Interview by Debbie Burke. Archived here
Highly listenable and chill, Carol Albert’s voice evokes light and air. Perfect that her standout CD is so visually oriented: images of butterfly wings, waterfalls and the sky.
When did you first know you wanted to be a musician?
I have always played the piano since I was around 5 years old. It never was a conscious decision to be a musician; it just evolved. I studied classical music until I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from Georgia State. I decided not to teach school and started playing pop music.
It’s astounding to learn your grandmother composed in her sleep. You too?
Yes, just last week I was dreaming a song and I wanted to get up and write it down but I was having too much fun listening to it. I thought I’d remember it but I didn’t. Sometimes I can remember them and write them down.
What was your musical foundation like from GSU and how did it prepare you to go into the industry?
I studied classical piano and also orchestration, arranging, harmony, scoring and writing for chorus. All these are skills I have used in my writing, just not in a classical context. It also gave me the courage to perform and work hard. It was a difficult degree to get especially since I had a baby while I was still finishing school. It taught me a lot about being focused and productive with my time, and learning balance.
Are you primarily a pianist or singer?
I grew up singing and playing the organ in church and went to voice schools in the South learning how to shape notes and harmonies. I would not classify myself as a power lead vocalist but I blend my vocals and piano.
What inspired “Fly Away Butterfly”?
The butterfly became a symbol of hope to me after I lost my husband in 2014 to a heart attack during a triathlon. I kept seeing butterflies after he passed. They became a spiritual symbol to me. I went on a trip to Costa Rica and was hiking high up in the mountains and a blue morph butterfly landed on me. It wasn’t until a year later that I started seeing blue butterflies in everything like books, pictures, you name it.
I looked for the meaning behind this and found they’re symbolic of new beginnings, change and awakening, as well as being good luck and a spiritual messenger . I was working on the track that I named “Fly Away Butterfly” and it just felt totally right, especially when I had Sam Skelton add the flute part that became the butterfly flying. I named the album “Fly Away Butterfly” because it made sense; all these pieces fit with this theme of movement and change.
Was “Mas Que Nada” fun to record?
“Mas Que Nada” was a blast!! It was the first track I put out as a single. I wanted to record a joyful, fun tune and the Olympics were taking place [in Brazil] so I decided on this song, especially since I used to sing it while I was touring in Europe.
Talk about your personnel.
They all live in Atlanta and are exceptional. I couldn’t have had a higher quality team to add character to each of my pieces. My Brazilian friends, guitarist Sander Pinheiro, bassist Chocolate Costa, and world-renowned percussionist Rafael Pereira gave an authentic sound for “Mas Que Nada.” My background vocalists helped the party get started with the fun voices of Alfreda Gerald, Cheryl Rogers and Tony Hightower. Darren English, a trumpet player from South Africa, gave a killer performance on “Mas Que Nada” and “Awakening.”
I asked Brazilian voice coach Valeria Washington to help with my enunciation for authenticity. On other tracks, Sam Skelton, on flute and saxophone, rivals any other recording artist out there; Chris Blackwell killed every guitar track he played; Sam Sims played bass for “On My Way” and “Never Thought It Would Be This Way.” Joe Reda played “Across the Sky” and “Chasing Waterfalls,” I played key bass on “Fly Away Butterfly” and Trammell Starks is on bass on “One Way.”
Several drummers added tracks: Scott Meeder, Wayne Viar, Rafael Pereira. Trammell Starks pulled everything together and made sense in the studio like a chef baking a cake.
I co-produced the album with Trammell, working on arrangements, programming and developing the tracks, but he was the captain of the ship. All the ingredients were there for what I believe is a very heartfelt artistic work.
What themes inspire you when you compose?
Many things. I saw a young girl in Germany who was lying on the steps of a church with addiction issues and I wrote one of my favorite songs about her called “Sasha”: “The street is a lonely place for a girl as young as you.” I hope to get someone famous to sing it one day. I write songs about people, my children, nature, abstract ideas and emotions like love, sadness, disappointment and joy, and spiritual themes such as in “Dreamer” which won a Peace Song Award.
Your favorite venue?
The Fox Theatre [Atlanta].
A place you’ve always wanted to perform?
How do you take care of your voice?
Honey and lemon with green tea.
How would you describe your sound?
I have a light voice that emulates South American voices like Astrud Gilberto.
Your 1991 Emmy nomination was for the theme of what show?
I think it was actually a PBS Show “The Well-Placed Weed” by Ryan Gainey. I did several shows for PBS Channel 30 during that time.
What is the most challenging part of touring?
Being away from home and all that’s familiar to you. It’s hard work but I make every day a sightseeing adventure. I make the most of it.
Did you picture a specific location when you wrote “Morning Music”?
I pictured a meadow with dew on the grass and the sun coming up while I was drinking my coffee.
Was it a meaningful experience to play the Augusta golf course since they only began to allow women in 2012?
I played a big hospitality event and I didn’t really think about any of the politics because there were so many people who wanted to have fun and party.
I’m working on new compositions. Some possibly for a new album, one for a good friend that I want her to sing on her own album. I want to write a symphony and I also want to score some of my originals for teaching purposes for piano students to perform.
To keep working until I can’t any more.
I am the happiest when I am in the pure state of writing a new piece, hearing parts and weaving the pieces together, dreaming of ideas to add the next morning, fitting it together like a puzzle. I love that place.
For more information, visit www.carolalbertmusic.com.
Photo courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
(c) Debbie Burke 2017
Check out the wonderful interview from WVSU (Samford University). Listen here
The new single release by Carol Albert, "Mas Que Nada," has achieved critical acclaim. The recent Global Peace Song Award winner says a jazz musician is like a marathon runner who needs to stay the course in order to win. Here she chats about her own musical path to success, and offers readers tips on how to elevate their own jazz journeys.
All About Jazz: Please tell us how you decided to record your very engaging "Mas Que Nada." Is it a single from an upcoming album?
Carol Albert: I performed "Mas Que Nada" in Europe in the '90s while working on cruise ships, and since it is such an upbeat, happy song, the audience always enjoyed it. Recently, after going through some personal hard times, I happened to hear the song again and suggested it to Trammell Starks, owner of Studiomagic in Atlanta. I even hired a Portuguese vocal coach in order to make sure I was singing the lyrics correctly. The result is a song that makes me feel happy every time I hear it.
Yes, "Mas Que Nada" will be included on my next album, to be released in 2017.
AAJ: How are you promoting your latest music?
CA: Based on recommendations from other jazz musicians, I hired a great radio promoter. We are still in the process of our campaign. "Mas Que Nada" got the most added for two weeks in a row on the Billboard charts.
We placed a couple of ads, with one just coming out now on Smooth Jazz Network. We did as much as we could to promote the single, even with a small budget.
In addition, we are going to promote my Christmas album (Christmas Mystique) more this year.
If you are not with a label, it's a one-stop shop, and you have to wear many hats. In my opinion, you have to get out of the box and do things differently. As an independent artist, what works for me may not work for the next person. You really do have to think on your feet. I do not have a very meticulous plan, and maybe I should.
My goal at this point is to reinvent myself, get exposure, and get my name out there.
AAJ: Some researchers have said that 90% of all digital music sales are lost to online piracy, which, of course, can make it cost prohibitive to even try to make a living in today's music business. How do you avoid the piracy issue? Are there steps you take to try to prevent crooks out there from stealing your music?
CA: That is a question for someone who has more specific information than I do. I do the best I can, but I am in the same boat as everyone else. It is hard to stop piracy of your music. I don't think anyone has the answer for it.
AAJ: Do you gig often, and does performing help you with sales? Is performing the main way you earn a living in music? Do you use the services of a booking agent, or do you book your own gigs?
CA: I do perform frequently; I have a steady gig every Friday and Saturday night, where I sell my CDs and keep my chops up. I test out my new compositions on a live audience. Playing out is necessary, and I get creative on how to find ways to perform. I am always thinking, how can I make money in music? It is not always about recording. You have to be flexible, and think of various ways to succeed.
I am fortunate to be able to say that I make 100% of my income from music.
In the past, I have used booking agents while traveling in Europe. At this point, I am not using one.
AAJ: How important is social media for album sales? Which of the various social media sites help your career the most?
CA: I have been experimenting with Facebook for business by boosting posts. I just started doing it, but I have seen some pretty good results. I am still learning about social media and how it can benefit my music. I prefer Facebook over the other social media sites because it enables me to establish relationships and to build support networks between colleagues and other music makers.
AAJ: Do you agree that jazz artists need to stand out from the crowd with their own style in order to gain mass recognition? If so, then how do you feel you stand out from other musicians in jazz?
CA: Yes, I think that there has to be something special about the artist. The more authentic you can be, using whatever you have as your strength, can help you to succeed.
For instance, I am not a straight ahead jazz player. The thing that sets me apart is that I blend elements of my classical training with different jazzy elements. I am able to use my arranging background to make songs sound special and different.
AAJ: What do you feel are the biggest challenges jazz musicians face right now?
CA: One challenge is to be a professional musician and make 100% of your income from music. Your income might come from teaching, or maybe from performing at corporate party gigs, playing in a mega church, and so on. Some players I know in Atlanta have other day jobs as well, but they keep going with their jazz.
All the while, you have to keep up your chops as a musician. You have to love playing and keep that feeling alive in yourself.