Pass The Dutch: An Interview with Caro Emerald
Amsterdam's Caro Emerald is often referred to by us Anglos as “the Dutch Adele,” but she's very much got her own style, sound, and name, and it's one to keep your eye on.
In the same vein as the Beibs, Emerald's "accidental" success is heavily due to YouTube. Even after her virtual popularity, few record labels recognized the potential of her now mega-hit, "Back It Up," forcing her producers—believing so strongly in her unique sound—to set up their own label, just for her. That album has since sold over a million copies and has even taken down the King of Pop's Thriller from the number one spot in the Netherlands. With her North American debut on the horizon, we're thinking it might be time for her to make moves on the US charts...
Noisey: Hey, Caro! How are you?
Caro Emerald: I’m good, how are you?
Fantastic, thank you. Just enjoying a lovely day in Brooklyn.
Nice! That’s New York, right?
Come to think of it, the Dutch actually founded Brooklyn. Have you ever been out here?
No, not to Brooklyn. I’ve been to New York once, though. I actually have heard that story about the Dutch and Brooklyn. It’s based after the village, Breuckelen, that’s here as well.
So speaking of the States, I know you’re making your US debut in LA. Have been out there before?
Yeah, I went there for the first time this year.
What did you think?
Well, it’s huge. It’s sort of a culture shock in that way. We stayed in Hollywood and, obviously, I saw the sign—which is really cool when you’re from abroad and you actually get to see it—but other than that, I didn’t really see a lot. We were so busy and so jet-lagged that it was pretty hard to get a good idea of the city being that it is so large.
Definitely. How long were you there for?
Just a couple of days.
Ah, that’s totally not enough time. I’m from LA myself and I recommend at least a week to two for a visit. It’s sprawling, you know? You gotta be able to sprawl (and that’s really hard to do in a matter of a few days).
Yes, definitely. It is really just so incredibly large. If you’re in one neighborhood, you might like that, and the other one, not.
Los Angeles—the "industry"—has your music all over it, from Pretty Little Liars to Vampire Diaries, and even a Disney movie. How was it working with Disney?
They were featuring one of my songs, called “That Man,” as sort of the theme song of the movie, Chimpanzee. When I heard they wanted to have that song, I was really thrilled. They sent me the scenes where they would use it, and it was just so funny to see a little monkey hop around to it and think about why they chose to use it there. In a way, it’s a dream come true, because I always wanted to sing in a Disney movie.
What’s your favorite Disney movie?
The Lion King.
Oh yeah, really?
Definitely. I mean The Little Mermaid is up there.
For me too!
Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor (2010) is obviously a reference to the film industry. I’m big on film and was trying to think of Dutch directors before this call and the only one that came to mind was Paul Verhoeven.
[Laughs] I don’t think there are many Dutch directors that have made it that far.
I mean, a lot of directors in general haven’t made it that far. Or “go” that far. Do you like any of his films?
Verhoeven… now, I really have to think about the films he did.
Starship Troopers, Showgirls, Robocop…
Showgirls! Yes, well, his movies are not really in my genre. I’ve seen Showgirls. There was a lot of discussion about that movie and it was certainly entertaining, but it’s more “interesting,” you know what I mean?
Totally, he’s sort of his own genre in that way. Back to the album at hand though—you beat out Thriller for number one on the Dutch charts. How did that make you feel?
Thank you! It was kind of strange, because I was very young when that record was released (in ’81, as I’m from ’83). It also happened during a strange period for me, because I had just started out as a debut artist and it’s really hard to break as such, but everything just went so smoothly. I know it’s a small country, but even in Holland, there’s not a lot of space for artists.
I didn’t know anything about the music industry; I really had just started. People would tell me all sorts of things, but I didn’t know what it was to be “normal” or what to expect, so when they told me I sold 10,000 copies, I was like, “Okay, that’s great.” I didn’t have a sense, yet!
I mean, how do you even prepare for that at all?
Yeah! I really didn’t know how great that was until this happened about half a year after our release, and that punched it in. If you beat Thriller... that is something. But in a way, it was sort of embarrassing, because you can never really beat the King of Pop.
True, but, in a sense, you did!
30 years after, yes! But it still felt really weird. I’m so proud and have to take it so seriously, but I honestly would be happy with second place.
If you had your choice of Michael Jackson albums to beat out, though, would it be Thriller? Is that your favorite album?
Yeah, I think so. I actually don’t know by heart what’s on that album, and I’m pretty sure I like some songs from Off The Wall and Beat It, but I think Thriller is a really good one.
What are you up to creatively right now? Just preparing for your US debut?
Yeah! We’ve been super busy planning everything, but strangely, right now—years after actually I starting my career—I’ve got some time to breathe while working on our new album, so I’m also in the studio a lot.
It’s really nice to have the time to prepare for this US release, because I thought we would have produced a second single right now, but we ended up saving all my time for promotions as the album is delayed. It's actually wonderful, because I have a lot of energy saved up for this. I’m really, really looking forward to it, even just to fly so far from home—to get to go to the "Land of Promise!"
You know, we’re a very small country in Europe and I guess, being from such a small country, you sort of look up to the big countries like Germany and the UK. When you do well in those countries, people really look up to you, so me going to the States is a big thing—it makes the whole country proud.
Yeah, I can only really think of a few other artists that are recognized by the mainstream over here. They’re mostly electronic acts, though.
Yeah, all the DJs.
Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Laidback Luke…can you think of any other Dutch acts we might know?
Do you know Within Temptation?
No, not at all.
They’re of a very particular genre and have a very particular audience, big in the live scene. From earlier on though… Golden Earring?
No, not ringing a bell either.
Yeah, they’re from a long time ago. Esmée Denters—you know her?
Um, yeah, actually?
Oh yeah? She’s signed to Justin Timberlake’s record label and her first album was released in the States. I think she had a hit single, or at least she had a hit single here, but I haven’t heard about her in a while.
Aside from those artists, of course, I’m wondering if there’s a 40s/50s revival scene in Holland we just don’t really know about over here that had maybe influenced you at all or if that sort of sound is all you?
Well, I guess both, in that it’s sort of a revival thing in general.I like it a lot, it think it suits me. I guess I’ve always had this jazzy thing going on, which I didn’t particularly choose; that’s just the way my voice sounds. I studied jazz and I’ve always been very charmed by the music from that period.
That’s a good way to describe that period in music: charming.
It is very charming. That sound in the song just sort of came because everybody was interested in that period.
The song itself was sort of accidental, wasn’t it?
Yeah, it was, actually! Then I thought it was so cool, I was in love with the song as it had every ingredient that I like; it was happy, you could sing along, danceable, but also cool, understated—understated cool and, in that way, a bit intelligent, if you know what I mean?
Well, I think I’ve gotten through this whole interview without mentioning clogs once, so I’m taking that as a good sign to sign off.
Catch Caro stateside when she hits LA's El Rey Theater on November 13th.