Carmen Cuesta - "easy ... but sophisticated"
Carmen Cuesta is one of those singers, whose work cannot be simply sorted under one genre: her music is a mixture of pop and jazz, it is smooth radiomusic of the positive type. Sometimes her voice reminds a little bit of Sade. - Much more than her way of singing it is the message of the music that tells us something about this peaceful and honest women, whose latest album is - not without reasons - called "Peace of mind".
Who wishes to listen to Carmen Cuesta in concert is going to find some gigs in Germany announced in her tour-schedule.
And who´d like to get to know more about her and her background, about the difficulties and happiness in Carmen´s life, may read the following e-mail-interview:
Carina: When did you start singing - and what was the reason why you started?
Carmen: I have been singing my whole life. I can't really think of a moment when I decided to become a singer because I always sang. Even when I was a little girl, I used to have to entertain in family gatherings with the songs I learned from the radio. I think I was about two when this started. Singing has always been a natural thing to me.
Carina: When did you decide to try and make a living as a singer, dancer and actress?
Carmen: When I was about fourteen or fifteen I started to learn on my own how to play the guitar, because I had this intense need to hear music while I sang. A few chords here and there, and I started writing my own songs. I could say that those where very exciting moments in my life.
Then, I met someone that heard me sing with my guitar at a friend's party. From then on one thing led to another - and by the time I was seventeen, while in college, I was doing commercials and professional theater. The money I was making was so great, that I decided to put the books aside for a while.
Carina: You left Spain to live in New York - do you sometimes miss your country, the " spanish lifestyle" and a kind of "relaxed behaviour"?
Carmen: I moved to New York when I was twenty four. I had left so much behind me: family, work, friends. - And to be perfectly honest I was very attached to my environment and my country. It had never crossed my mind to live in any other country but Spain. So the first five years where hell to me. I was very unhappy, and I cried a lot.
My love for Chuck, my husband, on the other hand, was too real to give it up. It was in mutual agreement that we would live in New York. So I decided to sacrifice and try to make the best of it, but oh I missed my "other life" sooo much!
Now it's very different. My life in New York is very settled. My two daughters were born here - we built our lives here. But I do many times miss my country and its lifestyle. I go to Spain two whole months a year and enjoy every moment of it. We are also thinking about spending a year or two there very soon.
Carina: Your solo-debut is titled "One Kiss" - your latest album "Peace of Mind" - can you describe the development, that has taken place between the two albums?
Carmen: Four years have passed between "One kiss" and "Peace of Mind", and I have been through a lot of changes. Also my kids have become teenagers, and they don't need as much of me as before. So it has been just recently that I have found a new space and a dimension that I had lost somewhere when my kids were born.
Now with "Peace of mind" I find myself in a new beginning, a fresh start. I got myself back. While doing "Peace of mind" I was present. I was more committed and in control of the whole thing than with "One Kiss". Chuck and I had a great time with it.
Carmen Cuesta - "Peace of Mind" (Skip 9013-2)
Carina: "Peace of Mind" is an album with a lot of jazz-instrumentation - but it gives much room to your voice and is some kind of soft-pop music. How did you get the idea to conceive such a brilliant mixture?
Carmen: All the musicians that played on my CD are jazz players and they are all people I know. They can play anything you ask them to. In our situation, Chuck and I gave them the basis and then let them be themselves (of course within some limits). So even if some of my songs start being basically pop, with Chuck's arrangements and the specific players that we use, they adopt a certain sophistication that I love.
Carina: What - would you say - makes your album "Peace of Mind" special in comparison to other song-albums?
Carmen: Perhaps what makes my CD special - or different from others is that I don't follow any preconceived format from the music marketing. Instead, I try to bring a product as original and personal as possible. Something I truly love.
Carina: The synth flute and the guitar are played by your husband Chuck Loeb- and he is the co-producer of the whole album. How does it feel to be always so close to your husband with the work you do?
Carmen: What can I say? I love Chuck, and I don't think I could
ever find anybody that understands me better than him - but sometimes
things can get a little tense.
Living and working together is not an easy task. Years ago this presented big problems in our personal relations. By now we treat this situations with sense of humor, and we are able to move on.
Carina: Your singing technique - please tell me a little bit more about it.
Carmen: My singing technique is based on relaxation. All the organs that are involved in producing the sound of my voice have to be relaxed. It is difficult to be relaxed when you are tired and that is why singers need so much rest. I like to warm up in the classical style and then apply its technique to my natural voice.
Carina: There seems to be a special "aura" around you - and your songs transmit a positive feeling to the listener - is that something you produce with the help of the music - or is it part of your "inner self"?
Carmen: To find something positive to say with my songs has always been my main focus. Sometimes I need to acknowledge the negative in life, and really dissect it until I find the "under layer" of positivism. It's always there! If I gave a positive feeling to the listener, then I would feel like I am on the right track.
Carina: How much training does your voice need? What about daily moods - how much do they influence your singing?
Carmen: I am very lucky because I don't need a lot of training for my voice. I try to be very careful in how I talk and how I use my voice on daily basis. It is also very important to exercise, because that helps your breathing and control. I don't sing every day. Sometimes I don't sing for several days, but I like to practice a few days before I know I have to sing.
What I do, is listen to music a lot. When I am recording, I don't allow the "daily mood" to interfere with the performance. I try to be as objective as possible with the particular mood that the song is supposed to have. But singing live I completely let go. I am myself at that very moment. That way I let the audience get a closer and more intimate look at me, which is why people like to go to a concert - to get to know the artist better than just by listening to their CDs.
Carina: Have you got a sort of philosophy for life?
Carmen: My philosophy in life is "one moment at a time", and to make "The Truth" the predominant force that moves my existence.
CD: Carmen Cuesta - "Peace of Mind" (Skip 9013-2)
Foto, Cover: Helge Strauss
Jazzdimensions: Carmen Cuesta - "Peace of Mind" - Review ( erschienen 12.3.2001)
Jazzdimensions: Metro (Chuck Loeb et al.) - Interview (erschienen: 15.2.2001)