Eileen Carey has been pounding away at making music nearly her entire life, starting as a girl banging on drums in the suburbs of Cleveland before discovering her true gift was in writing and performing a hybrid of country and rock. .
Carey, who has also been a kickboxer for the past two decades at two prime Pasadena studios, next Wednesday through Friday plans to plow through gender barriers to national success in that male-dominated genre with three shows and numerous radio station interviews at the Country Radio Seminar (CRS) in Nashville.
For the longtime Altadena resident, this shot at greater success has been the product of 15 years of climbing the ladder and a highly motivated do-it-yourself attitude. Her journey is an example of both the opportunities and the challenges that the current reinvention of the music industry has afforded artists.
“The CRS is a good opportunity to meet tons of people — radio people, promotions people, and fans and mix and mingle for three days straight,” says Carey. “I’ve got three shows plus interviews, meet and greets and then meeting songwriters to collaborate with and, finally, seeing shows because I’m always interested in other artists.”
Carey heads her own musical fiefdom, releasing her records and establishing her publishing rights through her own self-run company. While she has a professional promotions team helping her land her songs and CDs on stations nationwide, she has found that the Internet pays off in helping independent artists reach a worldwide audience and “spread their wings, rather than being tied to a label.”
She’s focusing on her latest release, the single “In the Air,” while at CRS, as well as trying to expand her reputation as a stellar live performer. Her opening slot for pop singer Tal Bachman on Jan. 19 at The Rose nightclub in Pasadena appeared to draw far more fans than Bachman himself managed to attract, with the crowd of about 200 loudly roaring their approval in multiple standing ovations.
Carey believes her Ohio upbringing has given her a uniquely outsider point of view on country music, even as she’s come to fully embrace the genre. Her first single, a 2001 release called “That Town,” was originally conceived as an Adult Contemporary pop song until she found she earned greater traction on the local country scene.
“I grew up listening to a lot of rock, pop and blues, but ‘That Town’ went crazy on country radio without my even thinking I had any country influences,” Carey recalls. “It was a combination of what I grew up with, the California sound and some country.”
Carey’s parents had a practical rather than artistic bent, as her father worked for the Ford Motor Co. and her mother was a full-time homemaker. She recalls being “the crazy one in the house,” and at first followed her father’s advice by earning a business degree and working in hotel management.
Eventually, however, she could no longer resist the call to creativity, and moved to Los Angeles 20 years ago, first living in Pasadena for a dozen years before moving north to Altadena. She prefers the small-town life found there, having raised her now-grown daughters Julie and Jennifer there with her husband Joe, who works for Fix Nation, an organization that focuses on the feral cat population.
Her experiences as both a musician and mother have resulted in her running the popular blog Music Mom, which caters to women who share those dual vocations. Her husband and his California-based relatives provided the much-needed support needed for Carey to establish herself as a touring artist not only in California, but in Nevada, Kentucky, Nashville and beyond.
“I came up with Music Mom because a lot of women in music have kids and need to learn how to balance their lives, an avenue for all women to voice opinions, and write blogs on how you balance your life,” explains Carey. “It grew, and I’m constantly writing on that. It’s an outlet that gives women the chance to talk and express what’s going on in their lives.”
While Carey’s favorite country artist is Keith Urban, “because his songs are positive like mine,” she jokes about wishing she could hit the vocal range of world-class pop divas such as Celine Dion and the late Whitney Houston. Beyond her beloved hobby of kickboxing, which she has trained in at Bodies in Motion and Classic Kickboxing, she finds strength in her lifelong Catholic faith.
“It helps because I never give up. I’m a very positive person,” says Carey. “I have my down times too, like everybody does. There’s something about keeping faith and plowing through it no matter what.
“I just enjoy what I do, and I don’t have to wear funny costumes or the rest of that stuff women often are made to do in the industry, because my music speaks for itself,” she continues. “I try not to go too right or too left with my music, because I think we all need some balance and that’s what it’s about: balance, being positive, having faith and being happy.”