Last week I had the pleasure and the honor to sit down with one of the nicest and most talented guys I know, Carey Durham. Carey is a violinist, singer and a songwriter. His style is a cross between hip-hop, R&B, Jazz, Pop and big band crooning. I had the chance to review his album ‘Mr Music’ back in July and once I was finished I knew I wanted to interview him and get to know more about him and his music. We were finally able to make our schedules work and sit down for an hour and chat.
Below is that conversation. I will admit it is very long so I hope you have time. If not, break it up in pieces and come back to finish. When you are done, I hope you will discover what a great person he is and go out and support him and his music.
2Loud2OldMusic (2L2OM): Welcome. Thank you for taking the time to sit with me. Your album, I loved it as you can tell from my review. But for most of my audience, which has gotten bigger since then by the way (he laughed), tell them who Carey Durham is personally, musically or however.
Carey Durham (CD): That is a loaded question.
2L2OM: It is a loaded question.
CD: But I think I can give them an idea. I am Carey Durham, that’s my name, Carey Durham. I am a musician, a violinist, a singer and I am just another artist out here that takes his experiences, his environment and channels it into an art and that art is music. I guess that is the gist of what it is but that is me in a nutshell.
2L2OM: As far as the music side of it goes, I am always interested to find out who influences the artists I listen to and then I go back and listen to those artists as well. So, I am interested in who has influenced you throughout your life.
CD: Oh man, especially from the music side, I grew up playing violin. My parents started me playing violin…That is an interesting instrument to start, it’s a tough instrument you can’t really teach yourself, so I had to take private lessons and being in that setting classically, when you play the violin you play classical music. So at a very young age I was opening up and I started with the Suzuki Method, it’s like a repetitive way of learning to play violin and it’s very toned focus, and I remember my teachers not letting me move on to the next song until I played that one perfectly. That was a huge influence for me. I started learning when I was 6 and I think it is interesting for a kid learning Mozart and Bach and having that in his ear at such a young age that was a huge influence for me as well as driving, my parents are from Chicago, so driving to Chicago and listening to Motown so it’s like you have orchestral, classical music and Motown.
My Brother, who is 7 years older than me, he would listen to hip-hop and even if it wasn’t the best message you know, it had substance to it. It was a figment of the reality those hip-hop artists were in at the time and it made you think. So now we have Classical Music, Motown, hip-hip and Jazz. I love Jazz. Just all types of different, different influences based off of people that were in my life. Parents – Classical; Brother – Hip-hop.
2L2OM: You take it all and you melded it, you can hear all those influences in your album. You can hear them.
CD: I tried and yeah. I joked around with my siblings at times and we talk about how scatter brained we are (laughter from both of us). We are all over the place. One minute I am focused on this and the next minute I am all over the place, but I think it definitely shows in my music, it is my way of making sense of all of that scatteredness, if you will. It brings it all into one platform. Think of it like all of these different sounds and these different notions for things are different colors and music is a canvas. You use your tools. I feel like technique is like your paintbrush, tones are like your colors and you just paint your picture. And it might not even make sense to you but in some type of way it relates. I know it relates and it ties directly in with what I see, how I feel. I might be talking about something simple, but the way I put together music it is something that relates to me. I know, I am not the only one. We are all people. We’re all humans. I am just hoping and praying that every song I make that there is something there that relates to somebody else. If it makes you happy or makes you groove, or I don’t know makes you jive (more laughter).
2L2OM: You mentioned your parents and your brother. Your dad had posted a comment on the album review. I thought that was so cool how supportive he is and proud because he was like I just love telling people “That’s my son”. So how important was that support from your family?
CD: I will say my support from my family is my foundation. I feel like my relationship with them, other than God, is my most, that is my most cherished possession. They know me most. I feel like you know, my relationship with them is my foundation, my rock. It greatly contributes. My Dad, My Mother. When growing up, she was the one that took me and my little sisters and my older brother, every Monday to those private lessons. And despite the fact I was 6 when I started playing violin, it was cool but when I realized that I was going to have to practice…Oh Man, it was a chore you know, but I was a kid. I saw all the other kids doing what it looked like they wanted to do and I wanted to do certain things, but my Mother taught me that you got to stick with it if you want to do it. She held me accountable to that. If she had not have, I would not be playing today. And then my father, supported that and when I got older he’s doing that same thing for me and my musical endeavors as it relates to my Jazz. He’s a father figure like that and it really, really, really contributes and I don’t think without them I wouldn’t be doing any of that.
2L2OM: That’s huge. So, your album, ‘Mr. Music’, what was your inspiration for that album? What was your vision?
CD: My vision for the album really was to give listeners and anybody who wanted to pay attention an idea…it was kind of…my sister said this all the time…there is a duality to it. I learned so much from her. It was serving two purposes. The first purpose, I would say, I focus inward a lot. The first focus, that project really helped me find out and get to know me as a person. And getting that type of alignment, that is a long process, all of this constant growth, but I think that was the first step towards me realizing who Carey is, what Carey likes and doesn’t like. And then the other flip side of it was me, that project was my presentation to everyone in my environment of who I am and that was my statement saying “Hey I figured out who I am and I am letting everyone know this is what I stand for and this is where I stand”. Through the music I hope you can get a gist of me and vibe with me and maybe we can share some great ideas, we can learn from each other and it was just kind of my stance and my statement of who Carey is.
2L2OM: When you go about, cause there are original songs, you have remixes and you have some covers, but for your original songs, what is your writing process? How do you go about that?
CD: Oh man, I like to look at it as, a few of those songs I started on a long time ago. A couple of them I wrote recently. I look at it kind of like a sculpture. First you, I want to sound as humble as possible, that is really how I look at it. You start with this block of marble. Right. I have this idea and sometimes it is a groove in my head and other times it’s a concept that I want to talk about. You have this block of marble sitting in front of you and I am constantly chipping away at it. So, like with the “Radio” song. That was one of my originals. That started with finding my block of marble was the groove. And that groove that made you feel, made you bob your head and based off that and once I had that first groove and verse of the song, I was like ok, when I listen to this, how do I feel? What do I wanna do? And I start thinking of words that are associated with that groove and it kind of opens up from there.
The other original I did was “Aintcha Fool”.
2L2OM: I love that one.
CD: Thank you. That one was probably…I started the lyrics and they were the sole focus. The lyrics were my block and from there I was like… I know I want it to be a bluesesque type of feel, but how do I get my point across with cleverly simple lyrics. That was the whole focus of that was lyrics. But its kind of…the extent of my process just starts with a foundation whether it be a groove, words and I come and it takes a long process for me and I am just constantly just chipping away and how I can I say this perfectly or how I can say this or how can that beat, or how can this drum hit be perfect and I will just marinate. I will listen to these grooves and other songs for like hours. I am just like, “how can I change that?”, until you just got to let it go and it’s done.
2L2OM: At least you get to a point where you do say it’s done.
CD: Eventually I do. I have to give myself that or you focus on it forever.
2L2OM: A lot of artist have a hard time finishing and some don’t, you can hear it (both laugh).
CD: True that.
2L2OM: I love that…I have my notes…when you get to “My Violin” for me it’s like, from “My Violin” to “Get Her Back” to “Aintcha Fool”then “The Music” and “That’s All”…that little set between the little “Lectures” that is just the smoothest, the greatest little set of songs, they just flowed perfectly into one another. Because I was listening to it again the last couple of days and I just love the way…
CD: The funny thing is just a point to that. I actually went to my little sister and I asked her. I had an idea, but again based off my process of marinating on songs that I try and write something and I listen to it for hours and hours and hours…it’s kind of like saying one word over and over again, the more you say the word the more you realize how weird the word sounds. Thats like me with my songs and I will listen to it over and over again and I will get so wrapped up into something that I need a second opinion. So with my little sister, that flow and that order of songs came…I came to Cleo…Hey Cleo, I know I have been festering on these songs too much. I want a different point of view, an objective point of view on how they should be ordered. I trust you because your my sister, you know me.
2L2OM: Usually they are going to be pretty honest.
CD: Their going to be pretty honest. And why don’t you, I want you to pick the album order. And she did that.
2L2OM: It works really well.
CD: Thanks, thank you…Thank you Cleo! (laughter).
2L2OM: Now as far as the covers, how do you pick which ones because there are so many great songs, how do you narrow that down?
CD: I did the Robin Thicke cover. I did the “That’s All” cover. The Robin Thicke cover (“Get Her Back”), the process in picking that was…I am big Robin Thicke fan I love his music.
2L2OM: I have never been.
2L2OM: So, I didn’t know that was a cover.
CD: Oh, Ok.
2L2OM: I knew it sounded familiar, but I didn’t know it was a cover until you told me.
CD: I am learning that if you find different songs that fit your voice well and sometimes if they don’t fit your voice well you can change keys and stuff, but at that time when I was thinking, I knew I wanted to put covers on the project, and that song was in my rotation and his voice just sounded really well with my vocal range at the time and I just thought it was really cool. At first, the original song has just one vocal with the guitar and all that stuff. I wanted to make a point, if you are going to do a cover, figure out how to put your flavor on it.
2L2OM: You did that.
CD: How do I do it? And I love harmony. So, add harmony and figure out how to add a vibe that would be real, real cool. So, that was that one. And then the Nat King Cole, a big influence of mine growing up. My brother and my parents listened to Nat and I just love and I have always wanted to be a crooner. Hopefully one day, that is what I strive. I would love the opportunity to play for like a mini big band and like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole style where your just like “Come Fly Away” (he sings perfectly) and people say “He’s so cool!” and I would love that. I know that is the type of voice I have. So, that is my tribute to that genre and style of music.
2L2OM: And then the remixes, you have several of those on the album and you take them…and it’s the music and you do all the lyrics.
2L2OM: “Imagination” starts off the album. Which is a great way to start off the album. I really like that one. How did you come up with that?
CD: Actually, funny thing, I was…there were 2 purposes to those tracks as well. Part of it was an exercise to see you know when you have a track…it was an exercise as well as a demonstration to let people know if you give me music this is what I can do. You have something and I don’t want to forward it or ruin it, I want to compliment it. And it was kinda like, how can I do that and not ruin their song. Like how can I put my flavor on something that has already been written and not ruin it and create it into something new. You know that happens in hip-hop a lot you know with sampling and stuff like that.
With “Imagination”, I was on the way to Chicago with my dad. We were going to visit family and he had it on a cassette tape, I think it was on one of my brother’s old cassette tapes. And my dad used to have this old Nissan Quest and we always…back when my Grandmother was with us, we would always take that Nissan Quest up to Chicago. He found this little cassette tape of the Outkast instrumental. We would like try to listen by toggling between the auxillary chord and the cassette tape and he was kind of like boasting about it. He was like…”I bet you be surprised I’ve got this in the car” (we laughed). He pops it in and it was Outkast Player’s Ball’s instrumental. I was just flipping out. That’s what happens to me. When I hear an instrumental of some sort. I’ll hear it and it just, I’ll just…all these scatter brain kind of goes on and it’s just all these different possibilities for different grooves. I literally picked up my phone while he was playing in the car and just scatting all over (he scats). I was like..Dad..I am going to turn that into a remix and I am just going to do something to it. And that is kind of where it stemmed up from.
2L2OM: That is awesome. They are still influencing you still (his parents).
CD: They certainly are.
2L2OM: Alright, I have a question. What the hell is “Jupiter Love”?
CD: Oh, man. I love that song (as he is laughing).
2L2OM: What is it to you? What is “Jupiter Love” to you?
CD: “Jupiter Love” is just like..uhh..I like space, I love space references all the time. But “Jupiter Love” is like that awesome love. Amazing love.
2L2OM: I have that, so I was just wondering.
CD: It is just that awesome relationship, you know, it is a very powerful relationship. It is just my stance…thats what I want, you know what I am saying. That’s my statement…give me that Jupiter Love basically. But that artist, the same thing happened with the Player’s Ball, the artist Jeff Bradshaw, he’s a trombone player. And the original is called “N.O. Groove” like New Orleans groove. One of my friends let me hear it and as soon as I heard it…he’s like doing solo trombone on it and there were no words on it. It was how that guitarist dragged out the notes, it really inspired me to write. And I was like, oh I want to do something with this so much and I just wanted to see what I could do with that and that was sort of my take on it. When I heard it, I thought of “Jupiter Love”.
2L2OM: I was thinking about that when I was listening to it, yesterday. Jupiter Love…when i was listening to the lyrics…I was like I have that.
CD: (Laughing) See, and that is why…the lyrics…that was another thing I wanted to be a little more mature with my lyrics. But at the same time I wanted people to relate you know like when you are in that perfect relationship, it’s passionate. I wanted through the tone of my voice to exhibit a little of that passion. That ideal woman and how I would feel about her if I had to describe her and that was me talking to her. That is awesome that you go “I’ve Got That” That is awesome. That is so cool. I love that.
2L2OM: When you gave me a copy of the album, I’ve known you play violin because you have done it company events and stuff. So, I was really expecting an album of that. I was really taken aback because I was Oh My Go! this guy is really talented. But “My Violin” the Interlude…man you could do a whole of album of that. For me it is great way to wind down at night. I like David Garrett and Lindsey Stirling, artist like that kind of classical, pop stuff with the violin. But yours takes it and makes it jazzy and just do a whole album like that and I would buy it.
CD: You know a lot of people, I was surprised at the amount of people that liked that..the all violin stuff. And that was interesting and I’m definitely taking that into account.
2L2OM: Think about it, artist like David Garrett, if you know David Garret…I mean not personally, know of him.
CD: I know of him.
2L2OM: and Lindsey Stirling how they have taken it to this…like classical violin and rocked it out and changed the perception of what the violin is in music I think. I listen to them all the time and turn on it before bed just to wind down.
CD: That is cool…I’ll think…it’s churning.
2L2OM: When you recorded the album, were you able to get a lot of studio time or did you do a lot of home recording?
CD: It was a mixture of the two. For, I would say a mixture of about 50% at home and 50% in recording studio. Towards…actually it was more like 70% in the studio and 30% at home. Because one of my friends was gracious enough to offer their sound booth so towards the end when I was finishing that project, I spent a lot of time in there. It was like a sound treated closet basically. I had the Neumann U87 sitting up in there. I was just sitting on a bench trying to get the vocals perfectly. Probably a little bit of the work at home was mixing. It was between the set of speakers I have at my house and the set of speakers at the studio, but when I was in Georgia I was finishing the project. That is about between my house and the studio it was about 30 miles. It was a little bit of a drive. I was getting rough mixes at the house and then take them to the studio.
2L2OM: I know getting studio time can be hard.
CD: Yeah. It was cool. It was a mixture of what I wanted to do and if I wanted high quality on it. Some of the vocals I did at a friend’s studio and I paid him. But another guy kind of opened his doors for me. His name was Jeremy Gould. He had a cool studio. It’s not in business anymore but he was very supportive of me. I brought a little business up there and helped him out and supported him. Big ups to him for allowing me to come in there and finish up a lot of that project.
2L2OM: That is awesome. I know you are living up here in Charlotte now, but you do go back to Atlanta a lot and play.
CD: Yes, I didn’t want to cut the ties. I am pretty much there every weekend working on independent projects and gigging. I am into Jazz a lot more. Every other Friday, I play with a gentleman name John Beal. He has a Jazz group called the John Beal Collective. He has a collective group of musicians out in Atlanta and he just did a huge album release party at Clark Atlanta for his album. Just a great group. These guys are very well nit in the the Jazz market. Some great players and he was gracious enough to take me under his wing and let me find my place on the Jazz platform. It’s like a conversation and it has been so much fun learning how to speak with him.
I have really been enjoying that as well as working on a side project with another buddy of mine I have collaborated with in Atlanta. We are trying to figure out our sounds and how we can fabricate new sounds. We have kind of figured out another name for the group. Thinking of calling it ‘Soular’. It is kind like an inwardly focusing. I am always outwardly thinking. I love space, but it is kind of an analogy of soul, your soul that is within you as well as solar is kind of analogy for people who outwardly focus. Some people trying to find the meaning of life. What makes you happy and some people focus on the clouds and focus on the stars to find those answers at the same time other people focus inwardly. And we want to make a statement with our music that brings both of those type of mindsets together on one cord. We are still working on our sound and rehearsing every weekend. Slowly but surely, we are going to start stepping out there and introduce ourselves. It is basically Jazz, funk, a little but of rock all that kind of mashed together in an improvisational platform with a little bit of singing and jamming out. We are all just being ourselves.
2L2OM: Well, keep me informed on that.
CD: I definitely will.
2L2OM: I would love to listen to it. So, do we have any plans on playing in Charlotte?
CD: I’ve caught a couple of gigs up here through different event planners and stuff like that. Actually tomorrow night (last Friday), I am playing at a venue but it doesn’t matter for this interview.
2L2OM: Yep, because by the time I post this it will have passed.
CD: Every once and while I will get a small, small like restaurant type of gig where I am sitting off and improving over a series of tracks. I haven’t gotten bigger shows out here yet just because I haven’t been out in the market and its kind of difficult since I haven’t cut my ties in Atlanta. But the events out here are basically the smaller private events. A couple of public ones here and there.
2L2OM: I know we have been talking about all the projects, but what about any new music from you? I know you post stuff all the time when you have gotten new YouTube videos, but as far as a new collection, I know this collection came out last April?
CD: Yes, last April
2L2OM: Well, it might be too soon for a new album, but…
CD: Oh well, a lot of times those projects stem off of what is going on. I was about to move out to Charlotte before the album came out. Moving out to Charlotte was my fire that really drove me to finish the project. I had been working on it and all over the place and I was like, I am moving to Charlotte I am getting it done. It kind of depends. Right now, I have a lot on my plate, the stresses of moving to Charlotte with trying to get my stuff together so I could be cool in Charlotte is what helped me out. I gotta lot on my plate right now and I kind of got back into the writing process and playing with these jazz guys out in Atlanta has really inspired me to get back to the writing board and write something completely new and fresh. So, I’ve got a few grooves established. A couple of slabs of marble sitting in front of me. (Laughs). I am chiseling thinking of words. I want to make the words that much more impactful and relatable. I don’t want to create anything that is too complicated that goes over the listeners head. I want to be very profound in what I say or clever. I’ve got a few ideas, thinking of another project. It probably won’t be another 10 song project. You know, something to reflect my situation and outlet from the stresses of life and try and redirect it in a positive way where people can enjoy it.
2L2OM: We need that right now.
CD: I know we do.
2L2OM: I know all about the stress of moving to Charlotte, been there (we laugh). Done that 3 years ago…okay maybe 2 1/2. Yeah, it’s not fun.
CD: The stresses of trying to hang on to it all. I got a lot on my plate, but the music is definitely helping.
2L2OM: How can people get a hold of your music?
CD: I have a few different ways. The biggest one, go to my Pandora channel. Type in Carey Durham into Pandora. I have been so happy with some of the cool music they grouped my…I put my originals on there. And based off how they group me with Pandora, I am really going to strive…and definitely those new songs I am putting straight on to Pandora. It is just cool, they put me with like War, Curtis Mayfield. I was so flattered. I was like really you put me with these guys. That made me want to, I want to write more music and get them on there. Pretty prominent on YouTube. Type Carey Durham in to Youtube, I have my own channel. I post almost all of my stuff on there, if I am doing live, bluegrass. Follow me on Facebook…
CD: Oh yeah, actually I did country, you saw the video I posted for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.
2L2OM: Yeah, that is right.
CD: That was a fun one. I did it with a buddy of mine out in Rome, Ga, named Arlow Finch. He does like blues, country. I love playing that stuff. Bluegrass is a little quicker. I think I got the chops for it. It is just a fun, I love that platform.
2L2OM: You have made the violin very versatile. You are doing it all with it.
CD: It’s a cool instrument. Let’s people know that there are so many different instruments that the violin can, not necessarily imitate, but different tones and phrasing, you can sound smooth, have smooth long notes like a saxophone and very percussive notes like a piano. You can pluck it like a banjo, a mandolin. I am thinking about picking that up. I know I strayed off a little bit. I am on iTunes, Facebook, Pandora, Youtube, Instagram, Bandcamp.
2L2OM: Bandcamp, that is the one I was thinking of.
CD: My whole album is on Bandcamp as well. Soundcloud. The whole album is on there as well as some independent projects. I’ve got on there a Michael Jackson cover from awhile back. They are all kind of spread out there among the different media platforms.
2L2OM: I will make sure to link all of those to it so that people can get ahold of what they can. Everybody does it a little bit different.
CD: I try to be acommodating.
2L2OM: I think you have it all covered.
CD: It’s like if you really want to listen to me and your stringent on the platform, you should catch in some sort of way.
2L2OM: Any last words you would like to let the public know?
CD: I just kind of bounce off what has been on my mind of late and what my music is all about. My music is about being you. Finding yourself and exhibiting that self to its truest and best of its abilities to the benefit of not only you but your environment and the people around you. You are a mirror of your environment. Your environment is a mirror of you. It is up to you to subjectively be who you want to be and that is all I am out here trying to do.
2L2OM: Well that sounds good. Good way to end. Thanks for your time and I am going to stop this recording now and make sure I didn’t screw anything up otherwise we are going to have to do this again.
CD: (Laughing) I’ll do it again, its okay.
I hope you enjoyed the interview. I need to figure out how to do a podcast, because this takes a long time to type up. Or I need to find some software to transcribe. Here is where you can get connected with Carey Durham:
You can download his album at www.careydurham.bandcamp.com. You can download for free or donate an amount of your choice. I definitely recommend donating and showing support for him so we can continue to receive his music.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed doing it.