Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw was born on 26 April 1981 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands . She started singing lessons at age 12 with James Gilloffo in Amsterdam and joined a girl vocal group, Les Elles, under his guidance. Following high school she trained as a jazz vocalist at the Amsterdam Conservatory, graduating in 2005. In early 2007 Dutch producer Jan van Wieringen invited van der Leeuw to sing the vocal on a demo he was producing with David Schreurs. The song, “Back It Up”, had been written by Schreurs and Canadian songwriter Vince Degiorgio and was based around a hip-hop beat created by Robin Veldman and Jan van Wieringen. Caro’s jazzy vocal was considered a “perfect match” for the new song.
The demo was pitched to various publishers and labels but nobody thought it had a strong chart potential. In the meantime, however, the song was posted on YouTube reaching public notice around the world. Radio stations picked it up and the song gained popularity. Degiorgio, Schreurs, van Wieringen and van der Leeuw realised their sound had potential and started working on a studio album. Writing began in the summer of 2008 using “Back It Up”‘s mix of 40s–50s jazz, easy listening, orchestral Latin, combined with infectious beats as a model. Adopting a sample based approach but with live instrumentation, the writing sessions drew from a wide range of influences including jazz organist Jackie Davis, exotica composer Martin Denny, mambo king Perez Prado, 20’s/30’s jazz and van der Leeuw’s own vocal inspirations of The Andrews Sisters, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. The usual method would be for Schreurs to create the backing tracks and then get together with top line writer and lyricist Degiorgio to write the songs. Van der Leeuw co-wrote several songs on the album, and van Wieringen co-created the tracks for “The Other Woman” and “Dr Wanna Do”.
After a long list of record labels either refused or failed to sign the project, Schreurs set up their own label Grandmono, co-owned by van Wieringen and Caroline van der Leeuw. They released “Back It Up” as the first single on July 6, 2009. The song gained airplay and popularity overnight and listed in the Dutch Top 40 for 12 weeks, peaking at No. 12. Kraak & Smaak provided a remix of the song. Eventually “Back It Up” became most played song on 3FM in 2009. Follow-up “A Night Like This” became a No. 1 hit in The Netherlands.
Debut album Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor was completed in December 2009 and released on January 28, 2010, on Grandmono. It entered at number 1 in the Dutch Album Top 100 and stayed there for weeks on end. By August 2010, the album had been number 1 for 27 weeks, an all-time record, beating Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which spent 26 weeks at number one in 1983. The album later returned to number 1, spending a total of 30 non-consecutive weeks on top of the Dutch Albums Chart The album reached double platinum status in the Netherlands on 5 July 2010. In August 2010 it reached triple platinum. in November 2010 four times platinum and in December 2011, six platinum (over 300,000 albums sold). Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor spent 104 weeks in the official album charts, until it was removed due to a Dutch chart rule which provided that albums can’t spend more than 2 years in the charts. It later returned and climbed as high as No. 8 after albums could re-enter the album charts if they are sold at full price.
The second single from the album was “A Night like This”. The song was listed in the Dutch Top 40 for 26 weeks and peaked at number 2. In the national single charts, the song peaked at number 1. It was the most played song in The Netherlands in 2010.
The cinematic and upbeat sound of the album has resulted in frequent use of the songs in TV series and advertising campaigns around the world. “A Night Like This” featured in the trailer of NBC series The Playboy Club, a brand campaign by Martini, the trailer of 2 Days in New York (starring Chris Rock and Julie Delpy), and The Secret Circle, among others. “Back it Up” featured in a TV ad for Wind Mobile. “That Man” featured on Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing with the Stars, The Vampire Diaries, Agent Carter, a UK advertising campaign for Sky TV, and has been incorporated in the original score of the Disney Nature film Chimpanzee.
On 15 January 2011, Emerald won the Popprijs 2010 for best Dutch pop act of 2010 and the album Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor was released throughout Europe with great commercial success. Featuring the singles “A Night Like this”, “Back it Up”), Due to its exceptional success, the album was included in an episode of the Dutch version of Classic Albums in April 2012. Emerald then recorded a version of Brook Benton’s 1963 hit “You’re All I Want for Christmas”, sampling the original song to produce a duet with Benton, who died in 1988. The song was released in December 2011. On New Year’s Eve 2011/2012 Emerald appeared on BBC Two television on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny show backed by the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.
In 2012, Emerald won two German awards: a Goldene Kamera for Best Musik International and an Echo Award for Best Newcomer International. Emerald made her United States debut in January 2013, performing in Los Angeles and New York and also released a second studio album The Shocking Miss Emerald was released. It went to No. 1 in the UK album chart, becoming the first UK No. 1 album. She performed in the UK at The BBC Radio Theatre; it was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Red Button.In 2014, she played the opening music set on the pyramid stage at the Glastonbury Festival 2014 and announced that they were working on a third studio album and released a single called “Quicksand”. In May 2016, Emerald, along with actress Pip Pellens, travelled to Uganda with Dutch organisation Plan Nederland. The aim of the project was to educate girls about menstruation. In July 2016, Emerald and her live band played at the Colours of Ostrava festival, which was rated by The Guardian, as one of the Top 10 music festivals in Europe. Emerald gave birth to a girl in March 2014 and a second daughter in August 2017.