The music in Brave New Wild is an incredibly important part of the film -- reflecting and reinventing the story along with the cast of characters. It's half of what makes the film so damn cool! And it is all original. Musician and composer Mark Bertuldo created the original score for most of the film, including some of the most dramatic moments an epic characters. But part of the film (if you're seen it yes there are many parts) required a different kind of music because it was so different altogether -- the personal part of the story where I examine my dad's life as a climber. Having grown up hearing my dad's old time fiddle and bluegrass tapes, I knew that component of the story needed to reflect that genre. Bradley 'Chum' Carter was the perfect human for the job, being a bluegrass dabbler of many instruments, with creativity to outshine our otherwise shoestring budget! He created some fantastic tracks for the film, including the last number of the film, which resounds with both an undercurrent bittersweet nostalgia along with a heart-bursting excitement over new, unseen and hopeful horizons.
Chum started climbing before he became a musician. (Although he did take a few piano lessons as a kid and played in middle school band -- we'll forgive him for that!) It wasn't until he had debilitating back surgery at the age of 29 that he began to look at music more seriously. With time needed to recover, and no outdoors to jump in to, Chum picked up the banjo. "Starting really late in life is not what I would recommend anyone wanting to be a serious musician," he described to me. "I'd also advise against be a rock climber too. Ha."
Brave New WildChum just released an intriguing new album called NICE IMPRESSION. The concept here is very unique -- he combines the words of climbing icons along with music composed specifically to fit the feelings or moments they are describing. (Or vice versa.) When he first approached me about it I thought it sounded very original, and the execution of the finished music is fantastic. And three songs feature stories from climbers captured during the making of the project, including John Gill, Peter Croft, and Sibylle Hechtel in his tracks 'Kinesthetics' 'The Venturi Effect' and 'Bevs Tower.' Seriously, check them out on Spotify, iTunes, or Bandcamp.
I asked Chum to answer a few questions that would paint us a picture of himself as a musician, his process, and how he came up with the concept
Q: How does climbing fit in to you and your life as a musician?
Bradley Carter: Climbing is my first love. I still identify more as a climber rather than a musician. I started climbing at age 19 and went all on in on climbing till about the age of 34 when I decided to get more "serious" about music. Climbing has always kind of got in the way of music and vice versa. The climbing lifestyle doesn't jive with music and the music lifestyle doesn't fit with climbing. As a musician you're up late every night. Drinking lots of booze. Usually eating bad food. It's hard to get psyched to get up and climb. I've continually had problems with my hands and joints from trying to play music and climb at a high level. If I was OK with climbing 5.9 It wouldn't be a big deal. But I still enjoy pushing my limits.
Q: How did you come up with the concept for this album, to use voices of climbing legends, woven into the music?
Bradley Carter: I recorded the track "Billy's gettin' low down" a few years ago mostly as a joke and way to learn more about Logic Pro X. (My recording software.) The track is based on an old fiddle tune called "Billy in the lowground" But I reharmonized it, added the slow groove, and played it on electric guitar. And then I added the whole improvised heavy rock part. It cracked me up as I recorded it. I really enjoyed the process. Afterward I tried to mix it myself and the track was just a mess and I let it sit there for years.
Eventually I decided to remix the track as a learning experience. Somewhere along the way during that remix I recorded the song, Nice Impression and thought I'd try and find another climber to fit the track, enter Catherine Destivelle. I really like how that one turned out. I decided to try another, The Venturi Effect. I liked that too. At that point I thought I'd try and do a entire album using the concept.
Q: Give us a little insight into the three songs that feature voices from the Brave New Wild project — how did you choose each one and why? What was your process?
Bradley Carter: I knew I wanted to use Peter Croft's voice for the Venturi Effect. The Venturi Effect is a classic route he put up in the High Sierra and he's a hero for me. Only problem is that despite being a famous climber there's wasn't a lot of footage of him on youtube. Basically there were two video that had something I could use. A vid by the Big UP guys and your interviews from the Wild New Brave clips. Croft's words about the magnificent failure were perfect.
For Kinesthetics I knew I wanted to use John Gill. Again, not many clips out there. But as soon as I searched for him your interview popped up and his words about "focusing on the actual climbing" seemed to fit perfect. I also used some clip from an old video. I have no idea who shoot it.
Bev's tower was the last song to get the vocal treatment and I was really sweating it. I had initially wanted to use the late Hayden Kennedy's voice because I felt that the track had a certain melancholy and a sense of loss. I reached out to a few people who knew Hayden to ask if they thought it was OK. I never heard back and ultimately decided to scrap the idea. But I was stuck with no idea who to use. I thought about spotlighting a single mountain for the track and have different people talking about that mountain. But I couldn't find anything that worked. I also felt like I should focus on another woman since I only had two songs with women. But I didn't want to use any younger woman (even tho there was a lot more footage of them.) I wanted something historical. That's when I remembered Bev Johnson who was a pioneering female wall climbing in Yosemite. My youtube search led me straight to your clip of Sybille Hechtel describing their FFA of El Capitain. Her story was both terrifying and inspiring. After the track was done I felt like I got really really lucky with that track. It worked perfectly!
Q: What, more than anything, do you hope listeners to come away with after listening to this album?
Bradley Carter: Obviously I have a love of climbing history, but the point of the album isn't to try and force the history of rock climbing on people. Hopefully the words enhance the music and vice versa. And like Lynn Hill says " even if you're not a climber" you can enjoy the music and get the gist of what the climbers are talking about. Ultimately, you don't need to actually climb to understand the lessons from the climbers on the album. The concepts apply to lots of other things.
The mood and the vibe of the music was my top priority and the vocal samples were there to enhance that. Hopefully people enjoy listening to it half as much as I enjoyed recording it.
Hearing the voices in his tracks is inspiring, chilling, or intriguing, the music as eclectic as it is catchy. Have a listen for yourself here!