We learned a lot about Mariah Carey in her 2020 memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey. But did you know that in addition to being a superstar singer and performer, she also does a wicked good Aretha Franklin impression? MC busted out her Queen of Soul imitation during part one of her epic chat with Roots drummer Ahmir Thompson on his Questlove Supreme podcast, which dropped on Wednesday (Jan. 13).
“How long did it take you to nail that?” Questlove gushed after Mariah slipped into her Aretha during an epic story about how Franklin refused to rehearse for their legendary VH1 Divas Live duet because she was put out by the humidity level in the room. “Mariah, they’re playing games and I’m not having it … the games,” Mariah said channeling Aretha.
As for how she got so in the AF zone, Mariah said her pal Trey Lorenz liked to hang out and bust out their favorite impersonations, but she considers it more of an homage than an imitation. Anyway, that was not the most important voice-related tidbit that came up in the 90-plus minute first part of the chat. Carey also revealed that despite the difficulty of being locked down for much of the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has somehow been good for her already peerless voice.
“Honestly, for me this whole year with COVID and everything, not having to sing for my supper and travel around and not get the right amount of sleep or just be put on this thing where there’s a certain amount of stress, for me, that takes away a lot of stuff,” said Carey in the laid-back, wide-ranging chat.
“Taking off work has really helped my voice,” she added. “I think in a lot of ways, just being able to have, like, stress-free. And everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to get back in a studio. Like, you gotta, like, get back to singing. And I’m like, ‘I know.'”
Being the music nerd he is, Quest really wanted to find out how Carey accesses her infamous “whistle” register voice, which she said can come and go depending on how stressed she’s feeling at any given moment. “When I’m under pressure, it’s always screwed up — every part of my voice is screwed up,” she said before hairpin-turning into another epic story about the first time she met James Brown. “Shock and awe, shock and awe,” she said of her feeling about meeting Mr. Dynamite (who she said she didn’t dare impersonate). “‘You use your voice as an instrument,'” she said he told her in what she considered the biggest compliment anyone could ever give.
A music nerd who revels in the technical details most people would leave on the cutting room floor, Quest and his crew joked that they were happy to just sit back and listen to Mariah hopscotch from topic to topic, likening her digressions to the feeling of having a great meal at your mom’s house where you don’t say a word because everything is so delicious.
“You drink milk? I thought milk was bad for you voice,” the drummer said at one point during a deep dive into which secret elixirs are the best for preserving your voice just before Carey described how the time off has been beneficial. As for whether she’s ready to follow up what she called the “rushed” sessions for 2018’s Caution, Carey said, “I really wish I did have that time to do a few more records on that album to just [to] fully have that expression.” That led to yet another digression about how she’s not a fan of dropping too many promotional singles before an album’s release, as well as a deep, deep exploration of the origin story of her eternal holiday smash “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
Listen to part one of the Mariah chat below. Part two of the interview drops Friday (Jan. 15).