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