Thursday, February 18, 2010

Artist Profile: CAROLYN WATERS

The first time I heard Carolyn Waters sing was in July 2009 during Summer Acoustic Music Week (SAMW) at Geneva Point Center (Lake Winnipesaukee, NH). I know that I will never forget that moment, it was “Unforgettable”.

The scene was a small chapel which serves as the SAMW concert hall during the week. In the audience were a group of our fellow SAMW students. On the stage, there was Carolyn, who sat unassumingly on a metal folding chair, hands casually at her side with a music stand in front of her, accompanied on stage by fellow students with instruments (guitar, mandolin, violin, bass)

As we were waiting for her performance to start, the usual “student to student” chatter was going on around me. I didn’t fully hear her introduce herself, but I thought she might have mentioned that she wrote the song she was about to sing (not unusual at SAMW) I confess, she didn’t have 100% of my full attention, until, that is, she opened her mouth and started singing.

As soon as the music started, I experienced what can only be described as a head turning, jaw dropping moment. Carolyn’s voice hit me like a wave – a very big, very good kind of wave, the kind that makes you feel like you are floating away to someplace really nice and you never want to come back.

Her voice is soulfully resonant, full and deep and gripping. She was singing a song called “Slipping Away” and I found myself turning to everyone near me whispering... “did she say she WROTE this song? .. SERIOUSLY?” The song was every bit as beautiful as the voice behind it. I will never forget that moment.

A few weeks ago, Carolyn released her first CD. I was fortunate enough to attend her release party and to hear her sing live for the second time. I purchased her CD and it has now taken its rightful place as a staple in my “drive to work” collection.

I am honored to present an interview with Carolyn Waters below which I found as inspiring as her voice and her songwriting:

Music Berserker: Can you describe your vocal history? When did you start singing? When did you first realize that you have a very special voice? When was the first time you sang in public?

CW: I remember always wanting to sing, even as a very young child. At ages six or seven I remember putting on shows for family members with plastic beach buckets as drums singing songs that I heard on the radio and tv. But it was not something that was nutured or encouraged. I was often teased openly and laughed at by family members whenever I opened my mouth to sing and it soon became something I was careful not to do in public or within the earshot of others. So it became something that I did when I was alone, behind closed doors, in the shower, when noone was home because if at anytime someone in the family heard me it would lead to more laughter and ridicule.

People often ask me if I sang in a choir growing up and I did, sort of. I spent many of my choir years mouthing the words silently as others sang around me. I loved being surrounded by the power and vibrancy of the voices and would carry that home where I would sing those songs alone. In my final year with the choir I was finally ‘outed’ when a young man said to me in front of the chior ‘you never sing, you only mouth the words’. So then I felt that I had to sing with the chior, but I felt relative safety in the numbers.

Once I grew up, I continued to sing privately and on occasion a friend would hear a piece here or there and say ‘that sounded good’ but I never believed it nor wanted to explore it further. It was always in my home where I would really sing. When I began to date my husband he would hear me now and again and when we decided to get married he asked if I would sing at our wedding. It was something I wanted to do for him, but the thought of singing before all of the people who had laughed at me throughout my younger years made it seem like an impossibility. However, to explore the idea, I decided to take a voice class at a local adult education center and there I met Lorraine Hammond.

Meeting Lorraine changed my life. It was within the safety of her class that I first found my true voice. I sang in front of people I did not know for the first times in her classes and she led me to SAMW, which is where I first sang publicly from a stage for the first time. It was a scary, horrifying and amazing experience (made possible only by the support of those around me at the time).

Music Berserker: Do you train with a vocal coach?

CW: I have been training with a vocal coach from the time I enrolled in Lorraine’s class. She said I should come to SAMW to meet Charles Williams, which of course I did. From that time I have been consistently training with someone. Either Lorraine or Charles and locally with Ephriam Hererra, a vocal coach in Framinigham, Ma.

In all, I’ve been studying for about nine years and I feel that I am still very much a student.

Music Berserker: Can you talk a little more about your mentors? Describe how they have influenced your musical career?

CW: Well of course I would start with Lorraine Hammond. She was the very first person who said to me “you can, you are special, and you have something”. She was there with me on stage the first time I performed publicly, I took my first song writing class with her, and she played on my CD. She constantly amazes me as a person. Just last year she finished her Masters degree. She shows that there is always something to reach for, always something to accomplish. She is very much a role model and has given me very specific advice over the years which I have listened to and acted on.

With every step I take forward musically, with every accomplishment, Lorraine is sure to be mixed in there somewhere.

Another mentor would be Charles Williams. He is an incredibly vital person and like Lorraine a soul I connected with immediately. Over the years he has advised, guided, taught me and helped to put me on the path I am currently traveling.

And although to numerous to list here, there have been endless other SAMW folks who have given me guidance, advise and a push when needed.

Music Berserker: Can you describe your approach to songwriting? Do you play an instrument or do you write using your voice only? What inspires you, what is your process?

CW: My approach to songwriting is hard to describe. I think it is more of a subconcious process for me in that I don’t sit down with pen and paper and say ok, it’s time to write. It doesn’t work that way for me although sometimes I wish it did.

I don’t play an instrument either, so I can’t sit and noodle until I stumble onto something. But I do think that I am working on bits and pieces of songs subconsciously all of the time and when these bits and pieces float to the surface, they are ready to be realized.

As I said I don’t play an instrument and I don’t do music notation of any kind which means I usually race to a phone or recording device and record the bits and pieces. I can then sit down and pretty much follow the process through to the end. There are times when things are not ready to be realized, so there is plenty of stuff still floating around waiting to be worked out.

I get very inspired by music, musicians, poets, paintings and all things creative. I usually carry a book around with me to note down interesting phrases, thoughts or things that catch me. I am especially inspired when I am surrounded by good, intense sound/music. It opens doors for me.

And of course at every opportunity I take a class or workshop with songwriters I idenify with and admire. Kate Campbell and Bob Franke would top that list. Nothing can replace learning the ins and outs of songwriting from those who know.

Because I am still trying to understand fully what makes a great song, I go back at every opportunity to learn more.

Music Berserker: How many songs did you write before you felt that you had the selection you wanted for your first CD?

CW: I’m relatively new to song writing, having written my first song in 2006. So at the time I started this particular CD, I had written only 20 songs. With the exception of “Count Me In’ and “Lorraine’s Song”, which were among the first songs I wrote, the other songs on this CD were written roughly between 2007 and 2009. When I sat down to consider songs, I started with personal favorites and/or songs that I thought were good enough to put out there. Many of these were written, work shopped and/or performed at SAMW so I got a sense of what worked and what didn’t.

Music Berserker: Can you talk about the process of producing your first CD? How did you start the process, how long did it take? Was it full of ups and downs and challenges or did you find it a smooth path?

CW: I had wanted to record a CD for quite some time and in fact had begun to record a CD of covers in 2006. I had to stop this process due to some medical issues and during a long illness and recovery period, I began to write songs in earnest.

In early 2009, when I had sufficiently recovered, I again began to think about recording but I found myself in a very different place creatively and emotionally. Instead of covers, I felt the need to explore the development and recording of my own songs.

This sent me off on a different path and once that was decided it was a relatively straightforward process. Because of SAMW I had met and performed with a number of wonderful musicians over the years, who when I asked, came together and helped me bring my visions of my songs to life. Nineteen musicians in all helped in the making of this CD.

I was also introduced and worked with a great producer/engineer, Steve Rapson of Solo Performer Studio, who also worked hard with me to bring my vision to life. In all, it took about six months from the time I first step foot into the studio until I was sending the master off to be replicated.

In truth, I think the most difficult part of the process was the decision to open myself up and to put myself out there.

Music Berserker: What is your personal favorite song on the CD? What did it feel like to hear your song on the radio for the first time? Have doors been opened for new opportunities since the release of your CD?

CW: My own personal favorite is “Slipping Away” I had a wonderful experience in the studio recording this song with Sally Sisto and Trish English. I love the three part harmony and still remember how we gathered around one microphone arm-in arm as we laid those tracks. I think for me that the feeling of support, togetherness and love that was in the room came through on the recording and although the song itself is sad, the experience of recording it was not.

It was amazing to hear myself on the radio for the first time. It was hard to believe that that song and that voice came out of me. It was a very humbling experience and then of course I wanted to hear it again.

Yes, there have been more doors opened. I’ve been invited to play at a number of different venues since the cd. I’m very happy with this development as it, along with any radio play, allows me to get my music out there to wider audiences. It has also allowed me, through performing, more of an opportunity to hear personally how my music resonates and makes a difference with others. I hope to do much more of that in the future.

Music Berserker: What is your next goal?

CW: Learn more, write more and perform more. Hope to develop and play to larger audiences. Promote this cd to the best of my ability and see where it goes. Any advice is always welcome.

Music Berserker: is there anything else you want people to know about you?

CW: The best is yet to come…

Music Berserker: Carolyn, we’ll be looking forward to that!

To keep up with Carolyn, learn more about (or purchase) her music or to follow her personal blog you can visit her website :

Her CD “Count Me In” is also available for purchase online for individual downloads or the full album on both CD Baby and Dig Station:

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful interview with wonderful Carolyn! I have and love her CD also. It's been great to know Carolyn these past man years (eight, I think) and see her develop as a person, singer and songwriter.