S2 E3: Matt Carter: Bad Christians in Seattle

What You’ll Learn…

  • The origin of Matt Carter’s band, Emery, including why they decided to settle in Seattle, the evolution of the American Post-Hardcore genre, and how Carter handles being self-employed in the area.
  • The birth of Carter’s “Bad Christian” podcast and his opinions on Seattle’s Christian scene following the infamous Mars Hill movement.
  • Carter’s opinions on whether Seattle is a Les Paul or Telecaster town, the best BBQ in Seattle, and his hopes and concerns for the future.

Lead guitarist of the band Emery, Seattle transplant Matt Carter is a current resident of the Greenwood neighborhood which, he says, is perfect because it is both close enough to the city to get that vibe, but close enough to people he knows to encourage social interaction and continued relationships. His band is in the process of producing their 7th album and he also runs the increasingly popular “Bad Christian” podcast with band-mates Toby Morrell and Joey Svendsen.

Being self-employed in Seattle has its ups and its downs, as Carter mentions. There is a lot of unpredictability associated with self-employment; Carter never really knows how much he is going to make in one year. Combine that with taxes and rising housing costs and the pressure can be daunting. However, Carter keeps his head above the water with a mindset that is not solely focused on money. He does what he feels like doing and prefers to spend his free time learning and exploring new projects (like turning his detached garage into a small apartment). Monetizing what he’s learned will come later.

Carter and his band moved to Seattle on September 11, 2001 from Rock Hill, South Carolina (which he says everyone mistakenly repeats as North Carolina). The decision to begin the band in Seattle was surprisingly simple: it was the least intimidating option in terms of the music scene and it was the birthplace of other huge groups like Nirvana, so why not? With $300 in each of their bank accounts, a bunch of recent college graduates hopped in a car and drove the nearly 3,000 miles to their new home. Carter recalls hearing about the 9/11 terrorist attacks while traveling and knows that if they had not left when they did they probably would have never left at all (he says “if you don’t do something when you have motivation, you won’t do it later.”). They did make it, however, and through nearly 16 years of marriages and kids, Emery has remained together.

Emery belongs to the American Post-Hardcore genre of music and like all genres, it has definitely seen some significant evolution. American Post-Hardcore first emerged as a mix of indie and hardcore music. It was a niche market; not many people were into this genre at first. Eventually, as Carter describes, it went through a common cycle that many genres go through, where it became more and more mainstream, bigger bands began to capitalize off of it, and then it over-saturated the market until it was disliked once more. Luckily, Emery was able to survive this cycle and has come out on the other side where there is considerably less competition than there was at the start. So, while it is not a new genre by any means, it has returned to its more underground roots, thanks to the tendencies of the music market.

After being with the band for about ten years, selling global records and gaining some notoriety, Carter still felt that people were not getting the full picture of who he was as a person. They saw him as a serious guitarist, which is only a fraction of his true identity. He wanted a way for people to connect with him on a different level, so when he first learned about podcasts, he began to deeply analyze what they were all about. He realized that this would be a great medium for providing people with an exclusive, behind-the-scenes style look at what “real” people discuss. So, he got together with two of his band-mates and the “Bad Christian” podcast was born.

The “Bad Christian” podcast fully derived from the idea of making what was said behind the scenes in places like church or backstage at a concert public for the first time. Being a Christian himself, Carter had come face-to-face with multiple instances in which church officials and other members put on public persona drastically different from their personal intentions. There is a lot of “fakeness,” as he puts it, in Christianity that is a problem, so this podcast is his way of allowing people some elbow room to feel comfortable enough to speak their minds honestly in these settings. They discuss everything from politics and personal tragedies to dirty jokes, things that real people should be allowed to discuss, in Carter’s opinion. The podcast has gained recognition from NPR and continues to steadily grow in popularity to this day.

As mentioned above, Carter is a Christian. He happened to be deeply involved in the Christian scene in Seattle around the time of the well-known Mars Hill movement. In Carter’s words, he described the movement as something he initially thought he could have been a part of; there was a positive power dynamic that went around and started everything off really well. However, over time the pastor began to consolidate power, refuse to listen to others, and became extremely hypocritical, which eventually led to the movement’s collapse.

Carter noticed that a lot of the pastor’s behaviors and values had sunk into the culture of the church itself, with even himself buying in and learning new ways to practice communication and manipulation. He has since taught himself how to direct those skills in a more positive direction and hopes to use the podcast to give a voice to victims and start a non-violent revolution against these harmful church patterns. Carter feels that there is a notable fracturing of the church community in Seattle since this incident, but also feels that now things are much more progressive, with people actually having to make their own decisions on how to live religiously, instead of submitting to the “easiest” choice.

On a more entertaining note, Carter has some strong opinions on the barbeque scene in Seattle, noting, in so many words, that the best barbeque is as far away from Seattle as possible! A guitarist by trade, he also mentions that Seattle seems to be much more of a Les Paul town, though his favorite guitar at the moment is the Telecaster. Finally, Carter’s hope for the future of Seattle is a continued growth of new businesses. Being a transplant, he has a much fresher perspective than people like his wife and mother-in-law, who are long-time Seattlelites and don’t want Seattle any bigger than it already is. In his opinion, progress is the way to go and no one should stand in the way of that. As long as he can continue to live in the city despite rising housing costs (his only concern), Carter is more than willing to just kick back go with the flow as he does what he loves everyday.

About the Interviewee

Matt Carter is the lead guitarist of the Seattle-based band Emery. He is a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina and currently resides in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. When he is not working on an album or touring, he and his band-mates, Toby Morrell and Joey Svendsen, chat about anything and everything on their “Bad Christian” podcast. You can learn more about this podcast and other projects Carter’s involved in at BadChristianMedia.com. You can also follow Carter on Twitter @zodcarter. Emery’s 7th album is currently in production. To learn how you can make a contribution, please visit their Indiegogo page.


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