Celebrity Sit-Down Bonus: A Conversation with Carole King

In this Web-exclusive bonus, Carole King discusses what makes her new holiday album a family affair.

by Holly George-Warren
Photograph: Photo by Chris Hatcher

More: It sounds like some of it was done live in the studio with just a few over-dubs ... is that right?
CK: Some of the tracks were done that way. Others were just put together like bricks in the foundation of a house.  "Carol of the Bells" was basically Robbie Kondor playing piano. Robbie is also a family member –  he was married to Sherry [Kondor], my manager and daughter.  And his son is Dylan Kondor, who plays guitar on one of the tracks.  And Robbie was also on tour with me and James [Taylor] playing keyboards, mandolin, and violin. On “Carol of the Bells,” Robbie did this “ding ding a ding ding” and I sing the part "sweet silver bells," and then Louise had the idea to work with an arranger and come up with parts for a choir: She got a [six-member] African-American choir.  So that was a complete surprise to me when I heard it; I think my e-mail back to Louise was, "genius."  

More: I noticed that “Carol of the Bells” was written the same year that your mother was born, 1916, which I learned from her obituary in the Miami Herald.
CK: Isn't that a beautiful piece? I would like to talk about my mom, particularly since this is a family thing and since Louise is my oldest daughter and knew my mom better than the other kids, although they all really knew her well. Louise was very close to my mom, and we felt my mom's energy as we were making this album, and my mom has been inspiring. She always liked the theater. Some of this I deal with in my book: She learned music because her mother wanted her to be a concert pianist, and my mother's love and passion was theater, but she learned enough music to teach me.  My grandmother wound up getting to see me play in Carnegie Hall – it was once-removed, but meantime my mother followed her passion.  As an adult, she owned a theater in the East Village [of Manhattan].  She wrote a wonderful play that at some point, when I get a chance, I want to see if I can get somebody to actually improve it and mount it. Toward the very end of her life, she also wrote a children's story that I want to get out.  My mother had this passion for writing and theater that she's passed down to me and to Louise.  We are the most visible manifestations of that gift, and she was so inspiring, and we felt her energy so much as part of this project.

More: You were a groundbreaker with Tapestry, and there aren't that many women producers out there, and Louise is now producing… It’s interesting that behind the scenes your mother supported your endeavors, and you've done the same thing with your daughter.
CK: Yes, and the connection, the chain goes on.  I'm going to try not to get weepy when I talk about this, but back to the “Chanukah Prayer”: it starts with me and then Hayden has the 2nd verse, and then Louise takes the middle 8, and then there's this instrumental passage, and the last phrases you hear at the end of the prayer, when I say, [sings line] and Louise does the next line, and echoes that, then Hayden takes it on into the future generations. I was so moved by the concept of seeing the march of the generations going on into the future as that song ends. It's just so about family. My mother was about family, too, and it manifested in the fact that we are a good, close family. I have two other children who have a different father – Charlie Larkey is their father – but we're like one family.  We don't say, "my half-sister, my half-brother" –we're just one big family.

More: You’ll be 70 years old next year; how do you stay so young looking – is it from living in rural Idaho?
CK: Probably Idaho air and clean water and all that, but I think I have good genes.  My mom lived to 94 and always looked really young.  When you look at Louise, you think she's in her 30's, and so I think we have the genes where we look younger than our age.

First Published November 15, 2011

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