Meeting Carole King

On monday, I had a once in a lifetime experience to meet and hang out with the great and gracious, Carole King.  A dear friend of mine who is a friend of hers invited me to her sound check at Beehive in Boston.

Susan Cattaneo Carole King Songs

Susan with Carole King

Carole arrived ready to perform, and as I watched her work with the sound man, I was struck by two things.  First of all, she’s in amazing shape vocally and can still hit those high notes. And that voice! It was the soundtrack to my entire adolescence, and it is still the same. It still has the same texture and nuance.  It was like meeting an old friend whom you haven’t seen in a long time and finding that you still have everything in common.

The second thing that struck me was the fact that Carole King songs are so well-written, the construction of the melody over the chords, the way she places the lyric…it’s all wonderfully composed.  After the sound check,  we had a few moments to chat and so, here are some thoughts on songwriting according to Carole (paraphrased by me):

Writers Block

How does Carole deal with it?  She said that whenever she can’t get a part right, she heads out the door, takes a walk, and usually when she comes back, she’s figured it out.  And if it still doesn’t come, she goes and does something else.  She said it’s important to get your mind off the song so that your subconscious can solve whatever blockades your conscious has put in its way.

Toys

When you talk to Carole, you realize that you’re dealing with a puzzle maker.  She’s someone who loves to experiment with chords until they give her the sound she’s looking for. She said that chords were like her toys, she loved to play with them and see how and where they would take her. This is certainly evident in the obvious joy that she takes making music.

Getting Home

We talked a lot about the journey a song, an album or a performance can take you on.  She said that she loved the way a song could make you travel through a variety of emotions.  And how sad it was that with the download world we live in, that music listeners weren’t experiencing the effect of listening to a full album from start to finish.  She also talked about the “middle 8” of a song, how she loved to take a bridge as far as out she could, and then how fun it was to find her way “back home”, that this process was one of the most important to her as a songwriter and musician.

It’s wonderful when you meet one of your heroes, and they turn out to be just as nice as you think they are.  I had the same experience when I met my other inspiration, Bonnie Raitt.  Both Bonnie and Carole left me wishing I wasn’t just a fan but a friend.