TALKING TO CARO EMERALD
Jewel of the jazz scene, Caro Emerald arrives in London this June to perform at Hampton Court Palace Festival. We caught up with the Amsterdam-based singer to find out what’s in store for audiences this summer.
YOU PLAY HAMPTON COURT PALACE FESTIVAL THIS JUNE – HOW EXCITED ARE YOU TO PERFORM AT SUCH AN ICONIC HISTORICAL VENUE?
Very much, I’ve played there twice already, and it’s one of those places that you just remember you know? I’ve done loads of festivals throughout Europe and all over the world, but this is such a special location. One of the nights there I recall very well; it’s a very welcoming place with such a good atmosphere and ambience – I’m very excited.
FOR SOMEONE WHO’S NOT BEEN TO ONE OF YOUR SHOWS BEFORE, WHAT CAN AUDIENCES EXPECT ON THE NIGHT?
Most the songs are upbeat, easy listening and very catchy. They’re obviously very jazz infused, so it’s kind of nostalgic in lots of ways as well. I bring with me a nice band, with lots of different musicians who are all very skilled and play several instruments. For instance, the bass player plays the double bass, electric bass but also synth bass. So each song has its own little atmosphere.
The way we produce the songs is very specific and we use a lot of samples, and if you want to hear that live you need a lot of different instruments. There are lots of very interesting instruments there and we do have a lot of them on stage, so it’s also a variety of diversity in that sense, and I think that’s interesting for people who like to really listen to music.
But for people who just like to dance and sing there’s also lots to do, because the whole show is just a burst of energy really. In the end, we all stand on our feet, we clap, we dance, and I’m pretty sure that when everybody leaves, they feel fantastic, because it’s always so fun.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST GIG YOU EVER PLAYED AND HOW DO YOU THINK THAT MOMENT COMPARES TO THE HUGE STAGES YOU PERFORM ON NOW?
The very first gig we ever did with this music was in 2009…10 years ago…wow. That was even before the full album was finished I recall, and we released the first single ‘Back it Up’ and we did a showcase in Amsterdam. I knew that place very well because they had very nice club nights (The Sugar Factory). It was a nice club, but it was quite small and it was the ideal place for us.
It was really exciting, because we invited a lot of people from the industry and I felt completely awkward. Back then we were still searching for how we could put our style out there. As I described, we use a lot of samples and it was also really produced in an authentic way so we didn’t really know how to do that. We had a DJ play half the track and the rest of the musicians would just play along. We didn’t even have a bass player or drummer back then. I was so uncomfortable, being a lead and being a front-woman. Looking back, I know that a lot of people who came to see me from the industry weren’t very impressed, so looking at me now there’s a big difference. A hell of a difference!
YOU BLEND AN ECLECTIC MIX OF SOUNDS LIKE JAZZ, SWING, AND HIP-HOP INTO YOUR MUSIC – WHO WOULD YOU CITE AS YOUR MAIN INFLUENCES MUSICALLY?
We have a lot of different influences and they’re from all over the place. The music we make, we make with a collective of people who all have their own influences as well. It would be hard for me to say something that makes sense to everybody, because everybody hears something different in the music, and that’s also what makes it so interesting I’d say.
But being a vocalist I’m inspired mainly by other vocalists. I don’t have one big inspiration – it’s more than one definitely. People like Dusty Springfield or Shirley Bassey… someone who also really inspires me is Lily Allen for the way she sings. I really love the fact that it’s not singing-singing. It’s funny, quirky little phrases, and I get a lot of my inspiration for how to do my vocals in the studio from her. And someone who’s been a really big inspiration to me is Eva Cassidy, who really bridged the gap between pop and jazz for me.
YOU’VE GOT AN IDENTIFIABLY VINTAGE SOUND – IS IT MORE THAN THE MUSIC OF THAT ERA THAT APPEALS TO YOU? WHAT INSPIRED THAT INTEREST DO YOU THINK?
I guess it’s just an overall nostalgic feeling that really gets to me – like really gets to the romantic inside of me. Looking back to an era has a romantic feel for me because you get to look back at everything you liked about it rather than everything that was wrong. The music, the clothing and the movies – everything has this grain. It’s like you’re partially in a dream because it’s not real, because it’s in the past. It’s something that appeals to me very much, and something that I can really put inside my music or any other way I like to express myself.
CARO EMERALD / JUNE 12 / HAMPTON COURT PALACE FESTIVAL
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