Tiffany Daniels 25/03/2010
Caitlin Rose has been turning heads stateside for well over a year: in 2009 she performed at SXSW, supported Herman Dune and Phosphorescent, toured America extensively and collaborated with other members of the Holly House collective in Nashville, Tennessee, her native city. Towards the end of the year she focused her efforts on Britain, played a wide array of gigs in the capital, caught food poisoning in Brighton and attracted the attention of several influential figureheads, one of whom was Marc Riley, who has since played her songs on his BBC Radio 6 show. Caitlin re-released her Dead Flowers EP on February 15th, making it available in the UK for the first time under Names Records.
There's no scooting around the subject, her music is country, through-and-through. Some of you may recoil at the word, but Caitlin writes the kind of country that could spin an uninitiated listener on their heels; it's blissfully heart wrenching, sung by a woman with a voice decades older than her soul. Highlights thus far come from her cover of The Rolling Stones' “Dead Flowers”, “Sinful Wishing Well” and the as-of-yet unreleased “Shanghai Cigarettes”. Her unrecorded song “Things Change” offers an awe-inspiring glimpse at material to come and remotely echoes Laura Marling's “Darkness Descends”.
Since February 1st, Caitlin has been adding the final touches to her highly anticipated debut album with producer Mark Nevers, who has previously worked with Eef Barzelay and Clem Snide. Of her future sound, Caitlin admits, “This record will be a far cry from the acoustic EP. I play live with a band now and want to work within the noise we've been making, inspired in part by hearing Linda Ronstadt sing "Tumbling Dice" and all those strange dreams I keep having about Tom Petty's teeth!”
Tiffany Daniels caught up with Caitlin Rose, to check on the progress of her debut album, to delve a little deeper into her musical inspirations, and map her future plans!
When I last spoke to you, you said you were recording and mixing your debut this February. How's that going?
It's going well. We finished up initial tracking and overdubs on Friday and I go back in for last touch vocals when I get back from Austin. It's sort of mix-as-we-go.
You're coming back to Britain on May 6th to perform at the Black Heart in Camden. Is that the only appearance we can expect?
I'm also playing the Old Queen's Head on the 5th.
In terms of press, what do you think has been your biggest achievement to date?
Press isn't really the goal for me, but at a shoot for V Magazine I drank a free six-pack of Stella waiting for my turn in the "hair-chair". They teased it so high I looked like I'd been mauled. They let me wear these little gold lame boots like Patsy Cline used to wear!
You took over Wears the Trousers for a day this month - how did that go?
I'm big on making mixes for people and picking the right songs for a proper musical introduction to an artist. It's hard to be so general though, not knowing who's going to listen, so I just picked my favorites. [You can hear the result here: http://www.wearsthetrousers.com/2010/02/free-music-friday-the-caitlin-rose-edition]
Do you appreciate that there's a need for a music magazine that focuses on women in the music industry? Is there a similar lack of female coverage in the US?
Rock magazines are dropping like flies and the ones that are still around aren't worth reading anyway. What music publications lack is not an issue of gender, but of quality.
Are you content to fight the fight and stay true to your image, or would you let a marketing team influence your behaviour, if you were promised a major label deal and more press coverage?
In all honesty there are parts of me that could stand for some improvement and are perhaps things I could consider changing.
Are you conscious of the implications lyrics and fashion can have on your image?
Lyrics and fashion should be kept separate in terms of importance, but I'm well aware of the implications. Stevie Nicks stopped wearing black because people started to believe she was an actual witch back when “Rhiannon” was a huge hit.
If you could change one aspect of the music industry's marketing and promotions 'system', what would it be?
I don't know - the whole thing. Except for the people I'm working with. They do things right.
How important is your gender to you personally, and to your music?
It's important, I guess. It'd be fun to be a guy too though. Writing songs about girls would be more fun. They have better names.
Do you think sexuality should affect an artist's music, or is it unimportant creatively?
Everything about a person should affect their music. That's what makes it your own.
Country music has embraced female musicians for a long time, and I'd be tempted to say it's one of the most accepting genres. Have you experienced sexism in the scene? Do you think men are favoured?
They did a million dollar study on country music pretty recently. The details escape me, but they boiled everything down to the fact that country music listeners on a whole are most concerned with being able to identify with a song through lyrics. If there's more men than women listening to country music then perhaps men are favoured, but I'm no music row insider. I just know the whole thing is a meat market (for both men and women) and I don't subject myself to it, so sexism isn't a big issue for me. I avoid it.
In my gig going life I've seen two female musicians openly object to a sexist remark - Karen O told a heckler to “suck [his] own cock” and Annie Hardy called someone's bluff when they proposed to her. Would you consider answering back to a catcall or do you think it's better to take the moral high ground?
I always call back. I can't hold my tongue to save my life. I'm a cancer and besides, nobody gets up on a stage to be left alone.
Your Mum writes lyrics for Taylor Swift and recently won an award at the Grammys. How do you feel about collaborations with commercial stars?
Depends on if they're good or not!
Would you write for a mainstream artist or are your songs written for you to perform solely?
Again, it depends on the artist. It also depends on the song. I always wanted Linda Ronstadt to sing "Sinful Wishing Well". If I ever heard that I may never write another song, but actually writing for other people sounds hard. I could try, but if it were someone I really respected the song would never be good enough and if it was someone I had no respect for, there would be nothing to inspire the song.
Which women have you collaborated with in the past? I know you've had a few side projects with Tristen…
Tristen's the only girl I ever collaborated with.
You're a massive Linda Ronstadt fan - what about her music attracts you?
Her voice and song choice…
Which other women in the industry do you look up to?
Stevie Nicks, especially in her platform boots, and Joni Mitchell who is so cool it hurts.
Punk rock was more my thing when I was younger. Joan Jett was a big deal. The Runaways were the soundtrack to the best and most ridiculous moments of my life. Without "Cherry Bomb" and "Wasted" my first two years of high school would've been much blander and I probably would be too. Youthful debauchery builds character.
You can stream/ listen to the whole of Caitlin's recent 'Dead Flowers' EP over at her Bandcamp page: