It was 2015 when we last checked in on Karly C, the ambitious singer-songwriter and vocal artist from Hamilton (real name, Karly Coleman). She was performing covers in the area with her significant other, Mike Matisa, leaning toward a neo-country sound, trying out a few originals here and there.
Fast forward three years. With guidance from Matisa, now her agent and manager, Coleman’s career has moved in an interesting and upward direction, with musical irons in the fire from the United States to Europe to Australia and even Japan.
Just in the last year, she has signed with music publishing giant Warner/Chappell/Adrenaline Vocals on the strength of her debut album “Take Me As I Am,” produced and co-written by her creative partner, Edgard Jaude.
It’s a collection of 10 richly orchestrated and crisply produced tracks whose lyrics reflect on staying true to oneself while navigating the passage into adulthood.
The songs vary from pop to electronic dance music to a tinge of hard rock, but all have a lyrical sincerity that draws from Coleman’s own experience, taking the chance to launch herself into a tough profession.
Although she loves studio work, Coleman is still performing in central New Jersey, and will be doing a show at Halo Pub in Princeton on Saturday, September 8.
Then on Saturday, September 22, she performs at the Plumsted Grill in Cream Ridge with some help from Matisa on acoustic guitar; the duo will be there again on Friday, November 16.
The shows at the Plumsted Grill will highlight the twosome’s talents with new and traditional country music. Sometimes they slip in a few country-ish originals, too.
Interestingly, as Coleman has flourished as a vocal artist and writer, Matisa has discovered hidden skills as an agent and manager. He does this work alongside his day job doing digital marketing for Freedom Mortgage.
“I’m acting as her manager/agent for now until we can find someone more seasoned and connected,” Matisa says. “It’s actually been fun, though and I’ve had a lot of artists following me on Instagram. One hip hop/urban artist even asked me to be their manager.”
“Mike is a good manager,” Coleman says, grateful to have a keen partner to handle the business side of things. “Edgard and I are very music oriented, and we could be inside working on the music all day, but Mike is really good at finding connections.”
It was Matisa who steadfastly shopped Coleman’s newest material around, and they hit the jackpot with one of music’s biggest recording labels.
“Warner/Chappell handles the United States territory, and BMG handles all of Europe, while Adrenalin handles Australia and Asia,” Matisa says, explaining that the contract is not for performing and touring, but for production music libraries for television and film, plus commercials for radio.
“It is, unfortunately, not a full record label deal where they get you air play, put you on tour, promote you, etc.,” Matisa says, adding that he is taking on some of those tasks as her manager.
So the contract might not be as glamorous as the other kind of record deal, but it is one that might actually bring more financial reward and longevity. Not bad at all for someone’s first full recording.
“We don’t know the perfect formula, we just put our stuff out there and hope it catches on,” Coleman says. “It takes money, a lot of backing, and a lot of patience. Sometimes my family doesn’t really understand (how long the process takes), but Mike and Edgard do.”
Meanwhile, Coleman’s songs are doing very well on streaming services such as Spotify, Google, iTunes/Apple Music, Amazon, etc. Just on Spotify, “Take Me As I Am” had some 36,000 streams from more than 30 countries around the world as of early August.
Originals such as “Bring Me Down,” “Invisible to Me,” and the title track, “Take Me As I Am,” would blend seamlessly into current satellite and “terrestrial” radio. Coleman is still waiting for the radio side of her career to open up, but it seems bound to happen.
Her voice is husky, flexible and, like Pink, easily able to get a power ballad across. There is something else to the voice, though, that doesn’t draw easy comparisons. Perhaps because it’s deeper than the average 25-year-old’s voice, Coleman’s sound has a certain sophistication.
In 2015 this (superannuated) reporter thought she sounded a bit like Grace Slick, Linda Ronstadt, or Ann Wilson of Heart. A record company representative simply described Coleman as having a “big voice,” perhaps like superstar Adele, one of Coleman’s vocal influences.
Search for a few of Coleman’s YouTube videos, and you will hear her skillfully perform versions of hits by Adele, Katy Perry, Amy Winehouse, Sia, even 1980s rockers Def Leppard.
“Adele is very straightforward. I like that she just stands there and sings,” Coleman says. “I also really like Ariana Grande. I think she has one of the best voices around. She’s actually singing, not lip-syncing, and she also writes meaningful lyrics.”
Just as superstars like Pink and Perry have their astute and creative producers, Coleman continues to record with renowned producer Jaude. Based in Robbinsville, he has countless song credits in television and film.
Introduced by a friend, as soon as he heard about Coleman — and then heard her voice — Jaude knew he had found someone special, and the two have worked together regularly for several years now.
“Take Me As I Am” was not their first project. In 2016 the pair provided an engaging track called “Simply Invincible” for a favorite group of dancers on the Lifetime TV show “Dance Moms.” The reception was so good that Jaude and Coleman teamed up again to create four more songs for the show’s fall 2017 season.
“(Jaude) writes the music, and depending on whether (the show) wants lyrics, I do that,” Coleman says. “Sometimes they’ll say they want a pop song that sounds like Miley Cyrus, and we’ll create something like that. Or ‘Dance Moms’ would send over certain cues, and we’d work from those.”
“But when we decided to do an original album, we didn’t have anything in mind, so I was free to create what I did lyrically and Edgard did (his thing) musically,” she adds. “We shopped (the end result) around, and got interest.”
Coleman has been passionate about music since childhood. She played clarinet as well as violin at Crockett Middle School and Steinert High School. Just through curiosity and love of music, Coleman essentially taught herself to play piano and guitar, too.
“I could play guitar and piano by around age 12, and I learned songs by watching YouTube videos,” she says. “I would watch and mimic how they played the piano, and then I learned chords and figured things out on my own from there.”
For guitar, she printed out a sheet with basic chords and memorized them.
She says her family was not particularly musical, but Coleman’s mom, who works for the state, bought her a toy microphone when she was little girl, and that was a major musical launching pad. Her father, a retired corrections officer, also encouraged her natural talents.
Somehow, someway, Coleman’s mom met Matisa’s mom, and the two women decided their “kids” should get together. Matisa had been in the local music scene for quite some time when Coleman found herself at one of his gigs, encouraged to go by her mom, she recalls.
“Mike pulled up karaoke on his computer, and I just had to sing,” Coleman says.
“She got up on stage, and she was fearless,” Matisa says. “She had never sung live before, and she was amazing — she had star quality.”
The twosome began rehearsing, recording and performing, and then in 2012 got together as a couple.
“It’s worked out great,” Matisa says.
Previously, Coleman had thought about a career behind the scenes in the music business, working as a sound engineer/editor.
She was pursuing an associate’s degree in entertainment technology at Mercer County Community College, but complications and scheduling prevented her from completing the program.
“Due to low enrollment, they kept canceling classes I needed, and because of this I was getting more and more behind,” Coleman says.
Thanks to her success with Jaude, and through Matisa’s skillful management, Coleman has put aside that aspect of the music business to focus on her true love of singing.
“If I did the background (side) of music or film, I’d either have to be in New York City or California, and I don’t want to do that,” she says, noting that she would not mind moving to Nashville, however.
Coleman recently visited Music City U.S.A. there and was impressed with the collaborative, non-competitive spirit among songwriters and musicians there.
While songs from “Take Me As I Am” percolate around the digital world, and Coleman/Jaude continue to create in the studio, Matisa has been reaching out to various individuals to place their music.
One of these is a French DJ Westie Seb (www.westieseb.com), well known in electronic dance music (EDM) circles, who is finishing a re-mix of one of Coleman’s songs to play in clubs and promote for airplay in Europe and Japan.
“She’s also just finished up an original pop piece with another Jersey-based producer and will be releasing this song as a single,” Matisa says. “In addition Karly’s in the middle of a project with Greg Lawson, a well-known producer based in Nashville. (This is music) that will be used for placement in TV and film.”
Apparently there is yet another project in the queue: Coleman hopes to do an EP or full album with Charlie Stavish, a producer out of California, known for his work with such superstars as Ryan Adams, Kesha, Imagine Dragons, and My Chemical Romance.
Of course, she will continue to perform in the area, solo and with Matisa. Coleman also has a day job in retail.
Hopefully, the couple will still have enough time for their other passion.
When they’re not making music, Matisa and Coleman love to ply their skills with the rod and reel, fishing for fresh water bass. It seems like the lady is the fish magnet between the two of them.
“Karly holds the record for the biggest bass, at just under five pounds, then we’ve caught numerous (bass) between four and five pounds, with our numbers pretty much neck and neck,” Matisa says. “Not that it matters, but we certainly are competitive about it.”
“(When we fish) I’m a bit more on a mission, which can be quite comical at times,” he adds. “Karly definitely has a magic touch that is very relaxed and patient.”
Karly C, Halo Pub, 9 Hulfish Street, Princeton. Saturday, September 8, 6 p.m. 609-921-1710 or www.halofarm.com
Acoustic show with Mike Matisa, Plumsted Grill, 457 Pinehurst Road at Route 539, Cream Ridge. Saturday, September 22, 9:30 p.m. and Friday, November 16, 9:30 p.m. 609-758-5552 or www.theplumstedgrill.com
For more on Karly C, go to www.karlycmusic.com.