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Britain’s Best Kept Secret

Interview from Noize Makes Enemies, By Abi Brydon

Meeting Carina Round and discovering what ‘x factor’ really is (and no it doesn’t involve Simon Cowell) Welcome to the music scene of 2008. It’s dominated by indie males churning out the same old catchy pop songs that you have a sneaking suspicion you’ve heard before…gone are insightful lyrics, gone is the real craft of song-writing and honesty…well, what does that even mean these days? Enter Carina Round. She is KT Tunstall in an eccentric parallel universe. She speaks to you like Alanis Morissette did before her. And above all? She is unique and beautiful. Take it or leave it.Born in 1979, she has released three records, toured with the likes of Annie Lennox and Coldplay and performed at venues all over the globe. Want to know why you’ve never heard of her? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you why you should get to know her.

‘Painful Honesty. Energy and Passion.’ On the roof of Oxford’s The Zodiac, the smoker’s hideout apparently, grey clouds loom ominously overhead. It’s a summer’s day with a winter chill. It couldn’t be less glamorous. Yet here is Carina Round telling me what she believes ‘x factor’ is. Goosebumps crawl across my skin. ‘Just realness, unadulterated realness.’ And whilst she is referring to the ‘last living Diva’ Annie Lennox (‘The woman’s incredible,’ Carina gushes. ‘It’s intangible, something you can’t put into words. She’s like a queen!’) right there is one reason to fall in love with the woman in front of me; her music has that realness she so admires.

Her lyrics are open poetry with gut wrenching honesty. She slips between love and lust, loneliness and pain seamlessly. She creates music like a masterpiece; carefully crafted, every word, every note, even every pause sounds intentional, whilst remaining effortless and natural. Each song has a new atmosphere with unpredictable twists, complimented by the best female voice around; a voice with a passion only just under control, a passion that threatens to bubble over. Raw emotion is her real star quality. Phew. Need any more reasons?

‘[Music] was an outlet emotionally, kind of more primal and guttural than actually trying to craft it into a story. I’ve tried to do that more recently. I think initially it was just me throwing up my guts.’

And that’s just how she describes her first release ‘The First Blood Mystery’, written at the age of 17. ‘In some ways I’m really proud of it you know? It’s just sometimes you look at a picture of yourself when you were eleven and go what the fuck am I wearing?! It’s the same kind of feeling. There’s still a thread that connects us as people but hopefully I’m a different person now.’

‘Let It Fall’, stand out track of this album, reveals her feelings towards her absent father and is just one example of how truthful her music is. It is her life that inspires her, and what a life she seems to have led.

‘I suppose my Dad not being around was obviously a big deal. Moving 6,000 miles away from home, the whole experience with major record labels was quite interesting, seeing the Arcade Fire live…it was pretty incredible! Amongst millions of other tiny tiny things that happen to me every day. It’s the tiny things you take out of a moment when you’re in the process of writing. Some things just happen to you and mould you as a person whereas the small things? It’s almost like you picking them.

‘I’ve met a lot of really amazing people [including Lou Reed!] and made some really amazing friends and kept them as well throughout. I think the painful traumas have been as, if not more, important as the good moments. You tend to learn from the bad times as they linger with you a bit more.’

So I guess a bit of background is in order. Hailing from Wolverhampton she’s had a troublesome career so far, not least of all because she has been the most under-rated female singer/songwriter of the last decade. ‘The Disconnection’ was released on her own label whilst her most recent album ‘Slow Motion Addict’ through Interscope, an American label, coinciding with her upheaval to the United States. On her last UK tour she appeared down, I feared down and out, having been dropped from Interscope, as she bitterly told the crowd. She speaks on her seemingly bad time with the music industry.

‘There was a period where I was blinkered by my situation but luckily I came out of that the other end you know? And the feeling of what I write and that expression wasn’t taken away from me.’ It’s mysterious, it’s enigmatic and her eyes tell a whole much deeper and darker story, but I don’t push it. She’ll tell us what we need to know through her music, probably on her next album due 2009.

But does she feel vulnerable performing songs that are so close to her heart?

‘At the time I can’t allow myself to think that! Performance for me is really about being inside that second that it’s happening. Of course I have to tap into something when I’m performing. I’m always in the song. I mean I get a very different feeling playing ‘Let it Fall’ now than I did when I wrote it but it’s still really electrifying for me’.

Later on that night she takes to the stage in a dark dress, hair curled with a flower in the top and it becomes quickly apparent that she isn’t just a girl and a guitar. Her stage presence commands the room. A few hours earlier she might have been a reserved girl with a passion for songs but now there stands a woman overcome by the very essence of music. Shivers go down my spine with every track, her vocals haunting the room. She can sing, growl and even scream in tune and you live through every moment she re-tells. Never before has one room been so entwined in one person’s emotions. Surely the future can only hold great things for this one.

I ask her what her favourite song she’s ever written is and the answer is telling. ‘There’s a new one called ‘Do You’ that took me a year to write but it sounds pretty much the same as it did when I started it. I just changed the lyrics 500 million thousand times!’ She grins and optimism radiates from her. ‘I wanna create the best art that I’ve ever created. Nothing else has any reflection on my music right now which makes it really easy for me to get up in the morning…or early afternoon!’ An open laugh echoes across the rooftop and it’s warm and filled with genuine happiness. This is a far cry from the girl last year who seemed so disillusioned; this is a girl at peace, a girl inspired, a girl ready to take the world by storm.

But what does the future hold for her?

‘I’m not worried anymore about anything. It sounds so ridiculous but I’ve been through what I can only imagine to be the worst career trauma for myself already so from now on everything is great. Whatever else happens is absolutely fine.’

It’s a mature optimism that makes me glow inside, that makes me believe everything will be just fine for her. And maybe, just maybe, this time around people will see what is right under their noses. I look up at a rain cloud just threatening to burst open above us and it may well be time to head inside. So this is where you met Carina Round. And from humble beginnings? Well you know what they say…Jesus was born in a stable and all that. OK, joking aside, maybe Carina isn’t the daughter of god but here arises the career of something special; a songstress with power, talent and above all honesty.

‘I’m gonna put a record out next year and get out on the road as much as possible ‘cos I think that’s where it is and always has been’ she says to me as we leave. So there you have it. If this article doesn’t convince you to like her then a live show certainly will. If you can’t be bothered to get to a live show? Well, you’ll be missing out on Britain’s best kept secret and it really is about time she wasn’t a secret anymore.

"Britain’s Best Kept Secret" was published on November 21st, 2008 and is listed in Interviews.

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