British songwriter, singer, scout local female talent
Carla Marie Williams, British songwriter and singer, who has worked with the likes of BeyoncÈ, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey, was recently in Jamaica scouting for talent and hoping to expand her 'Girls I Rate' initiative.
The latter is a campaign Williams started in 2015 to help empower and support women in a male-dominated music industry. Professing her love for Jamaica and the music industry, the experienced songwriter told The Sunday Gleaner that she chose Jamaica as a good starting point for her expansion, as Jamaica's music has made its mark on the international market and she believes the local entertainers, particularly the females, have a far stronger mark to make with the right support.
"I've been in the music business as a songwriter for over 10 years. I was mainly in the UK, but in the last few years, I have been working on crossing over, and I've worked with people like BeyoncÈ and Mariah Carey, but in the last year, I've been trying to set up in Jamaica and work with a few Jamaican artistes," she said. "I'm just trying to build. I wanna look out for the female artistes in Jamaica, especially because we have a lot of male artistes and I always think to myself, where are all the females? I want to engage with a few more females to make their presence more established."
Williams explained that with her expertise, she could have chosen any country to jump-start her expansion, but says Jamaica has a special place in her heart.
"I love Jamaica, my parents are Jamaican, and I love the culture and music and just want to give back," she explained. "I feel at home when I'm here. I grew up listening to reggae and revival music and I just want to help nurture the music here."
Despite her love for the music, Williams believes the industry is suffering from a lack of songs that connect with the international market, and says the latter is part of the reason more local acts don't make it past Jamaican shores.
"Bob Marley was one of the greatest songwriters to come out of Jamaica and he went international because he wrote music for the people," she explained. "I feel like maybe we could have a few more of those songs that connect with the people. The content that comes out of Jamaica needs to be broader.
"Songs back in the day used to be about liberation, love and overall sending a message. Not many artistes today are singing about those things and you don't have to be old; young people can talk about those things too. Our young artistes need to be empowered to want to talk about these things and move away from the regular sex and raunchy topics."
Using Popcaan as an example to drive home her point, Williams showed how an artiste can be dancehall, but still appeal to the international market.
"Poppy is dancehall, but when you listen to the tracks that he chooses, you get an international feel as well, and that's why he crosses over so well," she said. "I think that a lot of other artistes are too deeply rooted in hardcore dancehall music and that only transcends to so much people and no more. We need to make the music more commercial and dial back a little on the hardcore lyrics to make the music more relatable to a wider audience."
Already, Williams has zoomed in on a few female artistes she would like to work with in order to realise her dream of making the local music industry more internationally appealing. On her list are Shenseea, Samantha J and Queen Ifrica.
"I just want to find the ones who will create the right messages, because Jamaica and Jamaicans have so much to offer the world through music. I just want to be a part of giving that to the world."
Notable songs Williams wrote include BeyoncÈ's Freedom; Naughty Boy's Runnin' and Britney Spears' Private Show.
In 2016, Williams was nominated for two Grammy Awards for her work on BeyoncÈ's Lemonade album.