Can you tell me when you first took an interest in music? What inspired you, and how did you begin creating your own music?
I started singing in my church choir and school chorus when I was six years old. My first cassette tape was Mariah Carey’s self-titled debut album, which came out when I was eight. Her voice transported my soul, and I believe this experience ignited my affinity for music and the power of the voice to express through song.
When I entered my pre-teen years, I was immersed in the alt/grunge rock movement, so I listened to Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Counting Crows. But the most influential artist in my life beginning at the age of twelve was Tori Amos. I refer to her as my musical mother. Her songs kept me safe, comforted me, validated me, and gave me an identity and something with which to connect amidst an incredibly turbulent and painful childhood.
I had always been a writer, documenting my life in diaries from a very early age, but it wasn’t until I was about eighteen that I started to feel a calling to channel my words into song. But I had a lot of fear and self-doubt and had no idea how or where to begin. When I was nineteen, I finally decided I was going to teach myself to play piano and start composing and writing songs, and that’s what I did.
How would you describe your music?
Raw, honest, reflective, personal, intellectual, soul bearing, vulnerable, exposed, real.
How often do you write new material? And where does your inspiration come from?
I don’t write very often. The way it’s been in the past is that I’ve reached these emotional bottoms that force me to write. I get into so much emotional pain about something, even if it’s just about not writing, that I am left with two choices: (1) continue to suffer a slow spiritual death, or (2) start writing. The writing breaks me free and helps the healing process begin.
What subjects do you most enjoy writing songs about?
There isn’t one particular subject I most enjoy writing about; I just write what comes to me. Most often what comes to me is substantive of relationships, those with others, with myself, and with the ideas and concepts that are the contents of my mind. I also have to say that songwriting is not necessarily something I always enjoy; it is usually very emotionally, intellectually and creatively laborious for me. I am incredibly critical of my work when I’m in process; the joy comes more when I perform and record.
What draws you to those subjects?
The need to heal, break free, and express the resulting emotions of my life experiences fully and completely, which I can often only do through song.
How long does it take to create a new song and what is the process?
I don’t have a blanket answer for this; I don’t have one single process I use for songwriting. I’m generally at the mercy of the muse and the way it decides to come to me. I’ve written a song in a few hours and spent literally years on others. Sometimes a song starts with words, then I start playing chords or an arpeggio on the piano and sing a vocal melody to those words. Other times I just start noodling on the piano and see what words channel themselves through the music.
You have chosen “Years” for readers to listen to. Can you tell me what inspired that song and what it means to you?
I like to allow listeners the space and freedom to project their own meanings onto my songs; It would be presumptuous of me to tell anyone “what this song means” because it could mean anything to anyone; that’s the beauty of art. Who am I to take the freedom of interpretation away from the beholder of art?
In the context of the song “Years,” I will say this: I don’t know whether I have the power to will myself into forgiveness, to wilfully let go of the things that keep me in bondage. If I had that power, why would I ever stay bonded? Who wants to be in chains? Who wants to feel anger and pain? But we all do to varying degrees. Perhaps it is the synergy of the willingness to feel, the willingness to work through, the courage to let go, and then simply time that eventually sets us free. On the other hand, there have been times I have wilfully made the decision to stop wasting my precious time on bullshit – and that decision always gets me closer to free.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
My current project is not music-related. I’m making a documentary with my husband and two other guys. The film is about a high school soccer miracle in the San Diego barrio; it documents the unprecedented success of the soccer program my husband founded, directs and head coaches in gang-ridden, impoverished Logan Heights. Folks can find us at www.facebook.com/TheMightyGreenVaqueros and on Twitter @TheMightyGreen.
In terms of music, I am starting to learn the guitar. I’ve already learned Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” one of my favorite songs. I’m also developing a wonderful musical relationship with a talented musician/producer. Right now we’re just jamming on cover songs, but we’re in talks of starting to write together. It’s very exciting!
What are your plans for the future?
My immediate plan is to move to Florence, Italy with my husband on June 30th! We are taking a one-year sabbatical to slow down, simplify and focus on soul-nourishing activities like reading, writing, playing music, performing, travelling, and connecting with my Italian heritage. He will be pursuing his passion for soccer and expanding his coaching career. In terms of music, I will be focusing on learning the guitar and writing and recording new material. It’s time to start writing again. I feel so many songs inside me.
Where can people find out more about you?
My website is www.carmencaserta.com. There you will find links to all my various social media profiles, but I’ll list them here for convenience: