By Katie Lawson

Carsen Codell spends most of his days listening. You can find him in the stacks of KWUR’s studio, nestled on an ancient couch with an ear cocked to the door of the studio, the window overlooking the expanse of Mudd Field, and a conversation of two strangers outside. He listens for the musicality of the sounds around him. Dinks and burrs of the KWUR doors’ and their locks can become melodies. The slow hum of the DUC’s staff preparing for the 11:30 rush can become the rhythm for the next album. The quietness of midwestern winter and the echoes of freeway frost can become the lyrics to one of the songs (“Distance”, the closing track) of his latest project, Drift Away.

As a senior Political Science major, KWUR DJ, and runner, his listening ranges in his life from debates in the classroom to his fellow DJ’s sets (his favorite genre of the station is Eclectic). Carsen’s next project is applying to law school and preparing for post-grad life. But he will always have music. He will always have listening. And before he gets to that great, big (some might say dreadful) leap beyond the cozy records and CDs on the third floor of the DUC, this moment of change has inspired his listening to take a more reflective mode. Such reflection led him to Drift Away; a capstone of an album, capturing college life’s significant events and his continual passion for his craft.

Carsen noted, “Every song except for one was made during college. It was supposed to come out in March, originally. So, it was supposed to come out as a junior- but I don’t know. It feels nice to have it come out as a senior, especially because it’s so overarching.”

The album is a catharsis for Carsen.

Music, and this album in particular, has always been a page of his diary brought into the limelight. The splatters of ink frantically spill through chords, keys, and strums. Do not worry: Carsen also has a therapist and is a proud proponent of # self-care. Yet, music creates another mode of self-expression entirely unique. A moment once experienced just on his own experiences a metamorphosis. Layers are added. A new dimension takes shape. Hollowed areas now bulge with something overflowing and joyful.

Saying, “This is very much me. There’s always, inherently, a little bit of acting in performance. But I feel the music is so true to me, I don’t need to go anywhere else.”

One song in particular, “Is so specific. It’s about one evening, and I wrote it, once I got back to my room after. The guitar part had already been written, but the lyrics just went,” and he motioned a pouring of emotions, words, possibly even vomit(?), “Out of my mouth. And I was like, ‘there we go. There’s the song’”.

He sighed, “I mean, I wrote it during sophomore year, but, I don’t know. I wish I could just go up to this person. Maybe they already know.”

For a moment, Carsen imagined the possibilities.

“But if played on the guitar… and say, ‘this song is for you. The song is about you. Here you go. This is everything I don’t feel like I can tell you right now.’”

Carsen interrupted his daydreaming with a devious smile. Saying, “I feel like that’d be pretty melodramatic thing to do. I wouldn’t do that. It’s out of character for me. But it’d be charming.”

Picking his favorite song of the album and his least favorite song of the album feels wrong (“It’s like picking your favorite kid as a parent!”), Carsen does have some thoughts. He wants listeners to know, “I would say like, you know, overarching favorite songs probably “All Over Again” because it was such a cool process the whole way through. “So many other people play on it. It’s a sound I’ve been wanting to do forever but have not had the resources to like I wanted to write with a string quartet. And to finally like, hear that sound just like ‘Yes, finally’.” On a more technical level, he notes, “I tried to challenge myself writing it; it has different time signatures, it changes keys twice. It has things that my other songs don’t do. And so it was just really cool to have it come together.”

Other WashU musicians came in to help with the production of “Drift Away”. The ensemble includes members Evan Quigley (drums) and Spencer Kates (guitar), of another band comprising KWUR members, NonEuclidan Geometry. “And I was able to be what I could never do on my own. The other musicians took it, especially the drummer and the bass player. Because I didn’t write parts for them, really, they just did that. And I was like, ‘Whoa, I would never have been able to do that on my own’. And so it was able to be an even better song.”

But what inspired such a capstone? Music has always been a part of Carsen’s life. With friends and family who create short films together, who are self-taught producers, and of course, Jazz Band nerds, he had a wide range of creativity to take note of and learn from. Carsen stated, “Yeah, I grew up very musical. And I was involved in a lot of music, in high school and at church. I was just around other musical people all the time!” One can see the pleasure he gains from music. On the side, he plays piano for receptions at the University. The gig pays well, which is a bonus, but it also serves as a place to practice. The stakes are low, Carsen explained, because a reception with music means the music is not he main event. The ability to work at the piano, stretch his muscles of mind, and his hands over the smooth keys, means everything. Often, his intrigue and curiosity take over his body and stop him in his tracks. At one point, strange robotic noises came from the broadcast booth in the KWUR studio.

Carsen laughed, “Is that video game music?” He went to investigate the source, spending a moment picking over the song, or whatever was playing. It could have been an error message for all he knew, but it sounded exciting, and that’s all that mattered. As this chapter comes to a close, tightly strung up and packaged in this album, Carsen is already thinking about what will come next. He will use music to channel other areas of creativity. Maybe, get back into the water as a former swimmer. He’ll coach cross country at home. Then, he’ll turn those experiences right back around, working them into the music. Again, he will always be working the creation puzzle in his head. Saying, “I have a few demos kicking around that I really want to work on and finish out. I also have a friend from high school who makes some music, Mackenzie Campbell, and she wants to make a duet.”

Over Thanksgiving, his friends worked on creating more demos and music video concepts for “Drift Away.” He, of course, will continue practicing his various instruments. Perhaps, he will even take courses in “Youtube University” as the music industry likes to call it; the online videos that help self-taught music producers define their craft. He definitely wants to keep trying to find ways to use a string quartet. Giddy, “It’s a very specific sound, and you can do a lot of cool things with it. It’s very dynamic. It can play staccato; they can voice it really intricately. You can have the inner voices do stuff. There’s so much you can do with strings, and it’s such a beautiful sound”. Beyond tinkering with his craft and finishing up school, again, you can find him listening around campus, around St. Louis, around Iowa, and beyond. Wherever C.RSN will be, he will let the music come to him.

Drift Away by C.RSN is out now on Spotify and SoundCloud