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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Exclusive Q&A with Dance Diva Carol Hahn

I'm proud to say I've been at clubs since the 1980s and that I've loved Carol Hahn since I first heard "Do Your Best" at Danceteria in New York City. Carol has been a diva fave with her powerful vocals, which Phil Spector might have enjoyed working with, because of her driving, strong vocal quality. And then there was a long absence from the scene.

I first talked about Ms Hahn in an early (2009) blog piece, "Notes to Divas" (still one of my most popularly read posts): "Carol Hahn was a delight when she brought her powerful pipes recently to Splash in New York. She is simply a club diva's club diva who came to international attention in the 1980s with a few hiNRG hits."

DJ Buddy B: Hi, Ms Hahn, and thank you for doing a Q&A for my club-savvy blog readers and me. 
CH: My pleasure!

DJBB: You've gone both "Into the Light" and "Into the Night." Which was best for you?

CH: Well, they were both totally different songs in all aspects. 

"Into the Night" was a song I co-wrote with a friend, Tristan Vetter (Jeff Sullivan), early on in my career and it was just sort of a fun, sexy dance tune, nothing heavy. We were trying to write a really good follow-up to my first release as we had just come off of the success of "Do Your Best." The response to it was very exciting and it did very well.  

Re-recording it a few years back was fun too, I initially did not want to put out a new version out but kept getting requests and suggestions from people to release it again. My hip and happening 20-something niece kept telling me it would be great to put out again, so I finally decided let's do it. I was a bit embarrassed to sing some of the lyrics at this stage in my life, so Tristan changed a few of them to make them more comfortable for me to sing.

"Into the Light" was a song I wrote out of a deep personal experience from a love relationship. It was a very cathartic experience for me, the song came very quickly lyrically and musically, (which is always a wonderful thing), and I was able to see the problem I was having in a much different light. Kind of an ah-hah moment.
DJBB: Ah-hah! 

Now, I'm fairly uninformed about the jingles and voice-overs you've done, outside your dance-music career. What do you think most readers and I might best recognize?

CH: I did a lot of work for Cable One IVR, (interactive voice response system) for a few years, you know the idiotic person you have to listen to and keep pressing buttons until you hopefully get a real person. 

DJBB: So, that was you!

CH: I often find myself yelling at the IVR voice when I call big companies. My job was to speak in a friendly and calm voice. Most of the VO's and jingles I did in the U.S. were regional or local markets. I've sung about the wonders of blueberries and plumbers and baseball teams and many other things.  I've done jingles and VO's for clients from Russia, Australia, Sweden, U.K., Dubai etc. I enjoy doing character voices the most, it's very fun.

I actually do an English Queen character; she's a cross between British royalty and Julia Child; she's very loud but very sexy in a big-bossomed kind of way....

I also did an interesting one for a British museum exhibit. They wanted the voice of a white-winged duck.  I just had to figure out how a white-winged duck would talk, which I did, and they liked it.

DJBB: I'd love to hear those! 

You first burst onto the dance scene in '82 with the album, Portraits.  How did that all come together?  
And, in '83, you had a smash hit with "Into the Night." At what point after that did you decide to put your music career aside and return to college? And what was your motivation for that? Seems like a bold move.

CH: I took my band into a local studio to record a promo demo to help us get club and wedding gigs. The studio owner, Jack Stang liked my voice and asked if I wanted to do some originals. Jack was recording with a very talented guy named Rahni Harris, from the band Dayton, and Rahni had written some very good originals.   

The album is mostly songs Rahni wrote, including "Do Your Best." The songs were actually written as Christian songs but we did them as love songs. "Do your Best" did very well charting on Billboard and getting lots of play in the clubs and some radio. One of the coolest things I heard about just a few years ago is that it got played regularly by Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage.

After "Into the Night," I signed with a label out of Minneapolis called Wide Angle Records and they released a couple of songs I co-wrote with Tristan and John Bauers (who was in my band) called "Reach Out" and "Your Love is All I Need." It did well in the clubs and charts. We released another 12" after that but, by that time, I was feeling very burnt-out by the music industry. I continued to sing steadily with my band but I sort of gave up on the recording end of it. I also went through a divorce and became a single mom, so I needed to get a more stable career.

DJBB: What an un-disco-diva-like thing to do! 

But you're back big time, better than ever really, with a Billboard hit after 23 years with the terrific "I Can Stop the Rain." What an incredible thing for any artist's career! What do you make of this achievement?

CH: At the time it was very exciting but a few years out it feels very different. I was really out of touch with the protocol for getting the music out there as it had changed quite a bit since the 80's. I went through a learning curve and made some expensive mistakes but it was the only way to learn it, I guess. I do think "I Can Stop the Rain" is a very good song.... and I'm happy it made Billboard. However, other than giving you some bragging rights, it doesn't translate to sales or getting you on the radio or in front of the people that matter most, the fans, because they don't read Billboard. 

DJBB: Your songs express such a sense of strength and self empowerment. Do you feel this way when you are writing your songs? And can you ever imagine yourself creating and singing anything demurely?

CH: A lot of my songs come from experiences in my relationships. I am constantly working on my writing and try to use the emotions or passions I'm feeling to fuel it. While I don't always feel empowered or strong in real life, it's a goal I work toward. Writing a song that I feel is good does make me feel empowered and strong. It's an incredible high for me to write a song that I feel in my heart.

I'm sure I've never been described as demure but I can sing with softness and tenderness.

DJBB: *laughs* Well, "demure" may not be all it's cracked up to be.

So far, my interviews with club divas have been with women whose powerful voices need no auto-tuning (Debby Holiday, Amber Dirks). You are most certainly one, as well, indeed. Who have been your vocal influences in music?

CH: Barbara Streisand, her control and tone -- amazing! Ella Fitzgerald, Bonnie Raitt, Sade, Aretha, Gladys Knight and Cindy Lauper are others. There are many more.

DJBB: I was, long ago, shocked to discover you're American and your first album was recorded in the USA. Your hiNRG style convinced me you were British. Am I odd or have you heard this before?

CH: No, never heard that before. [So I am odd. ~~ DJBB] I do want to have high tea at the Royal Palace with the Queen though at some point.

DJBB: Whom of the crop of today's dance divas do you enjoy?

CH: I like Pink. I like some of Katy Perry's and Lady Gaga's music. Adele, although not really a dance diva.
DJBB: There's a gripping intensity, musically and lyrically, to all your songs ("Reach Out," "Take Me & Dance," "Do Your Best"). This also includes your new song, "Where Is the Passion?" What would you like readers and club-goers to know about it as it hits the clubs? And is it being released on Beagle Boy Records?

CH: Yes, we're releasing on Beagle Boy, should be out any day on iTunes, Amazon etc. It's a song that very personal for me as I want people to hear the song and feel passionate about their ability to make a change in the world through their kindness, compassion, honesty, and quest for truth. If we could just "pay it forward" a few times a week imagine the powerful good energy that would create. It would be amazing.
DJBB: Thank you so much, Ms Hahn for your answers and for taking the time to do this. Hoping "Where Is the Passion" is heard around the world like all your songs, and that you hit Billboard heights once more, as you deserve.

CH:Thanks so much for asking me!

I also want to take this opportunity to thank all you wonderful DJ's who have supported my music. I do hope "Passion" gets out there and people hear it and are moved by it.

DJBB: I would just like to add, personally, what a wonderful and special individual you are, never forgetting your kind words of support when my mother passed away last autumn. Thank you once more, Carol Hahn.

CH: I lost my mom not too long before that so I knew what you were going through. It's a life altering experience.

Disconet remix with images:

Check out Carol Hahn @ iTunes & "Where Is the Passion" is exceptional. Put it on your playlist, people!


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