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.
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.
Oh - OK
Sir TY: You started singing at an early age, was this
something of a family tradition?
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
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.
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.
TY: You're a songwriter also what shapes your
songwriting material, do you draw from life experiences or fantasy and
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.
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.
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
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.
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 .
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Sir TY: Where can we get the
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,
Goody, Target and will
also be released in the UK, Expansion Records
on April 13th.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
TY: For your male fans out there - are you married, single
Carmen: (LOL) I'm not married, I am single but I am dating
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
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