Bluesy guitar and twinkling piano accompany singer Linda Carone in her throaty send-up of “Big Bad Handsome Man.” She swings easily on “Sweet Lotus Blossom” and “Guilty” breathlessly relates a tale of hopeless love.
Most remarkable about her style is the lack of superfluous adornment; she offers just enough vibrato and trails off a thought so cleanly that you know you’re listening to the voice of a strong and experienced master.
Your inspiration came from Billie Holiday. What song hooked you?
Probably “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)”; “Willow Weep for Me” or “Don’t Explain.”
I love the authenticity of her voice. It is raw with no affectation, yet she seems to have complete control with her phrasing. She knew how to use her voice and tell the story in her way and she takes you into the lyric with her, and it feels like her story.
What is the most enjoyable part of practicing your craft?
It is the feeling of freedom, of release and strength when I reach the high notes in my vocal warmups. It is a point where I can feel grounded and free with my voice.
What is the music scene like in Toronto?
There is quite a bit of talent here. Most musicians believe there are not enough venues for everyone to gig. Getting paid a decent wage seems to be an issue as well. If you dig, you can find a venue to play.
For me, I’ve had to create a few of my own residencies and opportunities in order to play, although they were not always jazz venues.
Favorite places to perform in Canada? In the US? Europe etc.?
A few upscale jazz clubs in Toronto, Jazz Bistro and Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Inn are great venues to play. Some places I’ve performed are no longer around and many venues have short lives.
Sure, I’d love to tour Europe. I receive airplay all over the world: Spain, France, Japan, Germany and Brazil.
There are definitely cities and music festivals in the United States that would be great to attend as well. I hear that the audiences in New York are very vocal and appreciative when it comes to jazz.
If you had to choose one song that summed you up, what would it be?
Well I would like to think it would be “Livin’ My Life My Way,” which is the last track on my album. Helen Humes recorded that song in 1950. Although she was considered a jazz, blues and R&B diva, Humes said of her career, “I’m not trying to be a star. I want to work and be happy and just go along and have my friends. That’s my career.”
I like how she didn’t just jump at anything in order to be seen; she did as she pleased. I too am not one to necessarily play by the rules, so the lyrics of this song sum up my outlook.
Why do you like expressing yourself through sultry torch songs?
Well, I do love a good torch tune…I tend to be drawn to them. There is always something I can relate to within the lyrics.
How did you select the songs for the CD “Black Moonlight”?
After years of listening to various types of music including jazz and blues, I experimented with my voice and different sounds. I only choose songs I love, not because they are popular or because it might “sell.” I gravitate to songs that might have been popular in a different era and many of those songs were lost or forgotten.
For me it’s all about FEEL. So my repertoire is based simply on what I like and if it works and feels right with my voice.
There are so many singers doing the same songs and I usually prefer the first person who sang those songs. There are so many deserving songs that should be heard, and if I am passionate about the lesser-known songs and it works for me, why wouldn’t I sing them?
Your single biggest challenge in the industry?
My biggest obstacle was getting to this point in the first place. It took a lot of time and courage to express myself through musical performance.
I’m accustomed to making music and staying behind the scenes. It’s difficult to engage in marketing and promoting oneself within the music business when you are an artist. But then if you don’t challenge yourself, you’ll never know what you can do.
How do you reconcile PC issues? Are these older songs still relevant?
There are a few songs where I’ve had to rethink, perhaps I should be concerned that someone may get offended by a song because it talks about drugs, sex and or racial issues, but that’s when I’ll inform the audience what I’ve learned about this song and when it was written. I believe many of those lyrics hold relevance today.
How would you characterize your voice?
Honestly I’m not really sure. I find it difficult to listen to myself. Someone described my voice as PURE so that seems okay with me, mainly because I am not attempting vocal acrobatics or trying too hard to put it on. I just sing with the voice I’ve got.
What new style or techniques would you like to explore?
I listen to different genres of music, so at times I add a dash of 60’s lounge soundtrack type of stuff, or a song I consider to be a classic from icons such as Elton John or George Michael. I stick with songs that suit my voice and not on a particular vocal technique.
If a song isn’t working and it doesn’t feel right at that time, I may come back to it later. There are other genres that excite me. I think about experimenting with Afro/dub rhythms, drum and bass, and electronica.
How do the band members follow your lead?
Every show is an opportunity to work with different musicians. If there is a beautiful piano at the venue, then I most definitely like to have a pianist. If the venue is cozy and intimate, I might just choose a guitarist. I love it when I get to work with a full swing band where I can sing the upbeat swing tunes too.
The musicians here in Toronto are extremely talented and if they happen to be available for my gigs, then I consider myself lucky.
Working with George Koller on the album as producer and bassist was a treat. I recall the first time seeing George play the bass. I was so impressed with his bass solo. It makes you want to stop and listen and appreciate.
Are you surprised at your finalist status on the American Tracks Music Awards for “Big Bad Handsome Man”?
It is a nice little bonus to get some recognition when you put your heart and soul into a project. “Big Bad Handsome Man” has received a lot of online attention and put me on the digital map. It is the one contemporary song on my album, written by Imelda May, an Irish singer and songwriter. I love her sound and rockabilly vibe, a genre I’ve always loved. I just gravitated to the song, mixed it into my repertoire and it seems to have stuck.
I recall someone saying that I had a knack for choosing songs that work for me after hearing me sing that tune. Of course, I just do it in my own way. I love Imelda’s version and I don’t try to sound like her.
Do you do duets? Something to explore in the future?
I haven’t had a chance to partake in many duets but yes there are some artists that would be great to duet with. How about Tony Bennett, John Pizzarelli, Jamie Cullum, Kurt Elling or Michael Kaeshammer?
Plans for performing and touring this year?
I will keep on performing when I can.
As far as touring goes, I’m actually not sure how to go about that. I have much to learn with the business side of music.
Best piece of advice for people breaking into jazz whether vocalist or other instrument?
Don’t waste time being afraid to make a move or to follow your heart. If you think you look like an idiot, no one cares – really!
Do it for you and no one else.
Thank you for listening.
For more information, visit www.lindacarone.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of Linda Carone.
© Debbie Burke 2018