Caro Emerald almost became famous by accident.
Not that the young singer — a multi-platinum, chart-topping success throughout Europe —lacks the talent to be successful in her own right. But at one point early in her career, Emerald was one of many talented, unknown performers trying to make her mark.
A call from producers David Schreurs and Jan van Wieringen changed everything. They had a song written with Canadian songwriter Vince Degiorgio that needed some vocals, but their first choice for a singer wasn’t available. Could Caro come in?
“I was doing demos at the time, and when I heard about this song, I thought it would be fun to try,” says the singer. “I figured right! I came in and heard this new style of song that I completely fell in love with — it was this crazy mix between pop and jazz, all the ingredients I love in music. And then I guess they liked my voice, because we kept it.”
That track, a retro-tinged party starter called “Back It Up” (complete with DJ scratches), heralded a unique new sound, a blend of pop, mambo and cool jazz. Soon, that demo helped land Emerald a TV performance, just as a YouTube video of the song began to catch, propelling that song to a top 20 hit.
Although she landed on the charts in a roundabout way, the retro-yet-modern stylings of “Back It Up” were perfectly suited for Emerald’s voice and personality. The singer, who grew up in a musical family and fell in love with singing after performing a solo during a school play (she sang the 1931 jazz standard “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” later made famous by Mama Cass), started her career studying jazz at a conservatory. “I really liked Ella, Louie, Billie, all that really vocal jazz,” she says. “At the same time, I loved Motown, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, all that funky stuff. And I was just getting into Duffy and Amy Winehouse when we recorded that demo, so it just kind of fit together.”
“Once we had done that first song, we all realised we were a great team and we wanted to keep going, that we had a potential for building something great together,” remembers the singer. Using “Back It Up” as a template, David, Vince, Caro and Jan recorded the album “Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor” (2010) with Caro as the starring artist. A bold, brassy affair that nods to everything from big band to vintage soul to mambo, topped with modern beats, entirely produced in David and Jan’s home studios.
Released on their own label Grandmono with the production team handling the business, the indie record became a sensation throughout Europe, propelled by the #1 hit “A Night Like This.” In her home country of Holland, the record managed an astounding feat — it set a new record for number of weeks on top of the carts (30), breaking Michael Jackson’s previous 26-week reign for “Thriller”. Along the way, Caro made a number of major TV appearances (Jools Holland) and was nominated for several awards (including the Echo Awards, where she won “Best Newcomer International” over the likes of Lana Del Rey and Gotye). Their music also ended up in countless films, commercials and TV shows around the world.
Emerald raised her profile with a sold-out European headlining tour for which Grandmono attached a unique visual flair to the music, winking at the 40s/50s jazz era through both costumes and performance. Surrounded by an eight-piece, all-male band (says Emerald: “I love it. I’m the girl in the middle and I like all the attention!”), Emerald belted out tracks accompanied by a horn and rhythm section, as well as a DJ.
In between conquering Europe, Caro and the guys reserved as much time as possible gathering and recording ideas for their second album. Not surprisingly when you consider how much they travelled across Europe, the lively European arts, entertainment and fashion scene of the 1920s-1960s sets the stage for follow up album “The Shocking Miss Emerald” (2013), a romantic and intense, yet very glamorous piece.