Caitlin Rose: I don't know people who are inspired by happy things
Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller
Caitlin Rose is funny. She's sharp and blithe with a speaking voice that's as honey-rich and grainy as her singing. When she talks, she's got a solid here's-how-it-is honesty to her tone that comes off more like a weapon than a virtue. Rose's sophomore album, The Stand-In, is a lot like that -- a fly trap for listeners. It's twelve flawlessly executed tunes that settle somewhere around indie-alt-country-pop, with a willfulness that disregards classification entirely.
On The Stand-In, the Dallas-born, Nashville-bred artist takes an assemblage of characters that are at times a little too broken to be totally imaginary -- even if Rose did make up the songs in her living room with her two best friends. "Waitin'" is a jangly electrified song about two lovers who always knew it would never work out, and "Only a Clown" is a deceptively smooth tune that sounds like it's about being in love until you listen to the lyrics. Rose is smart that way.
Ahead of her gig tonight at the Triple Rock, Rose chatted with Gimme Noise about the Nashville scene, being called a "country" artist, and her popularity with the 50+ male crowd.
Gimme Noise: How are you doing? You're on tour right now, parked somewhere between New York and Philly, according to your schedule, is that right?
Caitlin Rose: I'm in New York right now, actually. It's been good, but three days in New York is a little bit rough. I'm waking up on a four-hour hangover. We stayed out until, like, five in the morning, and I don't even know how that's possible. Three days in New York can be amazing, but they can also be exhausting.
I hear that. So, let's talk about the album for a minute. It's pretty anti-love. It's all wry and a little melancholy--
Oh, I like that you said that, that it's anti-love. I think people don't think that [about the album]. I'm more into writing about the uglier things.
Right. Are you the sort of songwriter where you're more inspired by sad things than happy ones?
...Well, I don't think any of it's sad! I don't know many people who are great at writing happy things or are more inspired by the happy things, but I think learning about yourself is a happy thing. But no, there's not a lot of positivity where I'm writing from.
I think I read somewhere that you wrote the album sitting in your living getting drunk with your bandmates -- accurate?
[Laughs] Well, not my bandmates. Kind of two of my very good friends from a long time ago. I've worked with both of them since I was 21. Skylar [Wilson], who produced my first album, and Jordan [Lehning]. We wrote some songs a couple years ago... It wasn't even something I started doing to necessarily write the record, but they're just two people I needed to be around and write with. They're not my bandmates, but definitely Knights of the English Words.
Okay, so... You live in Nashville, your parents are songwriters. Were you ever not going to go into music?
[Laughs] You know... I don't think I ever had a plan of any kind. I still don't, really. My parents weren't so much involved in what I did until I was 21-ish, but I never even related it to that because it was such a different part of the music world... But now things have changed a little bit, because [we] know a lot of people in the music industry, and I can't pretend to know everything about it... Music was just something that kept getting better. Not me, necessarily.
The Nashville scene seems so strange to me. It's supposed to be like Music City, America, but I feel like people go to a show and then they leave after one band.
Really? That's interesting. I feel like people have sort of misunderstood what Music City, America means. Nashville is an industry town. People expect it to be this all-around circle jerk-party music town, and it's not that. It's an industry town, and that's why people go to shows and watch one band and leave. The music scene in Nashville is where I grew up, and I love it, but it's not a coddling scene at all. It's about establishing yourself. It's not a good kiss-ass town.
I think that's why it's so hip--I say "I think" a lot, by the way, but I know--because Nashville is such a transient town. I mean, people just come through. Like, "I got bored in Dallas and I packed all my things and I came here and I'm in a hotel." People just gravitate towards it, and they come through. I think networking in Nashville is a different kind of thing. In some cases, [Nashville is] a pretty self-aware town. The industry is so defined by mainstream country music, but the music scene there is kind of separate from that--it's not so much living in the shadow of that... I don't think going to shows in Nashville is the thing to do. I think the thing in Nashville is the weird-ass dive bar, and then music just kind of happens somewhere along the way. I think it's more of stumbling town.
I've read a lot of interviews with you where people ask you if you think your music is country or not. I guess I'm wondering, just how sick and tired of that question are you?
I think what's funny is that I can't really be irritated. If they're asking, they should be at least generally interested in the answer. I think we live in a weird time in the music world, because the questions can be very copy-paste, and I'm not really irritated. I honestly just think it's just funny to be asked the same question so many times, because I'm pretty sure the question has already been asked from another publication--what's those birds that repeat each other all the time?
Yeah, I think so. So the question, "How do you feel being compared to Patsy Cline?" I have been asked that question a hundred times, and I try to have a different answer every time, because I feel like my answer is being questioned every time. So it's this cosmic thing, like maybe I'll finally one day know my answer to that question, but you can't really get mad at people for asking anything. I can't be mad, I just don't get it. I love country music, but at this point, I don't really see it so much as that. I mean, when people say, "Describe your music," I'll say it's country, because I don't want to sit here and describe eight different adjectives. [Laughs] It's all coming back to me, I guess.
That makes sense. So, are there any places on this tour that you're really excited to visit?
I'm really excited for Philly. We're playing at the MilkBoy and I hear that's supposed to be a really cool venue, but I honestly can't remember what we're doing this week. Three days in New York is kind of a rough ride. I'm having trouble remembering where we're going. [Laughs]
What's the weirdest thing you've ever experienced on tour?
[Pause] I don't think I can tell you like the actual weirdest thing, but there have been a few funny moments in England. I usually get a nice number of "over 50" men in my shows... The age gap is starting to get a little better as far as diversity goes, but for a long time we'd show up to these pubs and it would be like ten or fifteen 50-year-old men, and I've always had the funniest experiences with them. One time I showed up at this club in Manchester, and we weren't even in the club yet, we were loading in out back, and this very tall man came up to me and was like, "Caitlin, I have a gift for you," and I was like, "Oh, okay!" And it's a stuffed lion that looked like it had been taken out of a child's crib, kind of chewed up and stuff, and I was like, "Um, thank you?" And then he leaned in and kissed me by the cheek, and my tour manager, this wonderful big man, came up and grabbed his shoulder and was like, "Sir, I'm going to need to escort you off the premises."
And then there was this other time after a show where I was signing.... And then I got to this one guy, and he gave me a green sharpie, and he lifts up his shirt and he kind of started shaking his chest, and I dropped the sharpie and ran away.
You didn't sign his chest?
No! I felt kind of grossed out and embarrassed. I get embarrassed about things that other people would be like... When people do things in earnest, like "She'll love this, it's goofy," but I get mortified. But I was also the five-year-old who screamed and cried during the birthday song. Certain types of attention I can't deal with, so when a 45-year-old man asks you to sign his chest with a sharpie, I can't deal with it. There's been a lot of weird shit that happens on tour.
Caitlin Rose plays at the Triple Rock Social Club on Monday, April 8 with special guests Andrew Combs and Martin Devaney. Doors at 7 p.m. 18+. $10. Details here.
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