The name Carly Paoli may as yet be unfamiliar to many fans of classical crossover music but with several high profile performances already under her belt and the release of her debut album eminent she is poised to become a force to be reckoned with.
Her image on the cover of “Singing My Dreams” evokes Old Hollywood glamour and her story is full of Cinderella undertones as articles laud her as the ‘lorry driver’s daughter’ bound for stardom. The Evening Standard even crowned her the ‘Queen’ of the crossover genre. Still, Carly’s own website is modest in its approach and her tagline is simply “an English rose with Italian roots, singing her dreams.”
So how did it all begin for this Nottinghamshire-born singer, is the gift inherited from her parents? “Actually I always laugh when people ask if my parents can sing,” Carly tells us. “I wouldn’t wish for anyone to hear my mum in the shower but Dad isn’t too bad.” She does however believe that her passion and singing talent derives from her Italian roots. “My Grandfather, Nonno Apollonio, who died recently, came from a family of 5 brothers. Nonno had a beautiful voice and his younger brother worked as a singer/song writer and he still plays the piano accordion. They would sing together at all family events with my grandfather always singing the upper harmony.”
While Carly grew up in the UK she spent her summers in Puglia. “I have Italy to thank for my stage experience. In those early years Puglia welcomed me with open arms to perform in piazzas and sing for audiences throughout the summer.” She describes it as an “amazing experience for a young singer.”
Although her mother may not be a singer herself she did play a part in Carly’s musical development. “My mother nurtured my musical interest with MGM musicals. I loved Gene Kelly and Judy Garland.” At nine, Carly began taking singing lessons with Liz Hetherington and incredibly she continues to study with Ms Hetherington to this very day. Her teacher even wrote lyrics for one of Carly’s songs “One Bright Star.” Carly continued to study and at 16 worked at the musical theatre and drama course at Tring Park, Hertfordshire. “I had always imagined myself performing on a West End stage as I love dancing and acting so much. It was always obvious that singing was my ‘special’ talent; we had a visit from a member of staff at The Royal Northern College of Music, who advised me to audition for their Vocal Course. So I auditioned and was offered a place on the spot, but that completely changed my thoughts and dreams away from the West End.” Still Carly looked forward with enthusiasm. “It was a new challenge.”
Carly spent four years at The Royal Northern College and additionally studied with Liz Hetherington on the weekends as well as studying dance “after college hours.” The more she developed it became even more apparent that hers was indeed a classical instrument. Upon graduation Carly began teaching at Directions Theatre Arts. “I taught there for 2 years and loved every minute. It’s amazing how much you learn yourself all day when you’re sat demonstrating the correct approach for others.” Along with teaching Carly performed “wherever I could and wherever
I’d be seen.” Puglia continued to provide a welcoming venue and she also found opportunities to sing at corporate events, weddings and sometimes funerals. The corporate events would eventually open the door to the next important step in her career.
In the classical world discovery is a gradual emergence from minor roles and young artist programs but in a twist that would have made the MGM PR department happy Carly was noticed by a representative of the luxury brand Bedat & Co which fast-tracked her success. “The lady who founded the brand ‘Madame Simone Bédat’ is celebrated for achieving her dream of creating the first watch brand designed purely for women. The brand seeks to support and nurture young talented women who are breaking the glass ceiling in their own field, as ‘Madame Bédat’ did. I thank God that they considered me in that category because I began performing in international events like David Foster’s Miracle Gala which also featured Jennifer Hudson and Steven Tyler.” Carly also sang at the ‘The Women’s Media Foundation Award’ in L.A. where Bedat & Co was the official sponsor.
Carly continued to dream big and learn from her colleagues. One year she attended a concert of José Carreras as a fan and the next she was sharing the stage with him. “You should never stop dreaming because you never know what the future has in store,” she encourages. “One year I’m watching one of my idols deliver an incredible performance and the following year I’m sharing that stage with him and performing duets together. I smile every time I think about this.”
While being a singer requires years of dedicated work sometimes opportunities arrive when least expected. “It’s a nightmare to sing classical music at the drop of a hat,” Carly admits. “In the same way that an athlete will always warm up before they compete, singers usually have to go through the same process. It’s not an instrument that you can pick up and put back in its case, it is part of your body, so any illness or just the way you feel can affect the sound produced.” Even so Carly offers this sage advice. “I think all singers should have 1 or 2 songs that they can perform in an instant and feel confident. Save the backing music to your smartphone if you can and always have it with you. Sometimes opportunities arise and you’ll kick yourself if you had to back out because of not being prepared.”
As Carly’s career progressed she has expanded into the world of crossover. She has worked with two of the biggest names in the genre, David Foster & Andrea Bocelli. “I have performed on numerous occasions with Andrea Bocelli, which has always been a real thrill, especially in front of an Italian audience.” Their delightful performances are available to view on YouTube. “He’s such a pro I think no stage could phase him and he’s usually got a great sense of humour before the song starts and finishes. On our first meeting, he told me I looked beautiful in red.” Carly’s admiration for David Foster is likewise evident. “For any singer, you know David Foster is the man that makes the magic happen. He has such an amazing awareness of what the audience want to hear from a singer, and he has a way of encouraging singers to go beyond their comfort zone and deliver a performance that is truly spectacular. It’s really exciting performing with David. I don’t have boundaries on the type of singer I would like to collaborate with in the future. I love to
work on a project that could bring two different musical worlds together and still be inspiring and engaging.”
Unsurprisingly prestigious events in Italy have played a part in Carly’s career. She performed an original setting of Ave Maria at Terme Di Caracalla. At the time she was unaware that a representative of Pope Francis was in attendance. “I was contacted some months later with the request to make my ‘Ave Maria’ the official song for Pope Francis’ Jubilee year, ‘The Year of Mercy’. It was such a special time for my family and me and so fulfilling.”
Carly also was invited to sing at the The Forum in Rome for the first concert ever allowed there. “Incredible atmosphere. What a venue. How could anyone not feel inspired standing on a platform surrounded by the most beautiful Roman ruins? My dressing room was essentially in Caesar’s Palace and just off to the corner from there, they believe they have discovered St Peter’s Cell.” Others featured in the concert were The Tenors, Andrea Bocelli and Elaine Paige. “You should have heard the sound of the voices echoing in the marble dressing rooms as we all started to warm up. The whole process of rehearsing and watching that concert come together is something I’ll never forget. It was also symbolic that all these iconic artists had joined to perform together that night to reinforce Pope Francis’s important message of Mercy. I closed the concert with my song ‘A Time For Mercy’, which was extremely poignant.”
Carly’s repertoire is in fact often inspirational in nature. “One thing that’s instilled into students in performing arts colleges is that there will be rejection. I had my fair share when I left The Royal Northern, or near misses, which can often be even more disappointing. But I always went home to an amazing family. My mum’s faith is extremely strong and she passed that onto me. You hear it so many times, but it’s so true ‘Never give up on your dreams, because the dream only dies when you stop believing and trying.’” To this day Carly tells us she still gets nervous but “I always say a prayer before I walk out on stage. I believe my faith is what has got me this far.”
She calls music “the major influence in my life.” At this point in her career music has taking on a deeper meaning. “My music has become more than just entertainment, it can actually share an important message. That’s something I would aspire to do throughout my career. I want my music to motivate people and make them feel good. The world cries out for messages of hope and love right now. So, lyrics are fundamental to me and I love a song lyric that tells a story.”
Carly’s debut album “Singing My Dreams” is filled with inspirational music including “Music of Heaven” and “The Mystery of your Gift.” It is available both as a traditional CD and vinyl. While the album is no doubt targeted at a crossover audience Carly’s soaring vocals and lush orchestral accompaniments certainly learn towards the classical. Many of the original songs from the album were composed by Romano Musumarra particularly for Carly. The album also features her now beloved versions of “Ave Maria” and “A Time for Mercy.”
Carly also had a chance to become involved with the writing. “I have written lyrics for 4 of the songs that feature on my debut album.
One of the songs ‘Memory of You’ I am particularly proud of. I wrote the lyrics to this song soon after my Grandmother died. She was a rock for the whole family, so the lyrics are influenced by the way I felt at that time. I’m not a composer, so the first melody that came into my head was James Horner’s stunning theme from the movie ‘The Legends of The Fall.’ It’s a piece I’d always loved and associated with nostalgia.” Producer Romano Musumarra then arranged the piece to fit Carly’s lyrics.
“A similar miracle happened for me with ‘Se Tu Fossi (Cinema Paradiso)’. This was an arrangement made a few years ago and I performed it at the Roman Forum. It’s this live recording actually that features on my album. The unique arrangement of Ennio and Andrea Morricone’s iconic music, features another theme in the middle section with English text added by myself. It’s a huge privilege to have been able to add my own personal touch to ‘Se Tu Fossi’ and to be able to share that with the world.”
The album also features a special duet with José Carreras of ‘En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor’ a song that has been a staple in many of his performances over the years. “This is the first duet version of the song and the first duet he’s recorded in over 20 years. He’s a musical legend through and through and when you get a chance to work with him, you learn he’s also a true gentleman. I had a wonderful time recording this song in his hometown, Barcelona.”
As in every stage of her career family involvement has been important for this project. “I’m blessed with amazing support around me, my family, (Mum and Dad always travel with me) my team and musical producer. They have always encouraged me to be creative and included my own ideas in the music, which is a privilege that not all artists get. I love every minute of singing each of the songs that feature on my album as I had complete freedom to choose music I love.”
Carly was recently awarded the prestigious Premio Barocco award and will be heard in ‘La Messa Arcaica’ by composer Franco Battiata in Catania, Sicily later this year. Other performances include a charity concert in Assisi, Italy. “Many of Italy’s most acclaimed artists from the pop world, will be joining me that evening to help raise money for a charity of The Vatican’s choice. I’ll be performing the Bach/Gounod ‘Ave Maria’ and closing the evening with my own Ave Maria, which is a great honour.” Soon too will come her album showcase at Bafta, 145 Piccadilly. “This is really my own personal celebration of my album launch, Singing My Dreams.”
It seems clear that Carly is destined for great things. Musically she teases that, “I’ve always had a soft spot for music from The Great American songbook. There’s an idea ticking at the back of my mind of singing some of the lost gems we forgot about from this golden age of music.”
To continue to follow Carly’s career visit carlypaoli.com