Interview By: LeLe Symone
Bad Boy Entertainment, for all of its dominance in the 90s and early 2000s, sputtered to nearly a halt a few years back after launching multiple contenders to the fields of hip-hop and R&B, one of them being its first soul and only soul man contender, Carl Thomas. After his breakout multi-platinum debut, Emotional, he and P. Diddy failed to see eye-to-eye for its follow-up, Let’s Talk About It, and after his overlooked independent release, So Much Better, the 39-year-old Chicago native has regained his equilibrium both personally and professionally with the aptly-titled fourth CD, Conquer. Mesmerizingly modern and reminiscent of his earlier forays into R&B soul, Conquer boasts production credits with some of today’s hottest names (JR Hutson, Mike City) some blasts from the past and a generous dose of old-school, tried and true R&B musicality.
Riding high from its first hit single, “Don’t Kiss Me,” and in the midst of a promotional tour, Mr. Thomas spoke with Knowshi by phone about what kept him out of the spotlight, two heavy losses in the music industry that affected his craft and how he wants fans to use his latest CD…..
KNOWSHI: What have you been doing away from the spotlight since 2007’s So Much Better Carl?
CARL THOMAS: I was just making sure that I had the right home in order to do my next album, and with Verve, we just seemed to fit together and it just made sense. I wanted the opportunity for the music to grow the way that I feel it should and as far as my fans, I wanted them to feel as though the music had grown in the right direction. We (he and Verve) all wanted to move to the next level, so it just felt right.
Knowshi: How have the fans been receiving your return?
Carl: The response from fans has been overwhelming, and I’ve been very grateful. You want to make them feel the music, but at the same time you want to make sure you satisfy yourself, but sometimes that goal can take you both in two different directions, you know? It was by the grace of God that everything lined up together, and my fans have been very encouraging, so it’s been a blessing.
Knowshi: We’re glad to have you back Carl, the CD is hot—in fact, I was checking out the credits and saw that Dwight Myers, AKA the rap icon Heavy D, was a part of your team. What was it like to work with him?
Carl: Heavy was really special. A lot of peopl actually didn’t know that he was really deep into soul music: in fact, he was responsible for a couple of the tracks on my Emotional CD, “Summer Rain” and “Hey Now.” It was a blessing for me to get back in the studio with Heavy, we’d always planned to reunite. In fact, he has an album out called Opus and we did a song together there called “Still Missing You.” I’ll miss him a lot.
Knowshi: You also gave props to Michael Jackson in the credits, was he a big influence for you as well?
Carl: Most definitely. Mike was someone who set the bar for us entertainers and was a great songwriter: I had the opportunity to meet him a couple of times, he was a nice guy and gave us a lot to aspire to as artists.
Knowshi: I was immediately intrigued when I read that you got some studio time in with JR Hutson, what was it like to work with him?
Carl: I was always a fan of his father (Leroy Hutson), and he’s a very talented musician—-he really listens to what the artist says and it’s not about his direction, it’s about our direction. I fell in love with what work of his I’d listened to on Jill Scott’s album, and when I learned that he’d submitted some tracks for my Conquer CD, I absolutely jumped at the chance to work with him. We ended up choosing “The Night is Yours,” it just fit the order of what everything was sounding like and flowed with where the music was going, and I look forward to working with him even more extensively on the next CD.
Knowshi: What were you saying with that title of “Conquer,” by the way? Is there a message in that?
Carol: The theme is just letting love conquer the situation, not fighting something natural and letting it do what it’s supposed to do. I think that it’s cool that people are listening to it and gathering their own meanings, because that’s what music is all about, we all feel and see different things, and it was coming from the heart.”
Knowshi: Speaking of hearts, well, the ladies want to know….does someone have yours at the moment? And if not, what can a woman do to catch your eye?
Carol: (chuckling) I’m single for right now, and since I’m older, I look for more solid things in relationships, I’ll put it like that. As for what attracts me, there’s no one set thing: it could be what a woman says, what color she wore, anything.
Knowshi: You’ll make a lot of ladies happy when they read that, no doubt. Anyway, is your son following in your footsteps? How is he liking the CD?
Carl: of course, he just got accepted into NY’s Performing School of Arts and he’s twelve now, he’s into producing and playing the piano. He and his buddies think it’s grooving, which is a big compliment to me (laughs).
Knowshi: Can’t say I blame him. Anyway, as for the rest of us, how are you hoping fans receive the music?
Carl: I want them to use my album as the soundtrack of their lives, for them to listen to it and relate to it as they tell their own stories, that’s what’s most important to me.