Caitlin Rose: ‘It Was Nice To Have A Veil’

Caitlin talks Beyonce, booze and her new record, ‘The Stand-In’.

Since releasing her debut full length, ‘Own Side Now’, Caitlin Rose has kept herself properly busy. Covering the Arctic Monkeys for Record Store Day, she’s toured, found herself being pushed up festival bills, oh, and still found time to record her second album proper, ‘The Stand-In’. Recorded with Caitlin’s bandmates - Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum - and local producers and musicians Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson, the album even has a couple of tracks written in collaboration with The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris. We put in a call to her Nashville abode, to talk to one of the least assuming musicians on the scene today.

Hello Caitlin! Your new record, ‘The Stand-In’ wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Is it definitely country music? Or are we classifying you a bit wrong?
I think in the UK, people use the term country about the music that I make, but I think there’s been a pretty big shift in the importance of songwriting, in the last few years, and I think that’s where it comes from. The idea that there’s a story in a song. And also, my first record was a pokey little thing, and had a lot more country influence on it. But other than that…

I think I read something recently where you were talking about The Mountain Goats, and that threw me a bit again, because I don’t ever think of John Darnielle as being particularly country.
No, I mean, I was into country for about two years, and didn’t listen to anything else. But I’ve always listened to a lot of things, and it makes a play into what I do. Unwittingly. Everything I’ve ever gotten stuck in my head.

And with this record, were you trying to come up with any concept or themes?
You know, I wrote this record with two people that I’ve known for a really long time now. And they’re two really creative people, and I think they’re more musically inclined than I am. I mean, I can play with melodies, but it takes me a long time to sit down with a guitar and work out where I want my melodies to go. But I think we had a weird kind of collaboration where we’d get together once or twice a week and drink, and tell stories about… pass the point of no return kind of people. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I think pulling from our experiences was a weird thing - it was like having these social vessels for darker thoughts.

Then, it’s not autobiographical?
No no no! I mean, some of it is in a way. I think maybe it was nice to have a veil? It’s very honest, but it’s more like emotional, than anything else. My first record was very personal, and very outwardly me, very instantly recognisably personal, that this one was a very different route, that I think was a lot more creative and a lot more fulfilling for me, at this point in my life.

Is there an element of not wanting people to recognise themselves in your songs?
I don’t think that’s what I’m moving away from, I think that the emotions are a lot more recognisable now. Or at least the process of writing the songs, is not so much about a certain situation than a certain feeling. And that’s what I felt about the storytelling, storytelling songs are more about creating a myth around a certain situation, whereas for me, it’s more about relating to a sentiment in a song. It’s like with a lot of songs, that I don’t necessarily relate to, but there’s a feeling there that I relate to very strongly. And that’s why I love them so much. It’s not a ‘you got up and did the same thing that I did yesterday!’ I think I was moving away from a diary writing style, which is not to say that I don’t enjoy that, it’s just not what I wanted to write about. But I think this record is more of a distinctly engrained feeling that’s a little more lasting, and a little less pathetic.

Did you record the record with the same band this time?
No, no… different band. It’s a bunch of people from Nashville who I’ve known for a really long time.

Being based in Nashville, does that make it easier, or harder? I mean, you’re in a bigger pool…
Oh easier, definitely. I mean, I grew up here, so I know a lot of musicians here, so we picked this band in a really short period of time. When we were writing the songs, we already had an idea of who would flesh them out the best, so getting a band together was really easy. It just kind of fell into place.

If you were writing with other people, were you never tempted to write with your (Grammy award winning) mother? Or does she ever critique you?
Noooo, she doesn’t critique! I critique her more than she critiques me, I’m very obnoxious. I think we have a very great relationship, she doesn’t so much critique as she does question. And having someone question the authenticity of what I write is helpful, she doesn’t tell me not to do that. She asks me what I’m talking about. I think we have a very even partnership. We’re peers, and we find our relationship in that.
Honestly, I think I’m always looking for criticism, so if she gives me anything I get frustrated for like an hour, and then I think back and try and figure out what it is she didn’t like about it. Because I think she has a very strong sense of what is true to music, and I think she has a good ear for everything. And if she does give me something and I can argue it; and then I feel better.

And you’re over here for a tour, soon, right? Are you coming back for any festivals later in the summer?
That’s what I’m hoping to do, that’s the fun thing about touring, seeing other people at festivals. I got to see Pulp twice last year! Can’t really complain about festivals!

Didn’t they have to upgrade you to the main stage at End Of The Road festival?
Yeah, well, they didn’t have to - it was a fluke! I get by on so many happy accidents, it’s ridiculous. The guy who was going to play it, I guess, cancelled? So they just put us in there. It was a really strange time…
It’s such a pretty festival. It’s like a come down Joanna Newsome of a festival. If Joanna Newsome was a festival; it’d be End Of The Road.

She played there a couple of years ago, it was one of those sets where it’s so quiet you can hear people ordering their drinks at the bar…
Oh wow, that’s wonderful, if people stay quiet that’s amazing. And it’s a very family friendly one, isn’t it. I think the only drunkards was the band. I saw one ‘unnamed’ person fall into a crowd of people, it was at 1am when everyone should be drunk, but he was blackout drunk, and he ran into… I think a bar kiosk, and just fell down.

Ha! Changing the subject a bit - those Arctic Monkeys cover that you did for Record Store Day; has Alex Turner offered to return the favour yet?
Oh god, no! No. Domino records approached us about doing those covers, and I hadn’t previously been a big Arctic Monkeys fan, I mean, I’d listened to that first record, and probably a few songs after. But I hadn’t really been keeping up. And everyone says that ‘Suck It And See’ isn’t their favourite record, but I completely disagree, I think it’s wonderful. I think the writing’s really great. But I don’t see Alex Turner covering me.

Did you ever find out what he thought of your covers?
No, no… but thousands of Arctic Monkeys’ fans told me it was terrible. So, I feel like, I don’t really care, I liked those covers, and I like those songs a lot. People are very sensitive about their favourite bands, and I get it, I used to be really, really intense about Weezer. It’s almost like you don’t want anyone else to even know about them. I think the idea of reworking a song, is about reworking a song, and it takes a lot of something to rework a song and do a good job of it. And it’s like, those songs are so good, I think we did a decent job of it. Obviously nothing touches the original, because that’s what it is, it’s the original, and if you’re copying something, it’s not exactly second rate but it’s a different thing. And it’ll never have the same emotion as the original did. I don’t know. I’m being really blubbery right now!

Awww! But if you could pick someone to cover one of your songs then, literally anyone, who would you want to do it?
Ooh, I think of almost everything as presumptuous, and I try not to ever be presumptuous… But I love Linda Ronstadt’s voice pretty much more than anything else, so if anyone was going to cover one of my songs, it would either be Linda Ronstadt, or Beyonce.
I think Beyonce would do a really good job of it. She is quality control, and that’s the thing that I’ve always looked up to in her, she’s quality controlling her career. She’s always kept it under her control, and it’s a little… what’s the word? It seems a little intensive at points, but she does it so well. I drink too much to do that.

Caitlin Rose’s new album ‘The Stand-In’ is out now via Names Records.