The following articles and interviews are reprinted with permission on this page:
Carey Colvin was delighted to answer questions about her concert tonight in Alexandria; it took her away from doing her taxes.
"I'm sitting here surrounded by receipts," the singer-songwriter said.
The Washington area native returned to Virginia in January (she now lives closer to Richmond) after living in Florida for five years with her husband and musical partner, Granger Helvey. "We definitely want to continue playing in the area with the kickoff of this show," she said.
The pair's show at the Athenaeum is part of a series presented by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association in conjunction with the Songwriters Association of Washington and the Alexandria Performing Arts Association.
Colvin's area musical associations include multiple Wammie™ awards and nominations and performances as a solo act and in collaboration with Helvey. She won debut recording of the year in 2000 for "The Distance Wall," which highlights her warm, expressive vocals in a set of original material encompassing blues, soft rock and contemporary folk.
Colvin and Helvey also received a Wammie this year for distinguished service, after writing the script for the awards presentation for a dozen years. "I herd the cats," she said, while Helvey coordinates the music.
Although she still occasionally performs as a solo artist, Colvin likes the duo format with Helvey on electric bass and vocals.
"He prefers to be a background person, whereas I keep throwing his name in there," she said with a laugh. "The first album is basically a collection of about 20 years' worth of songs that I wrote. Mainly it was a solo project because I was a solo artist for so long. Then it became the Carey Colvin Band, and we were basically doing my material."
When the two moved to Florida in 2003, they continued to perform occasionally as a duo. But it was a time, Colvin recalled, when "I put on my mom hat" and concentrated on rearing the couple's four children. "We basically went on hiatus."
Still, supporters urged her to "chip away" at a second solo CD, which is nearing completion. One fan was folk/rock pioneer David Crosby of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
"I met 'Cros' online," she said, after joining an online CSN&Y discussion group, to which she contributed, on AOL, where he was also a contributor. "So we became pen pals, as it were." Colvin sent him a tape of her songs, which inspired a quote in her press kit: "Definitely give up your day job!"
After meeting online in the mid-1990s, the two met in person in 1998 when CPR (a trio of Crosby, Jeff Pevar and James Raymond) played at the Birchmere. Meeting her idol/online friend, she remembered, was "so surreal, I can't begin to tell you. He takes my hand, and he goes, 'You've got the most beautiful voice,' with my hand in his and my jaw on the floor."
Two years later, Colvin opened for CPR at the Birchmere. A song on her new album is a Crosby-Pevar composition, "Little Blind Fish," with Pevar playing bass and mandolin (NOTE: Peev actually plays the guitars and mandolin; Granger plays the bass). Pevar also plays on a Colvin tune, "Love Have Mercy," which she proudly calls "one of my best songs."
Being back in Virginia has its momentary discomforts.
"I haven't had a Virginia spring in five years. I'm sneezing and coughing!" she said.
The Athenaeum show is a chance to reunite with opening act Roger Henderson, for whom she sang backup in the 1980s.
"I'm hoping to sit in with Roger and maybe throw in a backing vocal or two," she said. "If I get a chance to sing, honey, I'm there."
Despite the occasional minor inconveniences, "we're real glad to be back in the area," Colvin said. "It's something we've wanted to do for a while. To me, this show is more than a show. It's not exactly a homecoming, but it's like spring again. It's a new beginning."
Carey was interviewed by Rebecca Ross of the Pensacola News Journal for her performance at the Greater Good Music, Art, & Children's Festival, which was part of the International Squeaky Wheel Tour to help find missing persons.
Pensacola News Journal, Pensacola, FL - October 14, 2006
By Rebecca Ross
Reprinted with permission from Pensacola News Journal
Music, arts fest also shines a spotlight on missing persons
This weekend, visitors to the Greater Good Music, Art and Children's Festival will be asked to spare a moment from the fun to remember the missing.
The festival, taking place today and Sunday on a farm in Davisville, is joining forces with the international Squeaky Wheel Tour to highlight four missing persons from the Gulf Coast area.
Carey Colvin and Granger Helvey, a Navarre wife-and-husband singer-songwriter duo who are regulars on WUWF-FM's "RadioLive" show, will perform at the Greater Good Festival as Squeaky Wheel participants.
The tour, sponsored by the Los Angeles-based GINA for Missing Persons group, is a worldwide musical effort to raise awareness for missing persons. Hundreds of artists will perform at events throughout the United States and eight countries to bring attention to more than 150 missing people.
"When you live in a community, you need to participate in that community, and the Greater Good festival is an amazing opportunity for me to participate in two important events at once," said Colvin, who got involved with GINA after taking on the role of Web master for its founder, Jannel Rap.
Rap's sister, musician Gina Bos, disappeared in Lincoln, Neb., six years ago.
"When I learned about Squeaky Wheel, I knew I wanted to be part of it. It is vital that we remind the public that missing people are still out there. Our goal is to bring at least one person home," Colvin said.
During their performances this weekend, she and her husband will provide festivalgoers with information on four missing persons: Melissa Lynn Eck of Pensacola, Aaron Harry Seitz of Milton, Darlene Louise Lary of Prichard, Ala., and Lisa Ann Pierce of Mobile.
Colvin contacted Aaron Seitz's mother and invited her to attend the festival.
"Aaron's mom told me, 'Thank you for remembering,' and something like that is why I do what I do. Everyone needs to try to make a difference," Colvin said.
To learn more about GINA, visit the Web site, www.411Gina.org.
Making a difference is the goal of the Greater Good festival.
The family-friendly weekend of live music, arts and crafts, children's activities and more that will benefit the Leaning Post Ranch in Molino, a farm that works with at-risk children and physically disabled individuals.
"I wanted to do a benefit concert, and when I went out to the Leaning Post and met the people and the horses, I knew it was a good fit," said Rick Kindle, festival producer. "It's a great cause."
The "Greater Good" theme will carry through all of the festival's events, said Kim Casson, a volunteer coordinator who has spent the last several days organizing the behind-the-scenes necessities.
"We're going to be set up so that the festival trash can be recycled," she said. "I've got volunteers ready to separate it into aluminum, plastic and glass."
Kindle said that he hopes at least 500 will attend this weekend, and he's already booking acts for next year's festival.
"It's a lot of work, but we think it's worth it," he said.
Carey was interviewed for Voices and Visions in 2005. Here is the interview:
Voices and Visions
* Your musical inspirations?
Everyday life inspires me, music itself inspires me. When I hear a particularly good groove or a particularly well-written lyric, it literally jiggles something in the songwriter portion of my creative side and makes me want to join in on the fun. If I go to see someone play, I get inspired. If I'm driving down the road, I get inspired - I've been known to pull over to the side of the road at 1:00 a.m. and write on napkins from the glove compartment. I've written a song on a barf bag on an airplane. A word, a phrase, a look - anything can inspire me.
* Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians?
My favorite CDs include Rare Earth - Live, En Vogue - Funky Divas, anything by Joni Mitchell, CPR (Crosby, Pevar, & Raymond), or Led Zepplin. Jesus Christ Superstar. Jessie McCullum. Nickelback. Favorite songs include I Heard It Through The Grapevine (Marvin Gaye), Little Blind Fish (CPR), Goin' To California (Led Zepplin), For The Roses (Joni Mitchell). There's just too many to list; I know I'll think of 20 more as soon as I finish this! My favorite musicians include Joni Mitchell and CPR - again, too many to list. I have about a zillion links on my website to people who make incredible music (I like to spread the word!). You should check it out.
* How has music inspired you?
I think the question is, how hasn't it?! Music is a necessity in my life, both listening to other musicians and writing my own. Sometimes listening to someone else's take on something just nails it on the head for me, because they've been able to express something in such a succinct way that it literally reaches out and grabs me. There are musical interludes I've listened to that literally feed my insatiable creative side. There are lyrics I've heard that just take my breath away with their impact. From a songwriting standpoint, being able to express emotions, to get out there and bare your soul to the world and have people understand what you're saying is such an incredible feeling. How my music has affected other people's lives has been an amazing journey - they'll take something that's so intimate in my life and completely relate it to their own, and find inspiration or comfort from it, just as I do from other people's music. The very fact that I'm able to touch other people with my music inspires me. Music is who I am, it's what I am. It's an energy charge, a rush, a necessary addiction. I can't help it, it's such an integral part of me. I tried to give it up once, but it was like having permanent PMS - it made me cranky and irritable.
* Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?
Always. Listening to music when you're troubled or scared or depressed can lift you, comfort you, and let you know that someone else has been through something - that you're not alone out there in this big old cold world. From a songwriting standpoint, being able to write and exorcise my demons can literally be a physical release. Not only through the writing process, but through the performance of those songs. My sister was in a horrible car accident in 1973, and the song Bridge Over Troubled Waters was such a source of comfort to me at that time. Every time I hear it now, that feeling of comfort washes over me. And, if I'm angry or sad or hurt, it eventually comes out in a song. I'm a very passionate person, and I tend to write more about the human emotion than anything else. It's almost like a form of therapy - again, exorcising those demons.
Carey and Granger were interviewed by Ken Garner at The Navarre Press for an article promoting their appearance at Earth Day Festival Pensacola. Carey's notes can be seen in blue :).
Navarre Press - April 2004
By Ken Garner
Reprinted with permission from Navarre Press
Two words comprise singer and songwriter Carey Colvin’s most frequently repeated advice: “Be brave.”
Last summer, the 30-something [Carey's Note: Wow, I haven't been 30-something in a while - cool!] daughter of an Air Force fighter pilot and husband Granger Helvey, also a musician, put Colvin’s mantra to the test, leaving a comfortable niche in the Washington, D.C., music community to move to Navarre on a well-nurtured whim.
The couple finished their Southern Exposure tour July 3 and had relocated to Navarre by Aug. 1. They’ve spent the past eight months settling in and “starting over.” The musicians took day jobs to ensure a steady income (Colvin is a sales associate for Holiday Builders; Helvey is a computer engineer), and they’ve established their three youngest children, Summer, Susannah and Hank, in local schools. (Tom, 24, lives in Virginia).
With that foundation laid, Colvin and Helvey are beginning to explore musical opportunities in the area. Colvin, whose eclectic mix of folk rock, blues, rock-edged pop and modern alternative rock she calls “an effervescent concoction of stuff you like,” is scheduled to perform from 3:40 to 5 p.m. Saturday as the featured entertainer for Earth Day 2004 Pensacola at Bartram Park, on Bayfront Parkway near where it becomes Main Street.
Playing at an event to raise environmental awareness fits the couple’s pattern of supporting causes they consider worthwhile. Colvin has contributed songs to CDs benefiting Relay for Life (American Cancer Society), Hungry for Music (music education for inner city youth) and projects helping the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.
“It’s good to get out there and make it count,” Helvey said. Colvin added, “We like to give back to the community we’re living in.”
Colvin said she was very happy to be playing at Earth Day and thanked the organizers for contacting her.
“Our environment – This is what we have,” she said. “We have to take care of it.”
A long-held desire to live by the sea and the changing character of the Washington area contributed to Colvin and Helvey’s decision to move south. Helvey, born and raised in Northern Virginia, [Carey's Note: That would be Roanoke, VA] has loved the beach since childhood, but hadn’t seen anything like the white sands of the Emerald Coast until about three years ago when a concert swing brought the Carey Colvin Band to Fort Walton Beach.
“I’d heard her talk about the sand here in her songs – ‘sugar sands’ – but I always thought she was exaggerating,” Helvey said. “I thought ‘Sand is sand, right?’ ”
Thanks to her father, retired Col. Thomas Colvin who commanded Red Horse at Hurlburt Field from 1976 to 1978, Colvin already was familiar with the Panhandle in general and the Emerald Coast in particular. She and Helvey had talked about moving to the area off and on for 10 years, but not seriously.
Then came the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, when the couple lost a friend in the Pentagon crash. Not long after, the sniper killings in suburban Maryland were too near the Colvin-Helvey home.
“Everybody in D.C., is tense,” Colvin said. “Our children were afraid, and we already had to show IDs to get into school everyday (before the sniper attacks).”
Colvin was born into a musical family with roots in Beckingham County in central Virginia – the same county that spawned the musical Carter Family and June Carter Cash, Colvin’s distant relatives on her father’s mother’s side (Colvin has met Rosanne Cash, Johnny’s daughter and a successful country music recording artist). Her father, a life-long Johnny Cash fan, plays guitar, piano, trombone and banjo; her mother plays piano and drums; both grandmothers played piano; and her mother’s father was a bluegrass fiddler. [Carey's Note: Actually, it's was my father's father who was the fiddler. Okay, we had a lot of musicians in our family, it gets confusing!]
The Poquoson, Va., High School graduate said she always has known she wanted to be a performer.
“I wanted to be one of those kids on TV, I wanted to be a June Taylor dancer,” she said with a laugh. Colvin smiles, remembering her tennis-racket guitar, Hi-Fi 45 adaptor microphone and go-go boots.
She learned piano and flute, and got her first taste of performing as a member of her junior high school band. “I loved it,” she said. She’s had two guitar lessons, and admits her strumming isn’t her strong suit. [Carey's note: Actually, I said "picking", not "strumming". I can strum with the best of 'em!]
“I’m a songwriter, I sing but I’m not a great player,” she said. “That’s why I hire a lead guitarist. Somebody’s got to keep the rhythm, that’s what I do.”
Songwriting has been a strong suit, though. She’s been nominated for, and won, a variety of singing and songwriting awards. The Bluebird Café, famous before it was the setting of a music showcase on The Nashville Network, recently invited Colvin to perform her music at a Writer’s Night on April 25.
“It’s really hard to get into,” Colvin said of the show. “It’s a prestigious thing.”
Colvin said joining a D.C., area songwriting group was a revelation.
“Most people write some of a song, set it aside, come back to it and write some more, set it aside, come back to it later and rewrite some of it. They take a huge block of time to write a song,” she said. “I started to feel like I didn’t belong. I have never had that experience.”
Instead, she said, songs are born fully realized in her mind. Translating the songs from her mind to a score is her biggest challenge.
Although not averse to playing bars, the couple said they’re content now to play showcases and festivals, which are more family friendly.
Because Colvin’s father was a fighter pilot and transferred often, she was born at Edwards Air Force Base and grew up on bases from Japan to Florida. Colvin said being exposed to many different views of life is reflected in her music’s diversity. Colvin’s many musical influences include Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Led Zepplin, Jimmie Spheeris, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Yes, the Glen Miller Orchestra, Steely Dan, Carole King and the Andrews Sisters.
In May of 2000 she released her debut CD, “The Distance Wall,” which she co-produced with Helvey and award-winning producer Marco Delmar. The CD also features guest artists such as John Jennings (of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s band) and Tom Prasada-Rao. Carey began recording her next CD, “Let It Flow,” in 2003. Guest artists include Jon Carroll (who has played with Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Starland Vocal Band), Jeff Pevar (Crosby, Pevar and Raymond; Rickie Lee Jones; Shawn Colvin) and more. “Let It Flow” is expected to be released later this year.
Carey was interviewed in December by the very cool (and fun!) Michael Zampi for the January/February edition of the Baltimore Songwriters' Association Newsletter. The interview was shortened in the Newsletter due to space limitations, but the whole patooty is posted here just for you.
Baltimore Songwriter's Association Interview - January 2003
Interview by Michael Zampi
MZ: You've opened for David Crosby, Styx, Pat Benatar and numerous others. Tell me about those exciting experiences.
CC: I met Croz in person in 1998 when he played the Birchmere for the first time with CPR (Crosby, Jeff Pevar, James Raymond, Andrew Ford, and Steve DiStanislao). We'd corresponded for about a year before that. Croz is a very genuine human being, and I think he really has his priorities in the right places. The members of CPR are a fun bunch of people in addition to being incredible musicians. Their flair for music is exquisite - you should hear some of the things they come up with; it just makes my little musician's heart well up with joy. One of my favorite things about doing that show was working with Rance Caldwell, Croz's longtime monitor tech. He treated me like a princess and made sure I was taken care of sound-wise - he's one of the best there is, and it was such a pleasure to work with him. (Actually, I wanted to steal him away!)
That show was sold out, and a lot of mutual friends came in from all over the country to see us play together. They were rooting for us 110%, and just feeling that energy made the evening an incredibly special one. There's nothing like looking out at the audience and seeing so many familiar and friendly faces cheering you on, knowing they're really into the music you're playing, listening to every word and catching every nuance. That's what making music is all about, in my book. I have a boot of that show that a friend sent me, so every once in a while I can put it in the CD player and relive the whole experience. Doing the show was like having old home week, since I'd done a concert out in Santa Barbara, CA the previous fall with Anastasia and John; John being Croz's long-time guitar tech. Peev (Jeff Pevar) played with me at that show. He sat in with us (my husband, Granger Helvey, was playing bass with me) at The Birchmere gig, too. Since Anastasia & John tour with CPR, they were there as well. So, we all got to catch up with each other again. (A&J are both wonderful musicians, and I highly recommend listening to their music as well as CPR's.) Anyway, as you can imagine the energy of that show was amazing.
The Pat Benatar/Styx show was a blast, too. I didn't get formally introduced to any of them, but I ran into members of Styx backstage doing what all major rock stars do on the road - their laundry! (Yes, it's true, folks - the most coveted items backstage aren't the exotic food and drink, they're the washer, dryer, and showers!) We did get to hear Pat Benatar's sound check and as always, she blew me away. What a set of pipes.
MZ: You are getting tons of national and international radio airplay. What is your advise on how to obtain radio play for our readers?
CC: The key words are research and perseverance. The first thing to do is to find all the stations you can that play your particular format of music. Now, there's the key - "that play your format of music". I've seen some musicians arbitrarily send out their CDs to all stations, but if you play alternative country the rock station generally isn't going to play your songs. It's also extremely difficult (if not impossible) for an independent artist to get airplay on any of the major stations because the powers that be have very strictly formatted play lists. In other words, if you don't have a name label behind you and you're not as famous as Britney Spears or Creed, it's probably not going to happen. Some of the major stations do have shows dedicated to the local music scene, and you should definitely look for those. I've found that the best bet for airplay is through college radio, local radio, the Internet, and public radio. You can find a ton of stations on the Internet, but again, pay attention to the format of each. It's also very important to support these radio stations. So many have disappeared or are on the verge of disappearing due to lack of support and recent changes in law.
MZ: In May of 2000, you released your debut CD "The Distance Wall". You have some great guest artists such as John Jennings (of Mary Chapin Carpenter) and one of my favorites Tom Prasada-Rao. After listening to your CD, I feel every song has hit potential. Have you been pitching your songs to publishing houses on Music Row, Austin, L.A., or NY? Or are you going more in the vein of a recording / performing artist?
CC: Thank you! That's a very cool compliment. That was such a fun project, and I'm very pleased with how well everything came together on the CD. It's very gratifying when songs develop exactly how you wanted them to. There's also a deep feeling of satisfaction when songs take on a life of their own during the recording process and you end up with something unique. I feel very fortunate to have had so many talented friends who wanted to be a part of that recording. Regarding pitching songs, I really haven't pitched anything at this point. (I keep meaning to get around to it!) So, I'd guess for now you could put me under the hat of recording/performing artist. But, you never know what the future will bring!
MZ: I'm amazed with all of your successes. You've won numerous Wammies and Mid-Atlantic song contests. Tell me about the award Bill Clinton presented to you.
CC: The awards I've received are very cool, and something I appreciate a great deal. I think it's quite an honor to have received them. My band received recognition from President Clinton for playing in President's Park adjacent to the White House in 1995 and 1996. Those shows were a lot of fun. We didn't get to meet Clinton in person, though - too bad, because we were going to tell him to grab his sax and join us!
MZ: Dirty Linen Magazine is quoted as saying "buyers of The Distance Wall CD will be able to say they knew her before she knocked Faith Hill off the charts." That is a quote you can be proud of. Have you made A&R or collaboration connections with the tightly knit Nashville talent?
CC: I really haven't. I do know people in Nashville, but have never really considered myself as a country artist (whatever that is these days). Actually, I just consider myself a performing songwriter, and I don't try to limit myself to any particular genre. So, I haven't really pursued the Nashville music path. However, I do seem to be put under the contemporary folk umbrella quite a bit, which is a pretty broad category. When you view artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, who isn't really a traditional country artist and see how much of an impact and an inroad her music has made in Nashville (as well as everywhere else), you realize that the whole country music scene isn't what it used to be. It's evolved so much from when I was growing up, when country music meant Loretta Lynn and Porter Wagoner. It's changed so much that I think if the Eagles came out now, they'd probably be classified as country musicians.
MZ: You have many of the same musical influences as me. How big of a role do they have in your rock, pop, folk and country styles?
CC: I've been influenced by so many different kinds of music that snippets of that diversity can't help but pop up in my own. I'd have to say that my biggest influence of all was Joni Mitchell. I used to spend hours in the headphones listening to her and I still know all the words to most of her songs. I did a Joni Mitchell tribute show recently, and I played Carey (which for obvious reasons I've been doing for years) and another tune, All I Want, that I hadn't really played but a few times since I was about 17. I found that I still knew all the chords, all the words, and all the phrasing, even though I hadn't touched it in ages. That just goes to show you that what you learn young stays with you! At one point I stopped listening to her for about two years because I realized I was unconsciously trying to be a Joni clone. I really didn't want that to happen; there's only one Joni. Listening to her music and her lyrics was, and still is, an invaluable experience, though - it taught me a lot about playing outside the box musically and raised the bar for me on writing lyrics. She cuts to the chase emotionally and the way she always finds new musical paths to express herself continues to inspire me.
I have a wild rock and roll side to me that makes me want to dance until dawn. I think I was born with a primal beat woven into my soul and so I've always been drawn to that kind of rhythm. As such, I was highly influenced by rock music, especially that of Led Zepplin. I love their music; the beautiful acoustic guitar mixing with that primal beat of the drums and segueing into the plaintive wail of electric guitar. On occasion you can still hear me perform Zepplin's Going to California - which, interestingly enough, is about Joni Mitchell. Some of my other major influences include Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner, The Doobie Brothers, CSN&Y, and the Andrews Sisters. Other artists that I listened to quite a lot were Jimmie Spheeris and Carole King.
At home, I was brought up on big band, bluegrass, and country music. When I was growing up, my Dad would bring out his guitar and we (my parents and my two sisters and I) would spend hours singing old tunes like Keep On The Sunny Side and Will The Circle Be Unbroken. My grandmother was a Carter, so we sang a lot of the Carter Family stuff. My mother is an incredible piano player, and she would break out this sheet music that looked like it had ink spilled on it, the notes were so clustered together. I wanted to unlock the secrets of those inkblot notes and play them myself. Eventually I did learn to do that and to this day I only play the piano by sight-reading music. I remember one of the first songs I learned on piano was the bass part to Cow Cow Boogie by The Andrews Sisters - I must have been about five or so. I drove my parents nuts by constantly banging around on the piano and Dad's guitar.
I started listening to Bonnie Raitt in about 1970 or 71, and one of the things I noticed and liked about her music was that she had different kinds of songs on one album. It made me realize that I could do the same - play a ballad, some blues, a little rock, a countryish folk tune. She refused to be boxed in by anyone, and thanks to her I think I've had that same attitude throughout my career and in my writing. I think she made a statement, whether it was a conscious one or not, in her choice of material. I think Eva Cassidy had the same philosophy - she did songs that touched her on some level. I love seeing musicians who remain true to their hearts and who refuse to be boxed in, because so many people do try to pigeonhole you in one form or another. The powers that be in the music business always seem to want to put you in some specific category so that you're all wrapped up in a nice and tidy bow when it comes to marketing, and they've overlooked so many wonderful songs and musicians by sticking to that philosophy that it's truly a shame.
MZ: How long have you been playing guitar, writing, performing and singing?
CC: I've been singing since I was born, according to my mother. She said I used to sing for hours in my crib. I've wanted to be involved in music ever since I can remember. I've always had that hunger to create and to perform. When I was four, I used to sneak and open up my Dad's guitar case when he wasn't looking - I'd strum the strings back and forth, loving the sounds they made. He had an old 1942 Gibson, and that was what I ultimately learned to play on. I begged him for years to teach me how to play, but he said my hands were too small and had to grow. At 15, I went to him and said, "Dad, they're NOT going to get any bigger!" He relented and taught me two songs, Wildwood Flower and Malaguena. I had two 'real' lessons after that, and that was it for my formal training on guitar. I did take a year of piano lessons and still consider that my main instrument, even though I haven't had a working piano in a very long time. I also took lessons on the flute at the DYA (the Dependent Youth Association) at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, where my dad was stationed as an Air Force fighter pilot. I ended up playing flute in the Mays Junior High School marching band, where I marched in the Junior Orange Bowl parade (which was my first television appearance, although I have to say that it wasn't very flattering since I had to step over the cameraman lying in the middle of the street). The band also did a couple of command performances for President Nixon on the base's flight line. I went on to play flute in marching band throughout high school. One person I cannot thank enough for his musical influence on me is my Junior High School bandleader, Arthur Berman. He was the one who had given me flute lessons at the DYA. When I started school, he convinced me to join the band and that was it for me - I was totally addicted to music. His dedication really made a huge impression on me, and I've never forgotten him or his influence. I don't know whatever happened to him, but on the off chance he ever reads this, thank you, Mr. Berman! The fact that music and arts is in such a precarious position in schools is appalling; I know what my opportunities were and it sickens me to not see them readily available to children now. My own kids are steeped in music so I'm not worried about their artistic upbringing; but think of all the kids out there who crave the arts and are denied that opportunity. I always volunteer to play at my kids' schools because of that. One fact about being a performing musician is that somewhere along the way, you will inevitably touch some young kid out there who realizes that one day they can do what you're doing. That's a very, very cool thing, and a big responsibility.
As to how long I've been writing, I started off by writing mock newspapers as a child. I wrote them in longhand and (of course) drew the accompanying pictures. I started formally playing around with words by writing poetry when I was about 12 years old. I wrote my first song at 15, after those two guitar lessons. For quite a while there I would write like a maniac, filling page after page of my wire-bound notebooks. Some evolved into songs, and some just simply stayed woven onto the page. I still have this big thick book of my writings from that period of time. One particularly fruitful year for me musically was 1984, when Viqui Dill (www.thedillpickers.com) and I were housemates and performed as a duo called Endless Legs (we're both tall women). She's a very gifted songwriter with a great ear for harmonies, and we spent much of that year writing songs, both alone and together. The muse just moved into the house with us and we took full advantage of it!
I think the point where I realized that I had something to offer musically was when I won a prize for playing the piano at summer camp. That was very exciting for me. I was also in the church choir in Homestead, which was incredible fun. We were all young hippie teenagers, and put on shows like Jesus Christ Superstar. The girls got to wear these vivid purple long dresses with bright paisley bands around the waist. We were a rockin' choir, that's for sure! My first "official" public performance was at a bar called The Beer Gardens in Fort Walton Beach, Florida in 1976 or '77. It was a biker bar and I worked there as a bartender and a waitress, and would get up on stage to sing on my breaks. The regular performer there was a guy named Mike Donaldson, who always encouraged me to get up there and go for it. I ended up playing my first gigs there. Of course, I had to get used to ducking onstage with my guitar - what with the bar being full of inebriated bikers, it was inevitable that fights would break out from time to time. It was definitely a trial-by-fire, starting my performing career there. I can honestly say that not much fazes me now when I'm on stage, though!
MZ: Your lyrics are fresh and catch my attention. What inspires you to write?
CC: Thank you! I'm not sure what actually inspires me to write songs - I think just my own life experience or the experiences of those around me. There's always a lot of my own life or my perceptions of someone else's life, floating around in the theme. Some of them are true stories, start to finish. Some are based on my own life mixed with someone else's life. You never know! I remember one song I wrote after I'd broken up with a boyfriend. I played it for him, and he visibly winced throughout the song. Afterwards, he told me that I sure didn't pull any punches when it came to songwriting, and he's right. I'm a very passionate person, and my songs tend to be deeply emotional. If I've written a song about a particular person, the odds are they'll know it's about them.
MZ: Do you start with lyrics and melody first and then structure, chord changes and groove? Or is the creative process different each time?
CC: I've found that I actually don't write like most people. Some friends and I put together a songwriting group, and it was there that I discovered this. A couple of them were saying, "Well, I wrote this verse, and then rewrote that one, and then went back a week later and revised this one, and after a month or so I wrote another one to go with the first one." My initial reaction was, "Oh, no, I'm not a REAL writer!" So, I learned that the way I write is apparently rather unorthodox. For instance, I don't pick themes to write about, they just form as I'm writing. When I write a song, it all comes out at once - I hear all the music in my head as I'm writing the lyrics, which generally come to me in anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or so. I can hear the backing vocals, the guitar progression; I can hear the backup vocalists and Tower of Power doing horn parts - it's all there. My toughest task as a songwriter is to translate everything I'm hearing in my head to the real world to come up with the final product. Sometimes I'll get stuck in the translation, and I'll call in Granger to help me finish the process. He's got an amazing ear, and he has some great musical ideas. It may be something as simple as reversing the chord structure in one passage to give a song a new spin, or it may be changing the entire rhythm pattern of the song - you never know what delicious little touch he's going to come up with. His arrangements add so much to the finished product. For instance, before we started working together, I had no idea that the bass line could make such a difference to a song. We're also both total harmony piggies, but he's the harmony master in the family. He has the true knack for it - he'll look off into space and come up with the coolest harmonies for the vocals.
Pretty much it's the same process every time I write a song. I'll be doing something, and a song will hit me out of the blue. For instance, my tune Thin Line was written in about 15 minutes, complete with the high backing oohs in the chorus. I'd been dusting my living room, and mid-dust the song hit me and I raced for the computer to write it down. The same thing happened with Blacktop - I was driving home at about 1:00 a.m., listening to John Jennings' CD, Buddy. Somewhere in one of his songs, he sang the word 'blacktop', and I pulled off the side of the road and wrote my song down on a napkin and added the guitar part the next day. Just that one little word opened the gates for me and the song came spilling out. I called him and told him he'd inspired me to write the song, and would he please come play on it? So he did, and having him on it really makes the song come full circle for me.
One of my favorite tunes came to me in an incredible fashion. The father of my daughter's best friend had died suddenly, and I was over at their house helping to get things ready for the funeral. I had to get home since my kids were coming in from school, and between the time I got home and they got home (about 10-15 minutes) I wrote a song for the best friend and her two sisters to try to comfort them. To this day I'm convinced the song came through me from a higher power just for them. After I wrote it I cried like a baby, it was such a touching song. I later played it for the family, and they asked Granger and me to perform it at the funeral, which we did. I'll be recording it for the next CD.
MZ: Do you currently have a business manager? If yes, when did you know you needed one? If not, at what stage do you think you would hire one?
CC: I don't have a business manager at this point. I handle everything - the bookings, the publicity, the website - you name it and I've got a hat for it. Unfortunately, my creative side suffers from it and I find that I don't have as much time to write any more. So that's when you know you need one! I'm currently seeking help with the business side of things to allow me to concentrate on what I love to do the most, which is to write and perform.
MZ: What exciting projects and tours are coming up in 2003 that you'd like to share?
CC: I've got another CD in the works, and I'm really looking forward to that. I'll be doing some covers this time around, by people like Jennifer Stills and CPR. I've been asked by many people to record my version of Angel From Montgomery by John Prine, so that's also on the agenda. The rest of the CD will probably be my own songs, although I'm also entertaining the idea of one more cover. I'm in the process of setting up a summer tour to promote the new CD that includes dates in Texas and West Virginia, with shows in other states to be announced.
MZ: A question most readers are probably wondering - any relation to Shawn Colvin?
CC: You wouldn't believe how many times I get asked that question! I've never met her, but I've corresponded with her father regarding the Colvin family tree, and we believe there may be a connection somewhere. (He calls me his Honorary Daughter.) Shawn and I have mutual friends who think we resemble each other physically in many ways; however, I can honestly say that I never saw her at the family reunions! (Interesting factoid: Our mothers have the same name.)
MZ: What do you want to accomplish in your life in the next five years?
CC: Lots of creativity. I miss immersing myself in the creative side of music, and I intend to pay more attention to that. I'll continue to perform in the area, but will definitely pursue more opportunities outside the Baltimore/Washington corridor. There are songs I have in mind to write, and I want to recommit myself to the piano. I may even pick up the dulcimer again. One of my goals is to learn to write in a more orthodox fashion, just so that I know I can. Besides, it's easier to break the rules when you know what they are! I may not employ that method of writing as the norm, but it's a challenge for me and it's one that I look forward to taking on.
MZ: I think you've had many wonderful successes in your career and you've inspired me to continue to write and produce on a daily basis. Thank you for sharing your insights and ideas with us. We look very forward to hearing more about your advancing career.
CC: Thank you for allowing me to share some of my life with you. I think we all continue in so many ways to inspire each other - there are so many talented people out there, and sharing with each other can only encourage growth in our own writing and in our lives. And that, my friends, is a very cool place to be.
Carey's good friend and fellow musician Damion Wolfe has a Featured Artist spot on his website each month, and in August 2003, he invited Carey to be that artist.
Interview With Carey Colvin - August 2003
By Damion Wolfe
Would you be surprised to know that Carey Colvin is yet another great artist that I've met on my musical journey? Carey is a wonderful troubadoring songwriter who has been gracing the Washington D.C. music scene with her passionate songs and beauty for years. My first gig at a Starbuck's was in Burke, VA doing a round-robin with Carey and Chris Russell in 1997. I was a bit nervous yet Carey's gracious presence, along with that of Mr. Russell, made things very easy-going. From that day on I've always found Carey to be not only a great songwriter but also a wonderful supporter of other songwriters in the region. She hosted a songwriter's night at Luna Park Grille in Arlington for years in addition to having impromtu jams that she and her husband Granger would host at their home.
After much hard work and persistance Carey released her long-awaited CD, "The Distance Walll," in 2001. With roaring quotes that range from The Washington Post to David Crosby, this CD is definitely worth every glowing phrase and more. Catchy songs marked with personal depth and exploration really accentuate Carey's distinctive style. Even before the CD was released I remember singing along to demo versions of songs like "Gulf Of Mexico" and "Refugee" when I was cruising from gig to gig. "The Distance Wall" is also blessed with great supportive musicians like Granger Helvey, Marco Delmar, John Jennings (of Mary Chapin Carpenter), David Alberding and many others. As Dirty Linen Magazine says, "Buyers of The Distance Wall can say they knew her before she knocked Faith Hill off the charts."
In addition to doing all of this great music, Carey has been a full time mom and wife. How does she do it? Carey took time from her busy moving schedule (she and the fam are re-locating to Pensacola, Florida) to answer this question and more. Thanks alot to Carey for being our Profile Artist of the Month! If you want to find out more, please visit WWW.CAREYCOLVIN.COM. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ladies and Gentleman, Ms. Carey Colvin!
1. Carey, you've been writing songs for a long time. How did growing up in different places effect your output as a songwriter and an artist?
I think it made me more aware of the world and what was going on around me. I write mostly about the human emotion, something I've been conscious of since I was very young. In my case, growing up in a military environment in a time of war caused me to experience quite a wealth of emotion - everything from fear to anger to sadness to joy to excitement. It taught me that there's always hope in the future, something new and exciting around the bend. There's also stuff we'd rather not experience around the bend, but I prefer to dwell on the positive! So, going through all these changes and emotions in my life made me want to vent, and I became a writer.
2. If it's not revealing too many secrets, could you describe for us your songwriting process? Do you have one sure-fire method that works or is there more?
Writing comes to me, I don't come to it. Sometimes I'll try writing with a specific theme or subject in mind, but it doesn't work very often. The last time I did that I wrote a song about my bunny slippers. Usually, I'll hear a phrase or a word said by someone, or it will just pop into my head. At that point, the whole song spills out. I have literally run for pen and paper or the computer to capture it as it comes out. For the most part, I hear the entire melody and structure as I write, including backing vocals, instrumentation, etc. Usually when I write a song, there's not much fluffing left to do - it pretty much comes out whole. Those that don't, I recruit Granger's help on. He's got an amazing ear and will throw in a chord that I didn't think of or reverse a musical passage - he's great fun to write with.
3. Your CD, "The Distance Wall" has gotten a lot of great acclaim from both regional and national figures. Can you describe for us the greatest sense of satisfaction you've had about this CD since it's release?
My greatest satisfaction with this CD is the way the songs evolved during the recording process and the joy of working with so many of my musician friends who wanted to be a part of it. The songs on that CD were written over almost a 20 year period, so it's kind of an anthology for me personally. I was amazed, having never made a CD before, at the reception it got. All the reviews have been amazing, and I actually only have 50 copies left now! I'm also really excited about the new CD, Let It Flow. We're fundraising to finish it, and it's (in my opinion) better than The Distance Wall. I've got some amazing musicians on it - Jeff Pevar, Jon Carroll, Fred Leider, Lisa Taylor, Dana Connor - I can't wait for everyone to hear it!
4. I think it's so amazing that you've been able to pursue your music in addition to being a full time Mom of 4 and wife. How do you do it and what advice what you give to those who are seeking to do the same thing?
You know, we took the two younger kids (10 and 13) on tour with us, and they had such a good time - and they didn't kill each other! It's all in how you live your life and the way you treat your kids. I grew up thinking everyone's dads flew fighter planes upside down for fun, and was kind of shocked to realize at one point that other dads didn't do that - and didn't even wear uniforms! So, to me it was normal. To my kids, their parents being on stage is a normal part of their lives. You do have to balance it, though. We quit playing bars and nightclubs when they were little, because you can't drag in at 3:00 am and get up at 7:00 am to get them ready for school without being cranky to the kids. So, we started doing day time shows and taking them with us. They've been to so many fairs and festivals that sometimes they beg to stay home now! My daughter once told me that watching me pursue my dreams taught her that she could pursue her dreams as well. So, my advice to any of you parents out there is to make your kids a part of it. Just make them feel included. My girls get up and sing with me sometimes, and my oldest son is my roadie from time to time. My youngest son has no interest in music at the moment, he just brings his Game Boy and hangs out while we're on stage. We do volunteer to play at their school festivals. The kids love it, the schools love it, and we love it.
5. You have just moved to Pensacola, Florida. Will you continue to perform? What are your musical plans for the future?
Yes, we're going to get involved in the music scene down here and continue to tour. We had such a blast on our tour this summer, and it's one of the reasons we decided to move. We figured if we can tour from Virginia, we can tour from anywhere. So, Granger was offered a job down here, and we decided to move near the beach. We've always wanted to, and so we jumped on it. It's fun living three miles from the beach :). Until hurricane season, that is...!
1. What was your favorite childhood toy?
My stuffed teddy bear named Susie. She went everywhere with me. She even had her own little blue suitcase that she folded up into. I still have her and her suitcase, but she's a little flatter now - her stuffing mildewed, and she's so worn she can't be restuffed.
2. What are your top 5 album pics?
That's a hard one! Let's see...here's five of my favorites, ones I listened to on the drive down to Florida - but I have so many favorites that this is just how I feel at the moment:
CPR - CPR
Joni Mitchell - For The Roses
Loggins & Messina - On Stage (live album)
CSNY - Deja Vu
En Vogue - Funky Divas
3. Would you ever consider cashing it all in and becoming an exotic belly dancer?
Well, you know, I was offered that chance 20 years ago and turned it down...! Now, well, after a few hundred situps, sure! I love to dance :).
4. What song of yours is your personal fave right now?
Ten Thousand Arrows - I wrote it in about five minutes, and it's on the new CD. But, it holds a close second to Burn, another one of my new ones that's on the new CD.
5. Who was the first boy you ever kissed?
Alva Glen Dickerson - I was five years old, and chased him up a tree (we loved climbing trees, the two of us) trying to kiss him. I caught him, though!
6. If you could have dinner with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
Joni Mitchell, hands down. We're both Scorpios and passionate about our art and life in general, so I think we'd have a great time.
7. Some know that you are friends with David Crosby. Do you think David is really an alien who decided he wanted to be a superstar in the form of an alien incarnate, and that perhaps "Wooden Ships" is a song about primitive space-craft?
Hmmmm, now that could be! I haven't seen any signs of anntennae, though. He could be wireless :).
8. One of my favorite songs of yours is "Gulf Of Mexico". Is this where your heart lies and why you're moving back?
Yep! It's funny, I was on the beach the other day (I like saying that!) and was humming that song to myself. I've run into some old friends, too, from my biker days down here, and it's just been like coming home. A little older and a little wiser, but home nonetheless.
9. What show would you most like to perform on: "The Man Show", "David Letterman" "MTV Cribs" or "Oprah"?
Aw, can't I do them all?! I could definitely hold my own on The Man Show, I'd have fun doing top tens with David Letterman, MTV Cribs would like my beach house, and Oprah and I could dish :).
10. Carey what inspires you most?
Living. When you watch what's going on around you, how people react to things, and listen to the human emotion, you can't help but be inspired. I'm a very passionate person, so my passion for all things always inspires me.