September 5, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Graduate Needs Help to Make Music Dreams a Reality

UPDATE (9.10.13): With 50 hours to go in his Kickstarter campaign, Brad Carter has reached his initial goal of raising $45,000 to record an album. He would like to raise $10,000 more to fund the making of a music video for his first single "Drunk Again" and plans to reward those backers with some new and interesting celebrity-inspired prizes.  

VALDOSTA — Brad Carter has played the guitar for 25 years, but a degenerative nervous system disorder is slowly making it more and more difficult for him to do the one thing he loves. A year from now, he will likely not be able to play at all. He fears that he is running out of time to pursue his dream of recording an album. 

“Little by little, I’ve been playing less and less because it’s just too painful,” he said, “and it hurts my feelings or I get frustrated. I’ve always wanted to make a record, but you start thinking, Well, I’ll do that when … I’ll do that when this gets better, so I’ll put that off, or I’ll do that when we find a cure for this, so I won’t do that. I would give anything to have the tremor like it was just three years ago. [At] the rate that it’s progressing, this time next year I won’t be able to … I won’t be able …”

A 1997 graduate of Valdosta State University’s College of the Arts, Carter, who now lives in Los Angeles, Calif., first noticed that there was something wrong — his eyes were twitching and his hands were shaking — in 2006, while performing in various hotspots throughout Hollywood. He was prescribed medication, but the medication did not help. His condition only worsened.

Carter was diagnosed with essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes a rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of the human body, and there is no cure.

“I have it in my face,” he said. “I have it when I smile … in my feet … in my legs … in my vocal chords … and in my left hand, and once my left hand catches up to the right hand, I will never be able to play guitar again. It’s gonna be a thing of the past.”

On May 23, at Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, Carter underwent an eight-hour surgical procedure to implant electrodes and a battery into his brain. His doctors believed that deep brain stimulation would help lessen the shaking and prevent further deterioration. He played his guitar throughout the procedure so his surgeons could monitor his progress, making medical history.

Carter underwent surgery again on June 11. He learned a few days ago that he might have to undergo surgery a third time. His medical team is not seeing the results they had initially hoped for, but they are working hard to figure out how to proceed. The process is a rather tricky one, but Carter said he knew that from the start. He said he knows that his doctor is trying very hard to help him. 

“The sucky thing about essential tremor is there is no cure for it,” he said.

“Make no mistake, this is not a cure,” he added. “This can, however, give me back some of the control I have steadily been losing in my hands over the past seven years. So far, it’s not working as well as we would have liked, and the possibility of another surgery is very strong at this time.”

A native of Macon who called Valdosta home from 1994 to 2003, Carter described the situation as “very frustrating.” “I am going to do whatever I have to do to prolong my creative life.”

As a student at VSU, Carter studied in the Department of Art, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Some Valdosta area residents might remember when he performed as a duo in local bars with Kim Harrell; they were known as Brad and Kim, or BRIM. He was also in the band Prefab Deluxe with Ben Owens. Visiting New York City with a few of his classmates, he appeared in a gag, dancing with bunnies, on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Carter has enjoyed a career as a photographer, specializing in headshots for actors. He is a stand-up comedian, a musician, and an actor who has worked in film, voice over, television, video games, and more than two dozen national commercials. He has been murdered by Showtime’s “Dexter,” caught peeing outside the Merlotte’s bar on HBO’s “True Blood,” and assisted by Flo when buying motorcycle insurance from Progressive. In January 2014, he will appear opposite Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in two episodes of the HBO mini series “True Detective.”

Working as an actor to keep a roof over his head, clothes on his back, and food on his table, Carter said he always planned to spend more time on his music, even his art. However, he got busy, life got in the way, and he woke up one day and realized that he was losing his ability to do those things.

“Little by little it steals who you are,” he said, describing the tremor disorder. 

“You watch all your skills and who you are as a person … they’re vanishing in front of your eyes,” he added. “It’s hard to watch that happen, and you can’t do anything about it.”

“Every day I ask myself, Why am I here? If I am an artist and all I know is art and music … who am I without these skills? What’s my purpose? It makes you really look inward and go, Well, who am I?”

“I choose to take it head-on and do as much as I can with my abilities while I still have them. I hope to be able to do all the things I have been putting off for way too long.”

On Aug. 12, Carter kicked off a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, a web-based platform and resource that helps creators and backers from all around the world come together to make projects happen. His goal is to raise at least $45,000 before 12:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Sept. 12 and realize his dream of recording an album. His project will only be funded if he receives enough pledges. As of Thursday morning, with seven days to go, he had raised $33,072.  

“I want to make an album because I don’t have a lot of time left to play. One way or the other,” he said, “I think it’s going to work out. I just need it all to happen within the next year because I don’t know that I am going to be able to do it this time next year.”

Folk rock, a hillbilly stomp sort of a guy, Carter admitted that he does not know how to describe himself as a musician.

“I just know it’s my sound,” he said, “and it’s the right time for my sound … the time for my sound is now and I am not a part of it.”

“While I still have the abilities I do have, I want to make a rockin’ album for you guys to enjoy, for everyone to enjoy long after I am gone,” he added. “I have some great songs, and I want to share them with you.”

“Just one … if I can just get one album out before I lose my skills forever that will make me so happy.”

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