It’s obvious to say that sound is integral to music. But there’s a specific link that drives Andrea Carlson to create her own.
“I think in music it’s all about the sound, where we find a connection with sound,” explained the composer, singer and guitarist. “For me, the minute I heard jazz, I guess I was in seventh grade, I had come across a friend’s grandmother’s Andrews Sisters records. I thought, ‘What is that?’ I just loved it. It made me want to explore more.”
Carlson is certainly still delving into that music: she’s currently recording her second record, another excursion into pre-bop jazz that also betrays her “Tennessee roots” along with hints of blues and other elements.
That’s the music she’s bringing to Puck Live in Doylestown this week: A handful of her acoustic guitar-driven original numbers that recall Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald, mixed with standards from those singers’ heydays, and augmented by a band that brings each performance alive in different ways.
But that’s only one part of her musical story. Long before Carlson was creating her own songs, she was singing other people’s in various touring ensembles. And, in between those engagements, she was honing an altogether different craft, one she studied formally for years.
“I was very focused on being the greatest classical guitarist. I wanted to do that so much, and I still work at that,” she explained. “It was like I had two different worlds. They were separate for a long time.”
Those lines began to blur six years ago, when she started composing on a whim at first, but seriously very soon after that.
“I didn’t even know I could do it. It was, I tried it out, and was like a flood. All of a sudden, inspiration came, and a lot of songs came out,” said Carlson. “It was pretty amazing to realize I could do that. I’d just brushed it off before.”
The revelation all but turned her career on its head. Carlson cut back on classical recitals and traded in putting her own stamp on famous songs for writing her own.
That effort’s found her back in the studio starting late last year with “The Big 29.” That was the date in October when she tracked her new songs with a band live in the studio, as opposed to multi-tracking like she did on her debut disc, Drivin’ Myself Wild For You.
The new album, she said, will better capture the immediacy and spontaneity of a live performance. It will also showcase more of her guitar playing and connections she’s made to new sounds during her frequent performances in Europe.
“One of the aspects that has really entered into my life is the influence of French music,” Carlson explained. “For me, personally, it’s a wonderful exploration. It’s like the Great American Songbook, but with a twist. Their music is not written with the same kind of formulas that ours are written in. And on top of that, the language is so beautiful.”