Cait Leary on Nothing's Enough EP, Neko Case, and songwriting
Photo by Bobbi Solum
Exactly a year to the day after the release of her debut full length, singer/songwriter Cait Leary brings us a new EP featuring five distinct, strong songs. On Nothing's Enough, Leary, who's established herself as an up-and-comer in the local acoustic scene, steps out with a full band and a thick sound that explores a palette of folk-driven sounds. Cait's pop-rich voice and accessible yet often clever lyrics, combined with tight production and arrangements make for an extra-pleasant listen with wide appeal-potential. The title track alone is worth the while, with it's Western lilt and 60s psych-folk vocals, and a hook that's hard to get out of your head.
Gimme Noise met up with Ms. Leary over coffee to talk about her new EP in anticipation of her release show Friday, November 9th at Icehouse.
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Gimme Noise: Your new EP Nothing's Enough is firmly footed in a rootsy aesthetic yet there's so much soul and pop sensibility to your voice and a lot of variance vibe-wise song to song. How do you balance these potentially divergent styles?
Cait Leary: The songs...they're all very different, I didn't know how that would come across....It takes me a long time to formulate a song...for the songs to find their place and what they want to do, and then my vocal style changes for that song. It's hard saying, is this me? Does it sound like me anymore? Cause we'll twist and turn and end up somewhere different...it's not a balance, it's just kinda luck [laughs]...whether it falls into place and I like it at the end of a year, once it's been through its motions.
The EP brings to mind a wide ranges of styles and performers...country swing, Bobbie Gentry, Neko Case...
You know, I didn't even know who Neko Case was before I recorded this, and now I love her. It was because of that one song, "Nothing's Enough, the producer was like, this sounds like Neko Case. I like it when other people tell me what I sound like, [laughs sincerely] they probably know better than I do.
The title track to Nothing's Enough includes the line "nothing's enough when you want the whole world instead". Is this a warning or an self-admitting statement?
"Nothing's Enough" means so many different things: you can get by with nothing, nothing IS enough, and nothing will NEVER be enough. I don't know if I'm ever going to be content with anything, cause I'm always reaching for the next thing before I'm done with what I'm set on. It's kind of frustrating realizing that being content is so fleeting, you can only hold onto for so long.
There's lots of wordsmithery in your lyrics, little language tricks - is it hard avoiding cliches and really finding something clever to say?
It IS really hard...writing a song is a completely a selfish thing, but when you give it to someone else, are they going to get meaning out of it, is it just gibberish? Are there ideas in there that people can...I don't know, it's hard to find a balance between those two things.
You recently recorded a music video for the title track - what was that process like? Who did you work with?
This is the first time I've done a real video - and Ron is great! Ron Johnson, I worked with him a year ago. He stopped in Cause while I was performing and he did one song, and the way that he moved around and all the little shots he did...so I've been waiting to work with him for a long time. Super excited about it. I felt really bad though, cause Ron has so many great ideas, and he had never done a music video before, and he's like, an artist. And I was like, I don't want to act Ron. Can I just stand there? I mean, I can play my guitar, sing, I can close my eyes and get really into it, but don't make me do anything that's not really me. So it was very natural. Very, um, natural.
Is there an overall theme or energy to Nothing's Enough that brings the different songs together on the album? Were you in a certain place while you wrote them?
They all came from very different places. One of them, the last track on there, is one of the first songs I ever wrote. I wrote it in high school. So it's really old and I hadn't played it...I don't even know why I thought to put it on here. You become reattached to songs...out of style, back in style - all the sudden you love it again.
So Nothing's Enough, the title, is the unified theme - your unwillingness to give anything up?
Yea, [laughing] that's right. See, I need someone to point it out. It's definitely centered around that track, and that's my favorite.
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