She’s a sensuous, vibrant singer with an eclectic, jazzy repertoire and her own band. But singing is her second career, which she didn’t begin until age 50.
Meet Carolyn Lee Jones, Dallas Jazz Singer
AN: What took you so long to start singing professionally?
CLJ: I went into retail right from school. Loved it. I was a buyer for Federated Department Stores and Neiman Marcus. Had a blast traveling all over the world buying luxury products for upscale stores. But I also always loved singing. You could say I grew up singing.
AN: Was your family musical?
CLJ: My mom and dad were both musicians. But I just didn’t think of it as a career. Still, whenever I travelled I always looked for clubs where there was an open mic or I could sit in and sing with the band. As time went on, I realized that singing was becoming the most important part of the trip. Then the recession hit and the retail business evaporated. So I decided to make the break.
AN: Did you study voice?
CLJ: Some, when I was a kid. But I’ve been singing in choirs forever. I also spent five years singing with The New Collection, a Dallas-based, a cappella vocal jazz ensemble. What a challenging—and rewarding—learning experience that was!
AN: Where do you perform?
CLJ: Mostly in and around Dallas. But I like to travel, too. Jazz festivals, corporate and private events, jazz clubs, night clubs—we do them all. In New York City I performed in cabarets with my New York trio.
AN: Do you have any CDs?
AN: Do you have any advice for someone interested in breaking into the music world?
CLJ: Yeah! Don’t quit your day job until you’ve got enough money to live for at least two years.
AN: What do you do when you’re not performing?
CLJ: I rehearse. Cold call to get gigs. Visit possible performance venues. Also, I’m a hospice volunteer.
AN: Wow! That’s some change of pace. What exactly does a volunteer do?
CLJ: I visit with hospice patients. It’s just a quiet time I spend with someone who wants to talk about whatever’s on their mind, or maybe just chat. Some people ask for music, and then I play or sing for them. It takes me out of myself and into another world.
AN: Sounds like you’re accomplishing a lot, but spreading yourself kind of thin. Has changing careers midlife been worth all the effort and hassle?
CLJ: I love the excitement of new beginnings. It’s got a kind of sky’s the limit feeling. And I really do believe that for me the best is yet to come.