Lee Carr Interview
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Aspiring artists who have spent years on the grind often find that big breaks come at times when they are least expected. Take R&B rising star Lee Carr, for example; though signing with the now-defunct Russel Simmons Music Group didn’t give him the momentum he needed to quit his day job at LensCrafters, the singer/songwriter’s true ticket to success arrived when a Jive Records limo pulled into the parking lot of the eyeglasses retailer where he worked. Lee signed his new deal on the hood of the vehicle and, as they say, the rest is history.
Now that Carr has the right major label backing behind him, he’s preparing for the 2009 release of his self-titled debut album. After introducing himself on buzz track “Never Let U Go” and expanding his following with “Stilettos,” he scored big in the Booth and cemented his position as an up-and-coming R&B phenomenon with “Breathe,” a crazy-in-love ballad that had many of our female members head over heels.
In an exclusive interview with our very own DJ “Z,” Lee Carr steps inside the DJ Booth to discuss his songwriting and production idols, the many benefits of his label switch, and how a breakup nearly resulted in “Breathe” being sold to Usher.
Listen to the Interview
Leron Young Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a 21-year-old New York native, who in 2009 will personally breathe a fresh breath of air into the music scene with his singing, producing, songwriting, and many other talents. Please welcome Jive Records recording artist Lee Carr – how you doin’?
Lee Carr: What’s poppin’? I’m doin’ good, I’m doin’ great. What’s poppin’, homie?
DJ Booth: You’re gonna have to excuse me; my voice is a little hoarse. I was out last night with Common and Talib Kweli, celebrating Barack Obama being our next President.
Lee Carr: It’s all good, man; everybody’s excited about that. It was my first time voting. Everybody went out to vote. I saw people like, “Oh, you’re votin’?” “Yeah, you know, I haven’t voted in 20 years,” “Oh, okay.” [laughs] It’s one of those things, man, where it really showed people comin’ together. Black, white, Asian, Spanish, it didn’t even matter – everybody was out there voting; it was incredible.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Lee, where were you last night when the announcement was made that Obama had won, and what do you feel this means for the future of our country?
Lee Carr: You know what? I actually had to do some stuff at the record company, and then I got home and I got the announcement. Everybody was textin’ me and sendin’ me Emails, and I was like, “Oh, word? It’s real? This really went down?” I just believe that Barack has a lot of great ideas. With the country and the economy in the state that it’s in, I believe that it needed some fresh air and new blood, to get everything movin’, and he’s just got to execute what he said he was gonna do.
DJ Booth: Absolutely; actions speak louder than words.
Lee Carr: Exactly.
DJ Booth: If Lee Carr ran for President of the United States of America-
Lee Carr: That would never happen! [laughs]
DJ Booth: Okay, okay, roll with me, this is a hypothetical – if you did, what is the first thing that you would do?
Lee Carr: I would make gas a dollar, that’s the first thing that I would do, because when I’m puttin’ that gas in my car, I’ve got my fingers crossed, hopin’... The gas is really crazy, man. It’s goin’ down, but… actually, you know what I would do? I would make gas a reasonable price. I wouldn’t make it a dollar. Two dollars, and I would keep it there, and the oil companies can’t be tryin’ to jerk us. That’s what I’m gonna say.
DJ Booth: Okay, well, if that’s what you’re gonna do, I might have to make sure that you get into office someday.
Lee Carr: [laughs] Yeah…
DJ Booth: Well, of course, if you were President, then you would wanna win the people over, and if you’re an R&B artist, you also wanna win the people over, and the way you do that is with fresh new music, so let’s discuss your new single, “Breathe.” Is there a particular inspiration or female behind this song?
Lee Carr: You know what? It’s true. I’m young, so when I was with her I was feelin’ like I was in love, and “Oh my God, I don’t wanna lose this girl,” all that stuff. We wound up breakin’ up like two or three weeks after I wrote her the song, but it actually does stem from a real-life experience. When we broke up, I said, “I don’t even want this song no more – I wanna sell it to Usher!” I couldn’t get a meeting with him at the time, and then I ended up signing to the record company that he’s signed to, and his A&R’s like, “You wanted to give this to him?” I said, “Yeah, I couldn’t meet you, though. We could never connect.” He said, “Ah, man, I blew it!” That’s one of those real interesting stories right there.
DJ Booth: Well, I’m sure you are quite glad you held on to it.
Lee Carr: I am eternally thankful that I did. My manager kicked some sense into me. He was like, “Lee, if you sell this record you are an idiot.”
DJ Booth: The first song that actually landed on most listeners’ radar of yours was Stilettos. We talked about it briefly in the pre-interview. In the song, you sing the line, “Black, white, pink, red – I don’t really care,” however, I did some research, and I looked into color psychology, which is a study that explains the meaning behind why people wear certain colors. If you wear black, it means you’re reserved, if you wear white, it means you’re pure, if you wear pink, it means you’re intelligent, and if you wear red it means you’re powerful. So, knowing what I just informed you of, which color is it – black, white, red, or pink?
Lee Carr: Say that one more time. You said black is reserved…
DJ Booth: Black is reserved, white means pure, pink is intelligent, and red is powerful.
Lee Carr: Hm… okay, I know this is cheating, but is there a way I can get one of those striped stilettos? I’m kinda greedy, so can I get a woman with all of those qualities?
DJ Booth: If you find one, ask her if she has a sister, because I’m looking for the same thing.
Lee Carr: [laughs] You know what? Me and you both! If you found her, then I would be asking you the same thing. But, yeah, I would get the striped one, because I want to get all of those qualities in one woman. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m going to try to get all of ‘em, man.
DJ Booth: Okay. Keep me abreast of your situation, let me know how your progress is workin’ out.
Lee Carr: Check out my blogs; I’m gonna be lettin’ everybody know.
DJ Booth: Lee, you co-wrote and produced the majority of this forthcoming self-titled debut, so who would you attribute your skills in both of these talent arenas to?
Lee Carr: With writing, I would say Babyface, Stevie Wonder, who’s my biggest idol, R. Kelly, Lionel Richie, and Davante, those are my main inspirations for my writing. And for my production, I would say a lot of people: Timbaland, Polow, Scott Storch in his heyday. I try to merge everything together, make some gumbo. I take a little bit from everybody, and I just try to make it me.
DJ Booth: Lee, you write, you produce, and you perform; I would just be overwhelmed. At any point throughout this process, have you become overwhelmed with all of the tremendous responsibility on your shoulders?
Lee Carr: I wouldn’t say overwhelmed. It becomes frustrating when you know what you can do, and you just want it to be executed right by your company and things of that nature. I wouldn’t say overwhelmed, simply because, when I signed to Jive, I don’t know if you know but I was signed to Def Jam prior, I actually came in with Breathe, I came in with, I would say, seven to eight records, so, at the end of the day, it kind of makes anybody’s job easy, when I’m walkin’ in with my project.
DJ Booth: Absolutely.
Lee Carr: I wouldn’t say that it was overwhelming, ‘cause I just kept that ball rolling. I already was startin’ to really get in the groove with myself as far as the writing and producing, and making new material.
DJ Booth: You mentioned briefly, you’re now signed to Jive Records, and before that you were briefly with Russel Simmons Music Group, who was under the Def Jam umbrella. Go ahead and explain the process that you went through post leaving RSMG and then going to Jive.
Lee Carr: Z, it’s night and day. It’s night and day because when I was signed to RSMG/Def Jam, I didn’t get the time of day, so I never released anything, I never put anything out, my budget never opened, I never actually started to record an album, other than what I had already been doing to get into the building, to get signed, which was me already makin’ the music. I was kinda like, people knew I was signed, but I was still doin’ the same thing I was doin’ before I was signed. Coming into this situation, it was such a big deal, it was such hype and hoopla about it. We put out Stilettos for the summer, and it charted. People were talking about me, and I was traveling the country doin’ radio dates, performing, and things of that nature. Now we’re coming out with the real single, which is the Breathe record. So it’s night and day; I’m actually releasing music, I’ve got ringtones now, I’ve got iTunes downloads. It’s exciting.
DJ Booth: I read Jive signed you in the parking lot of what I’m sure is now your former day job – is that correct?
Lee Carr: Yeah.
DJ Booth: Where were you working at the time, Lee?
Lee Carr: I was working at LensCrafters. I was making eyeglasses, man. It was funny, ‘because I had three other deals on the table, and I told ‘em, “If I leave out of here, I’m signin’ somewhere else,” and they said, “We’re not gonna let this guy go,” but I said, “You know what? We had a great time, but I’m going to work.” I wasn’t leaving my job; I said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The lawyers came up to my job in a limo, camera crew and everything. I signed on the hood of the limo.
DJ Booth: Did you hook anybody up with a free pair of glasses?
Lee Carr: They were all askin’, but I said, “No, you guys got money already!” [laughs]
DJ Booth: Exactly. Well, other than Jive, you also have your own record label, which is Third Lane Music Group. Now, it’s common knowledge that, if you drive in the third lane, you obviously like to speed. How fast-paced would you say your life has picked up since you signed the deal?
Lee Carr: It’s definitely picked up, man. I’ve been to Nebraska and Oklahoma City, Kansas, states I would never go on my own. I’ve just been traveling all over the country doin’ radio dates, and people want to see me perform the Stilettos record, and I’m just everywhere. I’m on the phone with you, I’m gettin’ Emails, “Oh, we need to do a show in the city, we need to do a show here, we’ve gotta do this, we’ve got a photo shoot, we’ve got a magazine cover thing,” all kind of things like that. So it’s definitely movin’. I would love for it to move even faster. I’d love for the Breathe record to become the biggest song in the country. So then I’ll tell you I’m overwhelmed, but right now I’m not.
DJ Booth: Take a couple Tylenol, just relax, everything’s gonna be okay. Lee, when do you expect or hope that this album is out and available in stores for the people to pick up, and why do they need to invest their time and hard-earned money in your product?
Lee Carr: We’re gunning for an end of February, top of March release. I would say this to anybody who’s asking, “Why should I get your album?” At the end of the day, when you listen to music, you want to hear music that you can feel, and it’s like, “Man, I’ve been through this.” When I do shows, man, I have people comin’ up to me – I don’t even have a video out, and they are like, “Breathe saved my relationship,” and I’m like, “I was writin’ that about my relationship! I didn’t think it would affect yours,” and I realized how much it touches people.
DJ Booth: Well, I hope to get my hands on one as soon as possible. I look forward to the day when it’s out in stores, and I wish you the best of luck. Lee, give everybody a website or a MySpace page, so they can find out more about Lee Carr.
Lee Carr: Hey man, if you wanna find out more about Lee Carr, check it out: myspace.com/leecarr. You can check out my website, which is leecarronline.com. At the top of the year, when Breathe becomes one of the biggest songs of 2009, and we’re all lookin’ back like, “Yeah, we were on the phone together – now look where he’s at!”
DJ Booth: I look forward to that opportunity. Lee, thank you again for joinin’ me inside the DJBooth, my friend.
Lee Carr: I appreciate it, man. I see you with the song on the website, too, I see you doin’ your thing – I appreciate that support.
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