Wednesday, 06 December 2017 12:11

Carmen Xclusive's Xciting Career & Xquisite New Christmas Album Featured

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Yes, we got an Xclusive Interview with Carmen Xclusive about Her Xciting Career & The Releases of Her Xquisite Christmas Album.
Nowadays well produced Christmas albums by South African artists are by all accounts a rarity and very few among those have that something special that would set them apart from the average offering. Somehow locally produced Christmas albums never seem to make it as alternatives to the ubiquitous age-old Boney-M album or the much loved Mariah Carey Christmas album played everywhere every year.
However... Carmen Xclusive has never been your average singer and this is not an average album.
 

When we recently heard Carmen Xclusive being interviewed on a Cape Town radio station and after hearing two of the tracks we just had to call her up.  
One of Cape Town's most-loved singer-songwriters has released her very own Christmas CD – just in time as the festive season is kicking off in all earnest and we here at Bruinou.com just had to tell you all about it.
Mitchells Plain-born musician, Carmen Xclusive, aims to add a special sparkle to your festive season this year with her very first compilation album release: Carmen Xclusive – The Collaboration – Christmas Time Album (2017)
 
 

We soon got hold of Carmen and started off by asking her a question that embodies a quirk of the Cape Town Music Industry. We at Bruinou.com know that many of the most talented and most experienced Performing Artists particularly in Cape Town, of which Carmen Xclusive is one of the most highly rated, either have never released an album or they have just taken a little foray into recording a few albums, knowing that the chances for commercial success is slim. Many would even venture to say why bother...
So without us hinting at our motive for the question, we asked Carmen: Why this; why now; what made you want to do this?
...but first let us tell you about how Carmen Herbert became Carmen Xclusive.         
 
 

Like many Cape Town artists and indeed many singers all over the world, Carmen Herbert started off as a young talented singer in Church and she has her roots firmly planted in a family that has multiple generations of gospel musicians.

Her grandmother and other relatives of that generation started the Royal Gospel Group which later evolved into the Royal Sisters with her grandmother in the lead.
Carmen then literally grew up as a member of True Gospel Band which was started by her dad.  
 
Her talent really started drawing attention after Carmen as a young teen entered a singing competition.
Offers started coming in to perform in cabaret shows and Carmen was hooked on the idea of making a career as singer.






In the early 1990's at the age of sixteen Carmen joined Mike Kwagga's group Nuff-Zed and a year later she joined the Wentzel Brothers in the iconic Cape Town group N2. At the time the night club scene in Cape Town still had a very high demand for live bands and N2 stood shoulders above the rest having fans who all loyally followed them from club to club.

N2 has over a few decades been and still are an evolutionary stepping stone for many female lead singers but we would venture to say there are none quite like 'Carmen of N2'.
Carmen credits being in the band N2 as being her education in becoming a true performing artists.
“Performing with them for almost ten years was an exciting time for me. It was like me going to college and learning to hone my talent."
 
 

After almost a decade with the band Carmen felt that she needed to 'graduate' from her college called N2.
She felt that the club circuit not only gave her a limited audience but she needed to grow as an artist and prove to herself that she can make it in the more lucrative albeit more daunting corporate events scene.

"As I started out my solo career, people either still called me Carmen of N2 or they called me Carmen Ex-N2 with very few actually knowing my real name."
"Though I loved my time with N2 and really appreciate what being part of the band did for my career, I had to break away from that identity and then as a play on the name Carmen Ex-N2, I decided to create the brand Carmen Xclusive as a way of affirming my identity as an independent solo artist."
 
 

Carmen has since continued to make her mark as a solo artist and besides all her many other live performances at various venues; she has become synonymous with her regular Xclusive Nites at the very classy Pigale Restaurant in Greenpoint.
Though she sometimes makes appearances to perform at events and venues more accessible to the average Joe, Carmen lives up to her Xclusive moniker and is renowned for performing at events all across South Africa with very exclusive guest lists.
Her upcoming Christmas day performance for instance is at none other than the 5-star Radison Blu Hotel and the event is by invitation only.
 
 

Having achieved a respectable level of success as a performing artist without having to leave home soil and having mostly well-heeled audiences has however not changed the girl who grew in Mitchell's Plain into some sort of an inaccessible diva. Carmen Herbert still has her feet firmly planted on the ground and is very much in touch with the rest of Cape Town's music industry and in many ways she still very much relates to her original fan base.
 

The fact that she has not yet released an official debut album also does not mean that Carmen is a stranger to the recording booth.
Carmen is still a sought-after session vocalist and she laughingly admits that she cannot off-hand name all of the albums by mostly well-known South African Jazz artists on which she either appeared as backing vocalist or in some instances as lead vocalist on certain tracks.
Some of her most notable collaborations have been with the likes of Richard Caesar, Allou April and the late maestro Robbie Jansen.
 
 

Carmen has also penned quite a few original songs some of which she has already started the recording process for with the eye on future releases and others which she has written for other artists to perform and record.
She however does not aim for her music to become instant commercial hits but aims to write music that will have a long-term shelf-life.



“Christmas is such an important time for me as it symbolises spending time with family. The joy of bonding with family around Christmas time is something I truly love, and the concept of family over the festive season, is why I decided to record this album.” said Carmen in a recent press release.
 




Carmen made it clear to bruinou.com that this Christmas album cannot and should not be mistaken for being her debut solo album but it is in fact a compilation album of which she is at the helm.
Collaborating with multi-talented Cape Town artists Abigail Bagley and Adelia Douw who also each have solo tracks on the album, the intent was to create an album filled with some of the most popular Christmas hits spanning a few generations but giving each song that Xclusive touch in the arrangements and execution so as to bring new feel to the classics.



Produced by Andrew Ford at his studios, The NutHouse, they wanted to ensure a smooth and elegant suave to the Christmas album’s classy genre which boasts international standards, but with a local “flavour”.
From what we've heard so far, they have certainly hit the mark.
Those tracks we've heard being played in between the radio interview segments grabbed our attention.
 
 

The quality in production was immediately apparent. The vocals on the songs took centre stage but even though the instrumentation was purposefully mixed to not 'compete' with the vocals, each instrument could still be clearly heard and it all just gelled beautifully together.
Listening to Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas on Full Length Stream via Carmen Xclusive's Website that first impression is confirmed over and over again.
One can also listen to 45 second snippets of all the tracks via the website.
 

 

It's really a bit weird describing a song on Christmas album as 'sexy' but the classic 'Santa Baby' has to have that sensual allure and the sultry nuances have to be just right otherwise the whole song falls flat.
This song really took us by surprise when we first heard it; Abigail Bagley bagged it!
The young singer from Mitchell's Plain really makes her mark on this album and there is much reason why Carmen has decided to feature her so prominently.
 
 

Some of our readers may also remember Adelia Douw as the exceptionally talented young jazz singer of the Delft Big Band Project under the directorship of Ian Smith of Virtual Jazz Reality fame. In July 2013 Adelia was accepted to attend the prestigious and intensive Berklee's Five Week Summer Performace Programme at Berklee School of Music in the USA.





If we seemed excited about her achievements back then, you can be assured that we are now super-amped about what she will be achieving in her future.
Though it is noteworthy that Carmen Xclusive has at the height of its existence worked with Ian Smith's VJR, the selection of Adelia to appear on this album is not simply a nod to Ian Smith but a genuine affirmation of the talent and the immense amount of hard work that Adelia has been putting into honing her career as a singer.  
 
 
 
We mentioned earlier on that we did ask Carmen the questions: Why this, why now; what made you want to do this?
In the same breath we also asked her why, with all her talent as a song-writer, and other local writers available, she chose to not include any original songs on the album.
Hearing an original song was indeed something we looked forward to so that turned out to be a bit of a disappointment... but mind you... it turns out to be just a minor gripe and it actually has a perfectly reasonable explanation.

 
Carmen made no mince about the fact that at this point in her career there really is no need to chase record sales in order to make a living as a musician and that this and any music she will be recording in future will always first and foremost be as an alternative form of expression as opposed to performing live, which is after all what makes her the artist she is.
"For me, recording an album, in terms of where I am in my music career, should be more like marking a milestone, a form of celebrating how far I have come."   
 
 

Carmen has been wanting to do a Christmas compilation for a long time and the timing for this one was sort of unexpected in terms of when she suddenly got the green light from everyone else on board, she had to make the unfortunate decision to shelve the original Christmas songs she had written with the eye on recording them some day.
Had she included those songs, the album would not have been completed and the window of opportunity to have all the right people available to see it through would close as everyone would need to get back to tending to their own careers.
 
 

Her urge to make it a compilation and not a solo Christmas album also has at its root the fact that Carmen really wanted to work with young artists she admires; young artists working hard at building their careers and who could use such an opportunity to bolster their discographies and portfolios.
That is shown in the fact that both the featured artist have been given solo tracks and major parts on other tracks on the album and it was not a case of them just being backup vocalists.



Carmen expressed her passion for creating opportunities for your singers in the same way that opportunities were created for her not only when she was a young singer with Nuff-Zed and then N2 but also throughout her career when she was building her own identity as a solo artist, many of the top Cape Town Jazz artists gave her opportunities and guidance to advance her career.   


She recently took up the mantle of talent scout for Malander Studios to which she is affiliated and if what she has done to showcase talent on this first compilation project we can already imagine a bright future for quite a few talented young artists who are coming up through the ranks.



We are hoping that in more homes, on more radio stations and hopefully also in more shopping malls that playlists will contain tracks off Carmen Xclusive's album this Christmas season.
 
The CD retails at R149.00 and is available for Purchase from her Official Website: https://www.carmenxclusive.com or via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Fans may also SMS the word CARMEN and their full name and surname to 43366 to get more information on how to purchase a copy of Carmen Xclusive – The Collaboration – Christmas Time Album.
The album will is available on all digital music platforms and will very soon be in all retail music outlets.
 



 
Carmen is also currently in production with her début Solo CD, with the working title "Carmen Xclusives’ Debut Album" which is set to be released early in 2018. The début album is a labour of love for this passionate singer and songwriter.
“Every song is a carefully crafted gem and it's been a long time coming for me to finally record and put together my very own album. I can't wait to share it with everyone”.
 

For more information about Carmen Xclusive – The Collaboration – Christmas Time Album as well as all of her upcoming musical projects, visit: https://www.carmenxclusive.com .

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