Luce Unplugged: Five Questions for Carly Harvey

Photo by Caitlin Moore.

On Friday, January 31, the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Luce Foundation Center hosts another installment of the Luce Unplugged Community Showcase from 6-8 p.m. Presented with the Washington City Paper, the free show features performances by local artists with free tastings provided by Anxo Cider. Jessica McFadden, the Luce Foundation Center's Program Specialist, reached out to this season’s Showcase performers, Pree and Carly Harvey, to gain some insights to their creative processes. First up in this two-part blog post is DC's "Queen of the Blues," Carly Harvey.

Can you talk a little bit about your creative process? From start to finish, how to you make music? 

I have an interesting creative process! My dad was a bassist and I’ve found that my songs are very bass line driven, so I start with the bass groove then create the melody and lyrics around that. The song “She Ain’t Me” off of my latest EP release, Kiss & Ride Vol. I, was written that way. It sounds crazy but other times I write songs in my sleep. I hear chord progressions or melodies and I’m sort of dreaming or in a trance-like state, but not really sleeping. Then I wake up at 4 a.m. and go to my keyboard and the song seems like it’s already been written so I’m just playing it and singing it out loud. Is that weird or what?!

Has your style evolved since you first started making music? 

Picture of a woman playing the tambourine.

Photo by Josh Brick.

Yes, I’d definitely say my voice has matured a lot since I first started. My foundations are in choral and classical music and for a contemporary outlet I was doing singer/songwriter/pop. When I began to sing blues, the soul in my voice hadn’t really developed yet, and it is so different now. To sing blues you need some rough life experience and get your heart broken a few times.

What’s your experience in the DC music community been like? 

The DC music scene is like a big incestuous family. We all have our own projects, but we also work together and collaborate across genres. I love most everyone I’ve worked and/or jammed with.      

Are there any spaces or organizations today that do a particularly great job supporting local artists?

The DC Blues Society does an amazing job supporting local blues artists, they have been a great source of support for me. Our listener-supported radio station WPFW really support blues and jazz and gives local musicians airtime. One of the most popular DJs on the station, Dr. Nick,  hosts Southern Soul Rumpin’ every Saturday at noon and he’s dubbed me, “DC’s Queen of the Blues.” Lastly, This Could Go Boom! is an all-womxn run record label based out of DC. They strive to promote women, non-binary, and LGBTQIA+ artists who might otherwise be being overlooked in the scene. I love them. They are grounded and they have a vision and I’m so proud to see them thriving. 

In what ways would you like to see change in DC moving forward? 

The DC music scene is a little bit cliquish. The jazz cats hang with the jazz cats, though sometimes blues and jazz will overlap. The punk scene is very isolated and the R&B/Soul scenes are racially segregated in some ways. I think we have a really diverse and dynamic music scene that nationally isn’t being recognized, so I’d love to see DC be put on the map as a city where music is thriving, and where you can make a living being a full-time musician. 

Want to hear more? Listen to the artist’s music on Carly Harvey’s YouTube page  and on Spotify. Luce Unplugged is a free, monthly concert series held in the Luce Foundation Center for American Art. The series is organized in partnership with Hometown Sounds, and the Washington City Paper. Be sure to check out upcoming performances and don't miss this season’s Luce Unplugged Community Showcase on Friday, January 31. Carly Harvey to open at 6 p.m. followed by Pree at 7 p.m.