With her 2010 multi-platinum debut album going straight to No 1 in the UK charts, the look of a Hollywood icon of yesteryear, and a voice that oozes warmth and vitality, Dutch singing sensation Caro Emerald has fashioned her own niche.
Gorgeous and stylish, Caro blends retro jazz with sampling and modern pop to create her signature sound with a repertoire that features an original infusion of ballroom jazz, cinematic tangos, groovin’ jazz and infectious mambos reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Her second album The Shocking Miss Emerald entered the Official UK Album Chart at No 1, remaining in the chart for an entire year. With more than 2.5 million record sales, 40 million YouTube views, a host of awards, and a string of sold-out tours, she’s ready to hit the road again with her most extensive UK tour yet – ‘The Emerald Island Tour’ I caught up with Caro at her home in Amsterdam.
“Guttenmedaag Caro,” I state in a rather rough Yorkshire accent. Caro giggles, politely humouring me. “Was that any good?” I ask.
“Good enough for me to understand you,” she laughs. Her voice is as smooth as a pint of Guinness soaked in silk. “It’s going to be a great show,” she says, “and I’m even more excited about this show than any other. There’s lots of new material and we’ve added a percussionist to the line-up which makes it more interesting.”
Although her third album isn’t quite finished yet, she’ll be performing a couple of new tracks from it along with some of her more well-known tunes. “I always ask myself when I go to concerts, what do people want to hear, and Adele is still performing her songs from when she was 21.”
On the Caro Emerald tour she will be visiting Sheffield and Harrogate so I was keen to discover if her catering team had ever made her a good old Yorkshire pudding… “Oh, I think I have. Is it black?”… confusing it for another northern delicacy. I go on to tell her it’s a dish made from flour and water. “Well, the caterers are from the UK and they tend to cook more traditional dishes, so I’ll make sure they add them to the menu.”
I naturally write in English, it makes sense. For me, the English language is really connected to music
Mum to a three-year-old daughter, who often joins her on tour. “It’s great to be able to take her. I love my job so much. I couldn’t just sit at home all day, so I’m very blessed to have her with me. She’s too young to understand what I’m doing, but she’s incredibly fascinated by what I’m doing. She knows when I’m going to sing because that’s when I put on my make-up and then she’ll want to get dressed up too.
So you don’t parade around the house in the daytime smothered in make-up then? “No, I have more to do.”
A woman after my own heart, and like me, she loves a good boogie.
“I love something with a good groove and anything that makes me dance. That’s what I love about my shows. I love it when people just get up and dance.”
Many musicians have a preference when it comes to either performing or being in the studio, but Caro likes to do both.
“I like it to balance out. I really enjoy being on tour but afterwards I have time for a couple of months to be still and have time to think about what I want to write. I love both processes. For me what’s so great about life is that you just have to perform. There’s no choice. There’s no take-two and definitely no room for doubts. I love it when all the energy comes together while performing live. But, when I’m in the studio there is a lot of room for detail and growth.”
When it comes to composing, I wondered if Caro wrote in Dutch or English.
“Oh, that’s a good question. No-one’s ever asked me that. When I write songs I naturally write in English, it makes sense. For me, the English language is really connected to music.”
Despite being a massive star in Holland with a huge following, Caro finds that her UK fans are much more loyal than her Dutch audience.
“Each time I return to do a tour in the UK, it gets bigger and bigger. I love playing in Holland and the audiences are great. However, it feels more intimate and scarier as I’m singing in my native language which makes me feel naked and exposed. I don’t know why, singing in English makes it so much easier to get in the role of a performer and front lady.”
After years touring the world, Caro views UK audiences as ‘the best kid in the class’, when it comes to behaviour. “They’re great, they clap when they’re supposed to, they cheer and love to dance.”
Caro always believed that her music would attract a certain type, particularly serious jazz lovers, and is surprised by the diverse audience she draws in. “There’s kids from the age of three that really love my music, as well as people over 80, which is great.”
Does Caro’s work define her? “Well I guess so. However, I prefer to see it as me, defining my work. When I began interacting and talking with my audience I found it very difficult at first. I had to discover what my identity as an artist was. As a person I knew my identity. I don’t talk a lot because I believe people come to listen to music.”
Not content enough with running after her daughter, picking up endless pieces of plastic while also performing around the world, this lady also has her own record label, Grandmono Records, which she set up in 2009 with pals David Schreurs and Jan van Wieringen. “I get to control my life a lot more than I would if I was under a big record label. All of us are in it together. Of course we love the success and money but it’s really liberating.”
“That’s a tough question,” she exclaims, when I ask her who she would invite round (past or present, dead or alive) to her house for Dutch pancakes. “Well, I admired Michael Jackson and thought he was the ultimate superstar, but I don’t think I would feel very comfortable at a dinner table with him. I’d like someone who I could have a joke with, so, it would have to be Louis Armstrong.”
It’s sadly time to say goodbye, so in true ‘Karen style’ I attempt to say good-bye in Dutch which is ‘Doei’ and she politely returns the gesture when I insist she says goodbye in Yorkshire…
“Tara, Karen, tara.”
Caro Emerald tour dates in the North
15 April – The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
16 April – The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
19 April – City Hall, Hull
21 April – International Centre, Harrogate
22 April – City Hall, Sheffield
24 April – Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Book tickets at www.caroemerald.com