Carla Harvey is an inspiring artist. A well-spoken, intelligent and creative woman, she just so happens to share front woman duties for the Butcher Babies with Heidi Shepherd. Harvey is stunningly beautiful, no question about it, but to take her at her appearance alone would be an enormous oversight concerning her true talents. Harvey is not just the low-pitched growler of the Butcher Babies; Harvey is also a comic-book creator, writer and artist, and if that’s not enough, she’s also a certified mortician with a degree in mortuary science.
Followers of Lamb of God front man Randy Blythe on Instagram know he’s also an impressive photographer. In one casual yet intimate picture of Harvey he took, he captures something beautiful — a side of an artist we aren’t always privy to, one that reveals her humanity. It's a touching portrait of a woman and her life.
So, on a cold, wintry day, calling from the road, where she’s currently on tour with Butcher Babies, Ne Obliviscaris and Cradle of Filth, Harvey opened up about her fascinating life — her journey toward peace, redemption and the very rocky road along the way, especially as a woman.
“You have to make things happen for yourself," she says. "When growing up, I had a lot of people tell me stuff like, ‘No, you can’t do that’ or ‘you shouldn’t be doing that.’ People closest to you will tell you that you can’t do something, and that’s totally based on their failure or lack of motivation, or their reluctance to go for their own dreams. You know, I think as women we’re finally at a place where we’re being more accepted in every field.”
Harvey has been met with a lot of resistance, and her fortitude is remarkably strong. When speaking on bad advice, she has learned to trust her instincts and ignore the people who would hold her back.
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“I’m just in a place where I really don’t care what people tell me," she says. "I get tired of people saying what I can and can’t do — or what women can and can’t do. Or what they should do. I do what I want and it’s very liberating. I wish it had always been that way for me.”
Even when it came to forming her now successful band, Harvey had to overcome even the doubts of other musicians.
“Heidi and I started [Butcher Babies] about six years ago, [and] we found the perfect guys to work with us," she says. "It’s hard to find good people, especially when you’re in a metal band. We heard a lot [of] 'There’s no way two girls could possibly do this.' People were like, ‘No way, I don’t want to be a part of this,’ and luckily we found just the right people to step in.”
Discouraging people seem to appear in her life again and again, yet Harvey keeps forging ahead, not afraid to take control of her own life. When she became unhappy with the vapid entertainment industry, she walked away from the Hollywood cameras and fame as a nude reporter for Playboy's The Weekend Flash and pursued her dreams of helping others.
“I went straight from working at Playboy to attending mortuary college," Harvey recalls. "I felt very disenchanted by the entertainment world and I had a lot of problems in my life, and I wanted to do something that would actually help people instead of just modeling or posing in front of a camera. Mortuary school did that for me.
“I went for a job interview once with a gentleman who ran an autopsy place with my degree in mortuary science, and he told me straight-up he would not hire me because I was a woman and there’s no way I could ever do the job like a man could," continues Harvey. "He told me that to my face. At first it upset me; then I thought, 'I wouldn’t want to work for a human being like that; I know my abilities and that’s all that matters.'”
Harvey does know her abilities aren't limited to music and a mean grasp of chemistry in an embalming lab. Joining her twin loves of metal and comics, Harvey has also created her own series, something she connects directly to her difficult upbringing.
“I grew up loving comic books in Detroit," she says. "I had a really hard childhood — my father abandoned me, and I kind of just fell in love with comic books.”
Again, Harvey was discouraged, even to the point where the art school she attended changed her career path, or tried to.
“When I got older, I received a scholarship to art school and my intention was to do comic books, but the school that I went to instead pushed me to do automotive design," she recalls. "They said there’s just no jobs for [comic artists], especially for women. So, I just kinda gave up on that dream…A few years ago, I decided to pick up my pencils and just start drawing and doing the things I love again."
"He drew it and I wrote it, and it was a big success," Harvey recalls. "It came out at Comic-Con 2011 and sold out right away, and it really showed how metal and comics go hand in hand, not just for me as a kid but for a lot of people.”
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Even as a touring musician and published author, Harvey maintains her need for self-expression. She refuses to compromise the narrative of her life in order to gain anyone’s approval of her. After some disappointing meetings with publishing houses that wanted a more relatable character, Harvey unapologetically self-published her memoir, Death and Other Dances, without help from anyone.
“I went to a couple of publishers and they liked the book, but they wanted me to change and make it more book-club-friendly," she says. "They said, ‘No one would ever connect to a stripper/mortician/rock star.’ I hold nothing back. Honesty, whether it’s in our music or whatever is so important. People know when you’re lying. We’ve always hated false idols; if you’ve been through something, you should talk about it.”
Harvey sums up her motivation for telling her story: “There’s so many misconceptions about dancers and people who have done the things I’ve done and lived the kind of life I lived. You know, once in a while, I’d hear stuff like, ‘Oh, she’s a slut, she’s a whore.’ People have no idea what I do with my life or the things I went through as a kid. You know what? I’m going to tell the world about my life, and they can choose to read it or not.”
Butcher Babies perform with Cradle of Filth and Ne Obliviscaris Thursday at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. Doors open at 6 p.m.