Caro Emerald on keeping her retro sound fresh

Singer Caro Emerald

Singer Caro Emerald - Credit: Archant

Smouldering chanteuse Caro Emerald will entertain audiences at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival at Glynde Place, 1-3 July. She tells Jenny Mark-Bell how she keeps her retro sound fresh

Article first published in 2016

There was a time, peaking in 2010 when Mad Men mania was at its height. Clothes shops from the high street to haute couture were displaying full circle skirts and fitted sheath dresses, and everyone was suddenly thirsting for cocktails

Also that year, Dutch singer Caro Emerald dropped her first album, Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor. The sound was retro and seductive, like the singer: Caro sashayed her satin-clad hips into number four in the UK album chart after 30 weeks at number one in the Netherlands. At the time songs referencing “A little Gable, some Astaire”, such as her hit That Man, fitted the zeitgeist beautifully. But she proved she was no one-trick pony with the release of her second album, The Shocking Miss Emerald, three years later.

While she is a commanding and coquettish stage presence, the not-very-shocking-in-real-life Miss Emerald is keen to play down her own influence on her sound, which fuses jazz, pop and swing. In essence she says that the USP is all in the production. “I work with two producers and they are really great. The guys are very interested in different ways of recording – they are real sound nerds and they love investigating and experimenting. They can make 50 mixes of one song, for example.”

Caro was a bar singer and session musician when her producers asked her to sing a song called Back it Up as a demo artist – they hoped to sell it to a successful artist. “It already had a specific style, basically a mix of hip hop, pop and jazz, and I guess that became the blueprint for what we wanted to do. For me it was the answer, I had been singing and performing everywhere within jazz, pop, funk and soul and this really came together as having a certain style – all the ingredients in music that I like.”

The way she talks about the music, it is clear that it is engineered and planned – she describes the beginning stages as “a real investigation”. Her enviable, 1950s style is similarly planned, designed to fit the music (and actually, it’s nigh-on impossible to listen to some of her songs without a painted lip and a pout). “It’s not like I look like that when I’m at home. What you hear is what you see and you want them to connect with each other.

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“My own style is definitely feminine and classic but for this I really try to enhance it. You have to be a bigger version of you.”

The Caro Emerald sound is evocative of smoke-filled bars populated by wicked women and handsome cads, so performing at an open air festival like Love Supreme is something of a departure. It is one she relishes, however. “You kind of have to fight for it a little bit when there’s lots for people to watch and I like that. My set list will change if I’m playing during the day as opposed to night – night is usually more sensual and daytime is more cheerful, a little bit loose. At an outdoor festival people are way more distracted than inside so it’s a totally different way of performing – it has to be very energetic to really grab people, so the set always starts with a bang because if you don’t do that you lose it.”

Behind the unassuming manner and sly sense of humour lies a ribbon of steely determination. When asked about her career highlights to date, she reels them off: “Playing on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny and Later, they were both just amazing; playing in the Royal Albert Hall; playing the Glastonbury main stage… still when I’m talking about it I go like, I can’t believe that happened. The O2 Arena… My future plans and ambitions go even further than that, I want that and even more – world domination as well, so lots of plans.”

And fans, as well as those that might become fans after her Love Supreme performance, have something else to look forward to: a new album. What can she say about it? “That we are working hard on it! I am very excited to be able to release new music because it is what makes my heart beat. We are really experimenting and we are at a very inspirational stage right now where I am recording as well as writing and producing.”

Love Supreme Jazz Festival is at Glynde Place from 1-3 July. For tickets and more information, go to

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