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Caitlin Rose: 2010's honky tonk heroine

Posted by Jack Riley
  • Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 01:36 pm
The first time you hear Caitlin Rose, the Nashville-born singer-songwriter whose country-tinged arrangements are threatening to make a big impression in 2010, you'll thank your lucky stars that she chose to pursue a career in music rather than go to college. With a full album scheduled for release later in the year, her 7-track Dead Flowers EP is out on 15 February, and in tomorrow's Caught in the Net column we're giving away the song Shotgun Wedding. Here's a quick email interview with the 22-year-old starlet, covering the inspiration for that song, the recording plans, and how she came to be such a hot ticket in so many people's next big thing predictions for the coming year.

What's it like to come from such a mecca of country music as Nashville? Is it more of a burden or a blessing?

Growing up in Nashville, especially in a music business family, means growing up with knowledge that seems like common sense until later in life when you realize people spend thousands of dollars a semester trying to learn or pretending to learn while looking for some intern job on music row. It's a blessing to live in a town where two or three people could take turns explaining to you the entire history of country or rock and roll. Everyone here knows more than you about something so a good listener or observer can learn a whole lot in a short amount of time.

How do you come to writing your songs? Are they inspired by people you know?

I think I write in laymans terms. There's really not much to dissect. Usually I say it straight or not at all.
Writing songs about people I don't know is easier. If I could be more vague I'd write more about people in my life, but I hate hurting feelings or making people feel uncomfortable. I've done that before. Unless they're sad songs. Those get finished fast, but the mean ones often end up at the back of the bottom drawer and it's probably for the best.

I guess the next one follows on... is there a real Gorilla Man? [The song 'Gorilla Man' is a highlight of the EP]

Gorilla Man is a composite of a few individuals, but the song itself was actually inspired by James Taylor. I spied his Gorilla album laying on my floor and in some altered state, instantly started singing the chorus. It was fun to write. There's an old notebook with at least three more verses in it somewhere. There's a Gorilla Man part 2 that's just as ridiculous, but is actually played on guitar instead of that obnoxious tambourine.

How was your recent visit to Britain? Are there any plans to tour here again?

It was a great visit. I met a whole slew of new fantastic people, played great clubs and drank good beer. There's not much else to ask for.
The plan is to return soon after the completion of the new record, potentially mid-March. I can't wait to go back even though I hate to fly.

Who are your favourite musicians? Do you listen to a lot of non-country music?

All I can remember listening to for two years is 650am(WSM) or random country records from the dollar bin. Being so fed up with the dead horse "indie sound" or any lackluster-named genre had me honing in on this one reliable sound that no one could call pretentious or unambitious or overly ambitious or washed out or "spector-esque". Nobody I knew really listened to country. It's just about finding a good song. That's something almost anyone can understand.
This past year though I've branched out or just gone back to where I was in high school. I've gotten pretty heavy into The Replacements. Paul Westerberg is one of my favorite songwriters. Fleetwood Mac has really made a mark on me as well, whatever incarnation. I never really understood pop music before Rumours, or at least what pop music should be. The mysticism(how corny) of Stevie Nicks is very appealing. She's convincingly cosmic and makes me want to layer all of my ensembles. She also got me pretty heavy into Tom Petty who I love for being fun without being frivolous. His writing is honest, his melodies are beautiful and his attitude is rocknroll without taking his emotions off the table. That old Mudcrutch stuff is cool too.

My favorite contemporary artists are Phosphorescent and Deer Tick. The first of which has an obvious appreciation and feel for country, but whose records are recorded in beautiful and bizarre atmospheric style. He has a voice that soothes without sounding wimpy. This year he released a beautiful Willie Nelson tribute called To Willie, one of my favorites. I'm also very fond of Deer Tick's '09 release, Born on Flag Day. The writing is the kind that's worth reading and their sound is something all their own, or maybe I just can't place it yet. Either way it's good. Julie Doiron from Canada is another artist/person I like. Woke Myself Up is all kinds of brilliant and Julie herself is a true sweetheart. I do love country music though and I'm a sucker for a sad jukebox tune. Justin Earle belongs in every jukebox cause he's as country as Hank Sr. and a brilliant performer. I'm a big fan of his as well, but all these artists/front people are amazing with or without bands, which could be what draws me to them along with the good songs.

What's the most challenging part of being a young musician? Have there been moments you've thought of quitting for something less complicated?

It might be because I don't want to do anything else, but everything sounds complicated compared to making music. As difficult as it's ever been trying to finish a record , put a band together or learning guitar, these things always came easier to me than school ever did. During my last two years of high school my only goal was to graduate. College was never on the agenda, save a couple of campus walk thrus and a stint at the local Community College. There was never much of an agenda to speak of, I just liked to play shows. There's not much reason to quit unless you're quitting for something else, but maybe this is all just some weird latency period and next year I'll decide to be a veterinarian. Being a young musician should be the same as being an old one, unless you already know everything. The only challenge to being young is feeling like you have all the time in the world. It's also the best part, but sometimes it's hard to get things when the heat's not on. I also grew up in a music scene with people 6 to 8 years older than me so I've always been kind of a kid sister in Nashville. It's sweet, but I'm getting sick of all the noogies.

Do you have any musical icons? Who are they, and what do they mean to you?

Bob Dylan and Linda Ronstadt are two incredibly talented artists with vast musical knowledge and versatile tastes made apparent by the constant shift in styles throughout their careers. Linda made me want to sing all the best songs the best I could and Dylan's words split my wig-dome and make me want to wear sunglasses all the time. I've honestly learned more about music through them than any other artists. With Dylan you're starting off on folk, unwittingly learning and absorbing decades or even entire centuries of songs, then two years later you're hearing some of the greatest, most unique rock records of all time, not thinking twice about how he got to there. His records defined themselves and I feel like he didn't need to make excuses for the changes. With Linda you get to hear her voice mature from that barefoot-arizona-to-california-late-to-the-party hippie girl to one of the finest and most well trained voices of modern time (and hands down one of the best rock voices ever). I recently got into Amalia Rodrigues, a female Fado artist from Portugal, whose career is strikingly similar. Poets from all over would write pieces for her to sing, much like Linda becoming the song interpreter for many unknown singer songwriters in the mid-to-late '70s. The two have some unique quality in their voice that moves people in some way and the same can obviously be said for Dylan, even if it's just to hate him. I could go on, but I'll just thank them and stop there.

What are the plans for your forthcoming album?

We start tracking the first week of February. This month we're working all the songs out in rehearsals, but I'm still finishing up a few new ones. I'm recording with the band I play with live at a studio called the Beechhouse with Mark Nevers. He's worked with a lot of my favourite artists and is a Scorpio. Anyway, I think we came up with a band name, Caitlin Rose and the Singles. Obviously nothing is set in stone.

Since we're giving away Shotgun Wedding, I guess it's worth asking whether it's based on anything in particular?

Shotgun's one of the first songs I ever wrote. It's about a couple I met at Waffle House, an all night diner I used to hang at before I could go to bars. It's southern breakfast/dinner/drunk fare. An eggs-or-a-t-bone-steak kind of place that you can usually find off every interstate exit where all high schoolers smoke (or did rather), play cards and talk a lot of shit in a civilized manner. Their story didn't end well, by the way.

To download the track, visit any time from midnight


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