In a town filled with glitter, glitz and guys and girls in big, stupid hats, there’s this new singer named Caitlin Rose. She’s 22, grew up in Nashville and once saw Brenda Lee in a supermarket, yet still she has managed to keep herself at a safe distance from “the meatmarket on Music Row.” In this interview, Caitlin Rose tells Americana UK about her debut ep, Dead Flowers, Minnie Pearl, John Prine and the curse of 3rd grade politics.
Tell me about your personal background. You grew up in Nashville, right? What was that like? Do you actually run into people like Loretta Lynn and, erm, Garth Brooks in the supermarket on Sunday mornings?
I don't go to the supermarket very often, especially not in the morning. I've never run into Loretta or Garth at that type of place, but I did see Brenda Lee at Target once. Also, Emmylou Harris and Martina McBride showed up at Bobbie's Dairy - where I used to work - on a pretty regular basis. George Jones pops up all over town, but I've never seen him. He's a regular at the restaurant my best friend works at. She got one of their Christmas cards this year.
Growing up in Nashville and being surrounded by country music and country singers from day one, is there a certain need for rebellion, a wish not to become like everyone else down on Broadway? Or did you just grow up knowing that you’d some day end up on The Grand Ol’ Opry?
All I knew about the Opry growing up was from a report I did on Minnie Pearl back in the 9th grade. Country music history is something I learned later in life. The only angst I've ever felt here is for the mainstream slew of highlight blondes trying to make it in Music City. It's a disgusting cliche, for men and women alike. It's never been something to rebel against, just barnacles on the belly of a humpback whale. No offense to the humpbacks. They are far more majestic than this industry.
You have this amazing voice. When did you first realise you had the ability to sing, and when did you first feel comfortable enough to do it?
I was in chorus in the 3rd grade. We did a musical about a camp and I got all brave and decided to try out for this real bluesy number about calamine lotion, a real growler. I'd never sang in front of anyone so I can't remember how I did because I might have blacked out, but when I returned to reality everyone looked pretty blown away. Pretty sure I killed it, but my teacher gave the part to a fourth grader. Chorus is all politics, her mother was head of the Christmas Carrollers. It was kind of shattering, but although I was much too cool to let on - in all my groovy peace sign clothes - I didn't sing in front of anyone else for twelve years.
Who are your biggest influences?
Bob Dylan and Linda Ronstadt are the artists I listen to the most, but John Prine was one of the first songwriters I really got excited about. He's one of the best story song tellers ever and while retaining his fantastic sense of humor in his lyrics, he also knows how to write a song that can make any grown man cry or make a young girl, like my little sister, stop crying when she hears something that puts all the mild frustrations and blemishes of your youth into perspective. Souvenirs is one of the best songs anyone has ever written.
When I listen to the album, it sounds to me like you’re in this …grey zone between classic country like Loretta, Wanda and Tanya Tucker, and this more alt.country influenzed sound. How would you define your own musical stand?
I love all three of those artists and have for a long time so yes, I'm influenced by them for sure. Nobody now can really be a 1950's/60's country artist though. You're either doing throwback or trying something new which is what I want to do.
People always say you spend your entire life recording the first album and two weeks recording the next one. Is this album something you’ve been working on for a long period of time and if so, what has the process been like?
We worked on one for three years. I'd rather not talk about it. Dead Flowers took three days to record.
We're spending about a week in tracking for the new one in February. The band and me have spent as much time possible working up songs so that we can track in a matter of days.
Dead Flowers – it doesn’t exactly sound like the feel-good album of the summer, does it? How would you define your lyrical approach to music? The gloomyer the better?
Not really. This new record will be more fun, but I mostly write sad songs. I don't understand why people are so stuck on this feel-good crap. On my favorite Ronstadt records there's usually just two or three up tempos and the rest are ballads. Ballads, sad songs, waltzes. These songs make a record whole. That's why records suck now. No one knows how to write a good ballad so it's all 2:30 up tempo feel good pop songs, no one's cut to the bone over that so none of it lasts. It's bullshit.
Do you think, being an artist in Nashville, that it naturally becomes easier doing what you do, even with you not being just another pretty face from Music Row? Is it easy booking gigs in the part of country music that you work in?
The pretty faces don't play shows. They play showcases. More like a meatmarket. I'm not a part of that and never will be. There are a few places I play outside of Nashville, but haven't toured much at this point. That's why I can't wait to get this record out. Getting out of town is long over due for me. I should've been figuring that out at 19 not 22.
Tell us about the forthcoming full length album. Will it be like ‘Dead Flowers’?
No, not really. It's been a long time since I recorded Dead Flowers. It's more Donny than Marie. I don't think there will be any covers on it either, too many new songs. I've been bit by a Tom Petty bug.
I’m very intrugued by the song, Shotgun Wedding. What’s the story behind that song
I'd prefer to keep my children's life out of print..... Joke. I just met some people at Waffle House and made up a bunch of stuff about them.
Caitlin Rose’s Dead Flowers ep is out now on Names. For more info, go to Myspace.com/caitlinrosesongs