Rising Up the Charts with a Bullet
by Jay S. Jacobs
The term “diva” is thrown around way too easily these days. Singing quality isn’t always even a concern, sometimes it’s all about attitude.
However, when someone who has worked with some of the great divas in recent history – including Celine Dion, Beyonce, Natalie Cole and Jennifer Holliday – says that a singer is the artist he has always been waiting for, that must be something, right?
That producer is Mark Feist and he made this statement about British dance artist Carmen Reece. Feist has now devoted himself to breaking Reece to the world.
“I have to pinch myself every day, really,” Reece says. “It’s extremely humbling. He’s such a talented guy. He’s not just a beat guy producer. He songwrites. He’s a musician. He’s very involved. We work really, really well together. I’m just so happy. He’s really driving the bus for this whole thing. He’s really seen a vision and I’m just so happy to be working with him.”
The first salvo in the starmaking machine has already come, with the surprise dance smash “Right Here,” released early to preview Reece’s debut CD Love In Stereo. The song surged up to the top of the dance charts upon its release – a shocking development for a mostly unknown artist.
“I’m still getting over it, really,” Reece laughs. For me, coming from England, of course I’m living in LA now; it’s just been a whirlwind, really. I’m just so grateful for all the support the record’s got, with radio and the listeners. I’m just very, very excited at the moment.”
Of course, “Right Here” was not Reece’s first experience with the charts. In her native England, she actually had a minor hit several years ago called “How Freaky Can You Get?”
“That was crazy, because I was very young at the time,” Reece recalls. “That kind of happened… that song just got a lot of feedback for me straight away. It was amazing because I’ve always had this dream of wanting to be a singer and a recording artist. So just to get good feedback back then was amazing – really, really exciting.”
Reece then sang lead vocals on Para Beats’ single “U Got Me,” which Reece considers also to be a learning experience helping her to get to her own music.
“I met him through a manager I had at the time,” Reece says. “We just kind of got in the studio and vibed this track out. Again, kind of it’s the same thing, we didn’t really push it, but it got some attention. But, at the time, that kind of music wasn’t really a true representation of me. It was a great stepping stone, but it wasn’t actually what I was about as an artist, really.”
Reece knows this, because though she is still only in her early 20s, but has been working towards becoming a singer all her life. She has aspired to music from a very, very early age. Her parents said she was singing around the house when she was about three years old.
Reece really warmed to music when she was at school and started playing the flute and the piano – at the age of seven. Then she was in the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain, where Reece played the flute, giving her a bit of a classical background at first. That experience grounded her for where she is today.
Where she is today is putting the finishing touches on her debut CD with co-writer and producer Feist. She is still amazed that she has found a musical kindred spirit like him.
“I met him about three or four years ago,” Reece says. “I was signed to Warners – I got this small little demo deal. They sent me out to LA to write for a couple of weeks. I put two days in with Mark. It was amazing. He’s such a great worker and he’s so talented. I never forgot about him, but of course I went back to England and he carried on making hits for Destiny’s Child and so on.
She laughs at the memory, but is glad there is a happy ending. “We reconnected last year. He got hold of me through MySpace and wanted me to do some demo work for him. I had wanted to get out to LA anyway, to just do some writing. I had taken a few of my songs that I had been working on at home. When I got there, I got my computer and showed him. He was like, ‘Ahh, okay, let’s not do the demo work. Let’s work on some stuff for you.’ That was the beginning of creating Love in Stereo, the album. So, it was a really magical time for me… and for him, I think.”
Other songs on Love In Stereo include the stunning broken-hearted ballad “Bullet Through My Heart,” which gives Reece the opportunity to show off her piano skills and classical background.
“That song is a really, really special one, because it is the first song that Mark and I wrote together,” Reece recalls. “It’s the first song that started our whole working relationship off and was the inspiration for the rest of the album, really. So we feel very strongly about that song, too. Hopefully down the line it will be a single, because we love it.”
So, they say there is a great story behind every broken heart love song. Was “Bullet” inspired by anything or anyone in particular?
“It’s funny, I have had my heart broken before, so I think it’s something that everyone can relate to,” Reece replies. “Actually, I wrote the ideas of the song back at home before I met Mark. I was walking around the kitchen and it just came to my head that first line – ‘There’s one bullet in your gun.’ It wrote itself in a way. Sometimes you don’t know where it comes from. It’s strange. Sometimes it’s from personal experience and you exaggerate it, or sometimes it’s on the feeling of the track or the piano. It’s so different each time.”
A stripped down version of the dance smash “Right Here” has also been uploaded onto YouTube. Reece thinks it is likely that this unplugged take of the song will probably end up on the CD as well.
“I think Mark and I are going to do a version of it, because that again has got quite a lot of good feedback, which, again, is amazing to hear,” she says. “So, yeah, we are hopefully. I think we’re going to do a version of that.”
Beyond those songs, Reece hopes to show lots of different side of herself and her music with Love In Stereo. Other potential dance smashes include the title track and “Be the One.”
“There are some more uptempos, some more kind of club dance vibe to them,” Reece says, explaining what to expect from the album. “But still, there’s a common thread throughout the album. It’s quite an emotional album, but yet it can make you want to dance, cry, love, smile. Hopefully there is something for everyone on there. That is what we tried to do.”
So far, at least, Feist and Reece have decided to forego the major label route and release the album independently, giving them more control over the final product and the album’s profits.
“I think Mark’s really got a strong vision for this,” Reece says, confidently. “And his vision is my vision. We’re not ruling out the big label route at all, but at the moment we’re enjoying what’s happening and we’ve been getting some great feedback, so we’re just continuing to work hard and we’ve just got the right deal, really.”
Still, Reece looks forward to the idea of being an artist who may inspire others that come after her, just as she was inspired by so many great singers she has heard. And yet, while she was molded musically by so many well-known singers, she has admitted that one of the biggest influences is a singer that is not so well remembered. Beverly Craven had a relatively big debut album in Reece’s native England in the early 1990s – leading to the hits “Promise Me” and “Hold On,” however, she is now long off of the pop culture radar. Yet, Reece admits that debut album inspired her as a young girl to explore music.
“I don’t know how I came across Beverly Craven, actually,” Reece admits. “I was so young and I think she had been out for a while. But I just came across this cassette at the time and I just continued to play it. Just continued and continued to play it. I think maybe that could have inspired me to play the piano. I listen back to her style of playing as well and it’s kind of similar [to mine], but I don’t know. But yeah, she was one of the first ones.
“Then I loved… there was a girl group called Eternal, kind of a pop/R&B group from Britain and I loved them. I was obsessed with them. Then it went on to the big female vocalists – the divas. Mariah. Whitney. Toni Braxton. Celine Dion. Then, you know, I loved Boyz II Men. I love music that really had emotion and really great songs. Well crafted, you know.”
Another influence was Reece’s family life. Actually, her grandfather was quite an accomplished pianist, though sadly Reece was never able to experience that. Still, she believes that musical aptitude can be passed down through the generations.
“Unfortunately, I never knew my granddad,” Reece says. “He died before I was born, but I’ve been told that he was an amazing pianist. It’s a real shame I never got to know him, because I think we could have had a lot of fun. I do believe that it’s passed down. Everybody in my family has always had a good musical ear or played an instrument, but they’ve never taken it further. But they can all sing in tune, so that’s good.”
In the short time that Reece has been known, fans have already been given the title “Diva 2.0.” Of course, the term diva can have both positive and negative connotations. So how does Reece see the idea of being a diva?
“I’ve always seen it as a very positive thing,” she laughs. “I know there is the other side, too, but I say it with Mariah, Whitney, Toni – they are just strong women that are real professionals and have a presence on stage. The fact that I’ve been called one is again very humbling, because I can only try to live up to the divas I’ve grown up listening to. Hopefully I can follow in their footsteps.
“I think one of the main things is that I hope that I could have touched someone, Mark and my music could have touched someone in a positive way. That it moved people. That would be amazing. I’ve always looked up to artists that can really move people through their music.”
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Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 15, 2010.