Interview: Caitlin Rose

by Katherine

Inspired by country legends such as Patsy Cline and Buddy Holly, Caitlin Rose embodies a whole new generation of heartbroken, whiskey-soaked folk. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and her remarkable, cracking wail, she combines genuine, nourishing country with a clandestine, confessional intimacy more akin to Kimya Dawson or Conor Oberst.  Check out her myspace HERE.

-You grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, which obviously has such a strong tradition of country music. What artists did you listen to when you were growing up and how have they affected you musically?

I listened to a lot of mainstream 90’s country. Like Reba, Trisha and Garth. My dad’s in the business which is why moved here from Texas. There was a Nashville radio station called Oldies 96.3 that me and my sister listened to on our little tykes recording cassette player and we used to call in requesting the same Patsy Cline or Buddy Holly song or “The Great Pretender” or “Rockin Robin” as many times as we could by disguising our voices. Now it’s Jack FM and they “play what they want” and by “what they want” they mean it’s a computer and that humans are obsolete.

My dad is a brilliant guitar and mandolin player and my mother has always been that freak that knows every song on the radio and she passed that knack down to me. She can sing along to a song she’s never heard before and make you think she’s known it her whole life. Her and my dad are both really into the songwriters of the 70’s. Jackson Browne, JD Souther, Bonnie Rait. They both love Linda Ronstadt and, unbeknownst to them, happen to share a favorite song of hers which is “Prisoner in Disguise”.

-How did you decide you wanted to be a musician – was it always a dream of yours or did it come to you all of a sudden one day? And do you do anything else besides play music?

I had conventional professional goals growing up. Probably a lion tamer in kindergarten (but I like tigers better). I wanted to get my teaching degree grade by 1st and a chef’s hat by 2nd. In 4th grade I said I wanted to be a lawyer to get a laugh out of folks, but they stopped laughing so I started playing music as a joke. Now the joke is done so I’m learning how to play guitar for real. No excuses since I got nothing else to do.

– What do you think of the growing prevalence of alt-countrymusicians in today’s indie scene (Conor Oberst, M. Ward etc) – do you think it’s a good thing, or a pale imitation of the real deal?

Isn’t that supposed to the sincerest form of flattery? If someones imitating in earnest because it’s something they truly love then it’s a good thing. If they’re just hopping on a bandwagon then I hope they all fall off.

-Do you identify yourself with the new wave of alt-country musicians or do you think country’s golden oldies (Gram Parsons, Loretta Lynn, etc.) could teach those whippersnappers a thing or two?

I have trouble identifying with anybody. There’s a lot of freak folk and intentional bizarreness out there that I just can’t get into. I care about good songs, but honest delivery is important to me. If someone doesn’t mean it, I just don’t give a shit.

-You have an EP out now on Theory 8 records – ‘Dead Flowers’. Describe its sound for anyone who hasn’t looked it up yet:

Mostly acoustic. There’s a great mandolin player on it named Bob Grant. It’s pretty old, but just came out in the UK on Names Records.

-Have you any plans for an album, or for any future releases?

I’m going into the studio in January. There’s speculation being made about what exactly is coming out. We have a half finished record from a while ago, but what I’m excited about is recording the new songs with a great producer and a good band that I’m comfortable playing with.

-You’ve been touring around England at the minute – you played at The Allotment in London, I believe! How have the English crowds been for you?

The Allotment is more of a collective. They do podcasts and promotions for shows that they book. It was great and kind of a trip. They brought cakes and lawn gnomes. Really nice folks. That show was actually in the basement of a place called The Betsey Trotwood. It was packed and completely silent so it was one of my favorites. The crowds were all quiet except at the Social, but that place is a fuckin party.

-What’s been your favourite touring moment?

Walking across Waterloo bridge with Ray Davies in my head. The Local/Names Records Christmas party at The Big Chill House when we spun “Pass The Dutchie”. Discovering some incredibly raunchy porn in a telephone booth.

Least favorite was food poisoning in Brighton.

-Are there any great local bands around Tennessee you’d like to tip our readers about?

Too many. Justin Townes Earle, Tristen, Korean is Asian, Non Commissioned Officers (whose 7inch singles are being sold at Rough Trade stores), Spiritual Family Reunion, Jonny Corndawg, Those Darlins, Hammertorch, Glossary, Roman Candle, Chelsea Crowell. I’ll stop there.

-What are your top three albums of the decade and why?

Ten years is too much. I don’t listen to much new music, but these records have been in pretty heavy rotation for me as of late…

Phosphorescent’s To Willie

I fell pretty hard for this complete reinvention of eleven Willie Nelson songs. The  choices aren’t obvious. No “On the Road Again” or “Georgia On My Mind”. The songs Matthew chose all seem to have a very personal place with him and that’s what makes this record something memorable, a genuine tribute instead of some generic “so and so sings so and so” throwaway crap. There was a lot of thought and heart put into it. Listen to the rockin late 70’s version of “I Gotta Get Drunk” with Willie and George Jones and then listen to this and you’ll know what I mean. I’m a fan of all of his records. The music he makes has a healing quality that I can’t get enough of.

Deer Tick’s Born on Flag Day

I’ve been listening to this non stop since I picked it up at their last show in Nashville. My friend Jonny was touring around with them and asked me to come check it out and I’m so happy I did. Their live show is a blast and the record is addictive. I like to play it for people to see how many listens it takes or which song they have to hear before John’s voice really clicks with them, it’s kinda like how a lot of people couldn’t stand Dylan at the beginning. Most people come around, but voice or no voice, the writing is outstanding as is the instrumentation. It’s honest and unpretentious and still sounds like rock’n’roll. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. Just go listen.

Julie Doiron’s Woke Myself Up,

The first time I heard her song “Dark Horse” it felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. This record is sad and strange and beautiful. Julie is easy to love as a person and as an artist. Her honest perspective as a parent is one of the most interesting things about this record and then the song “Wrong Guy” is a dead-on, and perfect description of the situation she’s describing. Uncomfortably so. “No More” gets stuck in my head for days. “Swan Pond” puts me in a coma.

Beautiful work.

-(Cheesy, but very festive question coming up) What do you hope to find under the tree on Christmas Day?

a ’74 see thru blonde telecaster with a rosewood fretboard, new buttons for my corduroy jacket, Rocky from Rocky Horror Picture Show in gold shorts, Tom Petty’s live anthology, Tom Petty.

-Thanks so much!

no, thank you.