- Blanton has a big personality and a lot to say about humor, sex and politics.
While John Lennon and Yoko Ono once spent two weeks in bed to protest the Vietnam War, Carsie Blanton will settle for one day. “Every time I turn on the news, it’s a kick to the head,” she sings on her recent single “Bed.” “Why don’t you wake me up, when the president’s dead.”
Blanton is no less irreverent when it comes to writing about sex. “Since this is the last day of Jazz Fest,” the New Orleans songstress told the crowd at the city’s 2019 Jazz & Heritage Festival, “we’re going to start with a dirty song.”
With that, the electric-guitar-wielding frontwoman and her band launched into a gleeful version of Blanton’s rap-influenced song “Jacket.” While not as explicit as her 2018 rewrite of the Justin Bieber hit “Love Yourself” — you can find Blanton’s version by searching “fuck yourself” on YouTube — “Jacket” is bursting with double-entendres:
“I make a quick pit stop at the Molly Pitcher / You say you got a girl, but I don’t see her wit’ ya / You say you want a drink, but I want something stiffer / You say I oughta keep it clean, I ain’t a Swiffer.”
“‘Jacket’ is a catchy little fun ditty about masturbation,” says Blanton. “It’s the same chord progression as the song ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ by Ray Charles, which I love, and it has a similar swing-jazz feel. But it also has a drum machine on it, which gives it a little more of a modern vibe.”
On her sixth album, Buck Up, Blanton manages to triangulate the bawdy blues of Bessie Smith, the alt-country commentary of Kacey Musgraves, and the indie-pop craftsmanship of Courtney Barnett. The album’s diversity is evident in tracks like the gorgeously arranged “American Kid,” which showcases a more poignant side of Blanton’s songwriting: “All the little kids, all around the world / Some have, and others don’t / God loves all the boys and girls / God knows America won’t.”
“The 2016 election is one of the big inspirations behind the album, so there’s sort of a theme of disaster and disillusionment,” says Blanton. “‘American Kid’ is more of a heartfelt song about growing up in the world as a young person right now. It’s kind of a classic Americana folk song, but we also wanted to have a certain lushness, so we added trumpet, a bowed bass and a synthesizer drone.”
Blanton, who moved to New Orleans in 2012, grew up in a small Virginia town tucked in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At the age of 13, she started playing guitar and writing her own songs.
“The first songs I learned on guitar were folky singer-songwriter stuff like John Prine and Patty Griffin and Ani DiFranco,” she recalls. “Those were my earliest influences. And then, pretty soon after that, I discovered jazz and started learning Billie Holiday songs.”
None of which accounts for Blanton’s appetite for writing about sex, which she does a lot of, both in her songs and in her ongoing blog about “love, sex, music and ferocity.” For that, we can credit one of Hollywood’s most formidably feminist sex symbols. “I really love Mae West,” says Blanton. “She was one of my big influences, although she wasn’t that much of a musician. So yeah, humor and sexuality are two of my strengths, I guess. And all those things are coming through the prism of my personality,” she adds, chuckling at her own choice of words.
Blanton was in her early 20s when she made her move to the Crescent City. “I just fell in love with the city, like a lot of people do,” she says. “It’s got a lot of the elements that I love in music and in life. It’s just a colorful, weird and sensual city.”
New Orleans has also been a contributing factor in Blanton’s expanding musical palette.
“I think I’m getting a little more comfortable with being genre-fluid,” she says. “I try not to let any of the songs get too folky. I’m not into records where it just sounds like a girl with a guitar.”