Carter’s first love was rock climbing. He started climbing in eastern Tennessee as the sport blossomed in the South, and spent more than a decade traveling the country and working as a guide at spots like Shining Rock.
“Are you familiar with the book Desert Solitaire,” Carter asks, referencing one of author Edward Abbey’s most acclaimed books. “I lived that.”
Back surgery slowed Carter down. But during that time, he discovered a book about flat picking, took an interest in the music of Doc Watson, began taking banjo lessons from award-winning fiddler and multi-instrumentalist Tim Gardner in Brevard and started writing songs. He was 30.
“Songwriting was the first creative thing i did that made sense to me,” says Carter, who ended up moving to Seattle in the early 2000s.
“I fell in with the bluegrass scene there, met my wife there and started a band there,” he says.
Carter ended up back in Western North Carolina. He started playing pickup gigs alongside players like Jon Stickley (in a side project called Asheville New Grass) and bands like Sanctum Sully. Carter, a fan of the progressive bluegrass movement, says he was focused on mastering a highly technical style of bluegrass musicianship.
Still, Carter says he harbored a dream of one day starting a rock band. Carter and Dakota Waddell, the bass player in Sanctum Sully, as well as a drummer friend of Waddell’s named Cody Britton started practicing.
“At first, we weren’t very good and I didn’t know what I was doing because I was a bluegrass player doing rock,” Carter says.
Carter, Waddell and Britton stuck with it to form Max Gross Weight, a band they describe as a classic power trio in the same vein as Rush and ZZ Top. They recorded an EP a couple of years ago and kept at it. Max Gross Weight has just finished a new EP that was mixed at Sound Temple Studios and will be out in a few months.
The band worked with Folkus Media in Boone to shoot a music video for one tune on the new EP called “Breaking Down.” The song has a “tortured history,” Carter says. It appeared on the band’s first EP, but Carter wasn’t happy with the guitar and vocals, so he had it re-recorded and remastered.
The video features dramatic drone shots of long downhill skateboarding runs alongside video of the band performing. Carter says he’s a big fan of skateboarding and filmmakers Phil Baldwin and Thomas Richmond were great to work with, as were skaters Ashley Winecoff and Freddy Ortega. (The community of skaters are part of a group called North Carolina Downhill.)
Carter says he’s excited about the band’s prospects, as well as renewed interest in rock music that’s coalesced in the Asheville Rock Collective. Max Gross Weight has a gig playing Cinco de Mayo at Bold Rock Cider.
As for Carter, his musical journey continues.
“I’ve been teaching myself to play electric guitar and some blues,” he says. “I’m trying to get deeper well of sound.”