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The Carl Thomas Web
It may seem as though Carl Thomas came from nowhere, but this man has been putting in his time for quite a while. His debut album Emotional is set to blow up big. The first cut, "I Wish" tells the story of a thwarted love affair-the track is a rhythmic testament to Thomas' deep-rooted passion for old-school-influenced smooth grooves and meaningful lyrics -- but handled strictly his way. Further proof can be heard on such cuts as "Giving You All My Love" with formidable chanteuse Kelly Price ("She just made me want to sing better"), "My Valentine," "Summer Rain," and Thomas' own uptempo favorite, the sexy "You Ain't Right." Adds the singer, "That's the closest I come to Marvin [Gaye] on this album." Working with such producers as Mario Winans, Mike City, Derric Angeletti, and Heavy D, Thomas also wrote or co-wrote most of the tracks, as well as co-produced several. Calling himself a "voyeur who's inspired by watching how people relate to each other," Thomas is a prolific songwriter with more than 300 songs in his archive. With influences ranging from Gaye and Donny Hathaway to Nat "King" Cole, Sting, Ray Parker Jr., Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Steely Dan, and the Clark Sisters, the Chicago native defines his style as "R&B gumbo. A lot of the songs I've written are reminiscent of the late '70s and early '80s." "I wanted to approach all of the album's songs from a nostalgic point of view," he continues. "I want people to listen and say, 'I remember when I used to feel like that.' I didn't go down the remake avenue, because I want people to first trust that I'm able to bring them good music."
He began working on that goal in the Windy City, kicking it around musically with a few groups and even landing a couple of other record and production deals. But "I had to grow up and discover my own thing," recalls the singer. So it was off to New York, where he became a fixture on the open-mike circuit. The Chicago-native caught the ears of Bad Boy's Sean "Puffy" Combs while winning over a skeptical New York crowd at a late-night, open mike session in 1997. After signing with Bad Boy, Carl Thomas hit the road with the Puff Daddy and the Family World tour while also writing ballads for folks like Johnny Gill, Faith Hill, and Ideal.
His latest appearance is as a featured player on "Jasmine," a track from labelmate Black Rob's latest album, Life Story. "Our basic strategy is to keep him out in front of people," says Bad Boy director of marketing Tonya Salvant. "In fact, he's already on tour in Europe with Puffy, singing R. Kelly's part on 'Best Friend.' It's a great opportunity for him to be introduced there [an international release date is still pending]. Carl's a soulful, sultry writer and charismatic performer who can really deliver onstage." That's something the singer is eager to do.
"I want to be the show that's good to take your girl to," says Thomas, laughing. "I want people to come away with the message that romance, even in 2000, isn't dead." Throwing aside comparisons with Maxwell, Brian McKnight, and others, Thomas humbly acknowledges he's "really excited about what's going on in R&B right now. People like Maxwell, Brian, and D'Angelo are really responsible for the resurgence in R&B. I just think I'm coming along to tell another aspect of it."
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The Carl Thomas Experience