When life gives you a lump of coal, you make a fire.
Wisconsin-born singer and songwriter Carey Renee took negative experiences in her life and used them as inspiration to do great things. Born with a congenital heart defect, Carey used her own survival story as motivation to dedicate her life to helping other sick children. Even though she had been singing and playing piano and violin since age 3, she gave it all up to work for over 10 years as a nurse and nurse practitioner in neonatal and pediatric care.
Eventually music called her back, and she quickly went back to songwriting and rediscovering her voice. Almost by accident, she found a group of musicians and producers that became her songwriting partners.
During that time, Carey was going through a tough time, where she felt “betrayed and abandoned by some people that I really love.” From that negative experience, she drew inspiration for her song “House is Burning,” which Vents Magazine is pleased to premiere today.
We caught up with Carey Renee recently to talk about her new single, her songwriting process and how she transitioned from healthcare professional to electro-R&B singer and songwriter.
Be sure to warm your ears with “House is Burning,” the debut single by Carey Renee, below. But first, check out her interview below…
Welcome to Vents Magazine! How have you been?
CR: I’ve been great! Staying busy with work projects and my young family and enjoying the sunshine!
You have a new single out today, titled “House is Burning.” Tell us about the track and your inspiration behind it.
CR: I was going through a tough time personally, and had reached out to a friend of mine, Erin Boheme (an accomplished jazz singer and songwriter), and asked her if she wanted to help me start making some music. She was similarly going through a rough patch and we started doing these songwriting/therapy/wine sessions. After one of those sessions, Erin had the inspiration for the concept for this song based on a bunch of notes and things we had talked about, and she started a good chunk of the lyrics. The song is super personal for me and is about a specific situation where I felt betrayed and abandoned by some people that I really love. But it really can speak to anyone who has felt that way, in any situation where you have to acknowledge the pain but rise above your sadness and disappointment and start over again.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
CR: I started my formal music training as a violinist at age three, so my earliest influences were classical music and also the 70s folk rock music that my dad loves. But I love so much music across so many genres – major influences for me have ranged from Sade to Jonny Lang to Mariah Carey. I also love musical theater and am an avid consumer of pop music and EDM.
What was it like working with producers Dru Decaro (who also worked with Snoop Dogg, Miguel, John Legend) and Adam Kobylarz?
CR: I had never really written music before, at least not professionally, so I was actually quite nervous to head out to LA to work with them. My co-writer Erin knew Dru from years back when she was living and performing in LA, and she connected with him again asking if he’d want to help us write some music for me. But I shouldn’t have been nervous – the four of us hit it off so naturally and immediately, we finished writing and recording “House Is Burning” the very first night we all met- in about 10 hours! I hadn’t recorded music in nearly 2 decades and this version is my first take on those vocals that first night.
Then the next night we wrote another cool song, and we just kept meeting up every month to work together for a couple days, each time writing 1-2 songs. A few sessions in, we realized we have a really amazing dynamic as a group and I convinced them all to tackle a bigger project with me – writing a modern-day vampire inspired musical. So we are about 10 tracks deep on that project now, still working together about 2-3 days a month. The guys are in LA and Erin and I are in Wisconsin (half the year in Florida for me) so we have to be really efficient with our brief time together each month! But Dru and Adam are both amazingly talented producers and musicians, Erin is a fantastic lyricist and vocalist – it’s a dream working with this team and we’re all having a blast and have become dear friends. We’ve also recently brought in Tommy Barbarella on keyboards (former member of Prince’s New Power Generation band). He has really rounded out the group with his incredible experience and talent. We are currently working towards the first big step in our musical production this fall.
Having been in the healthcare profession for so many years, what was it like returning to music?
CR: Honestly it has been a very conflicting experience, especially in the beginning. I had a great deal of guilt and remorse leaving the job that I loved so much in the pediatric ICU, but I knew it was time for me to move on.
I also really struggled (and still do) with redefining myself to everyone who has known me as an adult – so many people don’t even know I sing! But it has been incredibly exciting. I’m just elated to be making all this amazing music with these super talented artists and musicians. I didn’t really have the confidence or maturity to pursue music the way I wanted to when I was a teenager and make the decision to either continue studying music or choose a different path. I don’t regret my choice then at all, I’m so glad I had the experiences I did working as a nurse and nurse practitioner. I’m really glad I’m landing back in music at this point in my life even though it’s a little unusual! It really is a dream come true for me and I’m having the time of my life. I feel a deep joy again that I had been missing for quite a while.
What’s next in Carey Renee’s world?
CR: I have another single that will be coming this summer, and then we plan to release a track or two from our musical this fall. I’m also working on a pilot episode of a potential TV show, filmed at the historic theater in my hometown that I co-own and helped restore. I am a highly motivated person and I know I’ll keep working hard and see where things take me. The sky’s the limit!