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CAROLYN SOUTHWORTH:
AT THE END OF THE DAY

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Reviews > News

 

5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS

Island musician’s new album praised by Grammy-winners

By BRIDGET BUDBILL, Reporter

Published Tuesday, October 10, 2006, in the Stanwood/Camano NEWS 
Considering all of her musical accomplishments, Carolyn Southworth might feel entitled to a few “diva” moments.

But that just isn’t the character of the Camano Island musician. Although her first album, “At the End of the Day,” boasts compilations with Grammy-winning artists and an Emmy-winning producer, Southworth remains modest and grounded.

“I’m still pinching myself. Sometimes I can’t believe all of this is really happening,” said Southworth, who resembles a strawberry-blonde Farrah Fawcett, and whose gentle, soft-spoken voice is obviously that of an experienced teacher.

Southworth has been playing and writing music in a variety of styles her entire life, but the completion of “At the End of the Day,” is the first time she has recorded and released her own work.

The album, which offers 11 self-written tracks, has already been compared, in style and quality, to fellow musicians Jim Brickman and David Lanz, by online listeners.

“That is really the biggest compliment I could have received,” said Southworth. “I really just love to write and play, especially melodies. I want someone, after listening to my songs, to be able to hum the tune. If they leave humming, then I know it is good.”

Southworth plays an original blend of contemporary piano, smooth jazz, easy rock, and even some Celtic tunes. She admits it is difficult to pinpoint her style.

“I’ve had a hard time coming up with a description for the sound of the album. It varies,” she said. “There’s a ballad, some classical, jazz, and a tribute to my Scottish heritage. That’s what is most fun. It changes.”

Southworth and her family moved to Camano Island in 1986. From the very beginning, the natural aesthetics of local surroundings have been musically influential.

“I’m inspired by the beauty I see around me,” said Southworth. “It is just so gorgeous around here. I wrote the song ‘Emerald Sea,’ while looking out at Skagit Bay on a summer day. The water was four or five different colors, and the sun was beaming on the ebbs. I wanted to write music to describe exactly how that looked.”

Other songs, such as “Island Sunrise,” were drawn from Southworth’s experiences watching the beaming rays of a rising morning sun over the horizon of the Cascade Mountains.

To record the album, Southworth transported her baby grand piano to a studio in Bellevue in a rented truck. Moving the instrument made her anxious, but to ensure her music sounded “just right,” it was worth the worry.

continued from Reviews(continued) “We first considered recording it here, at home, but we’ve got Whidbey jets flying overhead. That would be a disaster to have that noise while recording, and I don’t think we could ask them to not fly for a day,” said Southworth, laughing.  

Southworth is not the only accomplished musician featured on “At the End of the Day.”  The album includes collaborations with Grammy-winner Nancy Rumbel, featured on English horn and oboe, as well as several additional highly-acclaimed performers. It was produced by Grammy-nominated, Emmy-award winning recording artist Paul Speer, who chose Southworth as his last project before moving his productions to Nashville.

“I knew from the git-go that the music would be high quality,” said Rumbel. “I would never have known she hadn’t recorded before, and the music turned out beautifully.”

It was also enjoyable to work with another female instrumentalist, Rumbel said. 

“It was great for me to meet an instrumentalist who is a woman. There are many women performers in music, but not so often in the soloist capacity. Carolyn was a delight.”

Performing solo, however, is not how Southworth prefers to play.

“I don’t have the ego to be center stage all the time. I am an ensemble player. I am a teacher and a composer, but performing solo isn’t really my comfort zone,” said Southworth.

Southworth, was raised in Pendleton, Oregon, and music was woven into her life from early on. Her grandfather was a violinist and bandleader, and she received her first piano, a toy, at the age of three. Two years later, she was studying the violin before most children learn to tie their shoes.

By the time she entered high school, during the 1970s, she had already begun teaching others how to play, as she played violin and viola for her award-winning high school orchestra.

“In Pendleton, the schools placed music at the same status level as sports,” Southworth recalled. “We had wonderful music education. Our principal would do whatever he could to help the music program, and we were fortunate for that.”

Southworth formed a bluegrass band, Blue Mountain Grass, in which she played the guitar and fiddle. During this time, even though she was not yet out of high school, Southworth realized her interest in music composition. 

Southworth continued to explore music at Brigham Young University (BYU). As a music major at BYU, she honed her skills at playing bluegrass while playing in a local band, the Hobble Creek String Band.

Despite decades of commitment, after she graduated from BYU, Southworth says pursuing music as a career was not something she ever seriously considered.

“My career was a family, and music was secondary to that,” she said.

While raising three boys and one girl, all whom learned to play the piano, with her husband, Ron, she continued to play and teach as many as 35 students at one time.

“I knew I wanted to keep myself involved in music. I still teach now, but not that many students. Now I have four piano players and two violins, and that is much more manageable,” said Southworth.

For Southworth, finishing an album of her own work, and recording with artists she considers “so wonderfully talented,” marks a personal accomplishment of her own.

“I didn’t have any big aspirations. I’m a song writer. It is second nature to me,” she said. Southworth admits giggling in disbelief from time to time while driving home from the recording studio.

“This project has been a boost for me,” she said. “All of the songs are different, but they still all sound like me.”   
“At the End of the Day” is available at Snow Goose Bookstore, The UPS Store, Huntington’s Corner Grocery, Karen’s Kitchen and Gifts, and online at www.carolynsouthworth.com.

5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS

 

Following the dream

At 54, new-age composer/pianist Carolyn Southworth finally goes professional

By Scott Iwasaki

Published Friday, October 27, 2006 in the Deseret Morning News
Photograph: Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

Carolyn Southworth had wanted to make a contemporary instrumental album for years.
 "She would always tell me how much she wanted to make an album of her own music," said her husband Ron Southworth. "This year the dream has come true for her. Here she is, a 54-year-old grandmother accomplishing this dream."

Carolyn, a graduate of Brigham Young University, lives with her husband in Seattle, Wash. They were in town a few weeks ago, looking for a distributor for Carolyn's album "At the End of the Day," and attending the LDS Church General Conference.

"This album isn't about religion," said Ron. "It's more in the new-age style."

In fact, the album was produced by Grammy-nominated new-age producer/guitarist Paul Speer. And guest musicians include percussionist Matthew Burgess, saxophonist Richard Warner, bassist Douglas Barnett, drummer Steve Hill and oboist/hornist Nancy Rumbel (of the Grammy-winning duo Tingstad & Rumbel).

"When I realized I could actually make this album, we got a hold of David Lanz," Carolyn said. "We talked awhile and he encouraged me to do a solo piano album. But he also told me that I was the one who needed to make the decision. We were encouraged to contact Paul."

Speer was in the process of making his move from Seattle to Nashville, Tenn., but he agreed to listen to Southworth's demos. "He told me that his move could wait," said Carolyn. "So my album was one of his last Seattle-produced projects."

"Before I work with someone," Speer said during a telephone interview, "I take time to get to know them philosophically and musically. I went to Carolyn's house and talked with her, and she played some music for me. She also gave me a rough recording she made in her home studio."Carolyn at her home on Camano Island, Washington.

After hearing the material, Speer agreed to produce the album and told Southworth that he wanted her to work with some other musicians. "That's when he came up with the list of names," said Carolyn. "My jaw dropped. And I didn't think my music was good enough to have these people play with me." But throughout the recording process, each musician took time out to complement the compositions.

Rumbel said she was also impressed by Southworth's open demeanor. "First off, she was extremely organized," Rumbel said by phone from Seattle. "She knew what she wanted but she was always open to suggestions.

"I play mainly the oboe and English horn on the album, and we went back and forth between the two instruments. We would talk about which would sound better, and we sort of held auditions for each instrument and picked the one that sounded better."

One of the major challenges of making the album, said Carolyn, was hauling the piano into the studio. "I have a 7-foot Baldwin grand piano. We thought about working with another piano, but Paul came up and listened to me play and told me that I had to use my own piano."

Since recording an album was a new experience for Carolyn, it did take some time to get into the groove. "During the first three days I thought I was going to die," she said with a laugh. "Working with click tracks to make sure we were on tempo, and then making sure I was playing accurately, was nerve-racking."

But Speer's guidance and know-how helped smooth out the edges for the session. "She had 25 strong songs that we had to choose from," said Speer. "It was difficult to pare them down to what's on the album."

All of the tunes on the 11-track album — which can be sampled on www.carolynsouthworth.com — have special meaning for Carolyn. But two that stand out are the title track and another titled "Once in a Lifetime." "I remember composing 'At the End of the Day.' I was in the middle of the song when we had a storm and the power went off. I lit a bunch of candles and finished the song.

"The other song, 'Once in a Lifetime,' was about my getting ready to make this album, something that I never thought would happen."

Another that is very personal is "In My Fondest Dreams." "I had composed music for a church musical called 'Abinadi.' And this is one of the songs from the production, albeit without the lyrics."

At present, the Southworths are seeking a distributor for the album, but it can be ordered from www.cdbaby.com. "All in all it took about 15 days to complete," said Carolyn. "And it was an experience I'll never forget."

E-mail: scott@desnews.com

 

5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS5 STARS

Southworth's album a winner


By Scott Iwasaki
Deseret Morning News CAROLYN SOUTHWORTH; "At the End of the Day," (Heron's Point)

At age 53, pianist (and Brigham Young University graduate) Carolyn Southworth has fulfilled a dream by recording her first contemporary instrumental album, and it can stand alongside such new-age artists as David Lanz, Suzanne Ciani and Tingstad & Rumbel.

In fact, the album was produced by Lanz's producer/collaborator Paul Speer, and woodwinder Nancy Rumbel is featured on the album.

Southworth's piano is smooth, soothing and fresh from the opening title track to the reverent "Nocturne." Each work is melodic and catchy but also deep with emotion and musicality.

Soundscapes form musical images of overcoming trials with "Silver Lining," of dreams in "Once in a Lifetime" and of birds of prey soaring on a thermal in "Where Eagles Soar."

A three works follow the turbulence and peace during and after blustery rains provided by "Anchor in the Storm," "In the Wake of the Storm" and "Island Sunrise."

Southworth also tips her hat to her Scottish heritage with the Celtic-flavored "Highlander," and touches on her Mormon lifestyle with "In My Fondest Dreams."

With "At the End of the Day," Southworth has created a CD that will appeal to fans of healing new-age music. But it also set the bar high for fans' expectations.

It will be interesting to hear what the future brings.

 

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