you love them more often. Be grateful for the present moment, and the chance to be alive! You are blessed beyond conception.