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
Review by Dee Dee McNeil - Archived here
She’s a singer/songwriter and pianist. This talented woman has recorded a unique and lovely album of her original compositions. She has written every song, with the exception of the very popular “Mas Que Nada” that she plays and sings with silky smooth vocals. This is an easy-listening project, perfect for Smooth Jazz radio airplay. Favorite cuts are: #4, “Across the Sky” that reflects shades of Marvin Gaye and Sadé, wrapped richly in her production and in the arrangement grooves. Cut #5, “One Way” sounds like you should be listening to it while on a highway, driving at maximum speed, and covered by blue skies, sunshine dreams and chasing a ‘Fly Away Butterfly’.
Carol Albert keyboards/bass programming/lead vocals/piano/producer/arranger; Trammell Starks, drum programming/keyboard/producer/horn arrangements; Rafael Pereira, percussion; Sam Skelton, saxophone/flute; Alfreda Gerald, Tony Hightower, Cheryl Rogers, background vocals; Susan Bennett and Ivette Ballara, spoken word Spanish; Sam Sims, Chocolat Costa & Joe Reda, bass; Chris Blackwell, guitar; Melvin Miller & Darren English, trumpets; Scott Meeder & Wayne Viar, drums.
Carol's latest release was reviewed in Spain. Below is the review and the translation. View the archived Review here
Carol Albert es una apasionada del piano y del canto. Originaria de la localidad de Hiram, en el norteamericano estado de Georgia, siendo una niña recibe clases de piano de su abuela, a la que le faltaba un brazo. Ambas se sentaban frente al piano, y mientras su abuela tocaba con la mano izquierda, Carol lo hacía con la derecha. Además de enseñarle a tocar el piano, su abuela también le enseñó a componer canciones. Como era de esperar, Carol pronto se interesa por el piano como instrumento de referencia. Comienza a tocar piano clásico en la Georgia State University donde obtiene una licenciatura en música. En el año 1.991 recibe una nominación al prestigioso premio Emmy. Tres años más tarde, en 1.994, presenta el álbum titulado “Tides Of Change” en el que se incluyen temas como “High Seas”, “To The Sun” o “Beyond Tomorrow”. Más adelante vendrán producciones discográficas tan sobresalientes como “Morning Music”, “Night Music” o “Christmas Mystique”, álbum de temática navideña. Las presentaciones en vivo de Carol Albert son habituales tanto en Europa(Suiza, Alemania, Francia, España, Inglaterra o Irlanda) como en los Estados Unidos (San Francisco, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia o Kentucky). El pasado mes de Agosto, Carol Albert presentaba su nueva producción musical bajo el titulo genérico de “Fly Away Butterfly”, disco del que se han extraído dos singles: “One Way”, versión original del vocalista desaparecido Al Jarreau y que se incluye en el álbum publicado en 1.988 y titulado “Heart´s Horizon”; y “Mas Que Nada”, tema clásico brasileño versionado por infinidad de artistas y músicos. El disco arranca con el tema que da titulo al álbum, composición que cuenta con el protagonismo de la flauta y el saxo de Sam Skelton. Entre los temas instrumentales destacan “Awakening”, “Chasing Waterfalls” y “Transition”. La vocalista y pianista no olvida incorporar temas vocales que acompaña con el sonido de su piano. Buena prueba de ello es la balada ligera titulada“Across The Sky” o el tema ligero “Never Thought It Would Be This Way”. El tema más movido y rítmico del disco es el instrumental “On My Way”, que aparte de los instrumentos, incorpora voces y coros. A lo largo de todo el álbum, Carol Albert canta y toca piano y teclados. A este nuevo proyecto discográfico de la vocalista y pianista se incorporan músicos de la talla deSam Skelton, Trammell Starks, Rafael Pereira, Sam Sims, Chris Blackwell, Melvin Miller, Scott Meeder, Joe Reda, Wayne Viar, Darren English, Englesson Silva y Chocolat Costa. La brillante presencia vocal corre de cuenta de cantantes y vocalistas como Alfreda Gerald, Susan Bennett, Ivette Ballara, Tony Hightower o Chocolat Costa. La totalidad del álbum es producido por la cantante y Trammell Starks. “One Way”, tema con el que se rinde tributo a Al Jarreau, es producido por Trammell Starks. Todos los temas son compuestos y arreglados por Carol Alberty Trammell Starks a excepción de “Mas Que Nada” y “One Way”. Interesantísimo nuevo proyecto musical de Carol Albert. Es obligado escucharlo.
Carol Albert is passionate about piano and singing. Originally from the town of Hiram, in the North American state of Georgia, as a child she receives piano lessons from her grandmother, who was missing an arm. Both sat in front of the piano, and while her grandmother played with her left hand, Carol did it with her right. In addition to teaching him to play the piano, his grandmother also taught him how to compose songs. Unsurprisingly, Carol soon became interested in the piano as a reference instrument. He started playing classical piano at Georgia State University where he earned a bachelor's degree in music. In the year 1.991 receives a nomination to the prestigious Emmy prize. Three years later, in 1994, it presents the album titled "Tides Of Change" which includes songs like "High Seas", "To The Sun" or "Beyond Tomorrow". Later will come such outstanding productions such as "Morning Music", "Night Music" or "Christmas Mystique", album of themática Christmas. Carol Albert's live performances are common in Europe (Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, England or Ireland) and the United States (San Francisco, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia or Kentucky). Last August, Carol Albert presented his new musical production under the generic title of "Fly Away Butterfly", disc of which have been extracted two singles: "One Way", original version of the missing singer Al Jarreau and that is included in the album published in 1988 and titled "Heart's Horizon"; and "Mas Que Nada", a Brazilian classic theme, with a lot of artists and musicians. The album kicks off with the theme that gives title to the album, composition that counts on the protagonism of the flute and the sax of Sam Skelton. Among the instrumental themes include "Awakening", "Chasing Waterfalls" and "Transition". The vocalist and pianist does not forget to incorporate vocal themes that accompanies with the sound of her piano. Good proof of this is the light ballad titled "Across The Sky" or the light theme "Never Thought It Would Be This Way." The most moved and rhythmic theme of the album is the instrumental "On My Way", which aside from the instruments, incorporates voices and choirs. Throughout the album, Carol Albert sings and plays piano and keyboards. Sam Skelton, Trammell Starks, Raphael Pereira, Sam Sims, Chris Blackwell, Melvin Miller, Scott Meeder, Joe Reda, Wayne Viar, Darren English, Englesson Silva and Chocolat are all part of this new vocalist and pianist project. Coast. The brilliant vocal presence runs from singers and vocalists like Alfreda Gerald, Susan Bennett, Ivette Ballara, Tony Hightower or Chocolat Costa. The entire album is produced by the singer and Trammell Starks. "One Way", subject that pays tribute to Al Jarreau, is produced by Trammell Starks. All songs are composed and arranged by Carol Alberty Trammell Starks with the exception of "Mas Que Nada" and "One Way". Interesting new musical project by Carol Albert. He is obliged to listen.
Carol Albert: Fly Away Butterfly
Carol Albert does bass programming, lush keyboards and lead singing on this collection of smooth Brazilian moods with dreamy support and framework. Sleek sax and flute from Sam Skelton make for gentle R&B on “Awakening” and “On My Way “ as well as the lithe title track. Albert’s piano trickles on “Never Thought It Would Be This Way” while she wisps through a breezy “Mas Que Nada” and delivers a mist of a vocal on her tribute to Al Jarreau on “One Way.” As smooth as a sandy beach at Ipanema.
Here's a link to the Review: www.jazzweekly.com/2017/08/two-sides-of-braziljorginho-neto-collective-harlem-carol-albert-fly-away-butterfly