Carl Thomas Interview
|Label:||Verve Music Group|
|Next Project:||So Much Better|
|Twitter:||Carl Thomas on Twitter|
|Website:||Carl Thomas's Website|
Former Bad Boy Records singer Carl Thomas is a free man. Since departing from his former label home, the Chicagoan has latched on to the independent Umbrella Recordings and received a distribution deal through Universal Motown. Last week his third studio album, “So Much Better,” hit shelves and marks the first opportunity he has had since his debut “Emotional” to truly put a stamp on his own work. Following a performance in Chicago at the Lincoln Luxury Experience, Carl sat down for a one-on-one with DJBooth.net’s DJ “Z.” During the interview Carl discusses how Diddy handled the two parting ways, why his album was only meant to be a mix tape, and what he sees himself doing in seven years.
Listen to the Interview
Carl Thomas Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a consummate professional in the R&B game and whose new album, “So Much Better,” is currently in stores. Please welcome my Chicago neighbor, Carl Thomas. How are you?
Carl Thomas: Hey, man, what’s happening, how you doin’?
DJ Booth: I’m doin’ great; here’s the thing, though, I don’t have a brand new CD in stores – I know that you do.
Carl Thomas: Absolutely, it came out June 5th; it was the first time I got a chance to put an album out in the month I was born. You know, I’m a Gemini, and my birthday is Friday, so that was real big for me. It feels really good, to be able to call my own shots in that manner and have the people support you like that.
DJ Booth: Certainly. The title, “So Much Better,” does this accurately capture your current feeling about life, Carl?
Carl Thomas: Absolutely, you know, I was a victim of a family tragedy. My brother, Halloween night 2004, was the victim of a drive-by shooting, and I was in the middle of promoting my second album, “Let’s Talk About It.” It kind of brought that album to a halt, because I kinda put the microphone down on it actually, and picked my family up; we went through that together, man, and I really didn’t have anything to say. Now, Z, you gotta understand I’m an artist that constantly prides himself on having something to say about this man-woman thing, you know? I just really didn’t [have] anything to say at the time, so I spent about a year in my pajamas, just trying to figure it all out. You know, there’s two ways I coulda handled the situation: I coulda spiraled down a path of negativity, or I could honor the life of my brother and the man that he was by doing my best work, and my best work is music. The funny thing about, “So Much Better,” is that, “So Much Better,” was never intended to be an album.
DJ Booth: It was intended to be a mix tape, right?
Carl Thomas: Yeah, it was supposed to be a mix tape and we got in the studio and we just started recording these records, and we took a step back and said, “Wait a minute, we need a greater medium to carry this; we need a boat,” you know? So, enters Umbrella/Universal, and Mr. Jeryl Busby could give me and my man Mic City the opportunity to go in the studio and do the records that we wanted. The crazy thing about recording at Mic City’s studio, is that it’s just a little small entertainment Mecca, because you could be there one day and Lala Hathaway [will be there] and the next day, Brandy’s just hangin’ out. It was real crazy like that, which made it easy for us to get those records done. I mean for Brandy to be able to lend her talent, lend her time, and it was really easy for us to ask her to be a part of the project, out of her appreciation for my music, so that was just a confidence-builder for me because I’ve always viewed her, you know, as one of the vocal greats.
DJ Booth: Definitely. You said you never intended on having, “So Much Better,” be a full-length, major distributed album. At what point, though, when you were recording this – was it a certain song that you recorded and you said, “This is too good,”?
Carl Thomas: Yeah, I think it was when a friend of ours arranged for me to go into the studio with [Jimmy] Jam & [Terry] Lewis, and we wrote and recorded, “Home,” right there on the spot, greatest session I ever had, in my life. Right then and there, at that point, I say, “Wait a minute; this is gettin’ too serious.”
DJ Booth: Too serious for just a mix tape, gotta do it better than that…
Carl Thomas: It was just gettin’ too serious, and I just had to take a step back and decide: what was I going to do with this for real? Me being at Bad Boy as long as I was, I was always the person and individual that was payin’ attention. I was never an artist that wasn’t listenin’ to what was goin’ on. I felt like, if I had the blueprint to do it, then why not go out there and do it? I just felt like I really wasn’t being as responsible and as accountable for my own career as I could be – I felt like it was time for me to take a little bit more responsibility, so I went to Puff, and I told him what I wanted to do, and initially he was resistant, like any father would be resistant when his son comes and tells him, “I’m ready to leave the coop, Dad.” Ultimately, I think that the love of family prevailed, and he listened to me and respected my decision.
DJ Booth: Well Carl, most of this responsibility it seems like you put on yourself for not being able to directly market how you wanted to have your music portrayed to your audience, but, on the other hand, it’s also the responsibility of the label to provide that for you. What difficulties were there between you and Bad Boy that caused them to not help you the way you needed to be helped?
Carl Thomas: See, the thing about it was that I profited from the irony of an artist like myself being on a label like Bad Boy. It was something that I always knew would work for me. In my opinion, Bad Boy is the type of label that is wonderful if you wanna break an artist. Now, if you wanna sustain a superstar that may not be the situation for you.
DJ Booth: Do you think that that is what mostly accounts for having your debut album reach platinum status, and then your sophomore album not doing the same type of numbers?
Carl Thomas: Naw, that’s really not what I attribute that to. I think the first album reached platinum, and the second album reached gold, because the second album I really wasn’t allowed to work it like I was allowed to work, “Emotional.”
DJ Booth: Why not?
Carl Thomas: Because, well my brother got killed, I just quit. You know, I did everything right there I’m just sayin’ promotion of the album – if the artist isn’t there, what are you able to do?
DJ Booth: Exactly. Carl, there is a lot of popularity being generated by the R&B game right now, that was missing for a long time. Who are some of the fresh new artists, and household favorites, who you currently are diggin’?
Carl Thomas: Man, I think I’ve played T-Pain’s album a thousand times by now; it’s the hottest thing on the street right now. I love Chris Brown, Omarion – I went to go see his show at Madison Square Garden; that boy is cold, you know? And I don’t really take anything away from them, because, Omarion doesn’t take anything away from Usher, you know what I mean, and Usher is a veteran just as well. Usher is, what he is, and Omarion is the next phase in that, and Chris Brown is the next phase in that.
DJ Booth: Definitely. Now, in terms of a traditional R&B sound, between your first release, your second release, and your new release, what besides the lyrical content, is most different, in the transition of Carl Thomas’s career?
Carl Thomas: This album is a little bit more like the first album. Everything that I wanna say, it’s a little bit more experimental than any of my albums, ‘cause if you listen to my stuff you know that I’ve never taken a guest artist well. That’s because I’m a natural live performer, and I’ve never wanted to be put into the position to where I need another artist to pull off a show. I’ve just, strategically learned how to pull it off. Why deny the fans something that could be great? Lemme just add some artists that I like to be a part of this project. I appreciate D-40, Brandy, Dave Hollister, Lala Hathaway, Baby Cham, everybody that participated on this album. I appreciate that man, ‘cause they made it what it is.
DJ Booth: Certainly. Now, a collaboration that was not on the album but maybe could be in the future, a man who also made a guest appearance last night, at the Green Dolphin Street, Chicagoan R. Kelly. Do you see the two of you possibly gettin’ into a studio?
Carl Thomas: It’s so funny man, me and Kels, had a conversation last night about that, and that’s something that’s just gonna organically happen. He’s just a really, really cool dude; I’ve just come to think that the same way I said it last night, it’s gonna organically happen. It’s gonna be on the right day, it’s gonna be the right song, it’s just gonna be the right situation and, we just gonna get it in. That’s one of the rare times that me and him are ever in Chicago at the same time; it seems like a lot of times when I’m in town, he’s out travelin’, when he’s out travelin’, I’m at home, you know what I mean?
DJ Booth: If you’re still in Chicago you should call him up today, see if you guys can get something locked down while you’re both here…
Carl Thomas: [Laughing]… Unfortunately I got a full day of press. Like I said: the right day, the right song, the right situation, it’s going down. We already know that.
DJ Booth: Good, ‘cause I’m sure that both of your fans would love that collaboration.
Carl Thomas: Absolutely.
DJ Booth: Carl, we’re sitting in the year 2007, seven full years since, “Emotional,” debuted. After the immediate success of that album, what did you picture your life being like, seven years later?
Carl Thomas: I’m an individual that never really thought like that, you know? I’ve never been afforded that kind of luxury in life, to really look that far ahead.
DJ Booth: Okay, one day at a time?
Carl Thomas: Yeah, I mean, maybe sometimes one month at a time, but I was never allowed, in my life, to get too far ahead of myself. I was never really allowed to spend money that I didn’t make yet, so I just kinda follow over in my career.
DJ Booth: What do you see, seven years down the line now, if you wouldn’t mind prophesizing with me on the phone?
Carl Thomas: Aw, I see me, in seven years in my own Las Vegas Revue for about 100 million a year. Like Dean Martin, out in Las Vegas with a sexy tuxedo on.
DJ Booth: Well I’ll tell you this much: if anybody in the crowd last night at the Green Dolphin Street works in Las Vegas, you’re gonna get that contract, because on that stage, you gave it your all. Now I know it was hot in there, but it seemed like you really had every last bit of energy out of you. I mean, you had nothing left in you; you gave everybody your all and it was evident.
Carl Thomas: I go hard like that every night, though.
DJ Booth: Which is a rarity; A lot of people they don’t give it their all, they have a DJ on stage – you had a live band – they’ll play the instrumental, but you didn’t do that.
Carl Thomas: Naw, naw, naw, naw, naw; not at all. I’m at home – I can’t do that at home. This is where I’m from; I gotta put it down for real.
DJ Booth: It’s appreciated by the entire city of Chicago. Carl, ten seconds, tell everybody why they need to go out – if they already haven’t – and pick up a copy of your brand new CD, “So Much Better.”
Carl Thomas: Because, it’s an album that you can live to, love to, break up to, and make up to. Please believe it.
DJ Booth: Go ahead give everybody a website or a Myspace address so they can find out more about the release.
Carl Thomas: Absolutely. You can see me at http://www.myspace.com/therealcarlthomas
DJ Booth: All right. Carl, I appreciate your time and I wish you nothin’ but the best of luck on this project.
Carl Thomas: Z, public enemy number one!
DJ Booth: [laughter] I do what I can, my man.
Carl Thomas: Thanks, man.