Caitlin Rose: I don't know people who are inspired by happy things

Categories: Interview
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.

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