On October 13th, 2013 SWEET SOUL RECORDS had the pleasure of releasing Carolyn Malachi’s recent album “GOLD.” This album is simply spectacular and will definitely be appreciated by a large swath of different soul music listeners.
We put together a few questions for Carolyn and you can read her replies below. Get to know Carolyn Malachi and her music.
Q1. Can you introduce yourself and your music to the soul music lovers here in Japan, including a brief overview of your career so far?
A1. Hello! On behalf of my band, my producers, and my team in the United States, I want to thank soul music lovers for welcoming ’GOLD’ to Japan! We are so excited!!!
For us, music is freedom. Each concert, every spin of the music is an invitation to participate in that freedom. We crafted the album with that intention. Quite naturally, we blend Jazz with classic Hip Hop, traditional R&B, fresh Pop, and alluring World Music to create a signature sound. We experience the music with fresh ears as we play it live at concerts. Many people call what we do Soul music. Indeed, there is something in the GOLD album that stirs the soul.
For as long as I can remember, I have kept a journal with poetry, song, and rap lyrics. It wasn’t until undergrad that I discovered music production software. Before that, I wrote music using pianos wherever I could find them. One of my favorite places to write was the basement of my high school. Eventually I met a group of musicians while in undergrad (college). They formed my first band. I was the only person of color in the group; everyone else was white. Still, our friends would come out to enjoy the music. It was beautiful! I will always remember this as an example of the power of music to unite perfect strangers.
I joined the Recording Academy in 2009 to learn how to enhance the quality of my music. This was magical for me, a wonderful learning experience indeed. Combining my passion for pure music with the experience of studying top music-industry professionals has changed my life.
In 2011, my song “Orion” received a Best Urban / Alternative Performance GRAMMY Award nomination. ‘GOLD,’ my new album and follow-up to that project is being received around the world proving something that I feel to be true – music is a universal language.
Carolyn Malachi’s message to her fans in Japan
Q2. Can you explain to me in detail how your songwriting is done? For example, is it made during sessions with the band? What inspires you most to write?
A2. My writing process varies. If I compose, I use a piano. Marcus Marshall and Vito, the producers of “Free Your Mind” and “All Right” play their compositions for me, then I find one that strikes a chord. When working with James McKinney, I usually sing my ideas to him a’capella; from there, he works on the music. Lorenzo Johnson and I write in the moment; this spontaneous style evolves from what is happening in the moment. My favorite way to write, hands down, is with the band. There’s something magical about collaborating with musicians who know their craft and their instrument intimately.
I try not to wait for inspiration in order to write. Writing is a skill, a craft, and one should practice to perfect it. When my life gets heavy, I turn to the people for inspiration. When I’m flying high, I look to the people to keep me focused. I always look for ways to connect the things happening in my life to the things happening in other people’s lives. We are all in this together after all.
I keep dictionaries, a thesaurus, and Google on hand to verify the accuracy of my references because I use many. Once my tools are in hand, I try my best to talk to create songs that are conversant with the people.
My creative partners and I spend quality time together. Before recording, we talk, relax, and look at funny videos on YouTube. The vibe has to be right. Once that’s set, we dig in.
Q3. Please tell us a bit about the city you are currently living and the influence it has on your music style if any?
A3. I was born and raised in Washington, DC, the home of many music legends: Chuck Brown, Duke Ellington, even my own great-grandfather John Malachi. Each of the aforementioned effortlessly blended their respective musical influences to create a signature sound. I am proud to uphold that tradition.
Q4. How do you describe your music to people (who have never heard your music before)?
A4. My music is like fine art; it evokes emotion, makes an impression, and sparks dialogue. You will hear a range of styles. Some of the compositions, like “Don’t”, are vast and orchestral. Others like “Finally” are sophisticatedly sparse. The lyrical content is relate-able, bold, and intelligent. I am learning that the people who are into Carolyn Malachi records, particularly ‘GOLD’, are seen as trendsetters and leaders among their friends. That’s pretty cool.
Q5. Can you tell me a bit about your first single off the album, ‘All Right?’ How it came about, and why you chose this song as the first single.
A5. My grandparents inspired “All Right”. They have a legendary love. I chose “All Right” to be the leading single because I thought the concepts of balance and unconditional love would resonate with people. The groove is nice and soulful. Also, I’m rapping in the song. My Tribe (fans) have been asking to hear me rap more.
Carolyn Malachi “All Right” (Official Music Video)
Q6. Tell us about your album ‘GOLD’ and the individuals you worked closely with, and how long it took to record.
A6. ‘GOLD’ is an ode to the removal of self-imposed limitations. When we expand our view of the world, we can find ways to make a valuable contribution to it. For more than two years, I worked with a unique group of producers and musicians from various backgrounds. For example, Jazz bass legend Tarus Mateen plays on “Free Your Mind”. Producers included James McKinney – he co-executive produced the record with me – Marcus Marshall, Silvio “Vito” Delis, Matthew Shell, Joe Lindsay, myself and others. Guest artists and musicians include Chelsey Green (violinist); Kevin Powe Jr. (bassist); South African Hip Hop / Motswako artist named Hip Hop Pantsula; American Hip Hop artist Tabi Bonney; Muhsinah, an avant-garde R&B artist. Working with a woman engineer was also important to me. Women sound engineers comprise only 5% of the music industry’s producer and engineer population. I am happy to have worked with two including Adriana Mendez, a GRAMMY U student at a local university and Emily Lazar, the album’s mastering engineer. Imagine my surprise when walking into the Lodge Mastering in NYC and learning that ‘GOLD’ would be mastered by the same woman who mastered Meshell Ndegeocello’s ‘Comfort Woman’ album (a personal favorite). WOW!!!
Q7. In your bio I read that your great-grandfather is the late jazz pianist John Malachi. Can you tell me if initially in your career there was added pressure because of your Mr. Malachi’s achievements during his career? Also, do you feel that being the great-granddaughter of such a well-known jazz pianist has benefited you in your career?
A7. He was a musician’s musician. My great grandfather’s legacy established expectations and principles that guide me: kindness, ingenuity, and dedication. My family raised me to be a leader, so pressure to follow in John Malachi’s footsteps – they never imposed that. I have met elder musicians who knew or played with my great grandfather. Often, I meet his former students. Consistently, they tell me that John Malachi was a sweet person, a brilliant teacher, and an innovative musician.
Q8. Briefly, can tell me about the “Free Your Mind” video and how this video is helping to fund education for students in East Africa, and what your Japanese fans can do to contribute to this cause?
A8. I deeply care about global access to education. To learn is to feed our beautiful dreams. The “Free Your Mind” music video launched the #IAM Campaign, a partnership with The School Fund, Carmelita Group, Chegg and I. During the month of January 2013, each view of the music video provided an hour of classroom instruction for students in Tanzania and Kenya. We raised 10,000 hours! Now that the GOLD album is out, we are expanding the impact area. Music lovers in Japan can contribute by buying the GOLD album. Every CD sold there will donate an hour of class time to The School Fund which they can give to children they support anywhere in the world.
Carolyn Malachi “Free Your Mind”
Q9. Could you recommend to me a couple of songs from your album and tell me why you recommended those songs.
A9. Begin with “Nothing”. The song came to life in Long Island, NY. Producer Joe Lindsay gave it an authentic NYC, Hip-Hop vibe. “Finally” is reminiscent of Motown’s classic R&B sound. “Fall Winter Spring Summer” and “All Right” are very chilled tunes. “Kamikaze” is Jazz-fusion on a spoken word journey. “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Ready for the World,” and “Gold” – these songs make me feel like I can fly.
Carolyn Malachi – “Beautiful Dreamer” (Official Music Video)
Q10. Do you know or listen to any Japanese artists?
A10. Last year, my little brother introduced me to the work of Nujabes. I remember playing the Modal Soul album for hours, no, days. Amazing work. Truly an artist gone too soon. Yoko K. is a Japanese, electronic musician, engineer, and vocalist whom I met through the GRAMMYs. Her work takes me to another place. She appears on the song ‘Kamikaze’.
Q11. How does it feel to have ‘GOLD’ released in Japan? And do you have a message for the soul music lovers of Japan who will listen to your music?
A11. Having the ‘GOLD’ album released in Japan means the world to me and to my team. We believe in changing the world by inspiring and uniting people through music. In the United States, music lovers are enjoying, sharing, and discussing ‘GOLD’ in the same fashion as one responds to a work of fine art. I hope music lovers in Japan find the same joy in ‘GOLD’.
For Carolyn Malachi’s artist page (J), click here.