On the Edge: Caitlin Rose

photo courtesy Requiem Media

“When I’m doing things, I’m doing them. When I’m not, I’m not thinking about them,” says singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose. “I have trouble doing 18 different things at a time. When I’m touring I’m usually not writing. When I’m writing, I’m usually not thinking about touring.”

It’s Caitlin’s way of explaining how her music has been influenced by famed choreographer Bob Fosse. “His movements were never that much exaggerated,” elaborates the young Nashville native, whose latest album, The Stand-In, appeared in March. “He has these little kind of creeping motions, which is sort of what I do in music. I work small.”

But on The Stand-In Caitlin has taken a bigger approach to recording, resulting in a full, lush production that’s noticeably different and more adventurous than that of her previous album, 2011’s subdued Own Side Now. “This was something where I stepped out of the box a little bit,” she says with a smile.

But rather than go the confessional route with The Stand-In, Caitlin (along with her co-producers and co-writers Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson) tried to deliver more universal stories of human emotion and interaction through their character sketches. “It’s a lot of us feeding through these people and creating the right idea more than this insanely accurate account of our own personal lives,” she explains. In “Pink Champagne,” she sings of a whirlwind Vegas wedding and toasts with the titular beverage over wistful pedal steel and jangling guitars. And in the breezy “I Was Cruel,” she inhabits the mind of a jilted lover who resorts to childish games to get under someone’s skin.

Caitlin’s mother, Liz Rose, is also an ace songwriter who has hits by Taylor Swift and many others. Caitlin says their respective styles are different, but she has great admiration for her mother’s abilities. “I don’t know if we are the same beast,” she explains. “But I’m always inspired by what she’s accomplished and also the way she does it.”

Following her own muse has guided Caitlin well and she’s already played acoustic shows to hungry fans in the U.K. and all over the States. Now she’s wrestling with how to make her overseas shows bigger. “We want to take a band,” she explains. “It’s hard to give that up. You’re promoting a record. You want to be able to go somewhere and play the record the way it sounds.”

And adding a little razzle-dazzle might not hurt either, she jokes. “Especially with my shows, there’s no theatrical element to it,” she observes. “But I couldn’t think of any way to do that. Taylor Swift can fly in a castle over Bridgestone [Arena, in Nashville] and it’s like, ‘Holy crap, that looks like so much fun!’ but I could never pull it off.”

For now, she’ll have to be content with having a charming, self-deprecating sense of humor and an arsenal of great songs at her disposal. Even if her younger fans don’t always know what a pedal steel is.

“A lot of people say, ‘Why’s that guy playing a keyboard with strings on it?’” she says, adopting a ditzy voice and laughing. “It’s interesting to me because it’s been this way the whole time. It’s been half stand-up and half music, and that’s just the way I do things. Maybe my ‘castle’ is a lot of bad jokes.”

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