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Caro Emerald

Shattered Expectations

Sep 14, 2013 Caro Emerald Bookmark and Share

Amsterdam’s Caro Emerald has been dubbed the “Dutch Adele,” and has shattered sales records in her country previously held by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The jazz/pop singer good-naturedly takes the accolades in stride, but back when she was known as Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw, it was difficult to imagine even the most modest of careers.

“My dad didn’t believe that I could make a proper living out of it,” Emerald says of when she informed her parents that should would study music at The Conservatory of Amsterdam. She continues, a twinkle in her voice. “I didn’t believe that either, by the way! I proved us both wrong.”

Although graduating with a degree in jazz, Emerald envisioned a modest life that teaching with a bit of performance thrown in. It’s a line of thinking that she chalks up to “The Dutch mentality.” Looking back, she says being reasonable almost derailed her career before it began.

“I did get to a place where I couldn’t visualize my dreams,” she recalls. “I needed somebody to push me there. Otherwise this would have never happened. I got to a place where people started asking me questions like, ‘What do you want?’ Are you ever going to do something? I started asking myself those questions as well, and I realized that if I didn’t go for it or at least try, then I would never find out if it was even possible.”

Her shot came when producer Jan van Wieringen booked Emerald as a demo singer on a track he was working on called “Back it Up.” Her first thought?

“I’m the demo singer of a huge hit!” Emerald recalls.

It was shortly after that session that Emerald plucked up the courage to ask if the single could be released under own name. Much to her surprise, she was given the song.

“It really felt like this was the kind of music that I wanted to make,” she says. “But it didn’t feel like I was the person who was good enough for it. I really needed to realize that that’s something you decide yourself…I didn’t see myself as an entertainer. I saw myself as a singer. If you see yourself that way, people will see that too.”

The track eventually found a home on Emerald’s debut album, 2010’s Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor. Alongside producers van Wieringen and David Schreurs Emerald hammered out a style infused with both speakeasy jazz swagger and trip-hop boldness.

That atmosphere is teased out even further on Emerald’s sophomore album, The Shocking Miss Emerald. Against a slinky beat, scratched records, and the occasional string section, Emerald sings about love in every flavor—sounding not unlike the kind of diva that’s capable of breaking a few hearts. Although a bigger character than her off-stage self, Emerald doesn’t see the person she is on stage and in the recording booth as much of a stretch.

“Glamour is stepping out of daily life,” she says. “For me that means dressing up and being the best version of you…You’ve got to be bigger because you’re in front of people. It gives you permission to be bigger. The bigger the audience, the bigger you’ve got to be. That’s how I feel onstage. I’m bigger, but I still feel like me. It’s not a role; I don’t feel like I’m playing a game or something. It is a particular part of me.”

It’s not a far cry from her childhood. After early years spent emulating singing idols Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, she caught a teacher’s attention after a school of “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” He convinced both Emerald and her parents that she should study jazz, and, as Emerald recounts, “After that it never stopped. I went straight from there to here!”

Still, while the little girl might have had the ability to dream about becoming a star, the 32 year-old still has to pinch herself when she thinks about how far she’s come.

“This is unbelievable,” she says. “Who can dream about this? People sometimes ask me if I could imagine coming this far. I say, ‘No, could you?’ Do you know anybody who could imagine they could go this far?”

She lets out another good-natured laugh. “I couldn’t even believe it if it was about my friend.”



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