Different Town (2014) – By Josh Samford

Musical documentaries usually have a few different directions that they go. A lot can be done with this genre, and there seems to be no waning in interest when it comes to watching the creative process unfurl. We all want to see how the magician does his trick and we all want to be central to the creative process. Different Town is a documentary focusing on independent musician Steve Carlson, who in this film attempts to write all new material for an album while also travelling around the world and collaborating with various musicians in distant locales, including Rome, Paris, London, and Amsterdam. Along the way he enters into a relationship, writes numerous songs, and experiments heavily with his music.

This is a movie that is based heavily around Steve Carlson and his music, which certainly means that mileage is going to vary. I am aware that he has his fans, many of them coming from the Supernatural (television show) fanbase. This comes from his relationship with star Jensen Ackles, who also pops up in the movie, and also from having music of his featured on the show. Having never heard his music before, I can say that his musical style is appealing and Carlson certainly seems like a talented guy. Often, the sequences that show the behind-the-scenes action, where Carlson writes his music, are among the most interesting. They give insight and showcase the artist trying to create, which is truly the most fascinating part of the journey.

As a documentary, Different Town has its ups and downs. The voiceover narration provided for Carlson is certainly enjoyable. Despite his soothing voice while singing, Carlson’s speaking voice is a bit more gruff and it works very well in the voiceover narrative style. However, some of his dialogue here can be a bit too cinematic at times. Carlson occasionally delves into cliches (“…I didn’t speak French, but we both knew another language… the language of music.”), but his movie seems pretty straight forward and the audience is able to buy into him as a person. The other problem that might arise for some is the fact that you really need to be a fan of the music in order to get the most out of this project. Granted, the majority of the people who will see this are going to be fans of Carlson, but if you’re not a huge fan, you have numerous musical sequences to sit through.

Mild criticism aside, this is a very solid musical documentary. Carlson’s film works as an interesting journey into the world of writing, as well as a fun little vacation journey. Fans of his music are bound to love it, and those who aren’t big into his music may enjoy the beautiful scenery and the voyeuristic look at the creative process. If you’d like to know more about Different Town, you can visit Carlson’s official website: http://stevecarlson.com