Aaron Carter freely admits being a terrible student. He was a rebel in high school, “messed up” from time to time, got in a little trouble here and there. You’d never catch him with a book that didn’t have “Spark Notes” on the cover; he had no interest in Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Salinger, writers of classic or contemporary works.
And yet, the chorus of the song “Fairytale Kind of Love,” which he wrote with a friend, Carter sings, “It’s a Walmart first-kiss, fairytale kind of love,” a line so simple the words themselves must have been on sale, and yet an obvious bargain of pure emotion and imagery.
Carter co-wrote the song for a friend whose daughter was getting married, and based the lyrics on the future son-in-law’s vows and the story of their relationship.
“The difference between me and a lot of musicians, I’d say is every one of my songs has a story behind it,” Carter said. Some of those songs involve his rebellious days, including one called “Sorry, Mama,” and nearly all of them harken to his past. He has released six, and said he has another 20 songs that he has scheduled to drop periodically until 2024.
Many of Carter’s songs will speed you down country dirt roads, and then they’ll park in your head for the rest of the day. For all his simple ‘get-‘er-done’-word play, Carter has an undeniable knack for music with a hook. It’s what got him one of his first breaks, a live performance on Maverick Radio in Mebane.
A friend of Carter’s has a shop that advertises with Maverick Radio, and he urged some of the folks at the station to give Carter a chance. The singer emailed the station manager a song called “Hit Rewind,” which got no traction with the Maverick. Undeterred, Carter emailed his next release — “This Town” — and was quickly contacted.
“I got a phone call within a couple hours,” he said. “The guy at The Maverick said, ‘Hey, you want to come in and play it live on the radio?’ And I’m like, ‘Dude, do you want it pre-recorded or live?’ Because I was super- nervous. But then I was like, ‘Well, let’s just do it live. Let’s just go for it.’ I played it live on the radio and they loved it. They picked it up and when I went in later to play two other songs, the folks at Maverick told me they were getting a lot of good feedback about my music.”
It appears Carter’s music appeals to a lot more people than those who tune in to the Maverick. Carter is part of an organization called the International Singer/Songwriter Association, which was founded by a Nashville musician, and is dedicated to supporting and serving independent artists.
“It was a great way for me to connect with other people who are also independent artists,” he said. “Once I started putting music out and then songs like “This Town” started getting played on the radio in Australia and Britain, and a couple other places. Because I was part of that organization, my music started getting recognized.”
And is he and his music ever getting noticed. Carter recently received an email from the International Singer/Songwriter Association alerting him that he’d been nominated for three awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year; U.S.A. Rising Star of the Year; and Male Singer of the Year for the song “This Town.”
The winners will be announced Aug. 6, at an event in Atlanta. “It’s a big deal in Atlanta,” he said. “Red carpet, there’s gonna be media, there’s gonna be other musicians. I just got me a suit, because I never owned a suit before. I went and got a one and everything, and I’m super-excited about it.”
Carter is from Rockwood, Tenn., a small town about 30 miles outside of Knoxville. Growing up, he played football until an injury sidelined him, leaving him restless. His parents gave him an acoustic guitar in the hopes it would keep him busy, although they were skeptical. Little by little — and with the help of YouTube — he learned the G- and C-chords, and played the daylights out of them. He never lost interest in the instrument, and began piecing together his own tunes, writing songs from a notebook he carried with him to write words and thoughts about growing up in a small town.
“Every song has a story behind it, and almost all the stories have something to do with a part of my life,” he said.
When he was a junior in high school, Carter got involved with a Burlington-based nonprofit that did mission work in Haiti. The experience was life-changing for Carter. So much so that he moved to Whitsett so he could continue working with the organization.
He is also an Advanced EMT at Alamance County EMS. He attends Rowan/Cabarrus Community College, where he is on course to be a paramedic.
“My dad worked on the ambulance for about 15 years,” Carter said. “When I was in high school, I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go with my life. Back then — they still might do it now — you could do these things called observer ride alongs. Whenever I wasn’t at school or busy, I would go to work with my dad and I would ride along on the ambulance with them and just watch. After a couple of shifts, I told him, ‘I think this is what I want to do.’ Of course, he tried to talk me out of that, but I ended up going through school and getting my advanced and I’ve been on a truck for about seven years now. I love it.”
If his music career takes off and can support him financially, Carter said he would pursue that path. But he intends to keep his work with emergency medical services as his Plan B.
“I’m not ever going to let my certifications lapse.”
He also doesn’t let his two passions cross into each other. Carter said his basic mentality is to leave his work outside his house. “You have those really good calls, you have the really bad ones, but I still try to leave it all outside the door.”
On May 27, Carter gave a free concert at a packed venue in his hometown. It was his first time playing in Rockwood, and his first time playing before his mother and father.
“It was pretty awesome to have them there cheering me on,” he said.
Just recently, Carter approached the owners of Whiskey Sowers in downtown Mebane, to see if he might be able to get a gig. Carter didn’t have a band, and was performing an acoustic set, so he was told to come out Thursday nights when performers play acoustic. A couple days later, his first song debuted on the Maverick, and less than an hour later, Carter got a call from the Whiskey Sowers owner, asking if he’d be interested in being an opening act on July 15. Since that call, Carter’s received more opportunities to play at the venue, including opening for Kasey Tyndall.
Carter is now trying to form a band, and is planning to make his debut collection a double-album, with the more than 20 original songs he’s pulled together.
“I’m going after the music industry,” Carter said. “I don’t need a label. They’re all written by me. I’m trying to make a statement to the music industry that says, ‘Look, I’m not here for fun and games. This is what I want to do for a living.”
Aaron Carter will again perform at Whiskey Sowers July 15 at 9 p.m. You can learn more about him and his music by going to:
You can stream his music on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora Radio, and YouTube Music.