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A Dirty Dozen with CLAUDIA COMBS CARTY – October 2021

| 26 October 2021 | Reply

Photo credit: Colin Peck

According to a recent press release: “San Francisco-based singer-songwriter/pianist Claudia Combs Carty is set to release her debut album, Phases, on October 22, 2021. Nine tracks deep and written over the course of a decade, Phases is as personal as a series of confessional journal entries. Each heartbreak takes lyrical form, and every intimate confession is transformed into soaring notes, in a crescendo of self-discovery and an honesty that can only be revealed through time and a ready pen. It was very important to Carty that this record sound natural, raw, almost live. “I wanted these songs to sound like the listener is in the room with me,” she says. “How I always play is sitting at the piano singing, so we didn’t want to embellish the songs too much.” Phases was recorded at Oakland, CA’s 25th Street Recording Studios. Carty’s sister, industry veteran Montserrat Carty, introduced her to a team that included producer Avi Vinocur, of the band Goodnight, Texas, whose songs have been heard in documentaries like “Tiger King” and “Free Solo,” and has a day job working with Metallica. During the session, Vinocur added guitar and vocal flourishes but also developed a deep connection to Carty and her work that made her comfortable with allowing someone else inside such a personal expression.” We get Claudia to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Phases is my first solo album, one that has been in my heart, soul, and fingers for more than 10 years! And I told myself every one of those years that this would be the year, and now it’s kind of blowing my mind that it’s true. This started out as a demo or EP. I got an offer from John Schmiff to record at the incredible 25th Street Recording Studio in Oakland. Oh my god, It’s like heaven in there. They rolled out the Steinway into the huge room, and I can honestly say it was the best day of my life. Avi Vinocur of Goodnight, Texas wanted to produce for me, and helped me tighten up my songs a bit. We went in to get like four songs, and came out with 10, so we made an album!

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I always wanted to be a musician. I was, and still am, really drawn to musicians. My mom’s musician friends would bring over their guitars, and I just wanted everything to do with it. One Christmas, I got a CD player, headphones, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and that’s when it got personal. I was 7 when I met the piano, who would be my friend, therapist, and teacher from then on.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

In the beginning, it was The Beatles, David Bowie, and The Flaming Lips. My high school boyfriend would make me these awesome tapes, and he introduced me to bands like The Talking Heads, The Magnetic Fields, and one of my absolute favorites, Will Oldham. Stephen Merritt taught me to keep it simple, and Will Oldham taught me to keep it honest. The live version of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” on Jeff Buckley’s Live at Olympia, I believe, was what made me want to write songs that are honest, messy, and beautiful in that sad way.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I really love Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes. I love how his songs’ lyrics really paint a picture and are always really smart. They really get to me. Like, oh my god, “Million Dollar Bill”? That’s one of my favorite love songs. His songwriting is blunt, honest, and vulnerable, like I want my songs to be. I would love to do some harmonies and sing a really sad song with him.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

Yoga keeps me happy, healthy, and centered. I love to make up crazy stuff with my best friend, Emma, hang with my animals, exercise, and eat food my boyfriend cooks.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

My music is personal and quiet. It’s definitely not everyone’s jam. I would describe it as a deep-voiced woman singing with her piano. It sounds like you’re sitting next to me, and I’m playing for you. One reviewer said I had a “Latin” style, which I personally don’t hear whatsoever, but everyone has their associations! Maybe because I got my mom’s Spanish looks.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Because it’s just me, I’m the one doing all the cooking, all the drinking, and busting out the guitars! 😉

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Without a doubt when I met Neil Young. I worked as a server at Chez Panisse in Berkeley for five years, and we had some amazing artists come in there. Patti Smith came in my first week! But nothing really compared to waiting on Neil Young. He’s such a legend and I was just over the moon for weeks after. I ran around the restaurant asking for whatever the best cheese we had (“for Neil Young!) because his first request was a “plate of cheddar cheese.” I still have the order ticket!

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The first best thing about being a musician is having an outlet and another world to go to when you need to. I know when I sit down at the piano and write that I’m in my own place, and I can get out whatever I need to get out. It’s very therapeutic. I’m sure I’d be a great mess without it. Second best thing is being able to play music with other people, because what is more fun than that? There is nothing like singing in harmony with someone else. Nothing! If I could no longer be a musician (who would I be?), I guess I would want to be a painter. I think it has a lot of the same romantic and personal notions that playing the piano has. I’d want to make huge paintings that tell a story.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

This is only my second interview, so I am not yet sick of anything! Just excited to talk about my music! I guess it would be cool for an interviewer to ask me if there’s anything really weird about me that everyone who knows me knows, and the answer would be that I am a huge Nicolas Cage fan! Only my closet friends know the reason why!

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I wish I had taken every opportunity to play live. I used to be so scared that I wasn’t good enough or that people would hate it, but now I feel that it is so important for your own relationship with your tunes that you share them proudly and take those opportunities.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Probably Tusk by Fleetwood Mac. I don’t know exactly how I’d fit in, but I just love that record and all the harmonies and layers to it. I lived in Brooklyn for one year of my life, and that was the year that I basically listened to nothing but Fleetwood Mac. I was completely obsessed with all the bonus tracks I found of them messing around and harmonizing. I would love to just have sat in that room and gotten to sing with them then.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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