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Virginian Band If Birds Could Fly on Dream Gigs, Dirty Work, and their Upcoming Album

The folk duo performed in DC last weekend.

Photography, audio, and "No Scrubs" video by Angie Hilsman.

Last week, folk band If Birds Could Fly performed a two-hour show in the basement of Hill Country. Impressed by Brittany Carter’s powerful voice and her ability to play multiple instruments with bandmate, Andrew Carter, I knew I had to find out more about the small-town, Virginian duo, which has opened for Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and LeAnn Rimes. After the show, I helped the husband-and-wife team load their gear into their car and sat down to chat about music, dream gigs, and their upcoming album.

Andrew Carter poses after loading up his mother’s Dodge.

What has it been like performing as husband and wife for the past four years?

Andrew: Sometimes we want to kill each other, and other times, it’s like, “Wow. How did we get this lucky?”

How’d you meet?

Brittany: We actually met through Myspace six years ago. We’ve been playing ever since. I sent Andrew a message one night that was like, “Hey, I know you have a band, and I sing.” And that was it, which is really out of character for me because I’m really shy. He was like, “Well, come over, and I’ll listen to you sing.” So I did it. I sang in a British accent, so it was really weird.

Andrew: It was Kate Nash.

Brittany: But he liked it.

Can you sing it for me?

Brittany: Okay. I have to do my hand piano though.

Andrew: I found out she could really sing and had a really bad British accent, so it worked out.

Concert-goers grab a drink after the show at the basement bar at Hill Country.

What kind of music inspires you?

Brittany: Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn. It’s really hard. I like genres more than specific artists. Blues. Rock and roll. The Stones. Tom Petty.

Andrew: If it’s good music, we’ll listen to it. But we’re just songwriters, and we don’t try to write country. We don’t try to write blues. We don’t try to write folk. Just, whatever comes out.

How do you collaborate when you write songs?

Brittany: Usually Andrew will have a guitar lick, and then I’ll write some words over it. Sometimes Andrew has the words; sometimes I have the guitar lick. It just really depends.

You both play instruments?

Brittany: I don’t play them well.

Andrew: She does.

Brittany: I’m a lazy guitar player. It’s mainly a songwriting tool for me. I’ll play a little bit of guitar, a little bit of keys–that’s about it. Andrew plays everything. He was our drummer for a while.

Andrew: You try to learn everything you can when you’re from a small area, because you don’t know what you’re going to play. You don’t know who’s going to be available to play with you. Tonight was our first time playing the two-piece with the kick and the snare.

You played a cover of TLC’s song, “No Scrubs.” How’d you come up with that?

Andrew: We were probably just looking up stupid things, or it came on the radio. I don’t know.

Brittany: We just learned it, so we were like “Oh, we’ll pull it out.” It’s so catchy, so it sticks with you.

Andrew: I think musical inspiration too comes from movies. [Our song] “Alone in the Wild,” I would say, was Pulp Fiction. I picture a movie that I like, and then think if I was to rewrite the music for the movie.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your career?

Brittany: I would love to play on Saturday Night Live–not only as a band, but I want to act in SNL. So that’s my dream, and the Grand Ole Opry.

Andrew: Sometimes you don’t think that far in advance. As far as a long-term goal, to get this album out in an artistic way in which we want to get across, and playing in the Grand Ole Opry would be nice one day.

What’s it like being on the road?

Andrew: When our van’s not broken down, we have a mattress in the back of the van next to our equipment. It takes a little getting used to, but we have fun.

Brittany: You don’t smell the best all the time. But we really love it. We get to see a lot and travel. It’s wonderful.

Andrew: Better than working in the coal mines.

What do you mean in the coal mines?

Andrew: I worked in the coal mines for two years before we started playing music.

Husband-and-wife duo during and after their Friday night concert.

Brittany: He actually quit his job so we could do this full-time.

Andrew: My dad was my boss. It was the first time he kind of said, “Do it, and we’ll be supportive of you.” I guess he realized that you get one life to live, and if you don’t want to spend it in the coal mines, then try something else. And it was great. I got his approval, and that meant a lot. It’s been good.

Brittany: We’re finally starting to see the fruits of our labor here lately. We’re getting good responses. We’re playing a lot. We can’t really ask for much more. We’re just ready to get another album out, and then we’re golden.

When do you expect that to be?

Brittany: Hopefully this fall.

Andrew: It’s been almost three years since we released an album, so we have so many songs that we’ve wrote. It’s really narrowing songs down.

Brittany: Our last album was more country–I think–more polished. I think this one will be more raw, and rock and roll, and just fun. We’ll have some sad songs on there, too. We always do. This will be our sophomore album, and it will be hopefully good.

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