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Carmen Rodger's Interview

Below is the interview I had with the very talented singer/songwriter Carmen Rodgers. This page is best viewed using IE 5.5 and higher and to listen to the audio sample/s you will need a media player (preferably Windows Media or Real Player)

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Sir TY (US contributing reviewer of M2F mag)


Carmen Rodgers Interview

Dallas born Carmen Rodgers may be a new singer in the R&B arena but she's not an overnight sensation as most might think. She's paid her dues as a background singer to N'Dambi another Dallas native (herself a former background singer to the town's biggest R&B soulstress Erykah Badu - notice a connection :). With the release of her debut CD 'Free' hitting stores next week (Mar 30th), I recently caught up with Carmen via phone as she took time out to answer some of my questions.

Sir TY: Firstly let me say thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this, I appreciate it as do your fans I'm sure.
Carmen: Oh - OK

Sir TY: You started singing at an early age, was this something of a family tradition?
Carmen: You know it's funny 'cos I say the number 4 because it makes sense but eh my mother said that I literally came out singing (Carmen laughs) it was something she said that I've always done, she said I was singing honestly before I could talk. You know what its absolutely not a family tradition (Carmen laughs) I'm an anomaly I think ah my father enjoys singing and he definitely has a talent but as far as just this deep rich tradition, heritage of traditionship - No

Sir TY: When did you realize that you wanted to make a career out of singing?
Carmen: You know what I always knew I wanted to make a career out of it you know there was definitely those obstacle of thinking OK I need to have a back up plan, traditionally the average person can make a career out of it but it's like winning the lottery so it was something I've always wanted and I pursued even as a teenager but then because of some experiences I was like you know I don't know if it's something that is really for me because of the ever-changing music industry and sometimes the lack of integrity in the industry I wasn't sure if it was something for me so I took a break but because I was so passionate bout this and it was something that woven in me I couldn't help but come back to it.

Sir TY: When you told your parents what you wanted to do as your career choice, were they supportive or did they advise you to do something else?
Carmen: I think they were pretty much supportive of course they just wanted me to be happy and being that again traditionally how many people know people that actually have made it in the industry so it was something where they were just like have a back up, have a back up so I tried to but it was something that I wanted to go full speed ahead.

Sir TY: You're a songwriter also what shapes your songwriting material, do you draw from life experiences or fantasy and imagination?
Carmen: I use the combination of three things I use some of my experiences I use fantasy things that I think could happen in a certain scenario and I also use other people's experiences whether it's friends or even strangers things that I have observed just living so I think that as a songwriter what's really important to me is what I'm saying I want it to actually have some meaning I want it to honestly make sense I want it to be in a lot of cases storytelling I love words, I love songwriters I remember as a child growing up that James Taylor was an angel because his voice was so angelic and his phrasing was so beautiful but I understood what he was saying it was a story I would always ingulp in people that we're worth it and Stevie Wonder those are people that I believe in what they said. I say that so much because I do believe them and that's when I really enjoy their music as if I believe in what they're saying.

Sir TY: You've said that Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Minnie Ripperton and Whitney Houston influenced you but who's been your biggest influence and why?
Carmen: Oh my, you know what honestly I don't have a biggest influence it's a combination of just good music I love good music, I love good songwriting, I love good vocals, I love innovative vocals I know Ella what she did, at her age, at that time you can barely compare with people we did it so we evolved and Ella was doing these thing you know gosh at pretty much a teenager so I just pull from everyone and I try to learn from everyone if it's good music it's good music so honestly there's not one person that drove me I know that Whitney Houston was really influential in me pursuing music because of her face she was for a long time not only the face of black music but she actually kinda eh evolved even to be just you know Whitney Houston kinda lost her colour she became do big and that voice she was everywhere and she was beautiful and talented and so you know growing up Whitney was the big thing definitely probably the most influence on me not necessary as a vocalist and a songwriter but just as an artist.

Sir TY: You're from Dallas home of Erykah Badu, N'Dambi and (in my opinion) the Neo-soul groove, what's your take on the new found genre and R&B/Soul music in general do you feel it's strived in recent years or taken a step back?
Carmen: I feel as though it makes strived then takes 2 steps back I feel as though josh you know I remember where I was when I heard 'On and On' and it's funny because we all so connected I didn't know Erykah growing up but I was in the school choir with her younger sister so it's funny when I saw her it was like right and then I was like OK that's right thats her sister. Erykah was so influential and just pushing the envelope as far as not being so cookie cutter and that is where I feel we're taking steps back there are so many talented non cookie cutter artists that are out there that unfortunately that they're the ones that we have to bid for and eh I think that record companies they underestimate the consumer I think that we as a consumer and we as music lovers we want to hear them we really we do.

Sir TY: The album's called 'Free' who did you work with on it?
Carmen: I worked with Ernie G and it's funny (Carmen laughs) 'cos we wondering there's several other Ernie Gs out there so we may have to come up with another name but his full name Ernie Green he is a Fort Worth based musician actually he was a DJ first. He has this incredible ear, this incredible ability, he's so musical he's truly my muse. When I first met him first heard his music we were connected and joined to the hip from then on he is to me who Sweetback is to Sade .

Sir TY: Are there any collaborations?
Carmen: Actually um Geno Young. His album is being released the same day as mine (March 30th) he was Erykah Badu's music director and produced and wrote on Mama's Gun we all connected I sang back ground for N'Dambi and we worked together, N'Dambi co-wrote songs on his record and of course she sang background for Erykah so Geno produced and co-wrote some of the songs on the record and provided his beautiful vocals on background vocals and it was pretty much self contained there's one song I wrote called 'Ain't no Time' that was on the Hidden Hits compilation that I co-wrote with Ernie Green as well as Jimmy Bradford who's from here as well so we kinda kept it in-house to get the job done so in the future I'm so open I'm a music fan and so if they have a song for me I will sing it and I will work with other artists its definitely not a thing where oh my gosh I only write my own music it's definitely not that type of situation so hopefully this next record I'll be working with a few more producers as well as artists

Sir TY: Speaking of collaborations, who in the industry would you like to work with and why?
Carmen: Oh man, oh man, oh man um, I love India Arie I think she is very talented I had the pleasure of meeting her actually when she first started with Motown I don't think she even started recording yet and I met her and just a sweet spirit, so talented, and she is a gifted vocalist and songwriter so I'd love to do a collaboration with her. I'm a music fan of some artists outside my field that I would like to work with I'm a fan of Sarah Mclachlan as well as Janifer Brook, Rufus Rainwright is absolutely incredible his last record I'm just totally amazed by again for me it is about the songs the artist itself not necessary being kept in a box I love soul music soul music to the core if Stevie Wonder were to do something new I would love to do something with him I love just to be in his presence.

Sir TY: How long did the album take to complete was it a long process, was it something you did fairly quickly?
Carmen: You know what it was a long process only because it started out as a demo a few of the songs that we tried to shop to some major labels it got some feedback but overall it just made sense to do it independently so after shopping with the major labels and collaborating with the smaller label for a while we decided to totally go independent and that's when we really got things moving so overall it's been probably 3 years in the making but of course once we really got on our path and decided this is what we're going to do it only took a few months.

Sir TY: What do you think people will get when they buy your CD? Do you have a favourite song on the set?
Carmen:I think they're going to get something diverse, I'm a bleeding heart, terribly sentimental, they're going to get some love songs a bleeding heart as far as the community and just people who are hurting so there's some stories on there I do a little bit of storytelling eh there's a song on there called 'Fallen' which is about a homeless woman I used to pass by everyday her name is Gloria she inspired that song then they're gonna have some fun and sexy songs I'm a spiritual person so you're going to have some homage to the person who's the most high so definitely it's a very diverse record it bares some freedom there and I think that's why I entitled it 'Free' but not just the title track there's a song on there called 'Free' but really this was finally my opportunity not to be in my house writing songs you know at an open mic, singing a song to a few people but actually expressing myself to the world so I think it's going to be diverse and fun songs, some nice grooves and some songs that will hopefully make you think and some songs that I hope people can relate to.

Sir TY: Do you have a favourite song on the set?
Carmen: You know what it's funny - it changes. Right now my favourite song on the CD is 'Just Believe' but yesterday it was different. Just Believe is kinda one of those things where you take your own advice we're greatest at giving advice but sometimes they don't listen to the advice we give Just Believe is really a song saying hey it's OK to ask for help you can't do it all my yourself and we're getting into this part where we're starting to try to get the word out about this record and just being able to enroll other people to help you out and get your message out and you know what that song was preaching to me lately and so it's really about believing it it really happens if you have any doubts then what you're dreaming about will continue to be a dream so you have to really believe.
Sir TY: Where can we get the CD?
Carmen: The beautiful thing is it will be released in the states March 30th nationwide release you'll be able to get it at major chains, Best Buy, Virgin, Sam Goody, Target and will also be released in the UK, Expansion Records on April 13th.

Sir TY: Who do you listen to on your time?
Carmen: Let's see you know I like this question because I think about who's in my CD changer right now currently Me Shell Ndegeochello she'd incredible she' put out her latest CD 'Comfort Woman' but right now I'm still playing 'The Cookie Anthology' but also there is a new artist called Jason Moraz he's a guitarist and vocalist incredible, Rufus Rainwright and let me see who else am I listening to actually Geno Young who's coming out in the states yeah his record is called 'The Ghetto Sympathy' and it's an incredible record if you think about the combination of putting ghetto and sympathy in the same sentence that is how his record sounds like.

Sir TY: When is it going to be out and through what distributor?
Carmen: It's the same distributor as myself Ryko through our same independent label and he's being released right now only in the States the same day as mine March 30th.

Sir TY: What was the experience like for you to perform for the first time to a large crowd, were you nervous?
Carmen: Oh boy it was nerve wrecking, I was all over the place and probably was not my best vocal performance because I was so nervous I had so much energy and it came out all at once of course as time progressed and throughout the show it definitely sounded much better and hopefully that copy will never make it to the public (LOL).

Sir TY: Where are you performing next?
Carmen: Um let's see actually we're currently doing some regional promotion so we'll be performing between Dallas, Houston and Austin here in the Texas area hopefully you know I'll be doing some promotion in the UK I'm really to knock down the doors at the London Jazz Cafe.

Sir TY: To date, what's been your biggest achievement?
Carmen: The biggest achievement/accomplishment is completing this record because for a while it just got in it's demo stage so actually the completion of this record and finally having a date where people would be able to physically pick it up that is such a huge accomplishment for me because I never not only did I not envision this happening but I didn't envision this happening as an independent artist so you know growing up I didn't see that route you know I had those dreams of singing in a talent show and a scout being there and them whisking me off and we go to the studio, make the record and it's in the stores but it doesn't actually happen that way.

Sir TY: For your male fans out there - are you married, single or dating?
Carmen: (LOL) I'm not married, I am single but I am dating

Sir TY: Anything you'd like to say to your fans?
Carmen: Just that I really hope they enjoy the record I hope that they really listen to the record and like myself with some of my favourite artists I have a different favourite song every time I listen to it and they enjoy it and that it really touches them, that it inspires them that in some cases they feel that they are not alone in whatever situation they're in and hopefully I'll get to physically see them sing to them in person and that they can feel my energy right there in front of them with and I just can't wait actually to be on the road on tour and actually see the fans that are enjoying the music

Sir TY: Well Carmen you are a delightful young lady, I thank you for taking the time to do this interview as I'm sure do your fans. Much continued success to you, I know you're going to blow up big time - Thanks again
Carmen: Thank you TY.

Listen to Carmen Rodgers latest hit 'Free'

Listen to Carmen Rodgers 'Dream'





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