Shepherd grad recognized as Grammy nominee

February 16, 2011|BY TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • Carolyn Malachi lost a Grammy to Cee Lo Green, but Malachi's career got a big boost from going through the awards process.
Submitted photo

Shepherd University alumna Carolyn Malachi went from being an unemployed event production coordinator to a Grammy-nominated songstress.

Malachi's single "Orion" was nominated in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category and was up against Janelle Monae, Bilal, Eric Roberson and Cee Lo Green— who won the award.

"My profile has definitely been raised," said Malachi, 26, of Mitchellville, Md., who chatted with The Herald-Mail about life after the Grammys. "I went to the Clive Davis party. On the red carpet, I talked to VH1, 'Entertainment Tonight,' Jimmy Kimmel, George Lopez, TV Guide — every major network except for MTV and E! I talked with CBS, as well. It's just an incredible amount of exposure you get."

Malachi, a Washington, D.C., native, earned a business degree and a mass communications minor from Shepherd University in 2006. She credits her experience at Shepherd with sparking her creativity and giving her the confidence to perform.

She's built up buzz on the indie music scene. Music critics seem to appreciate her ability to cross-pollinate genres and have said her music is similar to avant-garde soul singers like Erykah Badu but with the earthiness of Jill Scott.

Upon graduation, Malachi hit Baltimore's spoken-word circuit, where she put out her first two projects, "Revenge of the Smart Chicks" and "Revenge of the Smart Chicks II." In 2009, she lost her job as an event production specialist for Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center; her main source of income at the time. But she said it turned out to be a blessing. Her 2010 EP "Lions, Fires & Squares" caught the attention of the Recording Academy. "Orion" was a single off the EP.

"Now we push forward," Malachi said. "We have three primary goals, my team and I. One of those goals is finishing the ‘Lions, Fires & Squares,' making sure we exceed the standards set by the EP. Also, we'll be focusing on touring and publishing."

What was the inspiration for "Orion"?

I started writing it as a result of having communication with a friend. I felt like I was underwater trying to communicate with someone out of space. All I needed was for that person to meet me halfway. I created these two characters: a mermaid and an astronaut and wrote from that vein of wanting to be in outer space, and I can't because it's out of my element. Knowing that that other person can meet me where I need them to meet me. They just have to let go of some things.

Was this a romantic interest?

It was a bunch of different things. I was glad I was going through that part. I wasn't being heard by a few folks, but that angst produced this beautiful song.

So being at the Grammys, on the red carpet — how do you prepare for that?

You hire a great publicist. Someone who can train you and teach you. I was incredibly nervous. My publicist and I had to chant before we got out the car — just take deep breaths and say something low and slow so that when I hit the carpet I was "on." All of the things I've been working toward for a long time, I really feel like those projects are going to be successful now.

Seeing the performances at the Clive party, seeing the performances at the Grammy awards, I now have seen with my own eyes and know what I want my live show to look like now. Going to the Grammys, having a Grammy nomination and being exposed to elements of media, it raises your profile, but it also raises your expectations. And that's the way I'm looking at it now. My expectations are different.

Can you elaborate on that?

Take the live show for an example. I'm really interested in putting on a live show that's succinct, that reaches people, that has energy from beginning to end, that's cathartic in a way that I like my shows to be cathartic. Now I know what goes into making a great show. R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, Mumford & Sons, Cee Lo, Dionne Warwick — these are people who know what they're doing.

Even if they do one song, you remember that one song. Now that I had a complete experience and know what one looks like and feels like, I want to deliver the same thing.

How do you want people to remember you?

I want them to remember and feel like I'm a breath of fresh air. Even when I'm 102 years old.

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