"I wanted the video to reflect this incredible community of female artists that I've found in Nashville" We chat with Caroline Spence
If you don't know Caroline Spence then you really don't know what you're missing. Her latest album, 2017's Spades and Roses, is a quietly understated masterpiece of personal songwriting and tender delivery. We interrupted her tour of a snowy United Kingdom to ask about her writing, how she put the fab video for 'Softball' together, and singing personal songs on stage.
Hey Caroline, how the devil are you?
Cold but quite well!
Where are you right now?
At a hotel in snowy Portsmouth.
What have you been up to today?
Had a lovely breakfast in Bristol and are heading out to the next gig in the snow.
Spades and Roses came out last year, what can you tell us about the record in two sentences?
I am very proud of it. It’s a very human record.
For people who haven’t heard the record yet, what’s the one track you’d want them to listen to?
I think I would say 'Slow Dancer'. The inner battle of that song kind of sums up the record. It’s a love song, but there is a hesitation in there too - this back and forth, this dance that we do with ourselves when we are trying to figure things out or protect ourselves. A lot of the songs on the album deal with that.
How did you go about writing and choosing which songs to record for your record?
When I make records I usually give a producer about 30 songs that I have written in the past year or two and say “Help! What did I make?” I write a lot and as time goes by its hard to see your songs clearly, especially if they have just been sitting around and not being played out. I don’t write songs thinking about their place on an album so it helps to have that other person’s perspective to remind me what story I’ve been telling in all those songs over the last year or so.
What can you tell us about one of my favourite tracks on the record, ‘Hotel Amarillo’?
It’s a very true story. I wrote in it a hotel room in Amarillo, Texas after a bottle of wine. (Don’t judge me, it was a long day.)
The message behind the track ‘Softball’ is one that’s picked up a ton of traction over the last few months, what was it that drove you to write that song?
The nonsense of there being a different league, different language, and different lense for what women do even when it’s the same as what men do.
Can you explain to us Brits what a softball is, and why the metaphor in the song?
Softball is very similar to baseball. Most American high schools and colleges there would be a baseball team (all male) and a softball team (all female.) It’s so incredibly similar to baseball that it’s almost arbitrary that there is a different name for it and that it is gendered. So, in that regard, it parallels my prior point of the unnecessary way in which we always genderized the discussion of the achievements and actions of women.
And how did the video for ‘Softball’ come about, you’ve got a whole bunch of my favourite artists in it! Most of whom just don’t get enough credit.
The artists in that video are all friends of mine and are also songwriters that I really admire. I wanted the video to reflect this incredible community of female artists that I have found in Nashville and show folks that we aren’t competing with one another, we are in support of one another and that is partly because we have this shared experience of dealing with sexism in our industry.
‘Southern Accident’ seems such a personal song, how do you go about writing something like that?
I wrote about 5 different songs with that title and none of them were right because I was holding back for fear of being too personal. When I finally allowed myself to let go, it was finished in 30 minutes.
And how do you find performing it live?
It is the song that I am most nervous to perform live. I didn’t for quite a bit of the year but enough folks seemed disappointed not to hear it in the set that I added it back in. Sometimes it’s the most personal songs that other people can relate to the most. I just thought, if someone came to the show to hear me sing their story told in that song, who was I to not deliver because I was afraid?
You live in East Nashville, what can you tell us about living there?
Ha! Well, I actually don’t live in East Nashville [Ed's note: sack the fact checker] but I am in whatever scene of folks that label implies. Nashville isn’t big at all so it’s not a big difference, in my opinion. I live on the West side, about a 10 minute drive to the east side. I’m over there a lot for gigs.
There’s quite a community of musicians in Nashville too, how has that affected your songwriting?
Everyone is just extremely talented and when you are constantly observing that kind of talent, it really keeps you motivated to keep improving your own craft.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
I was in New York City to see Springsteen on Broadway and after the show I was waiting for an uber out front of the theater and I was right next to Lucinda Williams and her husband, who were doing the same thing. I could have easily said hello and chatted about the show briefly but was just completely stunned.
You’re right in the middle of a UK tour, what’s the best thing about being out on the road?
Getting to exploring different cities and have new experiences each day.
And the worst?
Not getting enough exercise.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
My favorite Beatle is George Harrison.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Thanks so much for your time Caroline. Hope you’re having fun in the UK and are being treated well.
I love it here. Can’t wait to be back for End of the Road Festival!
For more information on Caroline or to find out her touring schedule visit her website. You can also see what she's up to by following her on Twitter or liking her on Facebook.
Spades and Roses is available now on all streaming services.