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Caitlin Cary

A Conversation with Caitlin Cary (continued)

PM: So how was it different, would you say, working with Brad on this record than it was with Chris Stamey for your last two, for I'm Staying Out and While You Weren't Looking? [Stamey is a popular producer, and one of the original members of the band The dB's, now set for a reunion tour.]

CC: Well, the biggest difference, of course, was pace. This record was quick--we were in and out in three weeks.

PM: Ah.

CC: So it was fast and furious, and a lot of charts, and really a very live record. We overdubbed some of the vocals, but a lot of them were original vocals.

PM: So the pace was very different between Chris and Brad. Were the actual working environments and atmosphere similar, the places you were working?

CC: Well, the way Chris works is typically--at least on my records, we would get a nice studio for basic tracks and spend ten days recording live. And then a lot of the work got done in his home studio, kind of catch as catch can when we could get players in or when we both had time to work. So While You Weren't Looking [Caitlin's first solo recording] took about a year and a half.

PM: Oh, wow. That is catch as catch can.


CC: Yeah, it was a real labor of love. And I think that was a good way to make a first record, because we really took time and care, and had a lot of time to think about everything. It's interesting, the last two records I've made, this one, Begonias, and then the Tres Chicas record that I just got done making in London, those were done really quickly, and with an aim to a very organic, live, spontaneous thing. I like both ways a lot--I wouldn't trade in any of the experiences I've had--but there's something about fast and furious that I'm into right now.

PM: And are Jones and Stamey very different in, say, personality, temperament, or are both wired in a similar way?

CC: Oh, I think that anybody who does this job well is kind of wired in a similar way. I think if there's ever a definition of "producer"--you know what a nebulous term it is, but I think it just means "energy ball."


CC: And both of them have that for sure, really quick minds and both just interesting characters. Stamey, we call him the mad scientist.

PM: Oh, so he's got that going on. Yeah, I'm not surprised.

CC: Yeah, yeah.

PM: Every co-writing relationship is so unique. What's the dynamic, you could say, of the friendship and the co-writing aspect in particular, between you and Thad? How does it set up?

CC: Well, I mean, the co-writing was born out of friendship, really, and just a few good conversations about music. And Thad was a fan of my band Whiskeytown. Right around the time I started doing my solo records, he and I started getting together occasionally at my house to write. And compared with some other people I've written with who are very sophisticated songwriters, he's very plain spoken, and he's definitely got country in his soul.

PM: Right. He's a country dude.

CC: He's a country dude, and he allows me to write in a way that I don't necessarily write for myself. When I write with him, I can kind of get out of my own literary head and really say things I wouldn't normally say. They're plain-spoken, and they're bare and emotional more than mentally conceived, you know?

PM: So you're comfortable going to that place with him?

CC: Yes. I feel like I can--there's no real good way to say this, because "dumb it down" isn't right but--

PM: Is it like "simple it up," instead?

CC: Simple it up, or not be afraid to say, "I just love you," or whatever, whatever the lyric is. But also it's just fun. I feel like both of us, when we write together--again, it's kind of fast, whereas when I'm writing with other people sometimes it's long and laborious. With Thad, it tends to be quick. But it's just because we get along, and share that aesthetic.

PM: It's amazing how each partnership is so different. I've got certain partners who keep it very simple, and it just goes faster. And others with whom you'll get more involved in the story, and how it unfolds, et cetera. There's no comparing the experiences.

CC: Yep. And every song is different, too. I mean, it's funny, because very seldom we do come in with a blank piece of paper. Usually one or the other of us has an idea, a hook, a verse, a chorus, something. And sometimes it goes super fast, and it's just that old Brill Building style of trading back and forth lines. Then other times I'll have a whole thing, and we'll write a bridge, or Thad will have a whole thing, and we'll make a little change in the chorus, or a few words here and there. I think that he likes my lyrics, and he's always wide open to suggestions there. I think I've tweaked things that he's written and--

PM: Is he heavy on the melody side?

CC: Oh, gosh--again, every song is different.

PM: Sure. Every song is different. It always amazes me, too, when in those instances, the thing that somebody has come in with, the verse or the line or the idea, in the end, is not even there anymore. It's just what got you started.

CC: Yeah, yeah. Well, and a lot of the time you go in with the idea that you're going to write a song about X. And it turns into a totally different thing--I mean, coming from the background of being a short story writer, where you're not restrained by anything, melody or form or anything, and you really do strive to say exactly what you mean, or get at whatever theme or point you started out wanting to do. Songs can just get away from you and become whatever they become, and a lot of times you don't even know what it is, really, until later, until it's on the record, and somebody tells you what they think it means, or you talk about it for a while. That's a cool thing about songs, for me.  continue

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