CaroMia releases new EP, enjoys slower pace of life

SHINE A LIGHT: CaroMia's song "Cracks in the Pavement" was written last summer, but its core lyric, “Down on your back, you can see the stars/Bright in your eyes when the night is dark,” takes on new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. "I was reflecting on the experience of how some things become so much more beautiful and illuminated during dark times," she says. Photo by Casey Puhr

CaroMia Tiller is a staple of the Asheville music scene. Before the COVID-19 pandemic closed music venues for the time being, one could catch the singer/songwriter performing most nights of the week in Goldie & the Screamers, Siamese Sound Club, various solo and duo projects and guesting in friends’ bands. Opportunities to hear her recorded work, however, have been far fewer — which makes her new EP Green (released on May 15) all the more special.

“I spend a lot of time writing and recording at home with no intention of sharing what I make and have hundreds of recordings that only a few close friends have heard,” Tiller says. “I was going through one of my darkest hours when I wrote the songs on Green, and there are some extremely personal experiences woven into them, but I felt a calling to release this collection.”

Tiller crafted Green over a few months last summer in her bedroom studio, laying down vocals, keys and MIDI instruments as she composed the songs. “I’m most inspired at odd hours of the night, so the whispery quality of the vocals came to be from trying not to wake my housemates up,” she says. “That whispery, dreamy quality guided the writing.”

The EP’s six original works explore a variety of ambient pop styles, with sounds ranging from the chill, Beach House-like grooves of the opening title track to the sustained vocals and propulsive melodic mayhem reminiscent of Radiohead on closing number “Cracks in the Pavement.”

A frequent collaborator with fellow local artists, Tiller recruited some of Asheville’s most talented and hardest working musicians for Green. Former Midnight Snack member Zack Kardon, whose current main musical focus is his solo project Southern Pine, plays guitar on four tracks, realizing Tiller’s long-held desire to team up. “Instead of jumping onto what is already present, Zack has a notable gift for hearing the quiet undercurrents of a song and adding rhythms and textures to bring them out,” she says.

Also on the album is guitarist/vocalist Ram Mandelkorn. While writing “Horseshoes,” Tiller was also recording vocals on his Rahm Squad album Sojourn and, realizing there were “subtle influences of his music in that song,” she knew she’d need his participation to truly complete it. Rounding out the local collaborators are keyboardist Simon George, who lent “his talents to a handful of synth lines”; Matt Williams on strings (“He’s just amazing and I love his passion”); and saxophonist Jacob Rodriguez, whose horns grace three of the EP’s tunes.

“Jacob used to sit in with Siamese Sound Club often on Mondays, and they were some of my favorite nights,” Tiller says. “I’ve always been taken by the beautifully crafted arches of his solos, but, ironically, I had him approach these with chaos and disorderliness in mind.”

In addition to sharing Green, Tiller released a DIY music video for the title track and is making one for each song. During what she calls “quarantime,” her natural tendency to live inside her “own little bubble” has become socially acceptable, and beyond “the financial stress and concern for the rest of the world,” she’s felt largely content. Her realization after a few weeks at home that “keeping up with the news wasn’t really going to be beneficial” has helped her remain positive, and she’s thankful for her aforementioned “amazing housemates,” with whom she shares plentiful laughs. In turn, she’s embraced a rare opportunity “to live my best life of introversion” and is seeing its benefits on her art.

“I’ve basically filled this time with writing music for the sake of making music,” Tiller says. “Having no daily agenda has made the last few months feel like a daydream, and it’s been really conducive to my creativity. I really don’t have or need any exterior motivation to be creative. It just makes me feel good inside my little bubble — and that’s good enough for me.”

Tiller has also enjoyed seeing her friends livestream performances from their homes and plans to do some shows herself in the near future. Not being able to make Green’s sounds come alive with a band and share the experience with a crowd of people has been difficult, and while she’s realistic about the rapid adjustments her industry is having to make, she’s not concerned about the future of music. She notes that “music has been integral to humanity from the very beginning” and posits that “some kind of creative renaissance” could emerge. But until something resembling her pre-coronavirus schedule is feasible, she’s happy embracing life’s small pleasures.

“One of the silver linings of having so much more time has been being truly present and experiencing the depths of ‘normal’ activities — cooking, gardening, FaceTiming with friends, sitting in the sun, going for hikes, petting your dog, feeling the breeze, getting mail, going for a drive, a glass of wine … or four,” Tiller says. “The mundane has taken on a new sparkle. I think a lot of people are finding appreciation in so much that we rushed past before. If we can hold onto that, as we move back into the ways of old …”


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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