Caro Emerald, Dutch pop and jazz singer, chats with Kevin Cooper about having her debut album spend thirty weeks in the Dutch album charts, playing Glastonbury, her fondness for The Royal Albert Hall and her forthcoming Emerald Island Tour of the UK
Caro Emerald is a Dutch pop and jazz singer whose debut single Back It Up was released in 2009. Her follow up single A Night Like This reached number one in the Netherlands.
Her debut album Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor was written and produced as a studio project by David Schreurs, Vincent Degiorgio, Jan van Wieringen and Van der Leeuw, with Caro as the starring artist. In August 2010, the album spent its thirtieth week at number one in the Dutch album charts, setting an all-time record and beating Michael Jackson’s Thriller by one week. The album became the biggest selling album of 2010 in the Netherlands having sold over 350,000 copies to date. Her success continued when she released her second studio album, The Shocking Miss Emerald in 2013, when it entered the UK album chart at number one.
Often praised for her outstanding live performances, she took some time away from rehearsals to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.
Hi Caro, how are you today?
Hi Kevin, I’m good thanks how are you?
I’m very well thank you and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
No, I thank you. I am very happy that I can do this.
And just how is life treating Caro Emerald?
(Laughter) well you certainly picked the right person to ask that question (laughter). My life has been so amazing for the past eight years. It has been totally amazing. In fact I am sometimes afraid that I am going to use up all of my good karma because I feel like the luckiest person in the world with everything that I do constantly.
You are bringing your Emerald Island Tour over to the UK in March. Are you pleased with just how well the tickets are selling?
I am so looking forward to coming over to the UK once again. In fact I think that this is the biggest part of the whole tour. You know what, it is just incredible what is happening now. I know that not many artists can do big tours now in the UK, particularly artists from outside the UK but what is even more special is that I haven’t released an album since 2013. Despite that, people are still buying my tickets and still coming to my shows. I feel completely blessed that this is happening; my tours keep getting bigger and bigger and half of the shows in the UK have already sold out.
And I have to say that you are currently in the nice position where you are adding shows to the tour.
Yes I know (laughter). That’s a great position to be in.
I have to say from the outset that I love what you do. I think it’s fantastic.
Thank you, that is so nice of you to say.
I photographed your show here in Nottingham back in 2014 and I have been a fan ever since.
Really, that’s nice. That’s good to hear so thank you. So you make pictures?
(Laughter) I try.
(Laughter) that’s not easy is it.
Well I do try really hard (laughter). So just what can we expect from the tour?
Well I have got something new for the people and it is going to be a really exciting show. We have just had a week of rehearsing and we have been working with some new plans. I have also been working for some time now with the new album and I have been inspired by many new genres that I haven’t listened to before. One of them is exotica which is a weird music genre from back in the 50’s and 60’s where they tried to copy music from faraway places. It was their fictional idea of fantasy. So think drums, jungle sounds, screams and that sort of stuff. The guys who I work with are real sound nerds and they just love that. They love to squeeze all of that into my sound so that is what we do.
So I have been writing songs whilst thinking about that genre in my head whilst at the same time preparing the new stage show. I really wanted to play some new material so I decided to add a couple of new songs whilst the album is still not finished. I can still give the people something new which was also a part of the inspiration for the new show. That’s why the tour is called the Emerald Island Tour; I am going to whisk everybody away to my island just for a couple of hours where hopefully they will feel that they are in a new world experiencing the Emerald Island feeling.
When you mentioned drums and screams I immediately thought of Fay Wray in King Kong.
(Hysterical laughter) well maybe (laughter). Maybe you are not so far off, so perhaps you should just type it in and Google it and you will see that it is all quite strange. It may not be that easy to match to my music. However, as we are all now sound wizards we use a lot of different sounds within my music but of course everything is beat driven and still very much produced. It is just so much fun to play around with all of these sounds which immediately give you a feeling; they just give the right atmosphere to a particular song, and it is great what you can do once you start experimenting with things such as that.
Does touring still give you that buzz?
(Laughter) yes it does, very much. I really do love touring and it always makes me feel like a woman of the world when I am doing that. Especially since I am very lucky to be in a position to play large venues and we also have enough budget to make it a very comfortable tour. I travel by bus and everything is so very well organised. They cook me a great dinner every time so for me it is almost like a holiday but then I also get to sing every night which is the greatest thing that I love in the world. So yes, I still really love touring and this time is even different as I have a totally new show, and I am so much looking forward to performing my new material. I am so happy that this tour actually feels like a present that I am giving to myself.
Do the UK fans treat you well?
Oh very much. Of course I love all of my audiences everywhere but I would describe the UK audiences as being like the best kid in the class (laughter). Somehow they just really know how to behave well in every kind of way. They are all really enthusiastic and outgoing which gives me a lot of energy whilst at the same time they also know when to be quiet during the intimate parts of the show. When I ask everyone to stand up and dance they are only happy to do that for me so that is just amazing for me. That all goes towards making a perfect show and also the perfect experience for everyone who is in the room. So yes, I really do love the UK audiences I really do.
What annoys me is the growing trend of people in the audience spending the whole evening watching the show through their iPhone.
(Laughter) yes that’s true and I do find that annoying. I know what you mean but I also have to say that my mother does it all the time. Some people just do that but because I play most of my shows in theatres it is much different I think. However, I have noticed that whenever I play standing shows, which I like very much as well because it gives a lot of different energy and dynamics, it is then when I notice the most people with their phones out. I agree it is quite strange isn’t it, I understand it though but yes, it’s weird. I miss out on a real connection with the people. I feel that at some point artists will want to change this because it can be annoying.
If it is ten or twenty of the audience that are doing this then that is fine but if it is over half then it tends to get really, really annoying. I have to say that my audiences are really nice, they don’t do that too much.
Putting you on the spot now, do you have a favourite venue here in the UK?
(Laughter) oh come on Kevin that really is an unfair question (laughter). Well, the one that I am really looking forward to the most on this tour is the Royal Albert Hall in London. I have played there once before and I have to say that it was a very special experience for me. I am going to be playing there again and I am pleased to say that it has already sold-out. So the Royal Albert Hall really is one of my favourites.
Do you get nervous when you step out onto the stage at the Royal Albert Hall when you think of all the greats that have played there before you?
(Laughter) yes I do, I really do. But what helps a lot is when I am touring for the first few shows I am still really nervous because I am still getting used to what we do, the new repertoire and stuff like that. However, this time that will be whilst I am still in Holland so once I am there in the UK the show will be finished, completely polished and comfortable so usually I am not that nervous anymore, just usually for five minutes before the show. However, I think that I will be more nervous than usual before the show at the Royal Albert Hall. I remember the last time that I played there I found myself crying on the stage for the very first time. I was crying so hard that I couldn’t speak anymore (laughter).
It is such a wonderful building isn’t it?
Yes it is, and you have to understand that for everybody the Royal Albert Hall is a very special venue, but for me to be this Dutch girl making it out in the world, the whole of Holland was watching me thinking ‘wow no one has ever achieved this before her’. People couldn’t even think of any other Dutch person who had done that. Probably they had existed but nobody knew. So for me it was such a big thing for me to be performing there. I had a lot of Dutch fans who came over to experience that with me. So for me that was a very magical night.
You have briefly mentioned a new studio album. Have far are you into it and what can you tell me about it?
I would have to say that we are currently about halfway, and that means that there is a lot of songs that still have to be written I think. However, it is always so hard to tell because I have been writing a lot for the past year trying out new stuff and trying to reinvent what it is that I like. I am trying to find a refreshing take on a sound; I just don’t want to start repeating myself. Of course I can fill up a new album with songs but I really want it to be as exciting as the first two albums were. That’s what I have been doing and I now have a whole load of songs but I am not sure that any of them will be on the album because I am looking for something better even better than what I have done before.
A couple of them sound really great and so I am going to play them on the forthcoming tour. And the other ones it is kind of hard to tell when I will be writing those songs (laughter). You never know whether they are going to work out or not. So now I just say that the album will be done when it is done (laughter). I will let everyone know when I know.
You have won a whole host of awards during your career. Does any one of them give you a real sense of pride?
I have been so lucky in my career to be in a position to win a number of big awards. I have won every kind of award that anyone would ever want to here in Holland. However, there are a couple that stand out. I won the Popprijs in 2010, which is a very big one here in Holland, for being voted the best Dutch pop act of 2010. It is awarded to someone who has contributed to the Dutch music culture. They usually award that to people who have been around for twenty years but they gave it to me after only one year in the music which for me was a really big acknowledgement. The other award that I really loved was being elected by the Dutch audiences as being the best singer for a really massive radio station back in 2011. So that for me was a really big thing.
Also, I have to mention my biggest international award which was a German Echo Award for being voted the Best International Newcomer in 2012. I remember being voted the best newcomer and I won it above Lana Del Ray (laughter). I really admire her music and her but winning that really did make me feel good about what I was doing.
Your first album Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor spent thirty weeks at number one in the Dutch charts beating Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Just how did that make you feel?
(Laughter) it is always hard for me to describe because you have to envision what my life was like back then. I was in the middle of a storm, I didn’t even see the storm because I was in the eye of the storm, which was what it was like. Everyone kept telling me that I was going to win this award and that award and I never even knew those awards would even exist and I never knew anything about record sales and what was normal. I then figured out that this was a big deal and beyond the normal but it was never really clear just how far beyond the normal it was. I mean there are expectations and there are expectations. However, as soon as it happened, then I knew.
I suddenly realised that I was making history and that I was completely unique in what I was achieving. Now when I look back I still find it completely unbelievable that I shook the earth that year. If you look at the Dutch music industry the whole thing that I achieved was enormous. It is something that has never happened before and probably never will again. That is how I now look at it and I feel completely blessed although I never feel that I can compete with the ‘King Of Pop’ (Jackson) but yes, it sure feels good (laughter).
Who has musically inspired you?
There have been a lot of people. I always thought that you had to choose either the music or the voice and then sometimes together. So the voices that have inspired me have all come from the soul jazz corner I guess. People like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Eva Cassidy and Amy Winehouse all of the people who have a soul within their voice. The people who can really carry a song.
What was the first single that you bought?
I didn’t buy it myself, but I do remember my parents buying me a cassette of Madonna’s first album which was also called Madonna. So that would be the first album that I actually owned.
What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?
I think that the last time that I had an experience with music that made me cry was when I was singing at the funeral of a friend. I sang If You Go Away by Dusty Springfield. I have to say that it was a very heavy moment for me.
If you had to pick just one, what would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
Jeez that is so unfair (laughter). I think that I would have to say playing at Glastonbury in 2014. I actually enjoyed it big time but I never saw it coming. I was booked to play the Pyramid Stage at noon and what shocked me was that there were around forty thousand people there to see me (laughter). The whole field in front of me was full of people. I was flabbergasted. I only played for forty-five minutes but let me tell you those forty-five minutes were absolutely great. For me it was a fantastic experience.
You are so welcome Kevin. Thank you so much for your time and I will see you in Nottingham.