Smitty: Well, it is certainly my wonderful pleasure to welcome to JazzMonthly.com for the very first time an incredible singer/songwriter and a fantastic entertainer. She sings with such grace and style, and her latest CD is evident of that. It is a total eruption of exquisite lyrics, powerful grooves, and the effulgence of voice." Please welcome the incredible and amazing Ms. Carol Welsman. Carol, how are you, my friend?
Carol Welsman (CW): Great, thank you, especially after a lovely intro, I like that!
Smitty: (Laughs.) Well, it is certainly well deserved. Wow, you have so much to celebrate and so much to be happy about because this great CD is just amazing. I just love what you’ve done with it. It is so different and it’s just such a diverse project. I mean, you sing in multiple languages and I must say that even though I don’t understand the words, I’m totally diggin’ it.
CW: Oh, I’m so glad to hear that.
CW: It’s very important.
Smitty: So tell me, how did the piano stumble upon you?
CW: Well (both laugh), I’m born into a very musical family. I am blessed with three brothers who all play and sing and play multiple instruments, and my parents started us in classical piano growing up and I was playing what my brother was playing by ear when I was about three, so my parents were told that they should start me a little bit earlier. I was picking up by ear what I was hearing downstairs in the house, so we were really encouraged by my mom, who used to teach piano for years, to finish our classical training before heading into anything else, so I was actually a pianist before I was a singer.
Smitty: Yes, so now when you started playing the piano, how did you work in the vocals? I mean, how did that happen? Because when you’re playing piano, it is such an instrument that you have to concentrate on and you’re learning the chords and all of that, and then all of a sudden you want to sing.
CW: Well, I guess I was always singing too, but putting the two together, you’re right, it’s something to think about because, especially with classical piano, there’s no singing that goes along with that.
CW: But obviously we had a lot of music in the house with three other siblings and everybody had different styles. One was listening to the Beatles, another would be listening to Led Zeppelin, another was listening to Keith Jarrett, Bob Marley. We grew up with so much music around. My dad had Big Band—and still has Big Band—CD’s and he introduced us all to Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra, and George Shearing was a favorite artist of his all time, and also he introduced me to Sergio Mendes and Brasil ‘66. I found these albums and listened to the singing and, funny enough, I actually started singing probably when I was about 10 or 11 and started to figure out chords on the piano to accompany myself because I had a fairly good ear and, I thought, I think I can do this, and out of a passion it just developed.
Smitty: Wow. So did you dream of being an entertainer or was it just fun to play the piano and sing?
CW: I started to think that someday I would be on that talk show that I was watching when I was about 12 or 13. I really did have a fairly good idea by then that I was going to pursue music as a career. I didn’t know exactly that I was going to be doing the style that I am now at that young an age, but by the time I was 19 or 20 I knew.
Smitty: Yeah. Do you remember your first gig?
CW: Sure, yeah, it was at our school and I was playing guitar and singing. I was horrified because I was so nervous because I knew everybody in the school and it was very nerve wracking, and then at the next school the same thing. We used to perform with guitars and sing, which was really funny, but I did for a time of my life in folk music, so I guess that’s why.
Smitty: Yeah. Do you ever get an opportunity to pick up the guitar now?
CW: I do, actually. I have one now and I used to actually bring it into the show sometimes, but it’s pretty rare these days, but I mostly just play Brazilian music on the guitar. I play the Bossa Nova.
Smitty: Yeah, and you’re an Oscar Castro Neves fan, aren’t ya?
CW: Oh my gosh, yes.
CW: A huge fan.
Smitty: Yeah, and I must say that I can feel that influence in this great new project as well.
CW: Well, it’s funny because Oscar produced a CD for me called The Language of Love in 2003. And so I always wanted to meet him because from a very young age, here I was singing “Mais Que Nada” in Portuguese and I saw his name on the back of the albums as musical director for Sergio Mendes, and his name just kept coming up. He was one of those people that I really, really wanted to meet and, funny enough, when I was signed with Savoy Jazz, they said “We have a suggestion for a producer. His name’s Oscar Castro Neves” and I practically fell off my chair. I thought, I can’t believe that you’ve come up with the person that I would love to work with out of all the producers, so we had a ball doing that CD and that led to some producers in Canada producing an hour-long documentary on my career, and they came to Brazil and Oscar came with us, and we played there in Sao Paulo, and he’s all through the documentary, so he’s a really big part of my Brazilian influence, of course. Which is now translating into the new CD.
Smitty: Yes indeed. And you and Oscar….What I appreciate so much, and I think it’s so unique and it’s beautiful, is that you both remind me of each other in that when you perform, you seem so happy. Just to hear you sing, it sounds like you’re in such a zone, in a Utopian zone you might say, and when you watch Oscar, he is always smiling and he’s just having a great time with the guitar, and it’s so contagious to the audience and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
CW: Oh, that’s great. It’s true. You know, we all have dark moments, sad moments and everything else, but generally speaking, especially when you think of rhythmic music, it’s pretty hard to be down and out.
CW: It’s a natural high. I guess Oscar feels the same thing, but I really do feel that way. It’s a natural high and I can’t help but have it bring out my sunny personality. And I know it does translate. I have a lot of fans who feel that way. They say at the end of the night that they just had such a great time and that’s the whole idea, is we’re there to entertain.