Something about Carly
photo by Tom Burke, taken on Sandymount beach in Dublin.
Carly Blackman AKA Carly Sings described as a songwriter who puts the word ‘writing’ back into singer-song writing, grew up in the countryside in Wicklow, Ireland. At the heart of a house where her father’s love of music dominated everything, stood a piano where Carly learnt to play duets with her sister. Debussy, Andrew Lloyd Weber, The Beatles and Stevie Wonder were among the most frequently heard. Her first public performance was an instrumental composition age 12 in front of her school. Music was always the way out, a channel to day-dreaming, her favorite pass time, but not necessarily an aspiration to anything more…and she would stuff her ear phones up the sleeves of her school uniform in class just to listen to as much as possible of her favorite bands, singers or classical music.
She moved to Lyon, France, as a teenager, a desire informed by a sub-conscious love of French cinema and music, where she became the eternal exchange student, and also where she began to fully absorb the French culture now available to her, but most of all, the language. Fresh into university to study French literature and Classics, although she fooled around on the guitar and continued to play classical piano, music was at the back of her mind and writing was very much at the fore. Dreaming of being a music journalist or a playwright, she spent most of her time writing for newspapers, fanzines and contributing plays, short-films and scripts to the college drama society. It was in her last year, that she decided to produce a musical play called “Rio in Love” that she had written influenced by Brazilian Bossa nova music from the sixties and seventies starring none other than than her fellow college goer singer Lisa Hannigan.
Still a student, and working on a magazine, she arrived in Paris, where her mother who came to visit suggested she start-up piano again, but there wasn’t room for a piano so she decided on the cheaper option of a guitar. Purchased in a pawnshop, and chosen by a flamenco guitarist whom her and her mother had met in the streets, this instrument would become the key to her becoming “Carly Sings”. She took up jazz singing lessons around the same time, training with an African gospel singer who encouraged her with a group of other young singers to improvise with soulfulness. It was at this time, that she started to record some songs using her Dad’s old Sony microphone and mini-disc player. The songs were like spontaneous diary entries, laden with all her different literary influences. Some self-taught guitar accompanied these debutant melodies often reminiscent of Jazz standards, while Carly kept on learning to strum better. Dan Au, her musician friend from Texas who happened to know a thing or two about the changing music scene suggested she upload some demos to a website called Myspace. It all started from there, requests came in to play live, and producers asked if they could record her. Returning home to Ireland, she took up Jazz piano and got a job in a bar singing weekly while presenting other new talent. The opera singer Judith Mok whom she had met in Paris, after hearing a recording of Carly’s version of Gershwin’s Summer Time, suggested coaching her voice professionally and from that point on became her teacher and mentor.
More songs got written, mainly inspired by relationships, often shrouded by an atmosphere of old jazz crooners like Doris Day and Chet Baker. Then came more concert dates in bigger venues and theaters, opening for a variety of established artists - suddenly the title came to her. A nameless boy who stole a pair of purple gloves was to be known as “The Glove Thief”. The song was written. And a self-portrait pinned on her bedroom wall with the words scrawled across. Armed with an archive of demos, and drifting in and out of a world inhabited by the musical atmosphere of Michel Gondry’s “Science of Sleep”, Nick Drake, Carlos Jobim, and Bright Eyes, the album began to take shape. She compiled a selection of acoustic recordings and started to send them everywhere. Within a few months Carly’s face was seen covering two pages of the culture supplement in the The Sunday Times newspaper…answering questions about her links with French culture and the self-doubt, reflected in her shy demeanor and lyrics.
It’s true to say the songs that would make it onto the debut album appear like intimate poems put to music, that draw the listeners to investigate the nature of relationships and existence according to Carly. Recorded in two studios by French producer Axel Concato and Irish producer Steven Shannon and at first independently released in Ireland in 2008, then internationally in France in 2009, The Glove Thief garnered Carly and her “cristalline” singing voice, an overwhelming amount of press attention. Carly experimented with synths and string arrangements and for certain songs collaborated with a group of very talented musicians that joined her in the studio as her backing band.
The debut album was singled out for it’s catchy melodies, low-fi sensibilities, vintage references to bands such as The Zombies, Simon and Garfunkel, the French YeYe singers and a kind of dirty innocence in the lyric writing. Much touring and television and radio appearances followed. She was invited by RTE Radio Lyric FM to showcase her songs with several other Jazz and pop artists at a live concert and subsequently broadcast, accompanied by the Callino string quartet in October 2008, the songs were arranged especially by Ben Carrigan (The Thrills) and Desmond Earley (Director of the Early Music Ensemble and the UCD choral scholars). In the same year, she was invited to perform solo with Jose Gonzalez and Oscar Winners The Swell Season. By November, Carly had already composed a new batch of songs, and after spending some time with fellow Irish singer Damien Rice, she would go on to record these first acoustic demos with him in his home studio.
Carly came back to Paris, France in early 2009, to be the opening performer at the Salon du Cinema, and for the French release of her album, supported by French music magazine Les Inrocktibles. She started to work with members of French rock pop group Syd Matters and legendary string arranger Jean Claude Vannier on some new recordings before taking off on tour throughout France that summer and then in the East Coast of the US. In March 2010 she decided to settle permanently in Paris.
She released a homage in the form of her single “Je t’aime tant” to French new wave artist Jacno after his death, has since written a second album which is due for release and shares her time between writing, music composition, film-making and performance. She enjoys collaborations with different artists, and recently started recording a duet album with Oxford born singer-songwriter Richard Walters, the “Parade”. She has also been asked to sing on the new Nouvelle Vague LP. Her next musical project after her new album will involve material entirely written in French and the sound track to her own feature movie.