Exclusive Interview: American Opera & Carter Hulsey

Story by Brendan Hamilton

WLNZ spoke with American Opera and Carter Hulsey before their upcoming stop into town, performing at Lansing’s Robin Theatre in REO Town this Friday.

Get to know these two singer-songwriters today, and catch their all-ages concert at the Robin Theatre on Friday, March 31 at 8 p.m.

Up first is American Opera, a.k.a John Bee, a Michigan native and friend of the station, former M897 Artist Spotlight. The singer-songwriter/indie one-man-rock-band Saginaw native spoke about all things music: the good, the bad and the ugly.


Photo Courtesy of American Opera’s Facebook

WLNZ: What do you love about playing music?

AMERICAN OPERA: Everything. I love the idea of creating something out of thin air. This song used to not exist, and now it does. It’s incredible. I love the fact that I can sing a song in my bedroom and then someday play it front of people enough that they sing it back to me. The connection you have with a room full of people singing together is the best feeling in the world.

What do you despise about playing music?

I don’t despise anything about playing music. However I’m not a huge fan of some aspects of the business side of things in regards to being a working musician.

What have been your favorite parts of your musical journey so far?

Getting to play with my favorite band Cursive was pretty great. I also loved being on the Vans Warped Tour. I love traveling and writing so it’s the perfect job for me.

What have been the biggest obstacles to overcome?

Low self esteem and shattered confidence. It’s hard to be on the road away from family but it’s also hard to not be on the road. You kind of forget your purpose in life if you sit on the couch for too long.

What got you into songwriting?

I started writing songs before I ever knew how to play a guitar. I was fascinated by music and the emotions it made me feel. I remember being 10 years old and plagiarizing songs from Harry Chapin before I even knew what plagiarizing was. I would listen to his songs and rewrite the words. I was a thief at the age of 10. I can remember crying after I heard “Cats in the Cradle” and I didn’t know why I was crying. Learning that music could move people was the most inspiring thing to me.

What are you main inspirations?

I figured out recently that I write songs based on what scares me the most. Early in my career I was writing about how scared I was of failure. Then I started singing about my fear that God or love didn’t exist. Now my greatest fear is losing my wife. I write about facing my fears and what might happen if things went south.

What’s next for your music career?

My debut full length is about to be released. I’ve got about 30 new songs ready for the next album. I am going to tour and write until I can’t do it anymore.


Carter Hulsey grew up in Missouri, playing acoustic guitar in and out of various bands. Today, he delivers honest lyrics in a folk rock alt-country singer songwriter package.


Photo by Kevin Deems

WLNZ: What do you love about playing music?

Carter Hulsey: I love being able to tell stories in a format that allows people to digest them in their own way and at their own pace. You don’t necessarily get that in other mediums. Seeing someone get something out of one of my songs that isn’t necessarily┬ásomething I intended is always so rewarding.

What do you despise about playing music?

I don’t know that I despise anything about playing music. Sometimes the writing process can feel lonely, because for me, I spend so much time with myself and getting so far into my head that it can feel isolating.

What have been your favorite parts of your musical journey so far?

Meeting people, without a doubt. Meeting fans and other musicians and just getting the opportunity to talk about whatever is such a blessing. I love meeting people, and I can’t imagine a better way to do it.

What have been the biggest obstacles to overcome?

I think something anyone struggles with artistically is self doubt. It’s always going to be in the back of your head when you’re creating work that you plan on sharing with others. Is this good enough? Is this worth sharing? I think it’s just important to create work that you like and you’re happy with, and from there just hope that someone else can enjoy it too.

What got you into songwriting?

My parents introduced me to excellent music at an early age. I remember growing up there were always Elton John or Willie Nelson records spinning on my parent’s turntable. They would always point out to me the songs that meant something to them and we would sit and listen intently, together.

What are you main inspirations?

Musically? John Prine, Todd Snider, Guy Clark, The Lawrence Arms, Willie Nelson. Non-musically? I try to take inspiration from personal experiences, and shape them into stories that I can try to tell over the course of a song or record.

What’s next for your music career?

I just put out my newest record “Haunt Me” on Feb 24th, so for now I’m just playing shows in support of that. I’d like to just continue writing and playing for people that care about music and story as much as I do. Like I said before, I can’t imagine a better way to meet people.

You can catch these two tried & true singer-songwriters live in concert at the Robin Theatre in Lansing’s REO Town this Friday.

Show Details:

Friday, 03/31

All Ages

7:30 p.m. doors

8:00 p.m. show

Purchase Tickets