She's got the blues

March 06, 2008|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun reporter

About 10 years ago, Felicia Carter attended a friend's wedding. During the reception, the band played the old jazz standard "Body and Soul," and Carter mouthed the words.

Alan Dale, the band's drummer, saw her lip-syncing and asked her if she wanted to sing a number herself. Carter, then a 20-something vocalist with the pop-punk band Pottymouth, agreed. She got up and sang "I Remember You."

Soon after, Carter fell in love with jazz, left Pottymouth and became a full-time jazz singer. She released In the Pink ... & Songs in Blue, a self-produced album, in 2001, and now has a new double album titled Feather/Step Lightly. One of the discs features traditional blues and jazz tunes, and the other has more genre-crossing songs.

The CD release shows for Feather/Step Lightly are tomorrow at An die Musik Live.

Though she didn't originally set out to be a jazz singer, Baltimore-based Carter found a home in the music's rich history and complexity.

Why did you decide to leave rock and pursue jazz? What drew you to jazz?

It was the depth of the music and the fact that I was writing songs that had three, maybe four, maybe five chords in them. There was so much to learn. I just realized I could spend my life learning jazz and thought when I'm 50, I could still be learning. And also I didn't want to be that age and still be in a band called Pottymouth.

What was it like to go from screaming pop punk to lilting jazz?

It really took me a while. I was taking voice lessons with an opera coach, and I had a lot of on-the-job training. I remember more than one musician saying, `You really don't have to give it 100 percent every time.' I was singing some tender ballads like "My Funny Valentine"! It was years of learning that you could tell a lot without being over the top.

As a young female jazz singer you had a lot of competition, right?

Being a female vocalist in jazz is tough. Not only is it a tough job, but there's a lot of us out there. Sometimes when you walk in on a gig, there's almost an audible groan, like, `Oh no, here comes the female singer. Oh, brother.' There's a lot of us out there, and you kind of have to prove yourself that you can hang.

Why did you decide to release a double album as opposed to a single album?

It started out as a joke. My husband and I were sitting at the dinner table. I had too many songs to put on one album. Some of them were standards, some of them were my blues [songs] that I wrote that were very much in the traditional vein. Then I had all these new songs.

Once ... I started rehearsing, it was actually becoming a thing. I was sitting with my husband and was like, `What should I do? Should I make two different albums?' He looked at me and said, `Why don't you make a double album?' And we laughed and were like, `Yeah, double album, dude!' Then over the next couple days I was thinking, `Yeah, why not make a double album?' And boy did he regret that, because that was a fun year for both of us. That's where the idea came from.

Felicia Carter's CD release shows are at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. tomorrow at An die Musik Live, 409 N. Charles St., second floor. $15. Call 410-385-2638.

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