Louise Carver explores her dark side by Evan Milton
Genre-shifting multiple-award-nominee Louise Carver returns to Cape Town to perform a blitz-tour - and record a new album.
[This interview by Evan Milton first appeared in the Cape Argus 'Good Weekend' of 2012/06/23]
After dates in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg for the Nokia Lumia "How You Gonna Do It" tour, and corporate appearances for CEOs and at wine farms, that included her sharing a stage - and conversational off-stage banter - with celebrated South African composer Richard Cock, Carver is tired, but upbeat. "The tour is a lot of fun because the band is so practiced and so tight, but it was a long, hard, working weekend. One of those Sundays where, afterwards, you just stare at the wall and eat chocolate…."
Louise Carver, the multi-talented singer and songwriter who had a Top Five radio hit when she was just seventeen years old, has recorded and performed in musical idioms that include pop, rock, dance and "adult contemporary". Now, she's charting new territory with a blend of her insightfully catchy lyrics and consummate piano playing and an electronic-edged contemporary sound - and doing a blitz-speed national tour to showcase this, and her older hits and material.
The tour's title comes from Carver's new single, which sees her working with veteran producer Chris Tuck, and is released on Evergreen Music, the label Carver recently founded. "Chris is probably best known for the record that broke Seether into the United States when they were still called Saron Gas. What people don't know is his real love for Portishead-style moody electronics with female vocals. I'm shaking up the toolbox a bit with this new album, and that happened very organically. It's not like a sit in a room with a think-tank of people brainstorming. 'How will we take over the world?'," she says, mimicking a "Dr Evil" voice in the last phrase.
"I get tired with the possibilities of a musical style when I'm done with it," she explains. "I've did the dance music and house music thing when I was in my early twenties; and rock wasn't enough for me to play with, after a while, after I'd done that. Electronic sounds interest me more at the moment. I've been listening to a lot of Massive Attack and Faithless - especially when you hear how they tour those songs live, with a big stage of ten or twenty people to recreate the sounds for an audience."
The rock and dance dabblings that Carver refers to include her first UK EP, recorded with deep house legend Kenny Hawkes and producing No.1 tracks in Europe ("Play The Game") and South Africa ("I’d Say Yes"), and with Tin Tin Out that produced "Empty Fantasy", another South African No.1, and also earning her the first of many South African Music Award nominations (here, for Best Adult Contemporary Album). Her interest in rock saw her commissioning Theo Crous (of Springbok Nude Girls fame) to produce her "Saved By The Moonlight", which birthed "Home", her ninth Top Ten radio hit, and cause for another three SAMA nominations, including Best Female and Record Of The Year. In 2008, she won the Style Magazine award for "Most Stylish Entertainer" and garnered another two SAMA nominations for "Home Tour Live". She also has her own line of jewellery, called Jingle & Chimes, and has worked as a Youth Ambassador for the IEC, and a 46664 Youth Ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Trust.
"It's exploring the darker edges of my songwriting, and of electronic-influenced music, that has got me interested now," she says. Tuck's studio is in Constantia, close to where Carver grew up - another plus factor on this leg of her musical journey. She also has a second producer on the album, Chris Hoy. "I was introduced to him by Karl Anderson from Just Music and, I don't want to box him, but he comes from a dance trance background. I gave him a song to play with, and he came up with a brilliant, darker edged sound. It's great working with people who can help me explore that side of my lyrics and music." Incidentally, it was also Anderson who introduced Carver to Pascal & Pearce, the acclaimed dance duo, with whom Carver created "Days Go By" in late 2011. It reached No.5 on national radio.
Carver's latest track, "How You Gonna Do It" is the first step in recording her new musical direction. "It's new in terms of song style, and content. We know that being 'darker' is in me, but it hasn't been something I've recorded before. The song is about how there's a man who I've left, years ago, and now he's stalking me. It lists all the ways that might happen." She stops talking. Laughs. Continues. "The first thing my musical director said is, 'Before we get into the music - are you sure you're alright?' - and I am. I have been stalked, and I've had boyfriends who have not wanted to let go. But, as an artists, you embellish. Also, you look around you and see awful headlines about a young girl being raped, or schoolgirls being attacked. It's impossible not to let that come into your artistic expression. But the song is empowered - the singer in it is facing the situation head on and saying, 'I won't let you terrify me'. As soon as the tour finishes, after we've played Bloemfontein, I'll be back in studio to finish the album - and I can't wait to be back."
Louise Carver plays the Nokia Lumia "How You Gonna Do It?" tour on Thursday 28 June at Marimba Restaurant
(Cape Town International Convention Centre, 8pm (dinner from 6pm), R100; bookings 021 4183366 or email@example.com) and on Friday 29 June at Dorpstraat Theatre
(Summerhill, 8.30pm (dinner from 6pm), R100; bookings 021 8899158 or firstname.lastname@example.org). More on LouiseCarver.com and, for Jingle & Chimes, at LouiseCarverCollection.co.za.
This interview by Evan Milton first appeared in the Cape Argus "Good Weekend" of 2012/06/23
Music journalist, Digital marketing strategist, SA Music Awards judge and radio DJ for Fine Music Radio.