Another newsworthy week comes to an end. For me, a week of sketching, thinking about the future and planning ahead! This week I’m reminded of the saying ‘a single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books! ‘The saying for me illustrates the importance of supportive and motivational people around you. This is an invaluable treasure we can all find in close friends and family, particularly when we face adversity . Unfortunately for many I know, this week and indeed the month has brought its challenges! However, giving or receiving continued praise, support and encouragement is sunlight to the human spirit and we cannot flower or grow without it. Hang on to your aspirations in life, knowing you are a refection of your thoughts and your self belief is the determining factor . I wish you a relaxing weekend and hope it brings an abundance of joy, happiness and lasting memories for you and yours!
‘Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do..”Pope John XXIII
A dear friend of mine has published her first book entitled ‘Kanika’s Burdens’ This is a supernatural thriller that centres on a young African American woman named Kanika Witherspoon. Kanika is a successful, college-educated woman with her own home. She’s devoted to watching over her grandmother, and she is looking for love. She also bears the emotional burden of a troubled family, but she has good friends to support her.
As Kanika struggles to reconcile her own religious beliefs with those of her grandmother, she is faced with supernatural phenomena that threaten to destroy her. Is the power of suggestion over the subconscious mind influential enough to manipulate how one sees and experiences their world? Do fear, depression, and illness create a breeding ground for demonic possession? Are evil and the devil just myths used to rationalize the sinister actions of mankind? What happens when our greatest fears are internalized?
Kanika Witherspoonis an average young, black woman living in the city of Los Angeles, who finds herself forced to answer these unusual questions.
Last night I attended a very interesting talk and photography exhibition by Black British Filmmaker Nadia Denton. Nadia has just published her book ‘ The Black British Filmmakers Guide to Success.’ It provides encouragement and guidance for young UK based filmmakers embarking on their careers. Primarily a resource for filmmakers, this publication includes interviews with leading directors, guidance on learning specific aspects of film theory and aids the understanding of film, genres & audiences. Nadia touched on many issues and necessities that are essential for most artist working in the creative industries; to be professional, business minded, taking opportunities to network and collaborate with a variety of stakeholders. The publication is available to download from her website www.nadiadenton.com
The exhibition entitled ‘India: An African Odyssey’ is photographic documentation of her experience traveling to West Bengal and Orissa.
She explains: ‘ In 2008, I travelled to India for the second time. What struck me was that in contrast to my experiences in Delhi where I was largely recognised as a person of African Descent, in West Bengal and Orissa, the lines were blurred…
With my lens I was allowed a certain level of access that would normally be denied a western traveller. The people I met did not see me as an outsider. I was welcomed into a culture which was not my own but where I could see aspects of my identity. Though I have lived and travelled extensively in West Africa, India remains the only place where I have been surrounded by so many people who share my skin colour. The images in the exhibition are a snapshot of the glimpses I had of my African self in India.’
The exhibition runs until 14th October at the Portobello Art Gallery and forms part of the Westway Development Trust’s programme of events celebrating the UK’s Black History Month. Forthcoming events at the venue include the screening of ‘Nubian Spirit” a documentary exploring ancient Sudan and Ancestral Voices, a film examining African spiritual practices.
As mentioned in a previous entry, it’s great to know individuals of various artistic disciplines who purely inspire and encourage you to be as creative. Self-love, confidence and determination are attributes I always pick up when speaking to artists I know will be successful in their own right. These attributes run heavily as themes in a new album called Blurt by the very talented Carey Yaruss. I was privileged to meet Carey at a get together in a Manhattan earlier this summer and look forward to seeing her career blossom over the coming years . Carey was kind enough to answer a few questions about her career to date.
Q: How did you get into the industry?
I started songwriting in high school as a way to express myself creatively. I was in every singing group at that time- chorus, madrigal choir, concert choir, an all female acappella group and all of the the musical theatre productions. Music was my true love from an early age and it prompted me to attend Berklee College of Music for a degree in professional music. After 4 years of studying music, I felt the creativity had sort of been sucked out of me and replaced with the technical side of music. I was feeling burnt out and ready to change paths. I took some time away to explore my other love- animals, in a job as a vet tech in an animal hospital. A few years later I was ready to get back to singing and writing. I started fronting a blues band and auditioning for tours and shows. I was hired to be a backup singer for Michael Amante on his Northeast tour and decided that if I could book that gig while living in a small town in Connecticut, I owed it to myself to at least try the musician’s life in NYC. When I made that move, I continued singing with Amante, as well as with an 18-piece big band doing jazz standards. I realised that I was spending a ton of time performing other people’s music and wanted to work on my own creations. It was at that point that I returned to song writing and decided to develop an album of my original music.
Q: Listening to your music it’s hard to categorise, which is good I think. Would you describe your music as following a particularly genre?
Funny that you should ask that. This comes up a lot. When my music gets listed for sale, I have to choose the category to put it in and always find it to be a difficult choice. I often just go with ‘vocals’. I have so many influences- and that translates into my somewhat eclectic taste. I listen to a little bit of everything including Simon and Garfunkel, Bonnie Raitt, Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Cole Porter, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Linda Eder, Judy Garland, Michael Jackson, Keb ‘Mo, Tuck & Patti, Dr. Dre, Eminem and many others. I love blues, folk, rock, pop, country, funk, musical theatre, cabaret, jazz, and rap. This all comes into play (well, maybe not rap) in my writing. I joke about my album falling into the genre of ‘countrybluesfolkrockcabaretjazzfunktheater’ since there isn’t really a word for the jumble of styles I write.
Q The music industry can be described as tough, very competitive and uncompromising. Do you think becoming a successful singer is made harder due to programmes like American Idol where it’s more about image as talent?
Unfortunately It’s been that way for a while. Being a sort of quirky artist in a world where Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift rule is certainly not easy. That said, I’ve never written with ‘making it’ in mind. I write for myself. It’s my therapy. It’s my creative outlet. It’s just something that lives in me and needs to be set free onto paper or a recording. Whether or not I am recognised publicly isn’t really the point. It would be just lovely to have that element, but it’s not really something that I strive for. I don’t write commercial music and don’t intend to start. American Idol is a factory that creates a product. It’s really quite brilliant actually- votes translate almost directly into sales. The production team knows exactly what they are doing- they are asking the voting audience, “what would you like to buy?” I can’t compete with that- and frankly, I don’t really want to. But yes, this industry is incredibly difficult to become successful in. It forces independent artists to redefine what success really means. For me, it means I’m doing what I love, able to pay my rent, and smiling most of the time.
Q: Which artists have been most influential on your career to date?
I pretty much answered this in the question about genre… I’d add the Indigo Girls to that list, along with Carole King, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Tracy Chapman, Susan Tedeschi, Paul Simon, Fiona Apple, James Taylor, Dar Williams, Norah Jones, Sara Bareilles, Jonatha Brooke, and about a million Broadway soundtracks. Other than that, my friends who are musicians are also hugely influential. I am lucky to have a circle of incredible talent around me and going to see them perform is always inspiring. A bunch of us know each other’s tunes and frequently collaborate on stuff. Whenever we can find time to do that I end up going home and writing into the wee hours. I also teach private voice lessons and have to say that no matter what level my students are at as vocalist and as writers, they inspire and influence me incredibly.
Q: Your portfolio of work to date is impressive; working with acts such Michael Amante and composer Phil Springer. How did the opportunity arrive to work with Springer? Equally, what was it like touring with Michael Amante?
I met Phil Springer through an open call audition. He was looking for a Judy Garland type to star in his one-woman musical film and hired me after 2 callbacks. I spent a couple of months working with him and his daughter Miriam at his apartment on the Upper West Side and I must say, it was truly an experience to remember. His living room had a grand piano smack in the middle and was surrounded by stacks and stacks of sheet music. There was nowhere to sit because everything was covered in 3 feet tall piles of handwritten scores. He is a real character, with incredible stories and knowledge, and I was honoured to be working on this project with him.
Touring with Amante was a fairly monumental part of my musical career. It was what snapped me out of my hiatus and enabled me to perform in incredible venues for thousands of people. I sang a duet with him at just about every show, in some cases for crowds of more than 10,000 people. What a thrill that was! I worked with the most talented musicians and met people who I still consider my closest friends. The two other backup singers on that tour were a big part of my decision to move to the city knowing that they would take me under their wings here. One of them, Maritri Garrett, played piano and sang backup vocals at my CD release gig at the Bitter End last month- and there is a song about her on my CD that talks about her support and inspiration when I first moved to this intimidating environment.
Q:Who would you love to collaborate with next and why?
I would really love to collaborate with or open for Sara Bareilles. She is the first artist in a long time to put out a CD that moves me as much as her disc ‘Kaliedoscope heart’ does. The writing and vocal performance on it are exactly what I love about music- and she just seems like she’d be totally fun to work with. I’d also LOVE to work with Keb ‘Mo, Bonnie Raitt, and/or Paul Simon just to throw those names out there. Hello? Are any of you listening? Other than that, I still have the Broadway bug and would love the chance to perform in a musical by Schwartz, Wildhorn, Jason Robert Brown, Weber, Lin Manual Miranda, Elton John, Sondheim or just about any other composers. I tend to love the more contemporary musicals- but recently saw the revival of Anything Goes with Sutton Foster and it reminded me of how much I love the old-school traditional shows also. My fantasy is that they will finally make “A Star is Born” into a Broadway show and ask me to star in it.
Q:When we spoke earlier this year you wanted to attend Glastonbury. What about performing there? Do you have your sights on conquering the UK and mainland Europe?
I spent a few years living in Glastonbury, CT and heard about Glastonbury, UK at that point. Apparently they are the only two towns named Glastonbury in the world. Pretty cool, eh? Other than that, I really don’t know anything about it… But sure, I’d love to tour there at some point. As for right now, I’m feeling pretty stuck here as a local. I have a large breed dog who is 12.5 and he’s pretty much the centre of my world. I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone for any extended period of time, so until the inevitable happens, I plan to stay close to home.
Q; So what was the inspiration behind the new Album?
When I write my most honest, raw, unedited emotions come out. I’ve always tried to live my life and keep my relationships that way as well, but it wasn’t until recently that I really felt comfortable enough to speak my mind without a constant filter. The album, called Blurt, is a concept album showing that progression of self-acceptance and self-love. It begins with a more tentative Carey, one who isn’t quite sure of herself and seems to keep losing her way in life. By the end of the album the ‘real’, unapologetic, confident Carey finally accepts that she is, filter or not, exactly who she is…and that she is just fine with that. Because of that storyline threaded through it, the album has a musical theatre feel to it and I’m exploring turning into a stage production. Stay tuned for updates about that over the next year or so.
Q: what are your plans for the coming years?
Aside from turning Blurt into a musical, I plan to continue writing, teaching voice lessons and pursuing my other passions of running, adoring my pets, and cooking/dining. I have a culinary blog (careysculinaryadventures.wordpress.com) and a blog for my little snugglebugs (www.thedailysnuggle.wordpress.com) and will continue updating those as often as possible. I also plan to get back into auditioning for musicals again now that Blurt is complete. Keep an eye out for me on Broadway!
For further info on Carey including her album please visit http://www.careyyaruss.com/