UB Exclusive Interview: Carl Thomas Speaks to UrbanBridgez.com

Grammy® nominated, platinum-selling R&B artist Carl Thomas returns after a brief personal hiatus. Thomas returned to the studio armed with an arsenal of hit songs, award-winning producers and a triumphant spirit to deliver his highly anticipated new album appropriately titled Conquer, set for release on Verve Forecast, December 6th. And his smoldering lead single, “Don’t Kiss Me” produced by Rico Love, a modern-day ode to the oldie R&B track with Thomas’ signature vocal styling-with a reminiscent touch of Al Green and Marvin Gaye for good measure.

A lot has happened since Carl Thomas’ debut album Emotional climbed the charts to become an instant R&B classic. After the tragic murder of his brother in 2004 on the eve of the release of Thomas’ sophomore album Let’s Talk About It, a devastated Thomas put writing and recording on pause and went abroad to escape the pain from his shocking loss. With frequent international travels and remaining incognito in the States, Thomas embarked on a personal journey of recovery.

Still grieving the loss of his brother, Thomas was invited to the studio to record for “fun” resulting in 2007?s So Much Better. “That not only gave me legs to stand on again,” Thomas recalls, “but it showed me that I was supposed to be standing.” And even as an independent release, So Much Better hit the Top 50 on the Billboard 200 chart: A cathartic process serving to ease Thomas back into writing and recording with a whole new outlook, paving the way for Conquer.

Realizing music’s healing qualities, Thomas triumphantly returns with Conquer, his first studio album in four years. Not wishing to travel the same, traditional R&B course, Thomas carves out his own melodious niche. Conquer showcases his growth as an artist and songwriter with songs bursting with lush orchestrations and entrancing chords, all weaved together with his timeless vocal style. The core of Conquer is comparable to Coldplay’s soulful sparseness. It’s the spirited pop of Maroon Five on a hot Harlem night. It’s Sting meets Lamont Dozier.

Once a protégé of music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs (who signed Carl Thomas after hearing him sing at an open mic night in New York in the mid ’90s), the Chicago native was the first heartthrob R&B songster on Bad Boy Entertainment. After a string of recordings with other Bad Boy artists such as Notorious B.I.G., Black Rob and Mase, Thomas finally got his chance and released his full-length debut album, Emotional, in April 2000 that reached No. 2 on the R&B chart, Top 20 on the Billboard 200 and sold nearly two million copies- with the single “I Wish” hitting No. 1 on the R&B Singles chart. His follow-up, 2004?s Let’s Talk About It, hit No. 2 on the R&B chart and No. 4 on the Billboard 200. And in 2006, Thomas earned a Grammy® Award nomination for “Everyday (Family Reunion),” along with Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams and the late Gerald Levert, for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals.

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Carl Thomas recently spoke to Aries from UrbanBridgez.com about his up-coming album “Conquer,” his new single “Don’t Kiss Me” and the new remix with Snoop Dogg, his music being a modern day interpretation of 90’s R&B, his start at Bad Boy, his appreciation for Chris Brown & much more!

UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us about the new album, what can we expect and who did you work with?
Carl Thomas: The new album is entitled “Conquer” it will be out on December 6th! I’m really excited about it because it’s the first project that I’ve offered since 2007. The album started as a good idea and I was very unsure, in fact if I was going to come back to the majors (record labels) or not. But when I made the decision to actually come back, it was just a matter of time before the right one came along; in the form of Verve/Universal. The album is contrived of the usual suspects. My man Mike City of course, who helped me get the groove of the album going and kind of pointed the direction for everybody else. Mario Winans of course, I had the chance to work with a very talented producer by the name of Black Elvis. I had the opportunity to work with Mr. Rico Love, who has a string of #1 hits right now. The album is just my offering towards urban lifestyle because what I’m after is to provide the soundtrack to peoples lives! I definitely try not to take it too serious, I just try to make it as relatable as possible. As relative to peoples lives as possible and put out the music for what it is. That’s all I’m really trying to be, is the soundtrack and backdrop to peoples lives when they go through what they go through. It’s a blessing to be a popular choice amongst R&B listeners and other listeners. It’s a blessing when an artists recognizes that, it’s definitely something not to be taken lightly. It’s something to really be thankful for.

UrbanBridgez.com: “Don’t Kiss Me” is doing good right now and it’s actually one of my favorite songs at the moment.
Carl Thomas: Thank you man! You know it’s funny you brought that up because there is a version that I just finished with Snoop! That’s actually the version that’s going to be on the album. I’m going to service it to radio next week, so wish me luck on that. Me and Snoop actually plotted and planned working together for the last 10 years or so, it’s just never presented the right opportunity. This album and this song in particular just presented the right opportunity and it just totally made sense. I’m not really into non organic collaborations, like when people are like just put star and star together and that equals more stars. No, that’s not always necessarily the outcome. And if you really look at my track record, I really haven’t been heavy on the collaborations side because I’m a live artist and I don’t like to need another artist in order to do a live performance. You know in order for me to exceed the expectations of the people. But this is just having fun and really having fun and I really appreciate the love that people have been giving me in response to “Don’t Kiss Me.” That was just a joint I put out there, I wanted it to be a modern day throwback. And that’s exactly the response that I’m getting from people, it’s just my attempt at something that felt nostalgic. It wasn’t me or Rico trying to imitate something like a certain style or artists or anything like that. It’s just our attempt at trying to make people feel something that they use to feel!

UrbanBridgez.com: When can we expect the video for “Don’t Kiss Me?”
Carl Thomas: In actuality we’re going to do the video in a couple of days out of Los Angeles, so you can expect it in about 2 and a half weeks. I’m really excited about that, it a real fun treatment. I don’t really want to talk about it, so I don’t give it away (laughs).

UrbanBridgez.com: Great, looking forward to it! What’s like the most personal song on the new album to you and why?
Carl Thomas: Most personal song on the new album, I would definitely have to say “Conquer.” Alot of people are going to look at the title and take from it what they want to take from it. That’s really cool because I’m glad I can be specific for myself and broad for others. That song is really about conquering your situations and letting love do what it does! It’s about relaxing and let love do what it’s suppose to do. That’s what that song is about, that’s why I say it’s definitely a personal testament to me.

UrbanBridgez.com: What will fans get out of this album that we may not have gotten from the last one?
Carl Thomas: You know, this album exudes a certain confidence that the last one didn’t really produce. There is a certain confidence and there is a certain relaxation with this project. It’s like if I was in a boxing match it would be like I’m just having fun and letting my hands go (laughs). I’m not playing a whole lot of defense on this album, I’m playing a whole lot of offense (laughs).

UrbanBridgez.com: (laughs) Real good! We’re actually celebrating 90’s R&B this month on UB and you debuted in somewhat that era when you came out in 2000.
Carl Thomas: Yeah my album “Emotional” is definitely the son of that. I didn’t get the opportunity to come out in the 90’s but my music is definitely a combination of what I interpreted from that era. People can feel that when they listen to it, even now. I would still say my music is just a modern day interpretation of what they were doing.

UrbanBridgez.com: No doubt! That leads into my question, I wanted to know what is your biggest obstacle staying current but trying to stay true to your sound?
Carl Thomas: I don’t think it is an obstacle, I think the trick for most artists is capitalizing on what it is that works about your formula. There’s a component to your music that made you successful! Every artists that has tasted a certain level, there is a component to your music that makes you successful. The key as an artist, knowing what that is in their own music and capitalizing off that. There’s alot of artists that have achieved longevity because they have managed to do that. Like listen to Outkast, listen to their catalog. They tapped in to what people liked about their music and they stood on top of that, album after album. You know what I’m saying, that is harder to do than what most people believe it is. Alot of artists you listen to and they say they haven’t been the same since this or that, whatever it is. And maybe that’s true, whatever it is they were doing then, they’re not in that space anymore.

UrbanBridgez.com: You were brought in on Bad Boy of all places as well!
Carl Thomas: Absolutely! I have to be honest, that is the greatest college of like the music business I’ve ever seen. I don’t really know of another situation that labels really see the vision thru. They sign an artist and they have a vision for them, very few labels actually finish that vision. Unless they’re smart enough to have a real live partnership with the artist. Then they can consolidate their goals as far as building artists. Of course it’s about making that bread first (laughs).

UrbanBridgez.com: What have you been up to since your last album, the last 4 years?
Carl Thomas: Well I never stopped touring, I’ve been actually putting this situation together. This situation with Verve is something I’ve been putting together, something that I actually had to assemble in order to make it work. I’m just at a certain point in my career where I feel like I’m deserving of a certain type of situation (laughs). So in order to get that the way I wanted I had to kind of create that in my own way.

UrbanBridgez.com: What’s like one goal that you want to achieve with this album that you may not have achieved with the previous releases?
Carl Thomas: That’s a good question, because I haven’t set any goals for this album beyond expanding the borders of my past. I really haven’t set any goals beyond that, so my main goals with this album is for it to be the soundtrack behind peoples lives. Beyond the borders of black music. You know what’s so funny about the past eras is no matter what type of music you listened to back then, everybody needed an Al Green, everybody needed that!

UrbanBridgez.com: Definitely! Who are some of your favorite artist right now to listen to?
Carl Thomas: Some of my favorite artists right now, I’m enjoying and having a ball watching Chris Brown. I really don’t think Chris gets the credit for being the complete package that he really deserves. And that may be for one reason or another, but whatever. When there are certain talents, that black community is suppose to recognize those talents. You know we live in a society that loves to celebrate mediocrity. The cookie jar in entertainment is on such a low shelf that everybody is able to have a cookie. All you have to do is have a beat and some fly auto-tunes and everybody can have a cookie. So when something is really exceptional we try to marginalize that, instead of celebrate it! There are alot more artists out there I’m loving like Ledisi, I love Jill Scott’s new stuff. I’m waiting on my brother Anothy Hamilton’s new stuff. I just downloaded Tyrese’s new album yesterday and I’m really proud of him. Because he did that on his own man, he put that project together his-self. That really says alot and big ups to him, he’s always been my brother and shows me nothing but love and admiration. He’s defiently deserving of all his success that he’s getting right now.

UrbanBridgez.com: What’s like your top favorite songs from your catalog?
Carl Thomas: My top 3 favorite songs from my catalog would have to be, #1 “You Ain’t Right” from Emotional. “Baby Maker” from Let’s Talk About It and “Home” from So Much Better. Those are defiently my top three!

UrbanBridgez.com: Anything else you want to leave with your fans?
Carl Thomas: If you want to reach me at my website, which is a very good idea; you can go to carlthomaslive.com

UB First Look: “Conquer” Final Tracklisting!
The Night Is Yours
Long Distance Love Affair
Conquer
Round 2
It’s Not the Same
Don’t Kiss Me
It Is What It Is
It Ain’t Fair
Sweet Love
Running
Don’t Kiss Me feat. Snoop Dogg [Remix]

In Stores & iTunes December 6th!

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