International success K*Maro is back in Canada with the double-edge attack of his English debut and Balbec fashion brand…
For those that are just learning about you as an artist, what is your sound?
I love music, I’ve been around hip-hop for twelve years. Something I did so much when I was younger was every time I’d get too square in my hip-hop style, I’d get bored pretty fast [so] it was always important for me to keep something very live in my music and try not to sample that much. You have a track on the record called “All Over Again” where everybody can bet its 100% sampling. You only have a little loop in there, it’s a kind of a Mexican loop. It’s really tiny and a whole music world that was built around that to make it sound the way I wanted. I could have sampled the thing and put it really hard, put it at the front and just kept it as a sample. I’m trying to build it up as a song, more than a hip-hop song… talking about 16 bars, chorus, but also a bridge and maybe a change of chords… Had a lot of live instruments in there also. Basically it’s hip-hop but its hip-hop mixed with lots of roots rock influence and soul. I think my R&B soul side is a little bit more up front now.
What is it about your sound that caused it to be such a success in terms of critics and fans in Europe? Why did your French albums sell millions?
I think it was the musical side of it, especially in French. I had the mixture of the cultures, between the American hip-hop culture and the French classic music culture that I had from my parents. The mixture between both those influences meant that the European people could still see themselves and the roots were obviously something they could understand, ‘cause a lot of that European influence that I had growing up was definitely showing in that sound. Plus the fact that I had my American influence, especially hip-hop culture and urban culture, living in Canada for 17 years. Obviously I have more of an American hip-hop influence than whatever could be [considered] to be a European hip-hop influence. I think the mixture between that and especially being in French also, it was original for them.
After living overseas and moving back home, what is the state of Canadian hip-hop?
It’s interesting, you have a lot of good cats out there. I think its missing a little bit of the entertainment. You know Belly’s doing his thing, the CP crew is trying to make it a little bit entertaining for the people. It’s always the same thing in all the markets where hip-hop is a little bit an offside trend, its not that mainstream trend that’s making 20, 25, 30% of market share, you always have that independent artist, lyrical artist that makes it very interesting as an art but maybe the kids when they look at it like it’s their hometown boy, they look at the guy as their neighbour or the regular guy next door. It gives it a very cool and friendly atmosphere but at the same time, when they have the choice between a Canadian artist or an American artist, since we’re so close… Well, kids are going to go to the American artist because they feel that he’s a superstar compared to their guy they like a lot but it’s their next door neighbour. You have enough talent in Canada to push it and try and make it big without going into fronting that much, There’s a lot of artists, that’s the problem, they front too much. There’s a perfect in-between line… Don’t try to make the kids believe you have a phantom, at the same time don’t just shoot your video in the black alley all the time and show them that you’re exactly like them. There’s the kind of in-between where you can push the game a little bit just to show the example to those kids but if you go too far kids are not stupid, they’re going to understand that you’re fronting.
You started up a fashion line, Balbec, as well. What influenced the design element?
All this time I spent in Europe was a key in the influence of that collection. Even if they are late on a lot of things regarding hip-hop and urban culture, they are way advanced in fashion. Everybody though that that baggy, dirty south fashion trend was going to go to Europe, it actually came but it faded really fast. I guess in fashion we’re observing a new trend that the Americans are following Europeans. When you look only at the hip-hop trends that you see in New York, a lot of things are getting more Europeanized now. You have a brand like Louis Vuitton, all those European brands that are starting to break the market in the U.S., they start realizing that it’s cool to be a little bit more fitted. I remember the first time when Jim Jones started to wear a couple of fitted things. He didn’t get it right, so that’s why cats started bitching at him, he wasn’t wearing it the right way but at least he didn’t want to follow that baggy fashion trend that was fading out, but nobody had an alternative for this. The guy that was wearing Sean John, Rocawear or Phat Farm is not going to turn around in one day and start wearing Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss. Nothing was really in between, you had a couple brands that were trying to do it, but they were either too expensive or not fashionable enough to be able to compete. Basically, this is where we jumped in and it went pretty smooth for us and that’s why we are now trying to capitalize on this and move it to the next level.
Any last words to send out to the country as a whole?
The album is out, this is good talk but it gets down to one thing, the record, the talent… We have 14 songs to put on the record to talk about everything I wanted to talk about. I’ve been doing this for a year and a half, those 14 tracks are on the records called “Perfect Stranger”, so just go get it.
My love for what I do is what keeps me in the music game! I love being in the studio creating and being creative with the people I work with. When it’s all said and done to be in front of an audience performing and getting that immediate reaction to the music we’ve created, it’s the greatest feeling in the world!! That is what keeps me going!! Satisfying the fans and my need to create!
Do you make a living off the music business?
Yes I do. I’m fortunate ’cause I not only sing but I also write on the songs I sing. I think that is one of the key parts of being an artist today..not just being one dimensional but doing as many things as you can during the creative process, whether it be writing, arranging or producing!!! I’ve also been fortunate to tour most of North America and Europe and parts of the Caribbean.
How do you plan to conquer America, Europe and Asia?
It’s a big world but I’m up for the challenge! I got fans in all those places already! I just gotta keep giving them what they’ve come to expect from Carl Henry! Great music! Nothing beats word of mouth… That’s how the fire spread here in Canada with “Homie’s Girl”. People just connected with the song and the message and I just try to keep giving them what they want!! What I think is my big selling point is I also pride myself on sounding like my records when I perform live!! So I am ready to get in front of as many people in as many countries and on as many continents as I can and conquer them one fan at a time! I believe that performing live is realest way to connect with my audience and future fans!! Obviously this is not a one man show… It takes a vision and great production to win! I know I got that with the team I have!!
Where can your music be heard?
My official website www.carlhenrylive.com
on myspace www.myspace.com/carlhenrymusique
on itunes and all over youtube!!!!! just google me!!! lol
And keep on checking my site for tour info in the new year!
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Photography & Video by Craig Boyko craigboyko.com