Stockyard Sessions: Carter Lybrand Talks Military Service, Going All In on Making Music and More

Carter Lybrand served his country in Iraq and Kuwait and upon returning, he knew he wanted something of his own. That something was music, which he dove into head first after 13 years in the Army.

“You know as far as really doing something for myself when it comes to music you know that was the hardest thing,” he said. “You know when you love something you go all in and I’ve been putting 110% into it since I started like four and a half years ago.”

During a stop in Fort Worth, Lybrand joined The Cowboy Channel for a conversation about his service, career, new music and more.

TCC: Tell me a little bit about how you started playing...

CL Well, originally my grandparents had a country band, so I grew up watching the Opry and you know all those great things about country music and I just fell in love with it, so I started piddling around with the piano when I was about 3 and I’d mess with anything that made music or made noise. By the time I was 12, my dad was always playing with a guitar in the house, I just had a wild hair to just go grab a guitar and learn how to play it and it just kind of really took off from there. Music has always been, well, I was meant to do it, that’s what it really feels like. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on and it’s doing what you love and what you enjoy in your life.

TCC: You just said music was hardest thing you’ve ever worked on and we haven’t gotten into it yet, you served in Iraq, so explain more behind the reasoning on that.

CL: You know as far as really doing something for myself when it comes to music you know that was the hardest thing. You know when you love something you go all in and I’ve been putting 110% into it since I started like four and a half years ago I think it was. The army was also a good time you know it was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. And that’s another area in which I started really playing because when we were in Iraq in 2011 we’d get done working and the guys would be like, ‘hey man, play us a song’ and I’d pull the guitar out and I’d pick for them and they just told me they’re like ‘man what are you gonna do? Man you’re gonna pursue this right? When you get home.’ And I was just like I don’t know, you know I’d enjoy it. I ended up winning a talent show in Kuwait on New Year’s Day and they gave me 90 dollars to the PX and I bought a Weber Grill and a steak and grilled it in a sandstorm and it was a little crunchy but it was medium rare so it was good, a good solid steak and it was pretty cool I was kind of like a base-wide rockstar for a minute.

TCC: What was that talent show experience like?

CL: Well for me, I’ve always tried to stay humble and you know there’s just so many talented people that are out there doing this stuff, especially on the military side I mean you’ve got Zach Bryan you’ve got this Eddie Flint guy that’s doing this stuff and so it’s really cool to see veterans or guys that are serving kinda get a little bit of recognition you know when it comes down to it. It’s definitely interesting, it definitely is.

TCC: Just kinda pickin’ for those guys, how much did that really inspire you to be back here and say I’m going 110% like you said?

CL: It kinda opened my eyes a little bit because like I said there was a ton of great talent and there and there was another fella there that I would go play with and he went out there and I was like ‘man you crushed it dude there’s no way and he was like man I can’t beat what you just did!’ And when that happened I was just like ‘well maybe I am good enough to give this thing a go.’ And that’s probably the really defining moment for me of when I really decided we were gonna give this thing a good honest try.

TCC: So you get back and decide you want to pursue this career, what does square one look like for that?

CL: So it’s easy to go pick up a guitar and sing, but it’s really difficult to get out there and you got to get in the trenches, you gotta do the open mics, you gotta drive to these places, you know phone calls and emails are one thing, but you know, iI’m a face to face guy and I love being able to actually talk to somebody in person I think that matters to so you just gotta get out there and you have to get to some of these venues or small bars you know wherever you’re at and just get in there and meet folks and just try to find a way to get something booked. That’s probably the most difficult part and I think that’s where a lot of people get held up and it’s a lot. People don’t realize it’s more than picking up a guitar and playing for two or three hours.

TCC: What is that like when you see people in the crowd resonating with your music?

CL: The coolest thing for me is knowing that I impacted somebody and when I play an original song and you just see people react to that, that’s probably the thing that matters the most to me. Because I want fans, I’m not so much worried about about numbers and all of that stuff, I wanna meet people and I want to meet fans and at the end of the day I like the kind of music where if I can put something out and someone could be driving home at 2 o clock in the morning and it drastically changes the way they look at life, that’s what I’m searching for. I want to help people and I want to use my music to help people and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. You know veteran health, like I said, is very important to me. Mental health for first responders, veterans, nurses, our teachers, I definitely don’t think our teachers get enough credit because man these kids are crazy out here. Really we just want to help people to maybe get past something or you know any anxieties or adversity that they’re facing in life, that’s what I think country music is about.

TCC: You have a new song Ride coming out, where did that come from?

CL: Listen I’m in love with that song, I really am, I’m really really excited about it and you know that’s just an adversity song. In this business it can be so tough and people can tell you no or just in life in general people will say no all the time and this is about getting up and getting back through it and you know, you just gotta face the sunrise is one of the lines in there and you know we throw a little rodeo stuff in there too so you can’t beat that either.

TCC: What does it feel like when you have a song that you’re in love with, like you said you write it, you produce it, start to finish it’s done you’re ready to release it. How does that feel inside?

CL: You know it’ll give you anxiety. You’ll be stressing out the whole time you’re getting the song together and trying to get these presaves and that’s another thing for artists too is presaves are so important for us, and if it’s me, I’d like to just put a song out and say go listen to it. But there’s a business side of it and they wanna see numbers, they wanna see you getting your pre-saves and stuff like that. So if there’s artists that you follow and that you want to be successful, those pre-saves help a ton and that’s probably the most stressful part is you getting that together but what happens is you know I’ll go to the studio and we’ll record it and then I start getting antsy because I hear it and I’m like man I can’t wait on this thing right here and my producer Ryan, he’ll send the mix over which typically it could be one or two mixes and just depends on what you want done. You’ll listen to it say I’d like a little more of this or a little more of that and will you think about this will you think about that so there’s a lot of moving things around maybe cut some levels up in one spot or down somewhere else and then when you finally get that master back you get it uploaded.