Carol Duboc Interview
Talking With All Of
by Baldwin “Smitty” Smith
Well it is my pleasure to speak for the first time with this incredible musician and singer. She’s fresh off the hit movie Be Cool, starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Cedric The Entertainer, Danny De Vito, and The Rock. A great supporting role for her in this great movie, she has an excellent new record out entitled All of You. I’m talking about Gold Note Music recording artist, the lovely Miss Carol Duboc.
Smitty: You must be very excited these days, Carol.
Carol: I am!
Smitty: And you have so much to be excited about; the movie, and this great record and that fabulous CD release party. What a fun year.
Carol: Yeah it’s been very busy AND FUN, I tell ya!
Smitty: So tell me a little bit about how you began your career. Did you start out as a singer or did you have an instrument in your hand? Talk to me about how you discovered yourself as a singer.
Carol: I played bass and keyboard in my first band, in Jr. High and High School. But I ended up singing in the band. I went to school at USC School of Music and I was an opera major. I doubled in composition and minored in music engineering. I progressed from there to actually do quite a bit of recording, but I ended up writing songs for myself, because I didn’t like the songs that I was getting from other people, as an artist. Apparently people liked my songs and there are always a lot of artists in need of songs, so they ended up using some of my songs for other people or wanting my songs themselves. I wrote “Precious” for Chante’ Moore and songs for Patty LaBelle, Stephanie Mills–I wrote with Teddy Riley for a couple of years. After writing in the R&B world for a while, I kind of wanted something more, especially with a classical background, I was looking for more chord changes. So I came back to Los Angeles and decided to put a trio together after seeing Al Jarreau performing his Tenderness album. And I thought “that looks like a really fun way of approaching music as an instrument,” because I always have written for instruments and done arrangements, but as a singer, it would be interesting to become the instrument and also sing at the same time.
Listen to clips from
All Of You
Smitty: Wow. So who was your inspiration in the beginning to start your career?
Carol: I’ve had a lot of inspirations and I would say Stevie Wonder was my favorite artist growing up. My older brothers and sisters would listen to him and I kind of grabbed the album and was married to it (laughing).
Smitty: (laughing) I can see how that could happen.
Carol: Also many others, some of the people [with songs] on this album, like The Police, Bill Withers, I loved Al Green. You know, I like soulful R&Bish music. I also like Classical music.
Smitty: That’s a nice mix. Something that I often wonder about with musicians; We all sing from a tender age, even if it’s just humming along, we try to mimic whatever we hear. Some of us advance a little further and some don’t. When did you discover that you had a voice that should be heard from the stage?
Carol: My parents weren’t all that in favor of me being in the music business, they kind of wanted me to be a lawyer or something, it wasn’t something they were encouraging, but I got accepted to USC in the opera program. It was one of the best schools in the country for performance. And the head of the department said he’d accepted me on the tone of my voice, and that was encouraging. But you know what; you’re never, as an artist, totally confident in yourself. But I will say that some of the reviews that I got from Don Heckman were quite encouraging as I came into being a jazz singer. But you never really know (laughing).
Smitty: You sound very confident on this new album.
Carol: I feel pretty comfortable on this album because I’m combining the R&B that I love with the jazz that I also love. And so I do feel very very comfortable now.
Smitty: Well let’s talk about your first album With All That I Am. How were you feeling then? Because…it’s your first album, you know, it’s usually a very nervous time and there are usually some second guessing and apprehension. How were you feeling when you cut this first CD?
Carol: I cut that first CD over a couple of years. It was right at the point where I decided I wanted to use a live band and record music; kind of approach R&B as a jazz singer, record more of that R&Bish-feeling songs while improvising. Record it live with a band and keep the mistakes as opposed to recording a pop record. So I was experimenting on that album as I wrote the songs. I wrote quite a few of them with Patrick Moten, who you know, did the first Anita Baker records.
Smitty: Oh Yeah.
Carol: He’s very good at following melodies, so I wanted to improvise and record everything to DAT, and whatever I sang, that was the song. Kind of almost as if you were taking on the transcription of a jazz musician, but to do it as a singer and a songwriter. So that’s how that first album was conceived I took down exactly what I did, the day I wrote it. So that album was a lot of fun and it was the first attempt at my vision. It’s still not my favorite, because I love the one I just did, but it’s definitely my second favorite. I like the way it came out and the musicians are wonderful on it. I wasn’t nervous. The thing that was hard for me, because I came from a different world, was convincing people. Jazz wasn’t as popular as it is now, when I did that first album. But we put it out and it did pretty well and it was right after I signed with Maurice White, of Earth Wind and Fire, for a record deal. He got kind of busy with Earth Wind and Fire, so I just went off and finished the album and put it out [myself].
Smitty: Yeah, I can see how that approach to your first project helped you to just kick it and do it. Now talk about your reaction when you first heard your music on the radio.
Carol: I first heard my music on the radio as a writer, before I even got credit for it.
Smitty: (Laughing) How many times does that happen!
Carol: Now that’s a whole other story. I know, everybody in the business has stories like that.
Smitty: So true.
Carol: No but it was exciting. To hear people actually care enough to want to play it and to listen to it.
Smitty: Talk about what that did for your confidence in your writing.
Carol: Over the years, I became more confident in my writing, as people seemed to keep wanting the songs that I was writing. That was without me really shopping them or wanting to sell them. There must have been something to what I was doing that people wanted. You know, artists aren’t always terribly confident because, that’s what drives you; you’re always looking for the better song and the better chord. I’m very confident now, because I realize it’s not something that everyone can do. But when you first start writing, you don’t really know that, because it just kind of comes naturally. It’s just something that you’re born to do.
Smitty: Well it seems like there was a steady progression in not only your writing, but your singing as well. And that’s evident with your rave reviews that you’ve received over the years. That says that you are a great artist. Period.
Smitty: You know, I’m impressed with I Stand For America. I just want to get your thoughts about this music. Apparently this really touched you to the point that you wanted to put your thoughts into song and share them with everyone. Talk a little bit about I Stand For America, your second project.
Carol: Well it was written in memory of those who lost their lives in the tragic event on September 11. It was written right before the first anniversary. I ended up just kind of improvising with the piano and collaborating with Tony Dumas and came up with that song. I had just met my favorite keyboard player in the world, Tim Carmon. He just plays beautifully. And so I thought this would be nice to put him on the (Fender) Rhodes, we came in the studio and just recorded it.
Smitty: Well it’s a nice piece, it seems like you really put your heart into that.
Carol: Thank you. I did. I mean I try to put my heart into everything that I do, but I liked the way that one really came out.
Smitty: Yes it was really nice. And you know, I was going through and really looking at the way you worked with Tim. You guys seem to really gel when it comes to writing and making music. Talk a little bit about your relationship with Tim and writing and creating this great music that you have.
Carol: When I wrote with him, I had fallen in love with somebody (laughing) and I could feel that it was tenuous and there was something going on and it wasn’t going to work out. But while I was still in euphoria, I decided to run into the studio and write as quickly as I could. I find that melodies come quicker than the words, so when I’m inspired by an event, I know that the melodies will be there, but then the words will come too. So I called Tim and said “let’s hurry up and get in the studio.” He’s so talented on the keyboard, I knew he could follow the melody and find really beautiful chords underneath the melody I was hearing. So, five of those songs were written that day in a two-hour session. And the same way I wrote the songs on the first album, I’d improvise at the microphone and I’d go home and finish the song. And that’s how they were written. Drowning, Empty, and I Underestimated You were all written about the same person, and in the same two-hour writing session.
Smitty: Yeah, I tell you, you can feel the inspiration. Those are great songs.
Carol: Thanks I’m happy with them too. I really am. You struck on something about confidence; I guess I really am the most confident right now, because I do like what I just did.
Smitty: Well I can feel it. And I’m sure all of your fans can as well as anyone that listens to this album, because of the unique command that you have of your voice and the melodies. I can see that you are a Bill Withers fan too. (laughing)
Carol: Who isn’t? You know the scary thing about doing a Bill Withers song is that his voice is so big. It’s like “I can’t touch this.” But that’s why I thought if we do it in a really different way and really change the chords up and have the instrumentation be light, and then maybe I can give it a completely different thing. Then maybe I wouldn’t be trying to compete with Bill Withers, because I wouldn’t want to do that.
Smitty: Yeah, I can remember coughing and catching my breath as a kid, trying to sing and follow along with those songs. It was just unbelievable the command he had of his voice.
Carol: He just has this huge voice.
Smitty: Well I must thank you for one thing.
Smitty: The second song on your new album, Sunny. You know, when I was a kid it was one of my all time favorite songs. When I heard that, I thought “Man I can go back so far.” so I sung along with you there (laughing), and that’s a great tract too. A very cool song with a great melody. And you handled it quite well. Very nice.
Carol: Thank you.
Smitty: Your third project Duboc (I pronounced it Dubeau)
Carol: Duboc (pronounced Du-bach)
Smitty: (laughing) Oh, Duboc.
Carol: No don’t worry, everyone has a different way of saying it. (laughing)
Smitty: What is the correct way of saying it?
Smitty: Well you know, we were saying Duboc as a joke. (laughing)
Carol: You mean like shoo be doo bock?
Carol: Yeah, you know what; I’m going to have to do a song like that on my next album. (singing) shoo be doo bock, with four or five part harmony. That’s what I’m going to do.
Smitty: (laughing) Yeah! You could scat away with that.
Carol: I’ll give you a thank you.
Smitty: That’s so cool. I love your third project too. Your album covers are so striking, you know that?
Carol: Thank you. I’m liking this last one, and I like the green.
Smitty: Yeah, a great color scheme. Kudos to your designer for that.
Carol: He’s very talented, yes. I like it too.
Smitty: Very nice. And your choice of attire is very nice, that’s for sure.
Carol: Ooh, thanks.
Smitty: And I love the pose, when you’re sitting down, I love those shoes. I couldn’t take my eyes off those shoes.
Carol: It’s funny; a couple of people have said that. That’s interesting. Wow. To be honest with you they were just shoes that I had in my closet; I ought to wear them more often. They’re very comfortable.
Smitty: You should. Yeah, and I’m not a shoe person, I never give much attention to that. But those are nice shoes. Maybe it’s all in the pose.
Carol: You know an interesting story about that dress that I’ve never told. I bought that dress to go to the Grammy’s with someone. Actually, somebody that some of these songs were written about. I was just madly in love. And I bought that, and then he cancelled the day of [the show].
Smitty: No way!
Carol: And it was like a really expensive dress and I thought “I’ve got to use this.” We used it on the album cover and the back of the album.
Carol: So that was my Grammy dress that was never worn.
Carol: Yeah, and actually you are the first person that I’ve told that to.
Smitty: Oh my God, I feel so special. Well you’ve got to wear that dress.
Carol: Yeah you know I do, that’s a good idea, but it’s got to be the right gig, you know The Kennedy Center or something. But I’ll keep it.
Smitty: Yes, please do. That dress is really striking. It’s nice. Well let’s talk more about this new record, there were a couple of things that I wanted to ask you about. When you did the first song, “All of You,” I thought it was different to see the first track as the title song. I thought that was kind of cool. And I thought that was the right song. Usually when you hear the first song on an album, you think, ok let’s get into the meat of this album. But you kicked it from the beginning to the end on this CD. And that song to me was such an excellent choice for the first song on this album.
Carol: Well I appreciate that. I spent a lot of time on trying to put together the order of the songs. On the last couple of albums I just went totally based on feeling, just instinct, impulse and feeling. On this one, I actually took my time and kind of crafted the order, took some time with it, came back the next day. I always knew I wanted “All of You” to be first because it was the last song that I wrote; and it’s about my current boyfriend, who I care a lot about. It just seemed like the right choice.
Smitty: It’s an excellent song, a great vibe. You’re hearts really there, it really is. Let’s talk about some of the great musicians you’ve worked with. I can think of Gerald Albright, Hubert Laws, so many great musicians. Talk about meeting these musicians for the first time, working with them and what it did for your musicality.
Carol: Well, each one of them is different. I met Gerald Albright when I was still in college. And he use to come over to my home studio and play solos on my demos. Of course he got very popular shortly after that. And Hubert Laws, we’re friends actually. I had him play on the second album. We’ve been working together ever since. What kind of influence they’ve been? Ummm….well also don’t forget Teddy Riley, he was quite an influence. Do you know who he is?
Smitty: No actually I don’t.
Carol: Teddy Riley was a big hip hop producer in the 90’s and I worked with him on Patty LaBelle’s projects and various other projects. He was very hot, he did the group Guy and produced Michael Jackson. But anyway, he’s just done a lot of things; he’s an extremely talented guy. So yeah I’ve been influenced by everybody I’ve worked with certainly.
Smitty: Very cool. Let’s talk about a couple of other guys. You mentioned Teddy Riley, producer…
Carol: Maurice White
Carol: George Duke
Smitty: Yes, and Jeff Lorber
Carol: Jeff Lorber. Jeff and I wrote quite a few songs together. One time we went on a writing spree. We wrote like twelve songs in one week.
Smitty: (laughing) Jeff is an incredible writer and a great guy. He is just one of the greatest keyboard players; I put him in the same category with people like Joe Kurasz, George Duke, David Benoit. You know just great creative writers with a lot of funk and a great vibe.
Carol: Yeah he’s definitely talented, no doubt about that.
Smitty: So you seem to have, in your circle, musician wise, the best of the best. So it’s understandable that you have high standards, and that’s evident in this latest project.
Carol: Thank you. Maybe that’s a good point, how they have influenced me. I expect nothing but the best. You know, if you’re going to play flute, play like you were Hubert Laws (laughing).
Smitty: I feel ya. Whenever I hear his name, I think of Romeo and Juliet.
Carol: Yes. Great album.
Smitty: That is just an incredible album, it’s old, but it’s one of the great ones.
Carol: Yeah, he’s talented.
Smitty: Talk about your band. Darrell Crooks, your guitar player. He is a serious guitar player, I love his style.
Carol: Yeah, that’s what he is. He’s extremely talented, he has a great feel and makes all the right choices at the right times.
Smitty: How much fun was it was working with this great band? I can tell that this was a fun record. It was a serious record, but it was a fun record.
Carol: It was really fun because I liked the musicians so much. Each one of them is so great at what they do. Nobody is just kind of an okay player, everybody is, I think, brilliant at their instrument. And plus the fact, I mean I’ve done every record with Land Richards, the drummer. All of these people have toured with me, Tim and Darryl did a tour with me a couple of years ago, where we went up and down the coast in a van.
Smitty: Those are always fun trips (laughing).
Carol: So we got to know each other. And it just really was a lot of fun.
Smitty: I can imagine. Just looking at your album cover and notes, you can tell that this was just a fun record and everybody just had a great time with it. And that always makes for a great project when you have that element there.
Carol: Yeah it’s hard to force music, I mean you can do it, but you can tell.
Smitty: Yes. Lets talk for a minute about this movie. Now you were in the movie Be Cool, starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Cedric the Entertainer.
Carol: And Danny DeVito
Smitty: Oh yeah, how could I forget Danny DeVito!
Carol: That’s okay. Also, Vince Vaughn and The Rock.
Smitty: Yeah, and you seem to have so much fun no matter what you are doing. You are just kickin’ it up in this movie! Now tell me…
Carol: Did you see it?
Smitty: Yes I did and I laughed like you wouldn’t believe.
Smitty: How did you get the part in this movie?
Carol: As you know, I do performances around LA. A friend of mine is also a fan, she’s been around almost everything I’ve done in the past two years. But she’s also a casting agent, so they were looking for that particular person to play that role. At first they were looking for someone who had red hair, so she didn’t call me. But they couldn’t find her so finally on a Friday, at the last minute, she called and said “Can you come and sing “Lady Marmalade”; I said, “Yeah, sure.” So I guess I must have had the right look and attitude and stuff. And I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not (laughing).
Smitty: I think it is. Well that was something cool. You know I have to ask you, what did you think when you were chosen for this role.
Carol: I was excited! I had no idea, and they ended up using me twenty days. John Travolta was in nearly every scene, and one scene Vince Vaughn had his arm around me for twelve hours.
Smitty: (laughing) You didn’t mind did you?
Carol: I could start a rumor but I won’t. (laughing)
Carol: No, it was great.
Smitty: It looked like you were having a great time, a great movie. And your wardrobe, Whew!
Carol: Wasn’t that a great wardrobe? I almost walked out of the wardrobe department when I saw that. Thinking, what kind of movie IS THIS? (Laughing) But I figured PG, they’d cover me up.
Smitty: (laughing) Yeah, it was incredible. And of course that was a new experience for you.
Carol: Oh yeah, I’ve never been in a movie before.
Smitty: So what were you thinking during all of that, you know, the script reading and the casting. Talk a little bit about that experience.
Carol: I’d taken a couple of dance lessons, but I’m not a dancer. I’d certainly never done choreographed numbers. And I find it interesting that my first choreographed number was on the MGM set in front of like a hundred people, (laughing). I thought, this is really scary!’
Smitty: (laughing) I could just see you trying to get through that.
Carol: But you know the nice thing about singing jazz is that you sing in front of many different types of audiences and it really can prepare you for anything. So I felt somewhat comfortable performing, if that makes sense. In clubs you never know who you’re going to get in front of you. The hardest part was the choreography. I was supposed to be the one that could really act and sing, and I’ve been there, done that, just don’t want to be there you know. And the funny thing is the girl, Manai, the Asian girl, she’s actually a professional dancer. But she’s supposed to look like she’s missing the dances.
Smitty: Oh she’s a professional?
Carol: She’s a professional dancer, so she’d actually have to plan her dance misses.
Smitty: You wouldn’t have known. So, man you have so much to put in your memoirs.
Carol: That’s what I was thinking, you know grandkids. Look at Grandma!
Smitty: Grandma used to look like that? (laughing) So lets see now, you have a website?
Carol: Yes, www.carolduboc.com
Smitty: Alright! And I must say, this is some website.
Carol: Thank you! We like it.
Smitty: And I want to say to everyone, go to the photo gallery!!!!
Carol: Yes, and we’ll be updating it soon. Things are happening all the time, so we have to update it all the time.
Smitty: Very good, and your color scheme is just incredible.
Carol: Yes we love our web designers as well. We’ve been blessed this year.
Smitty: Yes you have so many great pictures, Hubert Laws is on there and I think Serena Williams …the tennis player is there.
Carol: Oh Serena, yes I sang the national anthem at that tournament. It used to be the Virginia Slims, but they changed the name to JP Morgan Chase. Yes I’m glad I did that, because I ended up singing it at Dodgers Stadium after that. Just sort of a…
Smitty: Warm up.
Carol: Yes a warm up. It went from 5,000 people to 55,000 people.
Smitty: Striking difference (laughter)
Carol: Yeah, it was fun.
Smitty: What about the tour?
Carol: We’ll be touring the beginning of May until June. We’re on a Borders tour and we have some dates in between at some key venues around the west coast and the Midwest as well.
Smitty: Oh going home?
Carol: Going home.
Smitty: Well that’s too cool, and hopefully I’ll catch you on the road somewhere.
Carol: Well we’re contemplating Houston as well.
Smitty: Oh Please!
Carol: You can check the website soon to find out.
Smitty: Well I promise you a good time if you come to Houston.
Carol: Uh oh. I’ll have to look you up.
Smitty: Carol, it’s been my pleasure to welcome you to the Jazz Nation. Thanks so much for sharing your insights and this wonderful career that you have, and all of the great things that you’ve done recently, the movie and this great new record. Please come back and see us again.
Carol: Oh I will, thank you.
Smitty: We’ve been talking with Gold Note Music recording artist Carol Duboc. She has a great new CD out called All of You. I highly recommend this record, it is one to have in your collection. Carol, thanks again and all the very best with everything in 2005.
Carol: Thank you so much Smitty and see you in Houston!