By Katharine W. Poole
For Women of Music Music of Women
Eileen Carey has learned to Let It Go, the title and title track of her latest CD shares a wisdom, philosophy and joy of life. It is a unique project, that contains both a re-release of one of her prior songs and several covers. “Don’t get me wrong (Chrissie Hynde) was first aired in in Europe and went well there. [I will be ] interested to see how people take to it in the states. Only the lonely, (Martha Davis) is already getting airplay in the States, as is her third cover, the popular 80’s Katrina and the Waves: Walking on Sunshine ( Kimberly Rew.)
Her music is currently popular with AAA (Adult Album Alternative) and AC/HotAC (Adult Contemporary) in states.
It is unusual for an artist to re-release a song from a prior album and promote it with a fresh video, but this time it works. The thought behind re-mixing and re-releasing – Faith – was a plan in poignancy. “We had other cuts. We kind of forgot about it. It wasn’t a topic every one was talking about. I don’t know why we were overlooked. It was the wrong timing? But, They are now [talking about the message of Faith.] It was a pretty- throw the spaghetti on the wall [decision.]” And a good one. The song is currently charting on New Music Weekly’s Top 10 Country Charts at #1 and in the top 10 of the AC Charts at #2. It landed me the TV show.” Eileen is referring to a guest appearance on LA’s The Weekend Morning Show KCAL-TV, CBS, which aired January 10th.
Faith was a re-inspired project that sparked all of Eileen’s talents and skills. She not only sings and plays in the video, she helped to create every aspect of it. “I found a director – we talked about the story line – beginning to end we worked together.” She does this because she has the background and experience to do just that. “I don’t have the editing skills, but I can visualize the story.” In that way she crafts the vision of her lyrics.
Growing up in Ohio, Eileen experienced the arts in the way small-town American parents want to keep their kids busy and engaged. From theatre class and performance, to choir practice and more, she was emerged and active at a young age. At one point, her parents actually bought her a drum set – something she laughs about. Though she was quite accomplished, it did not turn out to be her ultimate goal in music.
Her parents were also realists, and instilled in Eileen that music wasn’t a way to earn a living, so she attended business school with a focus in food and beverage. She was successful at an early age, working for Sheraton Hotels in management. Eileen moved up the ladder rapidly and inevitably her job took her to LA. In the midst of working in the entertainment capitol, Eileen realized she did not want to be serving the entertainment, she wanted to be the entertainment. So with the support of her husband, she quit.
“I was driving home after working a 15 hours day…I realized I did not want my life to be this. I was in my late twenties.” She left the grind and never looked back. “I worked part-time for a bit. But,” she emphasizes, “I was married. I was lucky. My family is supportive of my music. My husband is very successful in the restaurant business…he could support us.” So, she started voice lessons and took songwriting workshops, and began a strong career of not only singing and songwriting, but production, direction and acting.
Eileen was initially highly interested in being a director. She directed stage plays in LA, but soon learned it is tough to make a living with live theatre in that town. “It’s television and film mostly. I never saw myself in front of camera. I always saw myself behind it, so I focused on production.” Eileen eventually ended up acting, but put the majority of her efforts into music. It paid off. Her extensive background in performance along with her business school corporate experience came together to create a strong package. So Eileen could forge her own path in the music industry, having a hand in all aspects of her career. She kept writing, performing, networking, met producers and ran tracks.
Her original goals were that of most performers. “I wanted to be a star. You always want to be that but reality kicks in and you have to find where you fit in. Not every one can be a superstar – BUT – you can make a living at it. You have to go 100 percent in your niche.” Eileen is a true believer in – you get back what you put in. Hard work pays off.
Her own focus continues to develop even at this point in her career. “I enjoy it all performing, studio, tv, recording, putting the words on the page. It’s a long process. It takes a while – people don’t understand. Every step is cool. And it’s a great accomplishment to get to the end [of a project.]” She’s very grounded in her view of the profession. “I don’t worry about being a famous star. I worry about getting the words out on the page. I have to do research. I’m very visual – visualize it.” She is also a proponent of collaboration. “Co-writers keep me in reality. I love working with others and I feed off of them. I just like working with people.”
Eileen started out as an Adult Contemporary artist, but shifted gears when approached by Gene Kennedy of Door Knob records. Mr. Kennedy believed they could promote her music in the Country market. He was right. It hit the top 20 on the Country Music Radio Chart. Proving herself as a crossover artist was a big step for Eileen. Her combination of Pop and Rock influences with Country flair, made her a fit for both the West Coast and the Southern music scene. She traveled between LA and Nashville, building her connections and fan base. And so began her love affair with Music City. “Nashville is the Music Capitol – quaint – down home – makes you feel welcome. It’s like coming home.” It was a welcomed respite from the continuous drive of LA. She found a working balance tying together two major music environments with very different vibes.
Success was a lot of work. There were frustrations. “Country made it difficult for women to be on charts. For a while there was a large group -“ she points out Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood and Faith Hill, to name a few. “All those strong women disappeared.” She notes we still have strong women, but not as many getting airplay. She speaks briefly to the theory that “men pull in more dollars on charts in radio,” and reflects – “Maybe it’s harder for women to play the game. Women are less visible – they are there but mostly in duos and trios.” At one point Eileen thought about creating a radio station dedicated solely to women artists in country music, and a chart just for women. “You look at the [recent] charts – all guys who sound the same – look same.” She notes the baseball cap trend; the current style of not only Country Music but Country Fashion.
The reality of the music scene is especially challenging for women. It is not just a culture of artistry, but a culture of sales. Eileen stresses that women need to be particularly strong and stay true to themselves. “LA is different because you have a lot of pop artists…They always want to sell sex. If they don’t, the album wont be that great or get played.” But she is a firm believer that there is equal ownership perpetuating this directive. “We [women] put ourselves in that position a lot of the time. We need to make a change. Intelligent women put themselves through that to then [ultimately be able] to do what they want. Look at what Lady GaGa had to do first to get to the position where now she can do what she wants. That’s business.”
She believes this will change. “There will be a wake up call to not exploit yourself. It’s ok to clean up and not strip down. As a woman you need to make the decision how much you want to give up of your self.” Eileen describes this as: A balance of responsibility. “Stand up and say you don’t want to be exploited. Do it yourself!” And to those in charge of music airplay, she simply says: “If you don’t put them on the radio you’ll never know…”
She’s been through it all, and though there have been mostly good experiences, she like all artists had a few bad ones that taught her valuable lessons. The worst? “A club in the West End – I think it’s closed now. The owner booked me, but his audience didn’t like what I was doing.” True to the researcher she is Eileen confesses: “From now on I check out places. Just ‘cause owner likes you doesn’t mean audience will. They wanted traditional. It was a learning experience. They were rude – they didn’t throw a tomato at me – but wanted me off the stage.”
Eileen pushed through the challenging moments, having faith in herself and her talent. This drive continues to pay off. When she was thirty a producer in Nashville told her “You’re too old. Go home.” Now that same producer is a huge supporter of her music. Her fan base and professional connections led to a marriage of bi-coastal recording. All her albums start in Nashville with the partners of Travis Allen Childress (Producer – Nashville Tracks) whom Eileen has worked with on four albums over 13 years. The initial tracks are laid in Nashville with studio musicians – the vocal and background recordings, mixing and mastering are completed in LA. To Eileen this is the best blend of both her worlds. It comes together to combine what she describes as: “West Coast Country” – a blend of Pop, Rock and Country.
Eileen gets the best of both worlds working between California and Tennessee. “LA – It’s the movie town, the glitter, stars, fast paced, fun and exciting. Nashville is exciting too in a different way…both offer two different things.” She points out that Nashville now has entered the movie business as well; the two towns are linked by more than just music. Those connections are a good thing for an entertainer like Eileen. “To me my songs are like mini movies. I don’t write about myself really. I write about everything around me. People in my life, family, friends, things I observe. I try to find a balance [through them.]”
Eileen performs in Nashville three to four times a year, focusing on radio tours and local gigs. She is a regular at the CMA Fest, due to the diligent support of her PR person Susan Collier. “So many good things every time. I’m always being welcomed from radio, places I play, people I work with. It’s always exciting. At the Tootsie’s booth, fans come back and bring pictures to sign and talk about the last time they saw me. The fans make my day always.”
Eileen loves her work, and it surprises her. “I did not expect awards – never expected to be even nominated. I put my heart in sole in it. If I just to get someone’s attention for three minutes, then I’m doing my job. It’s nice to be acknowledge – I never expected it. It’s exciting. I would like to be thought of for Grammy – sure!” she laughs. “But I love inspiring fans. Awards are a nice pat on the back.”
She is inspired by the people around her. “I surround myself with friends and family. I’m a people watcher. Musicians who inspire her are Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, The Beatles; she is influenced by her love of 80’s music. “All kinds of music inspires me in different directions. I enjoy entertainment across the board. Even the news – I watch the chaos and pull out something positive.” “When I get on stage I’m at home.”
Currently in the studio Eileen is working on her next project. “We are in pre-production – tracking Friday – hopefully ready for CMA.” How will the material differ from Let It Go? “I don’t think it will be too much different. Maybe I’ll twist it up a little bit. The message? I don’t like telling others what to do cause no one will listen to me. [It will be] always positive music with a little twist.” There is a lilt of slyness in her voice as she adds, “I can’t give away my secret – my secret recipe.”
The final questions posed to Eileen (inspired by James Lipton’s approach to interviewing for Inside The Actor’s Studio.)
1 In one Word describe Nashville: “Home.” She says with ease, and adds: “It feels like I’m always going home.”
2 Your favorite food experience in Nashville: “Chago’s Mexican Restaurant. We go there every time I’m in town.”
3 One word that describes your music style: “Country-Pop-Rock”
4 Who is the one person you want to meet in Nashville: “Keith Urban”
5 If you could ask (him/her) one question what would that question be: Her answer is more of a wish, less a question: “I’d like to write a song with him. He has a positive attitude on things – at least when I read his lyrics or listen to his music.”
6 What is your favorite Nashville venue: “I’d have to say it’s still, The Bluebird.”
7 Your favorite lyric from a song you wrote: She pauses. “Can I email that? I need to get back to you on that. I can think about other people’s songs… You stumped me.” she laughs. Eileen emailed the next day: “Deep inside their eyes there’s a story lying – And deep inside their hearts there’s no denying” From her song Hearts of Times, because every person has a story behind their eyes and a heart to back it up.
At the end of our conversation, she offers up a few words of advice… “Never tell Nashville people you are from LA.” She laughs. “I’ve started telling them I’m from Ohio.” She gets a much better reaction that way. Her serious advice is simple: “Be true to yourself. It will all follow through. Bottom line,” she repeats, “Be true to yourself.” And…Have a little Faith. It’s certainly worked for Eileen.
Eileen Carey will be performing in Nashville in June and will be at the Tootsies booth for her annual appearance at CMA Fest – until then you can check her out and purchase her album Let it Go at eileencareymusic.com
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