“You can get really comfortable when you get a job, and you make money. But the dangerous part is when it’s in your field,” singer, songwriter, vocal arranger, and actress, India Carney tells American Songwriter over the phone from her home in Los Angeles.
Before graduating from LaGuardia Arts High School and UCLA, Carney made her national television debut on NBC’s Emmy Award-winning series, The Voice (Season Eight). She wowed audiences and four highly acclaimed celebrity judges as the Top 5 Artist with her passionate vocal performances.
Since then, she has signed to Randy Jackson’s management company, 1963 Entertainment. The New York City native has toured with award-winning pop artist Katy Perry, and has sung for Grammy-award-winning artists, including Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, Meghan Trainor, H.E.R., Natasha Bedingfield, Mavis Staples, and more. But until the pandemic, much of her career focused on her work as a background vocalist and vocal coach—most recently on Season 19 of American Idol.
She continues, “And I love it. It’s exactly what I want to be doing with my life. But the only thing missing is a strong solo career. With COVID and gigs canceled, I was reminded I need to put my stuff out and put time into my craft. I was fortunate to have money come in from other gigs to put into my own work.”
On May 14, as a strong first step in a new songwriting direction, Carney released her new single, “Human.”
The track was written in light of George Floyd’s death last year. The artist explains, “The events of last year really, really hit me emotionally, especially as a person of color and I felt a little vain for continuing on with the kind of songwriting that I was doing. I felt like if I was going to make music, I needed to respond to what was going on.”
Moving away from her characteristically romantic song concepts, Carney pressed further into her artistry and orchestrated a prolific response to her angered emotional turmoil. The song, she says, is “just reminding everybody, for the millionth time, that we’re all human. And there’s no excuse for bigotry. There never was.”
Penned last summer at the height of racial protests sweeping the country, “Human,” captures a moment in American history, re-injecting humanity that seemed lost within the devastation.
“It came very naturally to me,” says Carney who admits she struggled with writer’s block for much of the pandemic. “But I had this thought recently, ‘If you can meditate to a song you can write it.”
The song begins with an open fifth, repeating—the only accompaniment on the whole first verse. Common in folk music and hymns, the minimal accompaniment and open structure, she says, “allows for space.”
“I just sat and the piano and let that drone and repeat until I figured out where the melody lines fit into it,” she describes of the process. After attempting to produce it herself, Carney finally called on a professional, her friend G’harah “PK” Degeddingseze. The mixing was finally done in March.
“I was afraid it was too late and people wouldn’t care,” she explains of the finished product. “But unfortunately, the messaging was still relevant. So I thought, ‘Let’s just get this out.'”
Carney captures the raw spirit and insurmountable vulnerability she felt and shared during that moment in a Ryan Parma-directed video, where she performs around a piano, styled in several outfits. Filmed on Election Day 2020, Carney calls the process “a nice distraction.”
“We were in the studio from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., then came home to watch CNN,” she laughs.
Sitting behind her instrument on which she was classically trained, Carney’s lamentations grow more impassioned with each building verse. Calling on our better angels, she asks the hard questions, knowing that words, videos, marching, will never be enough.
She closes with only her soft vocal support, I know I’m not alone in this / I know we all wanna make it, wanna make it / Home.
Watch India Carney’s music video for her new single, “Human,” below. Keep up with the artist here.