Growing up in Louisiana, music was Aaron Carpenter’s entire world. Raised on everything from classic country to pop-punk to the Stevie Wonder records his grandmother often spun for him, Carpenter took up drumming at age 11, later teaching himself to play piano and guitar. On his forthcoming debut for Capitol Records, the 20-year-old singer/songwriter reveals the sheer depth of his musical talents—as well as the unstoppable passion that inspired him to chase his dreams to L.A. at age 18.
“Where I’m from, pursuing music is much more difficult than it is in a lot of other places,” says Carpenter, who hails from Shreveport. “For a long time I kept my music secret from everyone, but at some point I realized I had to just go for it.”
Co-written with Scott Harris (Julia Michaels, The Chainsmokers), Chad Hugo (Justin Timberlake, Pharrell), and SG Lewis, Carpenter’s debut single “Attitude” is all shiny hooks and slinky grooves, showing off his soul-pop sensibilities in its smooth textures and playful saxophone work. And with his effortless charm, Carpenter threads the song with dreamy falsetto and brightly soaring vocals, his lyrics perfectly capturing the pure rush of instant attraction.
While “Attitude” marks his first official release, Carpenter’s charisma will come as no surprise to his nearly 4 million followers on Instagram, an app he first became fascinated with at age 12. “When I was younger I would obsess over the most random things,” says Carpenter, who lists dirt bikes, baseball, and Rubik’s Cubes among those past obsessions. “With Instagram, I started out posting photos of my shoes or my dog or whatever I felt like, but after a while I moved on to posting photos of myself and my friends, which seemed to get more attention.” Soon enough, Carpenter’s following began to multiply, and in 2013 he found breakout fame as part of Magcon (a touring collective also including Shawn Mendes).
As his following grew, Carpenter decided to merge his social-media savvy with his increasingly intense love of music, and in 2015 shared a video in which he performed a cover of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” on ukulele (“I was so nervous, I recorded the video about 40 times before I put it up,” he recalls). From there, Carpenter continued posting covers, with each video spotlighting the powerful vocal presence he’d honed partly by singing in the church choir and in school musicals throughout his childhood. But despite the overwhelmingly positive response, he soon felt compelled to push much further with his music. “I didn’t want to get attention for singing other people’s songs,” Carpenter explains. “I wanted to share my own songs, and make it something really personal.”
Not long after that realization, Carpenter packed up and moved to L.A., where he immersed himself in writing songs and learning guitar and piano. “I remember posting something saying I was working on music, when really it was just me in my bedroom, trying to figure everything out on my own,” says Carpenter. “I had no idea how I was going to make it happen, but I forced myself to keep going.” Following a chance meeting at a party, Carpenter connected with his managers, who checked out his demos and scheduled him for a songwriting session. “Once I started working with other writers and producers, I started to figure out who I was as an artist, and the stories I wanted to tell,” he says. “Whether it’s about a relationship between me and a friend, me and my family, or a romantic relationship, which you’ll see a lot of in my upcoming music, it really helped me learn more about myself and how to express my feelings in a whole new way.”
As he joined forces with songwriters like Mozella (Miley Cyrus, Charlie Puth), Carpenter refined his musical vision and shaped an immensely catchy R&B-pop sound informed by his lifelong love of Marvin Gaye and Al Green. And in his lyrics, he mined inspiration from real-life experiences to dream up emotionally honest songs with a deeply uplifting power. Spending nearly every day in the studio for an entire year, Carpenter landed a deal with Capitol Records in February 2018, then moved forward with the making of his upcoming debut project.
In each new song he creates, Carpenter finds himself rediscovering the strong emotional hold that music’s always had on him. “I love how some music can just take you right back to a specific moment in your life, and bring up all these really happy memories that wouldn’t come up otherwise,” he says. “Like when I hear certain pop songs from the 2000s, it immediately puts me back in the skating rink on a Friday night in junior high—just this moment of total mindless fun. I’d love to do that for other people with my music: to take them to a place where nothing else matters in the world, and they can just have a good time.”