Rooming with Mariah

Sunday 13 June 2004

As soon as she graduated high school, Mariah had her bags packed and was prepared to begin a new life in New York City as a serious musician. But first she needed a place to stay, so she anylized her options and soon found herself sharing a one-bedroom apartment owned by fellow singer Clarissa Dane.
But life wasn't so easy in those early days. Although Mariah was on her own, both money and food were scarce, and because the apartment she lived in was so small, she had to settle for sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor. Obviously things eventually picked up and Mariah turned her dreams of musicality into a wildly successful career.
But her roommate Clarissa Dane (whom Mariah says is full of "talent" and "integrity") turned out to be pretty successful as well. Clarissa has written and worked with major producers like Walter Afanasieff, Gary Cirimelli, and Ed Tuton, and in 1993 she signed a publishing deal with Sony Music. Since then, she did an alternative album and two videos for Epic Records and has continued to work as a songwriter and singer, collaborating with the likes of Amy Grant and Deborah Gibson.
Mariah Daily talked with Clarissa about her personal friendship with Mariah and the times they faced together years ago as two struggling performers.

MD: How did you first meet Mariah?
Clarissa: I first met Mariah through her brother Morgan, who I met working at Studio 54. He told me his "little sister" was a singer and wanted to do some demos and could we work with her. I said sure. When I saw her, there was nothing little about her. She was a strikingly beautiful, tall 16 year old (going on 25). She was really sweet, quiet, and sort of shy at first, and then I got to know her. Very funny and very smart and very talented. Something we had in common was that she didn't really know her father growing up and I was given up for adoption. I found my biological mother 14 years ago. We were friends through all of that.

MD: What did you observe about Mariah and her talents? Did you ever think she would reach this level of stardom?
Clarissa: One thing we always had in common was the determination to "make it". When Mariah and I were roommates, we used to record fake interviews on cassette tapes all the time to rehearse for the "real thing". There were the pessimistic people that we tried to avoid or just ignore. She had such drive and a great work ethic that I knew there would be no stopping her. She had the talent, it was just a matter of the right record company getting behind her and selling it. As soon as I heard the first cuts from her first album, I knew she would be huge or I would have lost faith in the entire music industry. It was awesome, flawless. I was telling everyone, "You watch. She is going to be as big as Michael Jackson." But I think she exceeded everyone's expectations.

MD: Do you remember what it was like for Mariah when she signed her record deal?
Clarissa: It was truly a dream come true and I think more of a fitting reality. It was all she wanted. She was relieved and of course very happy. She was always very professional and a step by step kind of person. She knew how much work it would take, and though it seemed to the world an overnight success, it was really years in the making. Hard, hard work and long, long hours.

MD: What was life like sharing that apartment with Mariah and your other roommate Josefin? We hear at times it was pretty dramatic... complete with fires and floods.
Clarissa: It was nuts. It is always nuts in New York when you're young and following a dream. Before we were living with Josefin on 22nd street, it was bigger drama. We lived on 85th and Columbus Avenue and had like six roommates. All in and out all the time. One had a rat that sat on her shoulder wherever she went. One sliced up our furniture and clothes. We got robbed, wonder who did that, you name it.

MD: Is it true that money was tight and food was almost an afterthought?
Clarissa: Money is tight for everyone starting off. You got food where you worked and that was usually one meal: dinner. But the thing is, you only work toward what you want. People do whatever it takes.

MD: Did you ever collaborate with Mariah on music?
Clarissa: Yes. We wrote a bunch of songs. (One was called "Fade Away".) We wrote it one night, all night, the whole thing. She came up with the first line and melody for "Just another lonely night..." and then we went off on that. It was more of a rock song. I did the music on my home studio and we both sang different verses and background vocals. I still love that song. I haven't heard it in years. We did a more final demo with producer Ed Tuton, before he was known, at his home studio but never did get to do a recorded version.

MD: Tell us about "As Long As I Can Sing".
Clarissa: David Freidman approached me with the idea to write a song for Mariah. I knew she wrote all her own stuff very well, and thought it wouldn't fly with her. To this day I don't know if she ever even heard it. David had a singer do the demo who really did a great job on it. It isn't quite a Mariah Carey song but perhaps someone out there will record it one day to radio.

MD: You attended Mariah's wedding. Was the event as surreal as it looked on the outside?
Clarissa: That wedding was the most unreal thing for all of us. It was the first time we understood how famous Mariah was becoming. There were just tons of people chanting her name. It was wild. I was in the wedding and had to walk down the longest isle you ever saw. I was actually a brides maid. There were four of us all together. Mostly everyone who was invited to the wedding was a celebrity in their own right and to have all these faces you've seen all your life and admired for years watching you was totally surreal. A couple of ushers were huge celebrities. Super talented people. The reality of it is that we are all human. Everyone was very normal and nice and fun to talk to. It put it all into prospective. We all have to do our laundry.

MD: What do you consider to be your most memorable experience with Mariah?
Clarissa: The most memorable and fun experiences with Mariah were when it was just the two of us. It has been years since we just hung out without bodyguards and all of that. Let's see... staying up all night recording the "perfect" answering machine outgoing message, writing notes and getting in trouble at work, sneaking around looking for the guys we had a crush on, writing songs and singing, doing some crazy records together, running away from everyone for ice cream, lunch in Paris, the simple things. (And also hanging out with Josefin. I love Josefin.)

MD: Do you still keep in touch with Mariah?
Clarissa: She sent my baby girl Cadance a beautiful dress, cashmere blanket, and silver rattle for her birth last year. We haven't spoken in a long time. We are leading very different lives and she is the busiest person I know. I barely have time to call my own mom, so I can only imagine what it is like for her to keep up with everyone. She's been through a lot and I think of her often. I know she has good people around her and that's all that matters. I'm always here and she knows that.

MD: Are you interested in Mariah's music? You seem to have a different taste in music than she does.
Clarissa: We do different styles in music but we also both like all styles. She is one of the most versatile people I know, which is something else not many people know. She can sing anything, any style. I have favorite songs of hers for sure. "Anytime You Need A Friend", "Hero", of course "Vision of Love", and "Looking In" is one of my all time favorites of hers. She is as real as ever on that song. It is perfect.

MD: Do you think Mariah has changed as a person since the time you knew her?
Clarissa: If I have a bad day and happen to snap at a cab driver, it goes unnoticed like most of us. The thing about being in the public eye is, if it is "Mariah Carey" or any celebrity, they are pegged as such and it's in some paper the next day. We all have our moments of frustration, just most of us aren't recorded and penalized so harshly for it. It's funny. I don't see her very often and so I can easily be drawn into the "Mariah Carey" image that we all see and she seems like a distant stranger, but the minute I see her and hang out with her, it's right back to how it always was. Just like with any friend you see over time, there is no time. She is just Mariah. She is the same.

Clarissa Dane's song "Silent Lullaby" is available on "The Songs You Love", a compilation album promoting adoption. Her duet with Gary Cirimelli called "We Will Always Survive" is available on "Friends For Life", a compilation album featuring such artists as Aretha Franklin and Elton John for the benefit of breast and prostate cancer research.

(Mariah Daily)

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