“The way I tend to write about men is the way men have traditionally written about women,” says singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton. But the New Orleans-based musician manages — through clever lyrics, infectious hooks, saucy storytelling and tantalizing videos — to turn objectification into an art form whose endgame is empowering all players.
“I am very inspired by sexuality and erotic energy in my life,” she says. “As I’ve developed as an artist I’ve gotten more comfortable with that and am able to write about it with more clarity.” Take her song “Jacket,” squarely framed by the female gaze, that ponders a male muse: “Why you act so dumb, all the books you read? You got a body like that, but you’re living in your head.”
That track is off Blanton’s latest album, Buck Up, and her tour in support of that project brings her to Isis Music Hall on Friday, April 19.
The album’s title track is an ambling, folky mood-booster. But it’s genesis was in the 2016 election results and Blanton’s initial despair (another track, “Bed,” captures that mood). In the lyrics, the singer takes the lemons life handed her and adds the proverbial salt and tequila: “We got friends who come out swinging. We get hit, we go home singing.”
The election coincided with a shift in Blanton’s own thinking about politics, including a move toward socialism and her questions about the country’s relationship to democracy. “When Trump got elected, it clicked everything into place,” she says. “The fact that we are built on white supremacy and the fact that … it’s more important to America that we have capitalist freedoms than other kinds of freedoms.” What had seemed like theory, she says, was suddenly playing out on the global stage.
“So I think the reason I’ve been able to write about politics, kind of for the first time with this last album, is because I’ve felt my own understanding of geopolitics become way more clear,” Blanton explains. “Being a songwriter, clarity is superimportant to me because you don’t have that much time to get your idea across.” In fact, in “Bed,” the political sentiment is summed up in one pithy line (not to be spoiled here for the uninitiated listener).
It seems like New Orleans, with its no holds barred attitudes and outspoken creative culture, would foster both Blanton’s hedonism and politics. And surely those influences are in the very air of the city (the musician’s 2014 album, Not Old, Not New, is a collection of vintage jazz songs including the Louis Armstrong classic, “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”). But, although she’s made the Crescent City her home for the past seven years, touring and building her national fanbase has meant she’s never been a part of the local music scene.
Blanton has, however, made most of her music videos in her adopted hometown, tapping local creatives for their contributions. And, “I have worked with a lot of musicians there, just on my own projects,” she says. “I’m not a very good scenester. I’m more of a mad scientist.”
But even if most of the musician’s focus is away from her place of residence, she’s no stranger to community connection. “I’m trying to build a career on the national stage but where my job actually takes place is in the venue I go to [each] day,” she says. “That’s always a local and individual experience.”
Some days are better than others: After NPR reviewed her new album, Blanton posted on Facebook, “Last night, we played for a lovely crowd of nine people. Today, this. I love the music business.”
Turns out she’s not being ironic about that affection: “What I love the most is getting to make music with my band, who are my very best friends,” she says. “To me, the magical part is I found these people … who love the work we’re doing [so] regardless of what happens externally, it’s a superfun job.”
Plus, she adds, “Sometimes someone invites us to their mansion because some fan has a mansion. … And that’s really fun.”