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Interview with Caitlin Rose

When a voice emerges that sounds legitimately new, there’s reason to take notice. Caitlin Rose‘s new album Own Side Now is an effortless blend of genres, evoking Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan, and Linda Ronstadt. It’s a little bit country, for sure, and it’s also a little bit rock and roll. There are always comparisons that can be made [Cline, Loretta Lynn, Iris DeMent … —ed], but it also sounds like something new. There aren’t many new singers you can say that about.

It’s always fun to listen to a complex song (even with deceptively simple melodies) and spend the next twenty minutes thinking, “Now what’s THAT about?” “For the Rabbits” is a perfect example. There’s an old timey doo-wop sound that kind of sounds like The Skyliners, but it segues into some twangy guitar. And over that is Rose’s sultry voice and wistful, powerful singing. She’s got some lungs and she likes to use them, especially when being sardonic.

Fall back into my absent arms
Fall back into routine disaster
Habit’s the only place you call home.

There’s a sense of what the song’s about, for sure, but there’s also something else going on.

Try to catch her in concert as she wraps up her tour or pick up her album, Own Side Now. She’s worth the time. [thecaitlinrose.com]

Mike Tager: Where are you talking to me from?

Caitlin Rose: San Francisco, Portland next.

MT: First big tour?

CR: Not really, been going at it for 2 years. This is one of the bigger tours. Right now touring going up the West Coast to Vancouver, Canada and then going over to the East Coast and then home.

MT: This is your first full-length album, right? How’d the process go?

CR: Had a couple songs already – went into the studio to try to make it with four people but ended up scrapping it. Then I wrote 4 new songs and started brand new. Lucked out. Had some songs already. The new ones were “Shanghai Cigarettes,” “Spare Me,” “Coming up.”

MT: I like your album a lot and especially a few songs: “For the Rabbits,” “Sinful Wishing Well,” “Things Change,” and two of your new ones: “Spare Me” and “Coming up.” Can you tell me about them?

CR: “Spare Me” – kind of kept going out on front porch and writing it. “Coming Up” – wrote with John Decious (he’s in a country band). He came up with the line “Crazy cloud of  mine”—just kind of messed with it.

MT: I can’t really pick out any specific influences in your music (what they sound like) except maybe for Patsy Cline. Can you tell me about some of your other influences? Some current influences?

CR: Bob Dylan and Linda Ronstadt are probably some of my biggest influences. But recently? Been listening to a whole bunch of stuff, cause that’s what I do. Haven’t been listening to much country music. I’ve been mostly listening to iTunes a lot in my room. Just been buying random stuff and listening to it. Been really liking Nick Lowe, from England.

MT: Your Wikipedia page said that you’re known for your cigarette smoking. What’s that about?

Caitlin: I don’t know who wrote that! I got really excited when I saw the page … but then I saw the thing about me smoking. I mean, who writes these things? It says I’m a singer and my mom writes songs—which is true [Caitlin’s mother is Liz Rose who co-wrote “You Belong With Me” —au]—but I like smoking? That’s weird. My page kept on going up and down, I guess they didn’t think I was anybody.

MT: But now?

CR: It looks like it’s sticking now!

—Mike Tager (Baltimore, MD)

[Correction: John Decious was incorrectly identified as John Beach. our Miss Steak.]

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