As Kelly Clarkson’s words filled the room, young Gina Carlson’s voice filled the house and drew the attention of her mother. With camera phone in hand, she recorded her daughter’s private performance and realized Carlson had talent beyond her years. Now as Carlson approaches her college graduation, she is working towards a summer release for her debut EP. From the hairbrush to the recording studio microphones, Carlson has come a long way. In the midst of the process, she sat down with The Leader Underground for an inside look at her music career. Below is an abbreviated transcript of the interview, with additional information available online alongside Carlson’s exclusive performance.
The Leader: Tell us who you are and what you do.
Gina Carlson: I’m Gina Carlson and I am a super duper senior here at Elmhurst. I’m a musical theater major with a minor in music, but it’s more like music business because all the music courses I’ve taken have been in music business. I sing a lot of different styles, and I’ve worked very hard to kind of get where I want to be mastery-wise in various styles — which is why I’m doing this EP!
L: What styles are you trained in?
GC: I would consider myself strongest in musical theater. There are so many underground cabarets where people will just write music for people who sing in that style. So it’s not necessarily always singing songs from musicals or being in musicals. Instead, it’s singing that style of music. I’ve also spent a lot of time here singing jazz. Also gospel, R&B, pop, and I love country. They are all very different, but I think of myself as a chameleon that puts on many hats to make things different.
L: What made you decide to make an EP now?
GC: I’m graduating; so the purpose for me is to have a way to showcase the various things I’ve learned and can do. It’s basically a job application in the form of music. I have to as a musician go to bars, clubs, and music management companies and say ‘this is what I can do’. It’s to show people, not just friends and family who have heard me sing a thousand times, who I am because I’m a brand new face to the scene. It’s like a kick starter, no pun intended, into the career field.
L: What brought you to Elmhurst College?
GC: It’s a really entertaining story, actually. After a musical theater production I was in, Susan Monniger grabbed my arm and was like ‘you’re coming to Elmhurst College’. I already went to school and I went to school for free, because my mom taught there. But I said if she could make it happen for free, then I guess I could. And then three weeks later she called me and said: ‘We’re recruiting you and we are going to give you a full scholarship because we want you to come here and think you will influence other students and be a good leader here. And we are really excited to see what you can do. We want to see you leave this program having done that’. So I transferred and it’s been the craziest ride ever. When you get recruited you have to appreciate your education that much more, because someone plucked me out of a crowd and said they’re expecting a lot from me. There were things that were expected of me in natured, but also thinks that I wanted to do. But it definitely created a busy atmosphere with a lot of pressure to really be on top of my stuff and know my music. It’s been awesome. I would never ever have imagined that I would be here.
L: What advice do you have for someone hoping to pursue an art for their career?
GC: I would honestly say that you really need to evaluate, like you would with any major, if this is something you want to do for the rest of your life. Especially with the arts because it is very hard to make a career out of the arts. You’re going from gig to gig to gig, you don’t have a common 9-5 job. So you really have to be passionate and be able to light the fire under your own butt. You have to be super passionate about what you’re doing. You also have to work really hard at honing in on your skills because no one is going to take you seriously and no one is going to support your dreams, even if you love it, if you don’t take it seriously and work your hardest to be the very best you can be at it. You need to be always working, always practicing, and always taking advantage of every opportunity. It will show people that you’re being successful and working at getting better, so they will eventually be on board with your dreams. Carlson’s producer is EC alum, Shelly Bishop. The EP is set to be released in late summer 2016. If you would like to assist Carlson in funding her EP, you can do so at gofundme.com/hte5zxxk.
The Leader Underground: Because a stage is overrated. The Leader Underground provides a medium for local talent to showcase their work in a uniquely intimate setting. Exclusive performances and interviews are posted to youtube.com/ElmhurstLeader and ecleader.org Performers interested in joining the list of Underground Featured Artists can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org