Rising Stars [Issue
"I'm in awe
of songwriting and I just love it with a passion," says Carla Werner. "It's
a way for me to put my emotional torment to good use, so to speak."
The songs on Carla
Werner's new Columbia album Departure, however, seem far less tormented
than soothing and spiritual. Accompanied by guitars and carefully placed string
arrangements, Carla sings of love, restlessness, and life challenges in a voice
that runs the range from wistful to soaring.
There are strong folk and "prog-rock" influences in Carla's work and
also a touch of country. Her grandfather was a member of a country band in their
native New Zealand, and Carla as a child took to entering country music contests.
"I sang country music for two years because it was the only way on to a
stage. I disentangled myself from it when I was 13 because I really wanted to
sing pop music."
Living in Australia during her teen years, Carla listened more to rock bands
like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, and to folk-oriented performers like Kate
Bush ("my favorite"), Phoebe Snow, and Jeff Buckley. By the time she
was 19, she had moved to Sydney and was making her way in the club scene. "I
put myself out there, found myself a guitarist, and just started from scratch."
Eventually, she met producer John Holbrook, who helped her wax "Iodine
Red," the first track recorded for what would become the Departure
album. She also signed with a small label, Engine Room Music, in 1999.
"I worked with four producers over two and a half years," says Carla.
"I sort of moved away from the first producer I was involved with, and
the label wanted to introduce me to other producers." These included Carmen
Rizzo in Los Angeles, and longtime friend Lucius Borich, in Sydney. More songs
were recorded but the starts and stops were frustrating. "I had to have
an enormous amount of patience. It's really a hard way to make a record."
But what had begun as an independent project reached fulfillment when Carla
had the opportunity to perform for the president of Columbia Records in 2001.
With Coldplay producer Ken Nelson stepping in to helm the remaining tracks,
and with extra work to smooth over the fits and starts of the varied recording
sessions, Departure was finally finished and released early in 2003.
To promote her album, Carla has been touring with the Thorns and the Jayhawks.
And surprisingly, she enjoys it. "Oh, it is fatiguing," she admits.
"But the venues have been great, the people have been great. The Thorns
and the Jayhawks have been incredible. They attract a very music-loving audience
so it's fortunate that I was able to snag a ride with them."
And she still finds time to write new material. "I've been writing a lot
lately so I'm looking forward to the next record. I just hope it will take four
months this time instead of two years."