In the mid-to-late 2000s, Carrie Nicole Robinson sang backup vocals for the hip-hop group Serendipity Project and the reggae band Congregation. She also sang lead vocals briefly in blues-rock-soul outfit Robinson Family Band with her father, uncle and cousin. After being immersed in music for so long, life pulled her away from it.
But in 2019, as she found the confidence to return to music, she knew she didn’t want to be the backup singer anymore. She focused on writing and performing her own material and returning to the scene as a solo artist. In spring, she released the bluesy R&B track “Making Room,” her first official single. And it’s a powerful track that talks about her journey over the past decade to claim music for herself as she took control of her life.
“It’s been a long journey—mentally, spiritually, emotionally,” Robinson says. “I’ve done a lot of self-help, remaking who I am and what I want to do in life. When I came out, I said, ‘I’m ready to do my music again.’”
It was an arduous journey. In 2009, at the age of 25, Robinson became pregnant; her child was born with chronic medical conditions. To make matters more complicated, his father was sent back to Peru, making her a single mom. She’d already struggled with substance abuse and PTSD, which worsened.
“It was a very difficult, traumatic time in my life, and I began to try and numb my feelings with alcohol and substances. I got to the point where I needed to [go to] rehab to stop drinking,” Robinson says. “I never stopped music completely; I just lost a lot of self-confidence and wasn’t inspired, or didn’t feel safe enough to express myself and perform for a while. I was finding myself again.”
She is seven years sober now and has continued to improve her mental health, which she addresses in “Making Room.” It’s about ending bad habits and creating space for new, better ones; the song is full of soul and hope.
It would have been easy to pen a song that dwells on the dark moments of her past, but that’s not what she wanted to put out into the world.
“Music has always been an outlet for me to get through the hard times. When things are tough, I put on Alicia Keys or India Arie. They usually have an optimistic outlook,” Robinson says.
She recorded “Making Room” during the lockdown with her uncle James Robinson who co-wrote and plays guitar on the track. Carrie plays piano and sings on the tune. She brought in her cousin James Eric Robinson to play bass and Celso Alberti to play drums. Recorded at James’ house, surrounded by friends and family, the session was comfortable.
Once she got that first song out, more followed. Some are about her journey, and some have social commentary; others tell stories. Robinson has a whole album’s worth of material ready to go; she hopes to record it all and release it sometime next year.
“This is my talent, my purpose,” she says. “And the songs were coming so easily to me; I knew that I had more to say, and it was time for me to create that musical experience that I have visions of.”
Throughout the 20-plus years that Robinson spent as a backup singer, she had always dreamt of being front and center.
“I’m a little late, but I’m on the right track,” she says. “It gives me a new level of confidence. I hope my song can reach others and help them feel safe in their skin, too. You never really know. You just put it out there.”
Hear “Making Room” at carrie-nicole.com.