Nashville takes a lot of pride in its songwriters, especially when they’re natives like Caitlin Rose. And as one of Americana’s most promising new artists, critics and fans alike have been anticipating her sophomore album The Stand In.
CMT Edge talked to Rose about her adventurous but classic new sound on the new album which arrives Tuesday (March 5).
“I feel like for me it’s always been about not cornering myself,” says 25-year-old Rose. “I feel like if I ever really focused in on something, I would just end up shooting myself in the foot.”
She avoids being corralled on The Stand In with an all-new band, a methodical approach to her songs and, above all, lush studio production.
“With [my first album] Own Side Now, I had never really made a record before,” she admits. “I just knew what I wanted a little more this time.”
CMT: A lot of your hometown fans were thankful that after your success you haven’t left Nashville for London or someplace.
Rose: I don’t think I could take the stress of any place else at this point. I spent the last two years on tour, so it would have been moving somewhere for the first time. I think getting off tour, all I wanted to do was hang out at home and go to a bar where I know people.
It sounds like there are so many influences at work on The Stand In. How did you go about finding the sound?
For me, the sound is always put together with whoever ends up coming into the fold. I feel like I can’t really analyze how a record will sound until after it’s done. So for me, it’s putting together a team of people that I enjoy being around and I know are as good as they can be. Then I try to come in and not screw it up.
When you get in the studio, are you a hands-off kind of artist? Do you just let the producer take control?
No, not at all. (laughs) I micro-manage pretty much every aspect of everything that goes on, but I do it in a different kind of way, I guess. I explain everything in a really goofy, bad-adjective way. It’s those words that drive musicians crazy, and then I try to tone it down. But I think once you get a good band together and get people in the studio who are prone to doing great things, everything just kind of clicks.
What does the title The Stand In mean to you?
I keep trying to come up with new ways to explain this. The title, for some reason, was the most difficult thing about the entire record, and The Stand In was one of the first titles that came up. I don’t even know where it came from at this point, but I’m really intrigued by the idea of the stand in. I think it’s a very interesting occupation in film. Like, these women would basically dedicate their lives to playing this role where they go out on the set, and they wait and they wait, and they’re standing there waiting for the camera to come on. And then when the camera comes on, they walk off. It’s all build. There’s no gratification.
Ever since that title came up, I’ve been devouring whatever I can find on it, and there’s really not that much. Which I guess is sort of appropriate given the fact that the stand in is supposed to be the non-star. I don’t know how to explain my personal relationship to the words. Maybe I just have a desire to be in the background but also a desire to perform, and I just don’t know which one I want more.
How has your songwriting progressed in the last couple of years?
That’s the thing about this record. Own Side, I wrote myself for the most part. It was a very personal record. But for me, songwriting isn’t so much about venting as it’s about writing a good song. I think even when I’m in a shitty state of mind, I want to write a good song. I’m not going to indulge myself. And I think this record is even more pushed into that place of being a less indulgent songwriter.
At times on the new record I hear bits of Motown, arena rock, the Cars. It’s all over the place. How does that all fit together?
I’ve always been a kind of eclectic fan. (laughs) I was the kid who was listening to Japanese pop music for three months, and then went into the Bikini Kills. It’s always been very scattered. But for me, it’s all about taking every influence I have and putting it into something and seeing what comes out. I used to do the same thing with cooking, but I try not to waste ingredients anymore.
Kind of the same deal when you’re writing?
Yeah, you want to incorporate everything you love and make sure it’s tasteful. The one thing people do sometimes say is that it sounds modern, but it sounds old, and I think that’s because I have a pretty equal balance of both in my musical tastes.
I thought “I Was Cruel” was the most country-sounding thing you’ve ever done.
Which is goofy. I was really happy with it. In fact the mandolin and banjo stuff, we had Charlie Worsham on that, and we recorded that about three months before we even tracked the record. It was part of a demoing session we did when we were brainstorming and trying to find a sound.
What did you think about when you were singing the demo?
Oh, that it just might be too personal. It’s a really interesting sentiment. In songs, I’m always interested in sentiment and feelings that people don’t talk about as much. I think that’s why I always wanted to cut that song. To me, it’s the weirdest emotions that are always the most honest sounding.
My personal favorite was “Pink Champagne” with its really silky feel. It seems like you’re really holding your voice back on that song.
It’s all about restraint! That’s not hard for me to do in the studio, but it is hard for me to do onstage. I feel like I am in limbo with those two aspects of music. In the studio, I have a very quiet demeanor. It takes a lot to get me to be loud in a tracking room. But with “Pink Champagne,” it’s such a quiet, love-deprecating song, in general, I don’t think I could ever sing that one loudly and have it make sense.