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’s about time you did a holiday album!
Carole King: I know. The way this started is I've been working on my book, A Natural Woman, and it will be out in April. Lorna, my former manager, kept saying, "Let's do a Christmas album," and I said, "I don't have the brain space for it," and she very wisely suggested [Carole’s daughter] Louise Goffin, who had taken time off to raise her children and who was ready to go back to work. When she said, "Why don't you have Louise produce this?" I thought, "That's great, she'll take it over and I won't have to put a lot of brain space into it,” but as it turned out, Louise drew me in.

More: How did she do that?
CK: Just by being so good at what she does, and by planning the first few sessions. She said to me, "What songs would you like to do?" and we came up with a list together.  I had a few and then she brought in a list.  And we picked four initially, including "My Favorite Things” and "Carol of the Bells." She got the musicians in, put together a whole feeling, and worked with me.  There were some things I needed to contribute – a key and a general idea for what kind of feel I wanted – but she ran with it. I couldn't help but be swept in by her enthusiasm, and it became a true collaboration, but she's the one who really started it.

More: Over the past year or so, you've suffered some losses: your mother, your long-time friend and associate Don Kirshner, your guitar player ... Did coming together in the studio and doing these uplifting songs help you through that?
CK: Oh absolutely.  It is a lot of loss, but going into the studio was helpful.  It brought things together.

More: Was [longtime drummer] Russ Kunkel's son one of the engineers on your record?
CK: Yes, Nathaniel Kunkel was one of two engineers.  We did a recording one day and his dad was there, but Nathaniel did all the mixing with Louise.  I take such pleasure in seeing these youngsters who are so good at what they do.

More: Louise was one year old when your song "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" became a number one hit for the Shirelles [in 1961]…
CK: Yeah. She always knew she wanted to be in music – she wanted to write songs, sing them, produce them, arrange them, work with musicians. I've actually watched her in the studio since she was eight. She has such command of the studio. Niko Bolas, the other engineer, kept saying, "I love how she produces because she doesn't dominate; she puts people together." This is the gift that all great producers really have – putting the right people together, putting them in the studio and letting the magic happen. If the magic is a little slow, she makes an adjustment. But she comes in there with full confidence and knowledge of how to produce in every cell of her body, and it just radiates when she's in the studio. I love watching her because it's so great to see that in her.

Another gift that she brought to me was to get me to an enthusiasm level for a performance: She knew what to say, what to suggest, and it was the most delicious collaboration between us.  We know each other so well, and there were no negatives in this, it was only, "How do we make this really great?" We could finish each other's sentences and things like that.  That's where the close family and knowing each other so well for so long came to bear.  She would set me on a path and I would already be where she wanted me to go, so she wouldn't have to go into great detail about it.

First Published November 15, 2011

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