One thing that’s always been a goal of Carl Thomas with his music throughout each of his albums is to start a conversation; something he’s done successfully each time. After all, it seems female r&b singers are never afraid to truly express their feelings about men, but where is the other side of the story? If you’ve listened to any of Carl Thomas’ first three albums, you’ll hear a perspective from a man’s point of view that often seems to be missing in r&b. Now with the release of his fourth album “Conquer”, Carl has once again managed to even the playing field between men and women. YouKnowIGotSoul caught up with Carl on the way to a charity event (please excuse the sirens in the background!) to talk about the new album amongst other things. In this interview you’ll hear him discuss the approach he took on this album, the large gap of time between his albums, his growth as an artist, his journey as a musician, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your new album “Conquer” is in stores now. Talk about the approach you took on this album compared to your previous ones.
Carl Thomas: This album is a collection of records that I affectionately call “hero music”. The reason why I call it that is because the stories that I’m telling, the hero always wins. That is the thread that holds the songs together. We’re kinda used to hearing a one sided story when it comes to r&b music, you’re used to hearing the women talk about what it is that the need and what they desire. You’re really not used to hearing opinions from men. When you do hear opinions from men, they’re usually vulgar to be perfectly honest. *Laughs* This album is just a celebration and not only is it a celebration but this is dedicated to the fans and it’s also dedicated to the couples because one of the things I want to be known for is a fella that wasn’t afraid to start the conversation with his r&b.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You mentioned time and time again you’re not the type of artist to release an album every year. How do you know when it’s time to start recording a new project?
Carl Thomas: Well it’s really not that I have a preference, what I meant by saying that is that just hasn’t been the way it’s been. But with that being said, you are right, timing is everything, it’s really important that you understand seasons and being the season to come out. I watch Dr. Dre a lot, and I don’t really know if it’s so much him procrastinating as it is him just being a master of the moment and waiting for the right moment. I think some people just really, really, really have mastered how to do that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your last album “So Much Better” was in 2007. How have you grown as an artist and a person since then?
Carl Thomas: The music itself is a little bit more broad based. I didn’t really feel like anything was broken with my style, so I didn’t really disturb that. I wanted to widen the scope of the music and set the album up for more people to be introduced to Carl Thomas as an artist.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve got the single out don’t “Kiss Me”, one of my favorite songs this year.
Carl Thomas: Really??
YouKnowIGotSoul: Love it!
Carl Thomas: Man thank you!
YouKnowIGotSoul: You worked with Rico Love on that one. Give me some background on how the song was created.
Carl Thomas: I went to a few producers before I actually got to Rico, trying to search for a record that could be considered a modern day throwback. It just seemed like the translations that I was getting from other producers just sounded a little bit too dated or maybe too modern. But Rico really knew how to capture an essence and how to take smoke out of the air and put it in a bottle which is very, very, very difficult to do.
*Ambulance drives by*
Carl Thomas: The sounds of New York City yall! *Laughs*
Carl Thomas: That’s just basically what the album’s meat is about.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Will you be shooting a video for the song?
Carl Thomas: Yeah I’ll be shooting a video with Snoop Dogg next week. I know people aren’t really used to putting out the album before you put out the video but I actually approached Snoop while he was in the middle of recording his album with Wiz Khalifa that he has coming out. So I just wanted to wait until after that release and be able to get a video to people that would be just the right kind of video. I didn’t want to rush or anything like that. I really wanted it to come at time when the schedules were more free.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know that on this album you’ve got a very solid cast of r&b producers. Mike City, JR Hutson, Andre Harris, Rico Love. Do you find that because of what you’ve accomplished in r&b, these producers are anxious to work with someone like yourself?
Carl Thomas: Honestly, I think that the producers that I worked with, I don’t really think it’s the accomplishments, I think they just really appreciate my voice and it’s really nothing more than them wanting to hear me sing over their tracks. When a producer really appreciates what it is that you do, he’s going to have you to work with by any means necessary.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about what it’s like when you work with a writer who puts together a song for you. How do you make the songs yours?
Carl Thomas: Well I’ll tell you what. There’s a song on the album called “Running” and that record was like this: a friend of mine was going through a terrible ordeal. He went and he wrote that song and he gave it to me and I heard it and I told him “You have got to let me record that record” because I really feel like it was something that people needed to hear; very powerful and inspirational at the same time. It was just really easy for me to get into the studio and work with him because we speak the same language studio wise.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I spoke with a writer you had worked with on your second album, Eric Roberson and he talked about “Rebound”.
Carl Thomas: Oh Eric is one of my favorites! I’m a very big fan of Eric’s as well as a friend. He’s a great guy, very humble, and always been approachable to his fans. He’s extremely talented at what he does. Eric’s a wonderful songwriter and I plan on working with Eric again if the opportunity presents itself.
YouKnowIGotSoul: He told me the story about how he wrote the song for you, and you told him the song is no longer his, you made it your own.
Carl Thomas: Well when I took the record, I told him “You know this I’m going to put my stamp on this!” That’s one of the things I like about Eric is that he promotes the artist being themselves. He would much rather you be you than him. Some cats want you to mimic them verbatim, but not Eric.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your first album “Emotional” was back in 2000. If you could sum up your journey in music since then, how would you do it?
Carl Thomas: I’ll tell you what, it’s been a series of mountaintops and valleys. Sometimes you stand on top of them, sometimes you stand between them.
YouKnowIGotSoul: But a lot of highs though right?
Carl Thomas: Oh yea! *Laughs* There’s always a top!
YouKnowIGotSoul: I read that you recorded 50 songs for this album, but you only have 10 plus the remix on this album which is a lot shorter than your previous albums. Was this done by design?
Carl Thomas: Yea absolutely. I just didn’t want to overdo it and me to record some of the songs, that’s for me, not for the fans. The fans, they deserve the finished product.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Carl Thomas: I’d like to add a great big thank you to the fans that came out and supported “Conquer” and the fans that will support it in the future. Everybody that came out and purchased “Don’t Kiss Me” and showed me love and left wonderful comments on my Facebook page and my MySpace and whatever, I just really appreciate all of you guys. “Conquer” in stores now!