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Interviews

Carmen Lundy Presents... Carmen Lundy

By Published: March 13, 2004
“I think I’ve been working on these tunes for about two years. Some of them were written in the last couple years. And during that period, a few of them I would play before I recorded them, so I could get some feedback from the audience and also from the musicians in terms of what the tune played like and if it had a vibe, or if it needed some work. And the songs actually developed that way, into what we hear on this record. They’ll probably change a little bit. I might do something faster or slower, live – that sort of interpretive thing that I like to continue. But it’s all original music.

“It was really my brother’s [bassist Curtis Lundy, also producer of the CD] inspiration. It was his idea, his suggestion that we go for new music. And this is something that he’s done too. This is sort of an outgrowth, I think, of what he started, really, prior to our making this record, which is something, I must say, I hadn’t really thought about until now, talking with you. So the whole idea is really because of his suggestion, to make this kind of a statement now in my career, because I previously have been associated with singing standards, lots of the familiar repertoire done by all the great jazz artists. It was a certain point in my career where I felt like I needed that signature piece and didn’t quite know which one it was. Hopefully, out of nine, something will come of it.”

The CD has a contemporary feel, but was it by design?

“No. Not at all by design. I don’t really approach composition from a clinical point of view. It’s really more of an inspiration. I don’t stop and think: ‘Gee, I’m gonna write a contemporary kind of a song.’ You don’t just stop and make that kind of a decision, because songs don’t get born like that really. I mean if someone called me up and said, ‘Look Miss Lundy, we’d like you to write a jingle for blah-blah-blah dental corporation.’ Then you’d know they want something that has to do with teeth. But otherwise, the whole writing experience is more a stream of consciousness, more of a kind of being there when the songs happens. And then the song develops and then other musicians may play it. And you think about what it would sound like if it were approached in a totally different way than you originally conceived it. All those things happen. So I don’t know that I stop to make those kinds of final decisions about what the song is and what market it’s going to reach. Oh gosh, that’s too much for me to think about [laughter].”

In composing, the melody is what usually comes to her before anything else. “Then it’s harmony. Or it’s harmony and melody simultaneously. With the harmony and melody sometimes the rhythm is just there. And sometimes not. The lyrics? It’s a beautiful thing when you hear it all at once, you know? You hear the words, you hear the music, you hear the chords, you hear the rhythm, you hear everything. It’s just there, happening. Other times you develop an idea. Some kind of a thought, or musical phrase will evolve into some other part of what the initial creative thought was, the idea, the melody. So I think it’s the melody [first]. Every now and then you hear the words at the same time, but I guess it’s different for every writer. I don’t know that it’s one particular process for all.”

That’s cool coming from a woman whose formative years in the late 60s and into the 70s was influenced by the rock and folk that swamped television and radio was emblematic of those times. But her exposure to all kinds of music started in early childhood having come from a musical family.

“The sound of music was just something that was in my sight line all the time. My mom was a wonderful singer of gospel music. She had a group that was made up of siblings, as well as extended family and community members. They sang together for 40 years. I have an aunt who plays incredible piano. An uncle who played organ. Another aunt who sang professionally for a little while. So there are many, many influences that were just inside my family life as a kid. I guess when I got to be a little older, I was crazy for the Beatles and crazy for Carole King, and Dionne Warwick and Robert Flack and on and on.”

Eventually, jazz crept into her life and she found its improvisational and artful nature took her to a place where she could flourish. A high school friend and pianist she worked with at that time, David Woodstein, turned her on to it.


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