Interview: Carmen Reece – There’s a Diva In The House
by Daniel Haim
Born and raised in London, Carmen thinks she may have inherited her facility for piano from her paternal grandfather, an accomplished player who died before she was born. She began private piano and flute lessons at age seven. “My parents didn’t have to push me to practice,” she says. “I loved it.” Her presence as a flautist in the National Children’s Orchestra ensured plentiful performance opportunities. It was also during this period that her drive and professionalism began to emerge.
Not that she didn’t know how to cut loose. Carmen studied dance on the weekends for years, including ballet and tap, but likes to joke, “I did a lot of my dance training in my bedroom in front of the mirror.” “In school, I’d get the whole class into the gym at lunchtime and choreograph a big dance number,” she continues. “A lot of the kids weren’t interested, but I pushed them to do it!” Toni Braxton’s “He Wasn’t Man Enough” was a favorite vehicle for interpretation.
When she wasn’t corralling her fellow students into video-style extravaganzas, Carmen could be found at the piano. “I would sit there for hours, at school in the music room during breaks and after school at home,” she says. “I wrote my first song when I was 12. I think I just learned how to do it by listening to pop music. It happened very naturally.”
Vocal inspiration came from Toni, Mariah, Whitney and Céline, as well as Boyz II Men and Michael Bolton. “I just loved soulful voices,” she attests. She also believes she was influenced, particularly as a pianist, by British singer-songwriter Beverly Craven, who scored a hit in 1991 with “Promise Me”. Carmen’s real breakout as a creative force, however, coincided with her entry into the Brit Performing Arts & Technology School.
On her own, meanwhile, Carmen earned U.K. radio support for the track “How Freaky Can You Get”, even performing it live on the BBC’s Radio 1 for a national listening audience. She subsequently made waves with the song “You Got Me”, the video for which enjoyed widespread circulation.
Then she reconnected with Feist, whom she’d met shortly after her graduation from The Brit School. “We’d worked on a couple of songs back then but were both busy with other commitments. I never forgot about Carmen, though,” says Feist. “It seemed like every time I’d talk to someone who’d been in London they’d say, ‘Have you heard of this singer Carmen Reece?’ Finally, the stars lined up and I was able to bring her to L.A. She played me a couple of the songs she’d been working on, and I was blown away.”
She looks forward to playing these new songs for fans, knowing the shared experience will imbue them with even greater electricity. “Being onstage is such a rush,” she says. “You do things you never could have imagined. Sometimes I’ll see a performance of myself and think, ‘Wow – where did THAT come from?’ I view every time I get onstage as a chance to do better and make my bond with the audience that much stronger.”
“No matter what I’m singing,” Carmen insists, “the most important thing is for you to feel it. And I don’t mean just feel it in your body; I mean feel it in your heart.”
Daniel: When did you first realize that you were blessed with such an amazing voice?
Carmen: I first realized I could sing around the age of 7or 8, id tape myself singing in my little tape recorder I had and listen to myself back…. I was obsessed with it… everyday id do it!
Daniel: Tell us about yourself, how did you get started in this business?
Carmen: I Got into the business very young. I was in the studio by the age of 14.. recording songs I had written. I Loved music so much and new that was what I wanted to do…. no question. Im so fortunate to have learnt and experienced so much growing up already, But im looking forward to Learning so much more in the future and being able to share my music with the world.
Daniel: How are you feeling about the UK to US crossover?
Carmen: I’m having so much fun… the US is Amazing …. I’m so excited right now and so grateful for the support the US has given me it is my home base and I’m just so grateful to the US! Of course i miss England, I love it and my family and friends are there who mean the world to me… but music travels….. and i look forward to going back and performing there!
Daniel: Who inspires you to write? What are your influences?
Carmen: I get soooo inspired just simply by music, I’ll sit at a piano and play a chord or hear a string line or a beat and I’m off….. I feel music so much and it moves me. Also I like to write about subjects that people can relate to in their everyday lives… We all go through the same things and I remember when I was younger listening to certain songs and artists that would cheer me up or help me through or simply make me wanna move!! I just want to connect with people and them connect with me through music.
Daniel: You first got involved with your manager/producer originally as a studio musician/songwriter take us through the process of behind the scene, writing lyrics for other artists to being a performer yourself.
Carmen: I’ve always wanted to be an artist and for me of course with that involves writing. Back in England i would get together with other songwriters and producers and write songs! some would be for me, and others would be more suitable for other artists/groups.
You cant over think writing, as sometimes it tends to make the process unnatural. I really do enjoy collaborating with people, its refreshing and fun! Mark Feist who i co-wrote the album with and who produced album has worked with the best of the best… Celine Dion, Destiny’s Child, Brian McKnight…. Just to name a few! We hit it off straight away…. Musically and creatively we connect so much, making the album was a dream come true. He is the driving force behind the team.
Daniel: Has the music industry changed you as a person?
Carmen: As I’ve been in and around the music industry for a while its all iv ever really known…. so I’m used to it. I think it can change people yes, for the good and the bad… I’m very lucky to have a great team around me though who are a great support system.
Daniel: There’s so much buzz going on with you at this moment, tell us about some of the cool relationships that you have forged over the past couple months
Carmen: I’ve been touring round the US meeting and performing in front of lots radio stations, Its been so great to meet everyone… I’ve really enjoyed it. This is a business of relationships and I always remember that. Also the bond between myself and all of the Real MF team is on fire!! We’re so motivated and excited with the success we’ve been having and continue to work and enjoy every day! Mark Feist just doesn’t take No for an answer and that kind of attitude is infectious.
Daniel: Care to share with us your dreams?
Carmen: My dream is still the same one that I had when i was eight… I really just want to touch people through my music and continue to sing, dance, record, write, play and be creative for as long as I can….
Daniel: Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years?
Carmen: Hopefully Making more albums! and continuing to grow as an artist. Im so inspired by people that are amazing at their craft be it Film,Videos, Choreography, Fashion etc…. I look forward to collaborating with some great people and working together to produce amazing material!
Daniel: What’s on the horizon for Carmen Reece?
Carmen: Im promoting my Debut single “Right Here” at the moment which is out on itunes…. and im doing lots of performances…. the Album “Love in Stereo” will be out in the summer, i cannot wait!