"I wish I could time travel" We chat with Caitlin Canty
Hailing from the American North East, Caitlin Canty's 2015 album, Reckless Skyline, shot her into the musical consiousness, certainly for those in the know in Americana circles. Since then she's moved to Nashville and her follow-up, Motel Bouquet, has just been released to similar critical acclaim. Ahead of the next leg of her US tour we had the chance to talk about her album recording and writing process, and her upcoming plans.
Hey Caitlin, first up, I just wanted to say, I really love your new album, it’s a beautiful record.
Thank you kindly.
But on with the questions… Where are you right now?
Sitting at my desk in East Nashville
What have you been up to today?
My LPs finally came yesterday, so I'm having a packing party at my place to send out to the folks who preordered.
Tell us about yourself.
Born and raised Vermont, moved to Nashville a few years ago. I'm planting as many trees as my new yard can handle. Have a dog named Bell and a Recording King guitar and I try to spend split my time between the two.
What can you tell us about your new record, Motel Bouquet, in two sentences?
I loved making it and I love how it turned out. I feel so lucky to be touring behind this record with producer Noam Pikelny around one mic.
If people could hear just one song from the album, what would you choose for them? And why?
'Scattershot' - it's all hands on deck - almost everyone who played on the album is on that track and I wrote it with the glorious Kristin Andreassen.
How did you go about writing and choosing which songs to record?
I write songs constantly. I gathered my favorite contenders and whittled down the pile with Noam. We played through the songs and mapped out general arrangements before heading into the studio with the live band. We picked songs we thought would work well with the team that came together to record this music.
I’ve read that your time travelling over the last 2-3 years has influenced your writing, in what way?
I wish I could time travel! I toured nonstop after my last record released and played shows in all sorts of formats - as a 5 piece, trio, duo and solo. I sharpened my songs by playing them with different bands. I also opened for a lot of folks (Milk Carton Kids, Gregory Alan Isakov, Darlingside) and that's strong research and development for songwriting. And I tend to slip a new song into my set or warm up with a brand new one during sound check. All that touring fed the song muscles.
Reckless Skyline got great reviews, does that make it harder to follow? Or do you not pay any attention to that when you’re focusing on a new cycle?
I bet anyone who does this for a living always wants the latest to be the greatest, and when people cheer a record on or buy it, that momentum is real and keeps gas in the tank. I know that I can't release anything that I don't absolutely love, touring behind or promoting something I feel half-hearted about would be an awful waste. And when I love it, I could give a damn if anyone else likes it.
There are so many good songs on Motel Bouquet, one of my favourites is ‘Who’, the initial simplicity of it hides such a complex song. What can you tell us about that track?
Thank you! I rarely write with fully formed locked in lyrics and then apply music, but that's how this song came to be. I tried a few approaches out and the song fell into place as soon as I held my old Kalamazoo guitar. It's the last song we recorded on the last day of our session, and I just about fell out of my chair when I heard Stuart Duncan's fiddle over the instrumental section.
‘Basil Gone To Blossom’ has a great title, can you tell us what that song’s about?
"Basil" is a song that feels good about feeling bad. It's a bitter lament about a relationship that's gone south and a garden that's gone to seed. I stole the title from an eavesdropped conversation and wrote it in one sitting just for fun, but I ended up falling for the song and even though the delivery is lighthearted there's some hurt and truth inside it.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general life at the moment, have you ever felt you were treated differently as a woman in your industry?
The men I've toured with have commented on my treatment or noticed more often than I have when I'm the only woman in the band. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a woman who hasn't been treated with a bit of condescension in a guitar store or while sound checking for their own show. But I think most people in this business are in it for the love of it, so it's a pretty wonderful world to work in. And anyone who's crossed a real line or pissed me off I've cut loose. There's still a lot of work to be done, but the women who came before me really paved the road.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
I played an Emmylou Harris song at a tribute to Emmylou with Emmylou sitting in the audience. It took me a few hours to pry loose my fingers from my guitar neck, but it was worth it. It was an absolute honor to sing a song to someone whose music and singing and legacy has meant so much to me.
Can you tell us the best and the worst thing about your hometown?
Best thing about my hometown is the culture of support for youth sports. Folks come out and cheer their voices away. And they used to put up banners and signs when we traveled for away games and made us all feel like young heroes in a small town.
Worst thing about my hometown in Vermont is how far it is from Tennessee.
You’re touring at the moment, what’s your favourite thing about being on the road?
The purity of a single objective in each day - get to the gig and do it right.
And what do you hate about touring?
Nothing. There are tough times but it's a privilege to get to make a living this way, and I spent more than enough time (5 years) working in an office. You will not catch me complaining about my dream.
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
Tour, plant more in my garden, write more, tour more, plant more, read books
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
Anything from the new I'm With Her record See You Around. Try 'Wild One'.
To find out more about Caitlin, including her tour dates, visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, or see her on Instagram. Her brilliant record, Motel Bouquet, is available now to stream or buy.
Photo Credit: David McClister