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Kee Magazine (September 2009)

Formerly of...
Carmit Bachar - singer, performer and philanthropist - is for better or for worse, best known as the only original member of multi-platinum and Grammy nominated recording group the Pussycat Dolls. Now pursuing a career beyond the Dolls and on the verge of releasing her debut solo album, there seems to be no looking back and Carmit is planning her own domination.

Words: Ann Tsang

The first time I meet Carmit Bachar, I am privileged to be invited to sit in on an early recording session for her debut solo single, Cream, in a Hollywood recording studio. She has just come from a painful dental operation, but it doesn’t seem to have affected her energy or enthusiasm in any way. Wearing a maxi dress and a straw trilby over her signature fiery red locks, the former Pussycat Doll is verbally jousting with producer Jared Lee Gosselin and on the phone with one of her friends and collaborators, Macy Gray, insisting that she come over to the studio and join her. Carmit recorded background vocals for Gray’s forthcoming album, The Gray Life, and it was during that time that she met über producers Gosselin and Phillip White (Whitey), with whom she is currently working on her upcoming single and album.

“I love the whole process of creating music,” enthuses Carmit when asked how much she is involved with the development and writing of her songs. “I really enjoy the collaborative aspect of it and working with other people, especially Jared and Whitey. They can work across the board with all styles of music and are so incredibly versatile. We create the tracks together and they constantly evolve; we add this, we add that...create certain vocal arrangements, bring in different writers...For me music is always evolving because essentially it involves different emotions. As a team we’ll create one track, then another which is completely different. Jared and Whitey are like my family, part of my wizard squad, I’m so comfortable with them and we have fun building a repertoire of different sounds together.”

Even on a first listen, Cream is an infectious dance/pop song which is destined to be a hit, especially with Gosselin and White in charge of production. Co-written by R&B singer-songwriter Che’Nelle (I Fell In Love With A DJ), Kay Cola and Carmit herself, the track is loaded with sexual undertones and features strong vocals and electronic arrangements. Asked to describe the overall style of her upcoming album, Carmit is slightly hesitant about boxing herself into a specific genre. “It’s a hard question. I can’t really categorise myself or compare myself to anybody. Of course the Pussycat Dolls had that pop-esque kind of vibe, but now I think I have developed more of an urban edge and although I still love dance music, I think I’m a crossover of everything and I’d like to think I can offer the full package of a combination of musical and visual style. At the end of the day I just hope people enjoy my music.”

Carmit is an exotic mix of Israeli, Dutch, Indonesian, and Chinese and was born and raised in Encino, California. She grew up with parents who danced, acted and performed, talents that clearly rubbed off on her. “I was always upside down doing handstands as a kid, so my Mum sent me to gymnastics classes. I also did ballet and dance. After watching the 1984 Olympics, I fell in love with rhythmic gymnastics and started competing professionally,” she pronounces. The young Carmit competed internationally as a rhythmic gymnast for 10 years, and made 5th place in the U.S. Olympic trials in 1992. “Because I had a dance background and loved creating new elements, the audiences were taken with my routines as I was more of a performer than anything else. I wasn’t so much interested in being a champion, just a performer, which I obviously then took into my professional singing career – I have been known to still pull out my ribbon here and there just for fun!”

Rhythmic gymnastic champion or not, Carmit indeed went on to prove she was a natural performer as evidenced by her fierce dance routines, a major part of the popular appeal of the Pussycat Dolls. “It was a great time of my life. I learned a great deal of discipline from gymnastics and I’m thankful for that. I trained so hard and it molds your body pretty much for most of your life.”

During her career competing on the U.S. National Team, Carmit also attended the Hamilton Academy of Music in Los Angeles, studying music, dance, piano and viola.

In 1995 she joined The Pussycat Dolls when they were still a burlesque show and was a member of the group longer than any other. As a founding member of the original cabaret show, which began in LA’s famed club venues The Viper Room and The Roxy, Carmit performed as both a singer and dancer alongside guest stars that included Carmen Electra, Charlize Theron, Paris Hilton, Christina Aguilera, Pamela Anderson, and Gwen Stefani.

In 2003, the Pussycat Dolls metamorphosed into credible pop recording artists with the support of Interscope/A&M Records. As one of the three main vocalists, along with Nicole Scherzinger and Melody Thornton, Carmit and the Dolls rose to international fame as an overnight pop sensation with chart-topping hit singles including “Don’t Cha”, “Buttons” and “StickWitU”. Their debut album PCD, released in 2005 sold almost seven million copies and spawned a phenomenon that dominated the teen market and beyond, including clothing, the interactive PCD Music Lounge, and The Pussycat Dolls Lounge in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace. Between 2006 and 2007, Carmit toured with the Dolls in support of their multi-million selling album to huge audiences around the world before announcing in March last year that she had decided to leave the group to pursue solo projects.

Those solo projects are now a reality and she reveals exclusively in this interview (at time of press) that her upcoming album will be ingeniously titled Formerly Of...“It’s obviously a statement about life,” laughs Carmit cheekily down the phone on her way to another recording session. “You’re formerly of yourself, formerly of a relationship, and I’m formerly of...Each song is about something personal, a story of something I’m formally of.” Say no more...

With 75 percent of the album complete, Carmit is not revealing which tracks will eventually be included, apart from Cream. However, another hint of what’s in store is posted on her Myspace profile. In June this year, she posted another new song entitled Fierce, which was also co-written by Carmit, Che’Nelle and Kay Cola “I actually just recorded Fierce for pure fun,” she reveals. “It doesn’t sound like anything else on my album. It’s all about the underground dance and gay/transvestite scenes and how all the dancers battle it out with each other.”

When not in the recording studio, Carmit works on her Zodiac Show franchise, a venture originally established in 2001 under the name of The Freedom Party, an underground live performance event that Carmit co-founded as an outlet for established and new singers, dancers, rappers, aerialists, poets, and other professional performing artists to come together on stage to display their true passion with the highest level of skill. The all-night events attracted a multitude of high-profile celebrities including Usher, Janet Jackson and Brittany Murphy, as well as the hottest underground talent. Later re-christened as The Zodiac Show, described on its website as “a modern day Moulin Rouge”, Carmit has hosted, performed in and co-produced this unique event for eight years at Hollywood’s biggest venues, gaining the further respect and admiration of celebrities and creatives alike. The next show will reportedly take place later this year at The Avalon Theater in Hollywood and Carmit reveals that a rockumentary/ behind-the-scenes film based on the concept has been presented for consideration to the Sundance Film Festival. “It’s a project that I’m really passionate about and we get letters from people all over the the world who want to see it, so I’d love to take it overseas and bring it onto an international platform.”

Asked about the state of the music industry today, Carmit is ever the optimist. “I don’t want to put a negative spin on it,” she says with a laugh. “There’s no denying that the industry has gone through hardship – that’s reflective of the times, technology and the global movement that we are. No-one is to blame, we just have to adjust with the times and I believe we’re coming out of it and rebuilding something that crashed. It’s a DIY generation now; labels are not pouring money into videos any more and music channels have changed their programming to reality shows. But people are finding new ways to get their music out there. All forms of entertainment have been affected in one way or another, but we’re trying to make it work. I’m completely open to trying new things – and I’m actually excited to be part of a new chapter.”

We move onto the subject of Carmit the philanthropist. Born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, she frequently experienced rejection whilst growing up. “This business is often all about image. People see an image and immediately pass judgement. I had a scar on my lip after my surgery and people would look and ask what’s that? But it became part of my character and when I was with the Pussycat Dolls I was privileged enough to gain success and have a voice that people would listen to. One in every 600 children in the U.S. is born with this condition and it’s the third most common birth defect. Here in America, we have surgery, which takes just 45 minutes, but in Third World countries, there is nowhere to go to have the surgery.”

In addition to being appointed a Smile Ambassador for worldwide philanthropic organisation Operation Smile, Carmit has also teamed up with the organisation to further her own charity - Project Smile With Me - to benefit children born with the condition by offering arts education and inspiration for them to live their dreams. “ We offer creative arts and activities to kids to inspire their inner beauty, which is what my parents did for me. They inspired me to follow my dreams. I now want to be able to create smiles all over the world.”

Whether it be through her charitable work or her music, there’s little doubt that the multi-talented Carmit Bachar will bring quite a few smiles as her life continues to unfold.