Interview: Malik Taylor/Photography: Joseph Laughlin-Warren
A witty play off of Drake’s time and location titled tracks, I am meeting with Carly Roberts, a Toronto native, at the Whitney Museum in New York City. The New York City weather is a bit unpredictable had it being seventy-four degrees the day before, now with a high of forty-two. We took a few minutes to just small talk and see how her trip to New York City has been so far. I’ve recommended a few places to visit and places to eat. Throughout eight floors of magnificent, and rare pieces of art, the singer and I converse about music, her influences, career, life and even the art we’re viewing.So Carly, we’re at the Whitney Museum in New York City, a legendary museum where tons of artists display their work, how do you view art?
I think art is something that we all view from a different perspective. I think that it is something we gather from our life experiences and it all depends on how we are feeling that day. Depending on what you’re feeling, you can be drawn to a certain type of piece.
Do you feel that way about all forms of art?
Of course, I think it’s all aspects of art, right? It all inspires something, it is all an emotional experience. But that’s also how I look at life in a lot of ways.
You mention you view art as an inspiration of life, in your creative process, what do you gravitate to for inspiration?
I have a few different creative processes. When I’m driving, I love that space because besides traffic there’s not really any distractions. I can disconnect and just have a clear thought process. Even when I’m running, I find that’s a good space because different thoughts will come to me all at once. It’s more of an intuitive thing you know. One of my lyrics will just come to me as I’m running so there are things like that.
Original Basquiat from the 80's
“Even when I’m running, I find that’s a good space because different thoughts will come to me all at once. It’s more of an intuitive thing you know.” — Carly Roberts
What made you want to sing?
I grew up in a household surrounded by music. My dad wrote for artists like Diana Ross. When he was eighteen he had a record deal with Warner Bros. He traveled a lot so that was all I knew growing up. My mom is an artist as well, she paints so that also inspired me to be an artist.
Still, on inspiration, you’re from Toronto “The 6”, how does your city inspire you?
Toronto is like New York City in a lot of ways, but a lot smaller. So when you’re walking around there’s different people to look at and it’s like a collective. It’s not just one type of person. There are people from different cultures and different parts of the world, that’s what makes Toronto special. It reminds me that people are people and we could all coexist and be happy.
With deep roots of music influence at an early age, which artists did you grow up listening to?
I think there was a mix of me being inspired by pop music. I have two older siblings and whatever they listened to is naturally what I listened to. I’ve always been a fan of the R&B sound. Growing up, artists like Aretha Franklin inspired me, even now, Frank Ocean is a big inspiration for my music. I like music that’s cinematic. When you’re walking around, it makes you feel a part of this grand experience. When I write with my dad, there’s this struggle of wanting to have more of a R&B/Soul sound and him being more driven toward a pop sound.
A lot of American artists inspire you, are there any artist from Toronto to mention?
I obviously have to mention Drake (chuckles). There’s a lot of hot artist coming out of Toronto. You have Drake, The Weeknd, and Partynextdoor. I’m more of a traditional R&B but those guys are making great music. With them, there’s a great balance between substance and high energy music. Some days you just want to let loose and enjoy yourself, but then there are times when you want to sit with yourself and they make great music for both times. “Issa Vibe” (we both chuckle..)
What is your studio process like?
Like I said I have different processes, there’s one where it’s more of an intuitive process, then there’s another where I’ll go and do my research. I’ll look at different art and pictures. I’ll see what I’m feeling and play off of that. If we’re looking at paintings, you’re drawn to what you’re feeling. If I’m feeling sad, I’ll go and search for images that make you go deeper into that feeling to find out where that comes from.
Do you have any rituals while recording music?
It took me a while to get comfortable in the studio because it doesn’t feel as organic. It’s like you’re trying to get this emotion across, but you’re in this booth and you have to get out of your head. I’m at that point where I’m trying to find my “thing” to get out of my head.
How quick are you to release music?
That’s also something that I battle with. Obviously, as an artist, we look at the tiniest detail of everything. There could be a little scratch and we’d obsess over it. Really from the perspective of a person that’s not used to writing or recording, they’re just listening to it for what it is. I have to tell myself to just put it out there and if they receive it well, then they do. I haven’t released any music yet. I’m working on the final stages of my first EP.
“Obviously, as an artist we look at the tiniest detail of everything. There could be a little scratch and we’d obsess over it. Really from the perspective of a person that’s not used to writing or recording, they’re just listening to for what it is.” — Carly RobertsWhat’s the story behind your upcoming EP?
I started recording a lot of music about a year ago. I always had the vision of sharing the journey people go through starting from one place to another.
Sort of like a time stamp of things I went through. I wanted it to be like this song is for when I was going through this moment. It’s kind of like a metamorphosis. I feel like there are a lot of people who go through the same things so I want to be that voice.
Are you sharing this journey with anyone?
Sometimes when you put out a vibe, the universe reciprocates and brings you, cool people. Along the way, I’ve met people who I started to work with that connected me to that person and so on so forth. There was a time I wanted to give up on the music thing and I’ll meet someone with encouraging words or insight on how to overcome these thoughts.
So talk about these thoughts of you giving up music…
When you start from a young age, being surrounded by the music it’s like do I want this? Am I good enough for this? There’s a lot of self-doubt in art, but the beautiful thing is that you can find yourself through the process and if it means something to you, you stick with it and step out of your way. Most of the time we’re always in our own way, for everything life.
On a less serious note, tell me something cool about you…
I’m a vegetarian. It’s very weird how I became one. So about a year ago, I had this dream about being at a burger spot and the way the meat was being served, it was a cow in the back and they were just chopping it up and just throwing it on the grill. Ever since then I decided to become a vegetarian.
“When you start from a young age, being surrounded by music it’s like do I want this? Am I good enough for this? There’s a lot of self doubt in art, but the beautiful thing is that you can find yourself through the process and if it means something to you, you stick with it and step out of your way.” — Carly Roberts
We switch roles for a second and Carly asked would I become a vegetarian.I would but the only thing is, I love steak. I think about it because the things we eat play a big role in how gracefully we age and I’d like to preserve a youthful body as long as I can. It’s a struggle.
“In the same respect that I think about meat, just like people have energy, food has energy and what type of energy do you want in your body?” -Carly RobertsWhat is the underlying message of the EP?
I think it’s like all things in life, it starts from a tipping point of an experience. For example, when you’re in a relationship and it’s over, you go back into the world and look at things differently. Sometimes the way you do things end up being out of character and you’ve kind of get lost. There’s the moment when you have to face yourself see who you’ve become and the choices you’re making that are out of character. One of the songs on the EP has to do with the feeling of escapism. I went through a phase of going out a lot because I couldn’t sit with myself. I would go out a lot and party and it became this vicious cycle because I felt lonely and the world felt bigger. When in reality, you realize there’s so much love and so much to be thankful for you just have to stop being scared of your thoughts.
A full day of great conversation and quotes told by R&B artist Carly Roberts. Our trip the to Whitney Museum was very appropriate for her vibe and creativity as a person. Be on the lookout for her upcoming EP releasing this summer and follow her on Instagram to see her journey to stardom.