Bay Life
Musician Craig Carr Lands Big Fish
by Mary Catherine Burns

At the pinnacle of his music career, local musician Craig Carr plans to ride the waves off his first compact disc, Big Fish.

For 10 years, locals watched Carr climb the stage at many Annapolis venues, including Armadillo's and Ram's Head, where he got his start in Chesapeake Country. Sounds of the Beatles, the Eagles and other crowd-pleasers filled the smoky bars. But this time around, Carr is singing a different tune.

"I don't think anyone knows about my music. I've always played cover songs to make a living. Now, I'm hoping people will regard me more as a songwriter. I hope not to fit anywhere. I hope to be a little annoying in that no one can pigeonhole me," Carr laughs.

Carr is about variety. He's made his home in most every genre of music from swing to reggae to pop. With a quarter century's musical history, Carr and manager Brian Smith had to sort through a mountain of music to choose 16 songs for the compact disc.

"I've written in so many styles that for my first album, I thought I would reflect that. Even though the styles are different, the songs go together," Carr adds.

The first track on the compact disc, "I Will Not Resist" is reminiscent of a Paul Simon world-beat rhythm. Several tunes later up turns a country tune, "Top o the Line." Craig Carr meets the Beach Boys with "Little Shy One" and the Steve Miller Band with "One Woman Man." "All the tracks are there for a purpose, so you'll find something of your own to enjoy.

Each of the songs on Big Fish was born in its own way. Carr may hear a phrase that turns well in his mind, then place a melody to it. Sometimes a melody fills his head, and he waits for the right words. When Carr is lucky, the song comes to him all at once.

Carr wrote "I Will Not Resist" after a revelation in his own life. While visiting an Indian reservation in Arizona, Carr argued with his traveling companion. She accused him of trying to control his life. Words passed between them, but silence fell around him as he realized the truth that rang in her words. At that moment, Carr formed lyrics in his head. A song was born, and a lesson awaits each listener.

Big Fish fills a lot of Carr's pond. Stepping into Carr's living room, you find yourself face to face with promotions and likenesses of the compact disc. A flyer is taped to his banister, and an assortment of stuffed and miniature plastic fish surround his bass drum cover. It's that same big fish that you'll soon see on the compact disc cover. Carr is the artist.

The guitar that has been through thick and thin with Carr rests against his couch. The musician needs no encouragement to sing a line or two as he talks. His words have their own melody.

A regular bachelor pad, his home seems bare except for things necessary to an artist. A few prints of Monet and Van Gogh line the wall, comforting Carr's creative nature. The basement holds the musical treasure, his recording studio and practice room.

Carr slides naturally behind the drum set in the corner, eager to tap out a few rhythms. He strums a soft tune on his guitar, his fingers moving slowly between the strings. But his attention quickly turns back to Big Fish.

Against the near wall sits a lone table holding a computer. This computer is the genius behind Big Fish. With the computer program CubaseVST ­ for virtual studio technology ­ musicians can sequence recordings and playbacks of tracks, editing with equalizers and mixing boards.

What? The computer records Carr's voice, his bass, his drums, each track individually. Waves representing the sounds appear on the screen. Each track is synchronized and replayed. The computer mixes and records this new version, the song. Mistakes can be fixed or sections of songs can be touched up with editing programs.

Carr seems relaxed behind the computer, considering he first touched one only last year. Until then, the now 43-year-old Carr had let technology pass him by.

Technology was one reason Carr enlisted Todd Kreuzburg as his partner, a position not to be underestimated, in this new endeavor. Kreuzburg was originally recruited as a drum engineer. Without someone behind the controls, Carr spent one day doing 200 drum takes, swiftly moving from computer to drum set to computer and back.

Kreuzburg's role increased as he lent other talents to Big Fish. Kreuzburg's violin sections on "Let the Lion Out" and "My Little Shy One" were music to Carr's ears, just what the songs needed.

Work on the compact disc began in 1997, but Big Fish hit many snags and lay dormant for a year. Of course this downtime was not downtime from real life. Carr still spent his time singing for his supper, playing local bars in Annapolis.

Nor is the life of a musician always dedicated to art. Like you orme, Carr was waylaid by "Harry homeowner concerns" along the way.

Carr never worried about money or mundanities in his childhood, when his dreams were of music and fame. Carr defines his origins as the typical '60s' family. His father, Lester Craig, worked as a used-car salesman while his mother, Virginia, was a housewife. Carr grew up in a Montgomery County split-level with summers spent in the backyard swimming pool. Sister Wanda now lives in Frederick; Cathy lives nearby in Edgewater.

Both come out to support their musical brother.

The Carrs wanted for nothing. That was because Lester C. had wanted for things. But Lester grew up in a home filled with music. His father, Lester B., played Dixieland jazz with The Original Pennsylvania Serenaders.

Still, music hadn't made an easy family life. When his own family came along, Lester C. vowed to provide a stable home. He was wary of Craig's musical dreams, coming slowly to acceptance.

Carr still remembers the day his dreams of fame began. "Catharsis" ­ Carr is fond of the word ­ came to him in the form of the Beatles.

Wafting from a stereo over a suburban swimming pool, Hard Day's Night changed nine-year-old Carr's life. He had never heard of the Beatles or their album. From that day forward, the piano-playing boy moved toward the guitar-playing man.

In junior high, friend Kevin Morton taught Carr stage presence and, as he called it, "giggin.'" High school brought a new kind of music into Carr's life. Bands were about screaming, not singing.

Real life forced Carr to work for his father.

But music was never far from his mind and, in 1978, Carr played in Pegasus, "one of the top D.C. bands." He experienced the life of a musician, living in a Gaithersburg farmhouse with the band members until 1982. But marriage in 1983 led Carr to Cape St. Claire and work in furniture refinishing. When his marriage ended in 1990, Carr returned to his first love.

Sitting Ram's Head Tavern one afternoon in 1989, Carr chatted with manager Chip Tate. Carr questioned Tate about the musical talent in Annapolis and revealed his background as a musician. To Carr's surprise,Tate penciled him in. With motley looking equipment, Carr arrived at Ram's Head ready to restart his musical career. This night led to more nights andmore venues. The rest is history.

Van Dyke & Glaser, a popular Annapolis duo, recruited Carr in 1991, changing his career. Carr became a full-time musician and never lookedback. He was exposed to new crowds and venues, eventually joining the GregPhillips Trio. The trio, consisting of Carr, Greg Phillips and Kreuzburg,still plays Tuesdays at Armadillo's.

"The music community in Annapolis is amazing, maybe because it's small. There is definitely a genuine camaraderie between all of us," Carr says.

If Carr found the time to relax from his love of music, he would turn to his other love, the water. He spent most of his childhood out on the Bay and to this day enjoys the water when he can. He canoes local rivers, laughing as the fish leap in and out of the water around him.

But he needs to be grounded as well. Carr found his grounding by digging in the dirt. He relandscaped his yard a few years ago and still maintains a sense of accomplishment. Even hiking, sculpting and painting interest the musician, but there is so little time. Big Fish has swallowed his time all up.

Running fingers through his brown hair and carefully removing his thin-framed glasses, Carr contemplates the reality of Big Fish. "This compact disc has been a long time coming. It's not my version of James Taylor. It's not my version of Paul Simon. It's me: good, bad or indifferent. It's me. This is what I'm about."

Big Fish is coming this Saturday, August 21. Blue Channel Inn in Arnold is hosting Craig Carr's CD release party. Big Fish will be sold at local record stores and on the web at

| Issue 33 |

Volume VII Number 33
August 19-25, 1999
New Bay Times

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