ABOVE: CARO EMERALD. IMAGE COURTESY OF ADRIE MOUTHAAN
Caro Emerald is a reincarnated Bettie Page with the voice of a speakeasy singer. The Dutch musician mixes pop, 1940s and ’50s jazz, R&B, samba and more into her musical storytelling. The story of her discovery, too, centers on old-fashioned kismet: Emerald was called into record vocals with producers David Schreurs and Jan van Wieringen, who had just one song that needed a singer. Once they heard her sing, the song—the catchy track “Back It Up,” below—ended up becoming just one single on a full-length album, Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor, released last year in the US. It’s a seductive, soulful track that demonstrates her vocal versatility, as well as the cinematic quality of her voice to which her album title alludes.
Emerald was in the process of recording vocals for her upcoming second album when we called her. We spoke with Emerald about her vintage sound and style, bringing back the music of previous decades, and her gem of a name.
ILANA KAPLAN: Are you on tour right now?
CARO EMERALD: No, I’m in the studio right now. I’m in the middle of a vocal recording. Yeah. We’re working on the second album.
KAPLAN: On the second album? Do you have a release date for it yet?
EMERALD: Not really. We have an idea of when it will be released. We’re not sure, because it needs to be finished and right now it’s not. You never know how long it takes. Sometimes you can say, “We’re going to work for a month, and then it will be finished.” Most of the time it’s not. We want it to be perfect.
KAPLAN: One hears a variety of genres in the music you make. What types of artists have influenced your sound?
EMERALD: It differs a little bit. I guess what I’m a big fan of is vocal music in general. I will listen to anything in between jazz and pop, soul music, funk music, old soul, new soul, and R&B. I’ve listened to a lot of music over time, because I’ve also studied music. I’m guessing people that influenced me a lot would be old-school jazz singers like Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Lionel Washington. I also really like Nina Simone and Dusty Springfield. I also listen a lot to soul music like Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. I really love modern R&B like Rihanna and Beyoncé. I also like pop singers like Amy Winehouse and Lana Del Rey. I can find inspiration in all things.
KAPLAN: Your music is very bold, like your outfits. Does your music influence your style or vice versa?
EMERALD: My music influences my style. I love dressing up, though. I mean, I’ve always been that kind of girl, playing with Barbie dolls and stuff. That’s the part of the stage that attracts me a lot: that I get to be able to dress up and wear really nice dresses. For this particular act, I was really looking for a customized kind of style. I think it’s logical to choose your whole style according to your music. I used to be in a Motown cover band, and we would dress up like those ladies. For me, it’s kind of obvious.
KAPLAN: Who are some of your favorite designers?
EMERALD: I love Louis Vuitton. It’s not the bags, actually. Whenever I see the photo shoots of their collections, I’m always in love with it. It’s not just the clothing; it’s the whole vibe around it. It’s how they present the whole thing in photographs. It’s the style of the campaigns.
KAPLAN: Are you going to be touring in the spring, or are you going to be in the studio?
EMERALD: I will be doing a small tour for now. I will be touring in the UK and Germany. We just have to see, because we keep the schedule free for promotions. In the summer, I will be doing some festivals and hopefully a big tour in the autumn.
KAPLAN: Who are you hoping to play a show with?
EMERALD: A whole show? Oh my God! I don’t know! It’s hard to choose someone because it has to fit, you know? It would be cool to work together with Lana Del Rey, for instance. It has to work, as well. It would always depend on that. There are some cool voices I like. I really like Adele’s voice. It would be really cool if she would ever consider that.
KAPLAN: Have you played in the U.S.?
EMERALD: I have. I’ve played in LA, and I’ve done a showcase with a small setup. Not my complete band, my full band. I have to get used to English talking.
KAPLAN: It’s all good. Caro Emerald isn’t your real name. How did you come up with that moniker?
EMERALD: My real name is Caroline, and my second name is Esmerelda.
KAPLAN: So you formed your stage name out of your full name?
EMERALD: Yeah! Caroline Esmerelda doesn’t really work. It’s too much. I didn’t want it to be a personal name; I wanted it to be more international than that. People already call me Caro, so it made sense. I like the idea that it’s a jewel.
KAPLAN: Is the songwriting on your second album very autobiographical?
EMERALD: No. Right now, that’s not the way we write or I write. It’s more of a concept album. I work with two producers and a writer from Canada. There are other writers and producers. It’s more like a collective. We work very closely together, and we created this style. We wanted to create this for ourselves. It’s more like little stories. It could be out of movies. That’s how we looked at it. That’s why the title is Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor. You pick up a scene that wasn’t used in a movie, but it could have been used in a movie. Vincent Degiorgio, who is a brilliant songwriter from Canada, is really, really good at that. So, for the second album, we’re doing the same.
KAPLAN: What do you want your fans to get out of your music?
EMERALD: I would like them to get whatever they want out of their music. That’s the most important thing to me. A lot of people find different things in it. There’s something there for the “music freak,” since the productions are very complex; people who like to be cheered up, people who like to moved or just are touched by my story. It depends a little bit. Most of all, I want people to enjoy my music. Hopefully they will let my voice into their hearts.
DELETED SCENES FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR IS OUT NOW. CARO EMERALD WILL BE PLAYING IN NEW YORK CITY AT LE POISSON ROUGE THIS THURSDAY. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, VISIT HER WEBSITE.