California to Chicago: A Casual Chat with Colbie Caillat

colbnie caillat

JB: Did you ever anticipate the amount of success you would have with your first album Coco?

CC: No! A friend started uploading my songs and music to a MySpace page that she made for me. I had no idea what MySpace was!

JB: What does it take to maintain the initial success that came with the start of your career as a recording artist?

CC: The hardest part is just getting into the business. I wasn’t prepared. I always had stage fright.

JB: What have been the best and worst parts of your success?

CC: The best part of my success has been the chance to travel the world and have people fall in love with my music even if they speak a different language. Also, being on TV shows and meeting artists who have inspired me and of whom I am a fan. The worst part of my success is that I have no time for a normal life. I have to plan ahead in my schedule to make room for weddings and birthday parties. I used to be able to just hang out at home with my family and friends.

Keep reading after the jump to see what Colbie Caillat had to say…

JB: What was your favorite part of making the new album Breakthrough?

CC: My favorite part was writing the album in Hawaii on the island of Kauai in January of this year with my friends Jason Reeves and Kara DioGuardi. We had so much fun making bonfires, having barbecues, and writing songs for three weeks. Then I went back to Los Angeles to record the album.

JB: If you had to describe Breakthrough in three words to people who have never heard it before, how would you characterize it?

CC: Laid-back, but up-tempo. I write from personal experience, so a lot of my songs are about falling in love, falling out of love, break-ups… If I had to describe what Breakthrough sounds like to someone who has never heard it, then I would say it’s beachy, summery music. And that’s exactly what I wanted the record to sound like when making it.

JB: Do you ever feel overwhelmed with how quickly your life has changed due to the amount of success you’ve experienced since the summer of 2007?

CC: Yes. I have such a busy schedule now. I sometimes wish I could step back to normal life, or go back to what my life used to be like before being discovered on MySpace. But then once I do get some much-needed downtime, I find myself itching to get back to work. Then I want to go back on tour again, write and record again…

JB: What advice would you give to ambitious musicians who have not reached mainstream success and maybe never will?

CC: Write songs that you love. Practice every day. Take piano lessons, guitar lessons, voice lessons. Be ready to travel, give interviews, and perform live.

JB: How hard is it to accomplish items on your personal “To-Do” list?

CC: It’s hard when I’m home because all I want to do is hang out with friends. Whether I have to go to the dry cleaners or get a mani-pedi, the first few days of being home are when I put things off for a later time. I’m big on procrastination.

JB: What does it take to make it as a performing and recording artist in the music industry? What have you had to sacrifice?

CC: Fortunately, I have not had to make many sacrifices personally or professionally. Regarding people I work with, everything is pretty fair and split equally. It’s always a compromise with everyone.

JB: Do you have any regrets regarding certain decisions you have made with your career?

CC: My only regret is that I was not more determined and motivated when I was younger. I was a lazy teenager. I took piano and guitar lessons, but would cancel them to go to the beach with friends instead.

JB: Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver said, “It’s not easy for the many artists who have helped us because they’ve got so many demands on them and every charity wants them.” Did you find this to be the case when choosing to contribute your recording of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to A Very Special Christmas Volume 7 this year?

CC: Well, as an artist you don’t have to choose just one charity to contribute to and work with. Artists can help multiple charities. I chose to work with the Special Olympics because I grew up listening to every volume in the Very Special Christmas series. My mom has bought every single one of the Very Special Christmas volumes. I was honored to contribute my recording of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which is my favorite Christmas song.

JB: What’s going on in the music industry that concerns you?

CC: It’s tough out there for record labels and artists. Labels and artists are hurting. I think even radio is hurting. Tours are not selling out as fast as they used to and records are not selling as many copies as they used to because of illegal downloading.

JB: On the other hand, what do you like about what is going on within the music industry?

CC: I love the Christmas radio shows that radio stations all over the country host and produce where a bunch of artists all perform together at one concert. I love that iTunes is such a huge supporter of new music. I like all of the awards shows. I enjoy performing at the various awards shows on TV and around the world. They give people a chance to see artists of all genres perform and let fans hear all kinds of music in one show.

JB: What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve purchased with the money you’ve earned in your career so far?

CC: I just bought a house in my hometown, so that’s been a big accomplishment for me. I only lived in Malibu until I was five years old. Around that time, my parents and I moved about 20 minutes inland from Malibu. That is where I really grew up, went to elementary school, junior high, high school, and where I live now in my new house.

JB: How did the collaboration with Jason Mraz come about for “Lucky”? What occurred behind the scenes to secure the recording of the duet for his latest album?

CC: Now that’s a funny story. I have always been a huge fan of Jason Mraz. He contacted me through my management after he heard my song “Bubbly.” Jason sent me an email with his initial idea for the song. We wrote the entire song over emails sent back and forth to each other for a few weeks. Then I joined him in London where we recorded the song for his album.

JB: As someone who can really sing on pitch and in key, what do you think about Auto-Tune?

CC: Hmm…Auto-Tune. I think records are for showing your real vocal capabilities and therefore are not the place to use Auto-Tune. When you’re recording a song in the studio, you can re-sing any line you want over and over again to get it perfect. So then you shouldn’t necessarily need Auto-Tune. However, for performers who dance and sing at the same time while on stage, I know that they are out of breath. In defense of artists who become out of breath from performing, I understand why they might use Auto-Tune.

JB: Who assisted you with starting the business side of your career, such as establishing your publishing company COCOMARIE Music?

CC: My parents! My dad told me that I needed to get a manager after the whole MySpace breakthrough. I got a manager a few years ago. My dad also told me that I had to register my songs with a publishing company.

JB: How did you start playing guitar?

CC: I used to find playing the guitar too difficult. It hurt my fingers, you know? I learned how to play basic guitar and piano from my parents, though. When I was 19 years old, I took one guitar lesson and learned four chords that day. After the lesson, I went back home and into my parents’ bathroom. Bathrooms always have the best acoustics of any room in a house. I placed a capo on the neck of my guitar and moved it up and down on the fretboard. Then I just wrote songs on different frets.

JB: Do you have a practice regimen when it comes to vocal exercises? How do you warm up backstage for a live performance?

CC: I can’t eat or drink two hours before I perform, which ensures that I have enough air in my belly to sing my best. I perform a series of stretches in my dressing room to calm my body down. I also go through vocal warm-ups with my guitar player Justin about a half an hour before a show.

JB: What goes on in a writing session with such acclaimed songwriters like John Shanks (“You Got Me”) and Kara DioGuardi (“What I Wanted to Say”)?

CC: I actually met John in the studio the night we recorded “You Got Me.” He was messing around with musical ideas on his little keyboard and I started humming the melody on top of what John was playing. When co-writing with someone, everything is split 50% each. One person could come up with one melody and the other person could take that melody in another direction. With John, a lot of the time he would come up with the topic for a song and I would add lyrics. With “I Never Told You,” I started writing the song on my guitar and finished the song once meeting up with Kara and Jason (Reeves). Kara taught me to be fearless. She usually comes up with a melody and/or lyric idea. She told me that co-writing should be like a game of tennis with the two players passing ideas back and forth to each other. “Fearless” was written with me playing the underlying music on the piano and Kara singing and writing the vocal melody.

JB: What question about your music has become your pet peeve?

CC: I guess my pet peeve question is “What’s different about this record than the last?”

JB: Any future collaborations you would like to see happen?

CC: I would love to tour with Jason Mraz. And I think I might be touring with Sheryl Crow next summer. I hope that still happens. I would love to write and record with a hip hop artist. Someone like Common, Pharrell Williams, or Akon. I love and am a big fan of hip hop music. My background is in that genre of music. I sang on hip hop tracks when I was a teenager.

*Make sure to catch Colbie Caillat in Chicago on Friday, December 4th when she performs at the Auditorium Theatre as part of 101.9 The Mix’s Miracle Near State Street 11.

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  1. amy morrison says:

    i absolutely love colbie caillet, i think she is a beautiful talented songstress…and im not afraid to admit that lucky is my ringtone on my phone

  2. Sarah says:

    Awesome interview! :)

  3. Becky says:

    I love that she wants to work with a hip hop artist. I think that will be fun a record.

  4. Vilmarie R says:

    Great interview! She sounds like she’s a great person and very genuine. Awesome job, Jen!

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