Originally published on facebook, 21st August 2021
Inger meets Carys Singer – Online
During lockdown, I´ve got to know so many, for me being a Swede, new artists. One of them is Carys, who is an English singer-song writer. It was because of ABBA, the well-known Swedish band, that Carys realized in her teens, that’s she wanted to sing professionally. She also joined an ABBA Tribute band and has been a fan of Swedish pop music for many years.
The earliest recording of Carys, is from, when she was three years old and was singing “Go tell it on the mountain”, which her mother recorded on tape. This was in Ipswich, Suffolk, more than forty years ago.
– At middle school, I was in a choir, but I was sixteen when I realized that I wanted to sing professionally.
It´s a little embarrassing to admit this, but it´s all thanks to ABBA.
– I always loved their music – my parents bought the “Super Trouper” album on cassette when it was released and small four-year-old Carys basically claimed it as her own! By the time I left school, I owned everything they´d ever recorded… Unfortunately at that age, I also had no desire to sing anything except ABBA songs!
Carys began singing in local musical theatre and played the lead role of Florence of “Chess”, at the Ipswich Regent when she was 19.
– What I didn´t know at that time – indeed I didn´t receive my official diagnosis until I was forty – is that I am autistic and knowing this has explained a lot of my early life.
– For example, a lot of people with autism have narrow specialist interests – well, literally I had NO interest in any music that couldn´t be related to ABBA until I was about twenty! I didn´t even write my first song until I was in my late twenties.
Music career – an option
It was when Carys, at the age of 13, started high school, that she realized that she could perform music. She hadn´t realized earlier that it was an option for her. She says that “I assumed that it had to be people who had been playing an instrument since they were two or something! Now I know this can be called “Imposter Syndrome”.”
– I started playing keyboards and quickly graduated to the electric organ. I had lessons because I can´t usually figure things out by myself, and really enjoyed it though I found playing and singing in front of an audience terrifying.
– When I was 19, I started singing lessons. I always say that Frida and Agneta from ABBA, were my first singing teachers! There are a couple of Wow sounds! that my dear “real” singing teacher, Adrienne, has never been able to eradicate from my voice.
Studies and singing
Even if Carys decided at the age of 16, that she wanted to sing, everybody expected her to go to university. She did four A-levels, including French and German, but had no desire to go to university.
– This was in 1994 and long before any internet or ways for an autistic teenager to find places to perform. For some years I performed in musical theatre on an amateur basis, and in my early to mid-twenties, I was in an ABBA tribute band and a cover duo. For two years I was able to make a living, mainly because I was still living with my parents.
– At the same time I had decided that I did want to earn a degree, so I started studying Biology and Earth Sciences with the Open university at the same time.
Besides Carys´ studies she was singing in a cover duo called Shades”. When she was 26 years old, her father passed away, just a few months before she finished her degree from university. – After that, I lost the “spark” of singing for some time.
Carys wanted to accompany herself, so in her late twenties, she started learning to play the guitar. She had some lessons and says “it took me a very, VERY long time to learn and I still don´t consider myself to be any better than an accompanist – meaning that I don´t consider myself a guitarist, though I´ve been told otherwise by quite a lot of people!”
Carys is collaborating with her producer, the electronic music composer, David Wright. She has also returned to play synths and keyboards and says that she feels “pretty fearless around instruments of any kind”. On her album “Wolfsong”, she played acoustic bass guitar for the first time – and that first time was on the day she recorded the bass line to “The Old Straight Track”!
– The most interesting instrument I´ve tried, was the “Nyckelharpa” (Swedish word for Key harp). I tried once to play one at FolkEast Festival a few years ago and actually managed to improvise a tune! I´d loved one but I don´t have the time to learn or the space to keep it!
“Wolfsong” is Carys ´s latest album. It was finished during the first UK lockdown and released in May 2020. Carys made an online album launch and has done some on live performances. Recently, she performed at “The Cream of the Crop”, formerly known as Field 8 in Cropredy.
Any plans of a new album?
– Right now my future plans could go in several different directions! One day I am going to write a full-length musical – I have something orchestral in mind along the lines of Jeff Wayne´s “War of the Worlds”, so that´ll that a while!
– Right now, I´ve just finished a new track with David Wright which will be included on a German compilation this August. It´s called “Laniakea” and I think this is the best thing we´ve done so far…
Max the Pirate Cat
“Max the Pirate Cat” is a song that Carys wrote in 2018 and from the very first time she performed it; people loved it. Last year she did a crowd funder, to produce a limited-edition hardback book and CD set of the song.
– Not knowing how popular a book was likely to be, I calculated the bare minimum I would need to produce the smallest possible number of books. You wonderful people, promptly reached that target and smashed it in the first 24 hours! This meant I ended up drawing 19 new pirate characters!
– That work was very different for me because I drew all the artwork myself, including drawing my backers into the story as pirates and smugglers. It was released in December, as a limited-edition hardback book, complete with CD single and additional pictures. Less than a week, it was sold out and I had a waiting list!
Carys is planning to produce a paperback version of Max for those who missed out on the original. In the meanwhile you can buy a download at her web site.
What´s your greatest happening in your musical career?
– As a solo artist, successfully crowdfunding and releasing my first album in 2018 and playing Field 8 at Cropredy festival fringe in 2019. In my work with David (Wright), touring several European countries in 2017 and supporting Tangerine Dream as vocalist with Code Indigo.
– The hardest thing for me as working as a musician, is promotion. I find it very difficult to talk with people and I still have no idea how one actually gets theatre and festival bookings. I seem to have got this far on a mixture of luck and being in the right place at the right time!
GES – Glenmark, Eriksson, Strömstedt – Swedish pop stars
Carys has since her twenties, been interested in Swedish pop music. Not only ABBA but also the trio GES, which was a Swedish trio consisting of the three artists Anders Glenmark, Thomas “Orup” Eriksson and Niklas Strömstedt, which was a very popular band during the 90ies and had great success.
You were a great fan of this Swedish band. How come?
– I first visited Stockholm with a friend in 1995. One evening we visited a place called the Golden Hits café where there was live music. One of the songs was “När vi gräver guld i USA”, which of course was pretty new then (for Brits, it´s the equivalent to “Football’s Coming Home”, only with better lyrics). I don´t know remember how I learned this was GES, but a couple of years later when another friend and I visited Sweden, I saw their first CD in a shop, bought it and loved it.
Carys was “stuck” into a lot of Swedish artists and would take advantage of 1 pound Ryanair flights, into Skavsta, Sweden, to go and see several outdoor concerts a year.
Concerts with different artists like, Karin Glenmark, Lill-Babs, Josefin Nilsson, Loa Falkman, Björn Skifs, Ann-Louise Hansson, Afro-Dite and a few others.
– In 2003 when the new GES tour and album were announced, I immediately decided I would go to as many shows as possible. I ordered the CD and it arrived on the day it was released!
– I first saw them in Stockholm and then three weeks later, my friend and I flew into Malmö, hired a car, and saw them there and in Växjö, Eksjö and Gothenburg. By this time I owned all their albums, so we pretty much sung along.
At the concert in Växjö, Carys and her friend arrived early and settle down right at the front. A local reporter arrived to interview people.
– Hej, jag heter Carys, och jag pratar inte svenska, I said… following up with asking if they spoke English! They chatted, took our photos and asked our favourite songs. The next day we were amused to find ourselves on the front page of the local paper! Most recently I saw GES doing a livestream during lockdown last year. Older, but still great!
Tell me something about you that I couldn´t possibly know?
– Hmm…I´m autistic so I have no idea how to answer this question! For example, you don´t know that I´ve got a tattoo on my lower back; but you also don´t know that I cannot ride a bicycle. You also don´t know that I´m allergic to pineapple nor that the first time I saw Fairport Convention was on their 1997 Winter Tour, where on that evening my favourite song was “The Wishfulness Waltz”. I still think it´s lovely. You also don´t know that my all-time favourite Fairport track is “Jewel in the Crown” …
– Except you know all these things now!
A big thank you to Inger Duberg for allowing me to share this interview on here. She has also written a book, “In Faeryshire: Wilhelmina and Evie the Fairy“. It’s available in both Swedish and English.