This past August, I spoke with up and coming singer/songwriter Angel Caroline. I wanted to pick her brain about her work and see what it was she loved about it and what artistic direction she wants it to take in the future. She’s performed at open mics nights in NYC, and does covers on YouTube. She also sat down to talk about her upcoming full length tape she wants to drop soon, and goes into detail about the creative process, from her initial mindset going in, to the intricacies of some individual tracks that will be on it.
Here is the interview below:
20XX: Give me a day in the life of Caroline, or a week. How does your general flow go?
Angel Caroline: Well I have been doing summer classes all summer, but I just finished my interview with a designer on Friday, that was, y’know, pretty integral in my typical week, because it was twice a week. I was doing a style journalism class most recently, that was really cool. Before that I was doing a class in the linguistics of Quechua, but I wasn’t really learning Quechua, that was really cool, it was tough. Other than classes, I dunno, I’ve been staying at home lately, I live with my family, I have two sisters and my parents and my dog. I guess I just work on music, whatever needs to be done that week, or whatever I can manage, either writing, or I’ve been hitting up a lot of musicians lately, to try to get pieces for tracks. I mainly have melodies and lyrics and stuff, and I’ve been trying to pull them in.
Since you’ve been working with artists, do you have a project coming up? Are you helping them with projects?
Yeah I’ve been trying to get them to come in on my project, which is my first album, first mixtape, whatever you want to call it. And I’m hoping to get that done around January give or take a few months. I don’t really know how it’s gonna go.
What kind of vibes are you trying to go for with it, or I guess, what kind of people are you trying to get in? What’s the mood, what’s the tone with this one?
It’s mostly going to be an RnB album, some of the songs might be on the bluesy side, some of them might be more on the pop side. I’ve been especially working with this one producer who does, I guess kind of like chill hip hop? He has nice samples.
Kind of like a lo-fi vibe.
Yeah, not entirely. It is a little bit more beefed up than lo-fi. He also has good samples of high pitches, which is something I haven’t seen a lot. I also have been trying to find [a guitarist]. I’ve had a lot of guitarists agree to help me out and it doesn’t work out, but the most recent one is this blues guitarist, I think he’s from Bali. Then there’s another friend from highschool who’s really good at drums. He’s like “oh I don’t have anything to record on but I can do it digitally”
Do you compose any of the music on your own? I saw some of your YouTube videos and you play a bit of piano in some of those. When it comes to putting beats together do you have your hand in that at all, or do you pass that off that off to [producers] so that you can focus on songwriting and things like that?
Yeah I’m like trying to pass most of it off. I play piano to the extent of chords, I can do chords pretty well. Most recently for this guitarist, his name’s John, I sent him this song, but I think I basically was singing the melody and lyrics, and he was like “I’d like if you sent me the chords for this and I can match it up with the words”, and I went in with my piano to figure out what chords I was singing. There’s a lot of things like that, figuring out the chords. And I’m always looking on BeatStars and YouTube and stuff to see if anyone does have tracks. I try to produce a bit on my own, but first of all, I’m on GarageBand. Well I guess GarageBand is fine. And also, my Keyboard is supposed to be MIDI, and I feel like that would be a lot easier since I am familiar with chords on there. I feel like if I could hook it up to my computer I could make cool different sounds and I could edit it so it’s on beat. But I don’t know if my MIDI cable ever worked, or if it just broke. I called my uncle who apparently knows about that stuff and we were talking about it and he said “start with getting a new cable, or a new piano”
I figure if I try to take on all the production as well, then I’m just gonna give myself one more avenue to get frustrated with myself, so I’m just like “lets just turn this shit out” and hopefully I’ll learn along the way, maybe for the next album.
When it comes to constructing a song, what comes first? Is it the idea for what you want the lyrics to be? Is it the beat, how you want the melodies to sound? Or do you go to a producer and be like “send me something fire” and try something out with that? How does that go?
Well I don’t think I have yet to make something to a beat, I feel like I’ve mostly had lyrics or had a rap or a poem or whatever, and looked for a beat that fit. I think what’s been happening lately is a melody has come to me, and I’d put that in voice memos, and I might try to expand on it. Or sometimes if I’m in a bad mood, looking to vent, then I’ll go to my notebook and write a bunch of stuff and sometimes that turns out well, and that’s more of the poetry/rap stuff I do.
Do you feel like a lot of your work comes from that, just venting or getting thoughts out? Or is it more imaginative and not relating to that route?
I feel like even if it is just a melody, the lyrics are usually, kind of like what’s going on inside my head. Sometimes it’s like, comments on fights with people, cracking relationships. But in general it’s like a peek into my mind, or a peek into how I’m trying to keep my mind sane. A lot of the lyrics, I’ve realized a lot of the things I end up repeating, I tell myself that everyday to be mindful.
So, you’re working on a project, and you have your YouTube thing. Do you think you’ll continue doing covers, or will it be all new brand new stuff, no one’s ever heard before, what do you think it’s going to pan out like?
So after I release my album?
Yeah or even now while you’re working on it, are you still trying to be like “alright let me get a cover up, let me keep the YouTube thing going” or are you full steam ahead on doing your own kind of project and branching out that way?
So with YouTube I think I started before I even committed to writing my own music; it was something I was interested in, but I was focused on the part that I liked the most, singing. And I got used to that, and I got used to trying to market that side of myself, and I was like “let’s make some of my own songs so I can sing my own songs”. But lately, I’ve just been very stressed trying to plan for the fall, so I haven’t really bothered to re-record or even find old videos and edit them to put up on YouTube. I won’t be doing any unreleased songs, just because I’m too nervous about committing to them before they’re all done.
The YouTube thing is definitely a lot of work, as someone who used to do that around last year. But what I thought was interesting was what you said was, originally it was the passion for singing that came first, and then you decided that you want to do your own music. When did that click for you? When was it like “yo I want to make my own stuff”?
It’s something that I’ve kind of, struggled with for a while because it’s always very intimidating to me. And singing is something I know I love and is a lot more accessible than writing for me. Even essays and shit for school, even if it’s just a page I get really freaked out. I kind of started to concentrate on voice again, maybe like a year ago. I had just transferred from my last school and gone into therapy, and was trying to reevaluate what keeps me going, what still feels good, while I have depression and it was hard to get gratification from things. Singing was one of those few things that still felt good, if I had the energy to make myself do it. So I was like “ok, I know I really want to do this”. I know that if I was able to do this as a profession, to just perform singing, I’d be very pleased with that. I was like you know what, let’s just go for it, or start going for it. And I got used to that, and I was like, you know what I think I can really do this, and it would be cool to see what kind of style, and then what comes out from that.
That’s really cool! You’ve performed before, right? Live performances; is that something that you want to do more, or do you think you’ll be like “I’ll release my music and then the music will do it’s thing on its own, it’ll speak for itself”? Do you feel like performances are something you really vibe with?
Yeah I think that’s one of the parts that I value most. I don’t know if it’s the most or anything. Kind of like I was saying, singing is more natural to me. When I was younger, when I was in high school I did musicals and stuff, and I really love performing. I’m also a dancer, and I know that can fit into that [performing] really well. I think the point of making these songs originally was so that I could have something to perform. It’s still gonna take some nerve and some organizing, and I don’t know how the hell to do that with Corona. I figure I’ll probably do this in the spring/summer, performing my material. I’ll figure it out then. But even so, at my size it’ll probably be open mic’s and stuff, so, [that] probably wouldn’t be that big a deal
As someone who hasn’t made a lot of music, you talk a lot about performing and wanting to perform, and that’s a large reason as to why you create your own stuff. Does the thought of performing a song go into the song making process for you, or does it not affect it? Or do you make a song first and go “oh yeah I can perform this”. How does that work?
As I was answering your most recent question, I did have a little panic. I was like “oh wait, shit, what if these songs are not so performable?” But you know what, I’m the one singing them or rapping them so I can redo that live. So I guess it’s something I don’t really take into account. Maybe that would make me think too much when making songs, especially because I’ll be like ‘I’m a soprano, let me do some showy notes’ or whatever. But then a lot of it is on the spoken side, so that doesn’t necessarily go together. I’m just saying, to throw in a couple of high notes, might not flow well depending on the song.
So song first, and performance, and how to work that in, comes second?
Yeah. I just have been trying to reduce anything that would make me overcomplicate the writing, because I’m a big overthinker. I often half make songs, I’ll map out some part of it but then I’ll feel like ‘ok it’s not done yet, I have to come back to it’.
It’s like, you want the music to be as: not straightforward, that’s not the word. [Maybe] as raw as possible, without the influences of all these other ideas or thoughts coming in to muddle that.
Yeah, just trying to make it flow. Ride the creative wave.
I’m 22 now, and when I was 17 or something, the summer before I graduated high school, I was also wanting to be a performer and again was like ‘ok, let’s make myself write, let’s see what I come up with’. But I think I was maybe, I don’t know, talking to too many people about it, and listening to their opinions, and just very much trying to force myself to do it the ways that I thought it should be done. And it just ended up with me getting very very frustrated with myself and being like ‘you know what, maybe I’m just not fit for this, it’s okay’ but it was NOT okay. Now I’m returning back to it which is very fulfilling to me and I’m like ‘wow I believe in myself now’ and that’s cool. So just trying to do it differently so I don’t get discouraged and drop it again.
I spoke to Angel Caroline recently about her upcoming project and how it’s been coming along in the months since we previously spoke. By this time, she has her songs a lot more fleshed out, with many already having lyrics, themes, melodies, or even a combination of the three. She talks about how the motivation to write (which she points out is her favorite part), comes and goes, and there are times when she is super inspired to get work done. Her inspiration comes from artists already killing it in her favorite genres, Ty Dolla $ign, Megan Thee Stallion, and Kehlani. It’s within this space that her thoughts and ideas come to life. Caroline tells me about how the writing process helps her air out pent up emotions, and after doing this, she finds herself in a better emotional state than before.
She’s also been working on her craft and is constantly looking to improve her singing skill. Caroline recently got a new vocal teacher, which has been able to help her voice improve, and also help it heal, as she told me back in September she could barely talk.
Then came the fun part of our conversation, where she previewed some tracks that she’s been cooking up the last couple of months. The first track had a mellow but soulful beat to it, and the lyrics tied to it fit like a glove. It gave the feeling of a night drive that was just beginning, and although the song sounds low energy, the lyrics that Angel Caroline raps/sings along with it bring it to life. The other two songs were filled with great singing melodies, that gave a sense of maturity to them; they were a bit more in depth in lyrical content and emotion than your typical radio R&B hit, and I think that’s because of Angel Caroline’s mastery over her vocal range. She sings with seriousness and purpose and through her voice you can tell she is taking her music seriously as well, being sure to convey the emotion with both the lyrics and the notes she sings.
The snippets sounded cool and it’s interesting to see an artist’s work in the process of it being created. From what was heard, it’s promising and there’s a lot of potential, and of course a long way to go in development of the songs and such. We’ll definitely be on the lookout for her project once it drops, which she says is now coming Fall 2021, and you should too.