Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two

Posted by Dee-Ann On January - 27 - 20113,451 views

Carmen Lee asked me to stop, look and listen to her band, Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two. I have to say, I didn’t know what to think of her sweet soft voice and the Tomorrow River Two sound. But as I kept listening to their music I felt it was pure and original, country / rockabilly music. It made me curious. Who are they?

Carmen Lee

When did you start making music? 

I was practically born singing!  My name ‘Carmen’ even literally means ‘song’. There is a recording of the first song I wrote around the age  of 4. On the recording, I am singing and accompanying myself on an old upright piano to a bluesy tune, the only lyrics being ‘It’s a hard way of livin’ doo doo dah, doo doo dah’ ! Funny that I realized the complexities of life at such an early age;-) My parents recall my kindergarten music teacher stopping them in the hallway one night at parent teacher conferences and asking if she could talk to them about me. My parents feared there was some kind of trouble, but to their suprise my music teacher told them that she had never heard a child sing like I did and that they should get me a small tape recorder so that I could start recording myself. My parents followed her advice and I have been recording ever since. I still use that tape recorder to this day when an idea for a song strikes me! 

Who influenced you in your music choice when you were young? Family, friends?

My father was in bands when I was young and my mother recalls that she used to sit me in the middle of the band practice sessions when I was a baby…so I’m sure that influenced me to pick up music. When I was 12 years old and waiting in line at a local dime and dollar type store in my hometown of Amherst, Wisconsin(which, at the time I lived there, had a population of 702 and to this day still has no stop lights), I noticed a small black and red cassette tape sitting amidst numerous other cassettes in a box at the check-out counter. It was like destiny intervened as I picked it up and, with my own money, bought my very first cassette ‘Elvis Presley: Elvis’ Christmas Album’. From then on I was fascinated with Elvis and would listen to the oldies station on the radio and to any Elvis tunes I could find, until I had all the lyrics and inflections from all of his songs memorized. I think I wanted to be Elvis when I was little;-) There began my love of rockabilly and classic country music. Even in highschool I would perform Elvis songs at school concerts and people would tease me because it wasn’t really cool in the 80s + 90s to like Elvis;-) 

And who are the artists you are influenced by, or which ones are your favorites?

First and foremost I am influenced by Elvis Presley. Also Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and so many more. 

Are you a self taught singer, or did you get lessons?

I never had singing lessons…I just always sang. Although when I started to perform more regularly and professionally I did have to go to a vocal specialist in order to learn how to sing for extended periods without hurting or straining my vocal chords. 

Have you been playing in other bands before? 

I have been in various groups in the past and even performed solo on many occasions, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I finally was able to form my own group and make the kind of music I have always loved which is 50s inspired rockabilly/country.  

Tell us about your trio. Who is who, how did you get together?

My trio formed in in 2007. I had been singing with other bands but wasn’t able to find a group that fit my personal style so I decided to form my own group. My trio is myself, of course, on vocals; and my father, whom they call ‘Orlow’, on acoustic guitar and vocals; and Elliott Abbott (who is also an amazing tattoo artist) on stand-up bass. I really wanted to form a group that could pay homage to the classic 50s Sun Studio rockabilly sound of Elvis and Johnny Cash. The name of my trio ‘Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two’ is a shout out to Johnny Cash’s first group ‘Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two’. The Tomorrow River is actually a river that runs through my hometown of Amherst, Wisconsin.  

Where have you been playing? Venues, cities, countries?

So far we have only been playing in Wisconsin but we would like to travel and share our music with a wider aundience range. A lot of people tell me I should be in Memphis or Austin with the music that I do, since there is not much of a scene for rockabilly where I currently live. But I like to think that I am bringing rockabilly to new ears and hopefully the scene will grow;-)   

Your cd will be out soon. Is it the first or are there more?

My trio’s first CD ‘BIG STAR’ will be released in April 2011. This is our first CD together. I do have a solo CD from 2007 that is available online. I have had success with a lot of play on internet radio and podcasts, and have even had favorable reviews of my solo CD in a couple of French Country Music magazines. I look forward to my trio’s first CD as it is the sound that I have always wanted to produce. I am actually recording, mixing and producing the CD myself which is a lot of work but will be worth it in the end. It is a dream of mine to have our CD put to vinyl, because you can’t beat that sound…I hope we are able to do that one day. 

Do you write your own songs?

Yes, I write all of my own songs. 

With which artist/ band do you compare your band with?

My goal with my trio ‘Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two’ is to pay homage to the classic 50s Sun Studio sound of Elvis and Johnny Cash. People have also compared my voice to Patsy Cline and they love when I do Patsy Cline covers such as Walkin’ After Midnight or Crazy. The big hit from our new CD, which is also the title track ‘BIG STAR’ has been compared to the sound of an early Johnny Cash. In fact, I had a really nice compliment the other day when someone said ‘I like that Johnny Cash song ‘BIG STAR’ that you do.’ and I had to reply ‘That is MY SONG!’.  

Tell us about your other passions?

I love Vintage/50s inspired clothing and decor. I have a small ebay store called BIG*STAR*VINTAGE where I sell vintage clothing. I love searching for fabulous vintage peices to wear on stage and I also love the new designers like Stop Staring! and Bettie Page Clothing who are making new dresses with 50s style. I also am a horror movie fanatic and love the classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead…any zombie movie! It is another dream of mine to one day make a really good, scary and artistic horror movie! 

What are your plans for this year?

Plans for 2011 are to get the CD ‘BIG STAR’ released and keep working on finding new gigs and new venues and spreading our reach. I’ve already got a few new songs in the works, so I’ll be working on writing songs for the next album. I also hope to continue with my vintage clothing sales and bring 50s style and music to those who appreciate it. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Well…they say dream big, right? I would love to be feeling great, touring regularly..getting to places we haven’t played yet like Austin and Memphis. Getting bigger and better gigs. It would be wonderful to make a living doing something I love ~ 50s Rockabilly music and style!!/pages/Carmen-Lee-and-the-Tomorrow-River-Two/155877394438602

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