Caitlyn Shadbolt hit the ground running on 2020. Releasing her highly anticipated single, Bones in January. Produced by Andy Mak; it was the first single release since her debut album.
A finalist in the sixth season of The ‘X Factor’ Australia, Caitlyn went on to secure a recording deal with ABC MUSIC and release her debut album, Songs On My Sleeve (May 2017). Upon release, the album hit #1 on the ARIA Country Album chart. The first single, My Break Up Anthem, held the #1 National Country Airplay Chart for over 8 consecutive weeks and became the 2nd most played song on Country Radio. Caitlyn was recognised for her achievements by winning the CMC Award for Best New Artist, along with a nomination for Female Artist of the Year.
As Caitlyn knuckled down on preparations for her second full length album release, Stages, the Covid pandemic and Caitlyn started the recording process from her home in Gympie with producer, Stuart Stuart, in his Brisbane Analog Heart studio.
Stages is released on November 6, with the singles Bones, Porcelain, Edge of the World and the newly dropped, Two Lost Lovers, now available to stream.
At this point, it’s almost impossible not to mention the covid pandemic, as it’s taken up a huge part of our lives this year. Some artists I have spoken to have said they’ve been keeping busy, while others have not. Where do you fall on the spectrum?
I’ve been weirdly enjoying this year. I’ve been keeping busy, strangely enough. Even though the gigs are gone, I’ve been doing lots of recording, music shoots, photo shoots and working behind the scenes. But I’ve also been able to take the time to focus on the things I always say I don’t have time for. Simple things like health, fitness and mindfulness. All that stuff has been enjoyable to focus on for a change. I don’t know about you, but I certainly put it to the side when there’s other work things that take priority.
I think everyone’s been able to appreciate what it means to be a human. And to be stuck in a hometown and your space, you’re kind of forced to look around and see the beauty that is around you. It’s been nice to take some time off and be at home with the family and the dogs, but still record an album in the meantime.
You recorded your new album, Stages at home in Gympie during the pandemic. How was that process?
It was a collaboration with my producer [Stuart Stuart from Analog Heart Studios] in Brisbane, but I ended up tracking all the vocals and the acoustic guitar [at home]. I would send all the tracks back to Stuart and he’d pick the best takes. I think we saw each other twice the entire time. Normally you would track vocals at home for demos, but this is the real deal – the final bit – but the quality wasn’t affected as a result. It just goes to show that modern technology, these days, you can kind of do anything.
It was interesting [though], some songs I found I would sing the whole song through once or twice, and then I was quite happy. Other songs, I just could never get right. They’d be like 25 vocal takes and I still hated them all. So, it really depended on the song and the mood I was in at the time.
Would you consider self-recording again?
Yeah, I would do it again. There were pros and cons, but overall, I enjoyed the experience and the freedom to be able to sing as many takes as I wanted and walk into the studio at any time of the day.
What were the pros and cons to self-recording the album?
The cons were, I had to push all those thoughts of self-doubt aside and make my own executive decisions, which for me, I’m indecisive as is, so that was a bit of a challenge. I would record some vocal tracks but there was no one there for me to say, “Is this good? Which do you think is better?”
And, because I live with my partner, there’d be some nights where he wanted to watch the footy and I wanted to track vocals – and we certainly couldn’t do both at the same time! [laughs].
The pros were being able to wear pyjamas, take my time, have a cup of tea or coffee when I needed to, and, because there’s no one else in the room, [I wasn’t] anxious about singing in front of anyone else. So, if I [did] make a mistake, it [didn’t] matter as I [was] the only person that [heard] it.
Your 2017 debut album Songs On My Sleeve – which hit #1 on the ARIA Country Album chart – was really your first step into the music industry. Was that album about trusting others and experimentation more so than this where you made many executive decisions yourself?
Yeah, for me, I would never record my first album again. But at the time, that was exactly who I was, and the songs were close to my heart. That’s the stuff that I’d been through. This time around, it’s the same situation again, but a slightly different sound and progression.
Also, because I was so involved in the recording process and the production, I did end up with a co-producer credit, which I’m really excited about. So, there’s probably a lot more of my input creatively. Both albums are quite different, but still me – just a few years apart.
Stages is out on November 6. How are you feeling in the lead up to its release?
I’ve been working on these songs for ages. Overall, the product, I’m so proud of it, and I cannot wait for people to hear it. But I’m also a little bit lost as to how can I share this album with as many people as possible, because I can’t physically go out and shake hands. I can’t travel interstate and play gigs and do all the usual things. I can’t go into studios at radio stations and TV programmes.
So, that side of things makes it feel like it’s not really happening, because the rest of the industry is essentially shut down – so it’s a little bit strange – but the excitement outweighs the strangeness.
Also, because it is my second album, it’s like, it better do as good as the first one, if not better [laughs], but overall, the songs, I’m super stoked with so whatever happens next, I’ll be happy with.
Describing the new album, you’ve said, “We all live our life through different stages and this album is essentially documentation of that! All my songs tell a story and for me, this record touches on more than just the happy and sassy Caitlyn. There are songs that celebrate failure, songs that are more vulnerable and songs that are straight up cheeky. This album is me, all my emotions and all my stages in one!”
I definitely hear all of that – and I love the album – but I’ve gravitated towards the song Stages as I think it not only sums up the album, but also encapsulates your personal journey – from being a finalist on the sixth season of The X Factor to making long term plans with your current partner, ending on the very tender lyric – it makes it all worth it.
I’m so glad you picked up on that, because that was our plan. We said, “Let’s put Stages last and finish the entire album on this line to wrap it all up, that love wins vibe. Stages, for me, was the centre point of the album. When I wrote that it was the singer songwriter part of me that I really wanted to share more of and definitely strip away those sparkling layers and actually say, “This is who I am, and this is what I believe in.” [There’s a difference between ages] 18 on The X Factor to 25. Now, making long term plans with a partner, it’s definitely a lot different. That’s probably the most honest song I’ve ever written.
Stages is essentially your life laid out in song. Assuming you’ve sung it live before in the past, how easy or difficult is it being so open, raw and personal on a new level unlike before?
I have trialled Stages at a few gigs – I think it was at Tamworth this year – and I found the response, out of all the songs I played, was the best. I find it weirdly a lot easier to share my emotions through songs than through words [laughs]. It’s tricky, but I know people connect and relate to it so much more when you are more vulnerable.
The singles, Porcelain, Bones and Edge of the World are quite different to the titular song. I almost feel like Stages is that surprise track that may catch people off guard.
Yeah, I agree. I feel like the singles are what’s gonna instantly grab people’s attention, but the album is for people that really want to get to know me and kind of read my diary, I guess. The singles can be fun and great songs to sing along to – and they’re still genuine and truthful to my life – but when you listen to the album and hear Stages, you get to know me in three minutes. It’s all laid out. That’s Cait. But [it’s] also what makes the most sense as far as listening to the songs as a journey.
You co-wrote most of the tracks on the album – apart from the titular song (which you wrote on your own) and the single, Porcelain. What was it about Porcelain that you connected with?
The record label were on the hunt for songs that that would be a great fit for the album. Lots of songs came through. Some of us liked some, and some of us didn’t, but when Porcelain came through, everyone really liked that one. And when I played that to Stuart, he was like, “Oh, please let me produce that one!” So, it was a real mutual consensus, and everyone seems to really like it.
Of the first single off Stages, you said, “Bones is about chasing the dream … There are always so many hurdles that come with dreaming big, but when you love something enough, you’ll do it regardless.” What hurdles have you had to overcome that people might not realise?
Once you’re on a TV show and then get thrown into the music industry, you find you learn the hard way. Realising you have to hustle and the whole industry thing, it’s such a game. Just because you’ve got a good song and a good voice, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get the headlining festival spot, and that kind of thing.
I think as a creative person, you always want more. We can never settle. So, for me, I have goals. I say, “Once I get here, I’ll be happy.” And then I found that I got there, and I still wasn’t that happy. So, there’s that. It’s good because you’re always striving for better, but it’s also a bit of a curse, because you can never arrive at your destination. I think a lot of creative people feel that, for sure.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
It would be stress less [laughs]. When I look back at all I’ve achieved in the last five years, and then at how crazy I stressed [and] all the sleepless nights, I now go, “You still would have got there. You didn’t have to stress. Life is going to happen.”
And, with 2020, you can make all plans you want, but life will have other plans for you. So, it would be more to trust in the process and go with what’s happening. There’s no need to be making yourself sick with stress over things you can’t really change.
You’ve got some gigs coming up. How excited are you to get back out on the road?
The last gig I did was in February, so it’s been a long time. I’ve done a few smaller virtual gigs, but nothing like an actual gig with a soundcheck. It’s funny because I’ve been joking with people like, “I will never complain about how my monitor sounds ever again! Just put me back on the stage!” [laughs]. I’ve missed it the most. I’m really excited. I can’t wait!
I feel so grateful to be living in Queensland because it, for the most part, is open and we can live life as per usual. I’ve got a couple of acoustic launch shows – November 6th, I’m playing at the Dag Pub on the Sunshine Coast, and the following night I’m playing on the Gold Coast at Miami Marketta.
The following weekend, I’m jumping into the troopy with Matt [her partner] and we’re gonna cruise up to Country on Keppel festival [on Great Keppel Island] – which is going to be amazing, because I haven’t been there before. It looks too good to be true! It’s going to be great to have a road trip and a little holiday, but also work, play and see people – real people [laughs].
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