By JIM SABATASO | STAFF
[A version of this interview appeared in a recent edition of the Rutland Herald.]
Caitlin Canty is having a busy year. Considering it’s only January, that’s saying something. With a new album out, a tour in progress, and a big move to Nashville on the horizon, it’s impressive the Proctor native found time to sit down recently to talk about everything that’s been going on since we last chatted back in early 2013.
As Canty unwinds over a glass of wine recently, she is calm, engaging, and eminently present. Being back home in Vermont has given her a brief respite from the frenetic schedule she’s been living since she began recording Reckless Skyline back in the fall of 2013. Between then and now, she has launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, hired a publicist to help promote her music and toured heavily, including a recent two-week run in Europe.
Produced by respected folkster Jeffrey Foucault (Cold Satellite), the new album is Canty’s most ambitious to date. Foucault has become a significant influence on Canty, both musically and professionally. She recalls discovering his music in college more than a decade ago. At the time, it never occurred to her that one day she’d be in the studio and touring with him.
Canty says she is privileged “to have an artist you admire give you advice.” She praises Foucault’s philosophy of keeping recording sessions live and brief, which forces gut decisions limits over thinking. “You have to make a call in the moment,” she says. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in the studio.
Recorded over four days in Easthampton, Mass., the dozen tracks are an intimate mix of folk, bluesy rock, country ballads elevated by a collection of veteran musicians. In addition to Foucault, who also plays guitar and vocals, Canty is joined by Billy Conway (Morphine) on drums, Jeremy Moses Curtis (Booker T) on bass, Eric Heywood (Ray Lamontange, Tift Merritt, The Pretenders) on pedal steel and electric guitars, and Matt Lorenz (Rusty Belle, Chris Smither) on pump organ, banjo, piano and fiddle.
“I was the new kid.” Canty says. “The rest of them have been playing together for some time.”
Far from being intimidated, Canty is right at home in the studio with this crew. She credits the band’s inclusiveness: “They are such supportive, generous players.”
Canty recorded the album live with the full band in studio, which allowed for fluid communication and experimentation. “We had a ‘learn and burn’ approach,” Canty says. Songs structures were tweaked and time signatures changed as the band searched for just the right sound.
“My Baby Don’t Care,” a bluesy foot-stomper with shades of Emmylou Harris and Grace Potter, was one such spontaneous creation. While waiting for the engineer to change tape, Canty began humming a line; the band picked up on it and joined in. “We recorded it the next day,” she says.
The session yielded 19 songs in all, 12 of which ended up on the album. Canty says she hopes to release the additional songs as an EP at some point in the future.
Reckless Skyline has a warm, balanced sound. Part of that warmth is due to its being recorded to tape, but much of it comes from Canty’s placid vocals and confessional lyrics. There’s a lived-in quality to this album. A musician friend told Canty it sounds like leather. It’s an apt analogy that gets to the heart of Canty’s music — something familiar and closely held.
“This is the most personal album I’ve released,” Canty says, adding that those personal seeds often grew into something else entirely. “I let the song find me. I didn’t force it.”
Still an independent artist without label support, Canty once again turned to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter to finance the release of the album.
“It was successful is less than three days,” she says of the campaign, which ultimately exceeded the all-or-nothing goal she had set.
In addition to facilitating the album’s release, the Kickstarter money has helped with tour expenses and a significant publicity push.
Over the last several months, Canty has stepped up her PR game in a big way. In November, she hired a publicist to help make contacts with the press and provide that extra focus and direction on what is often the most difficult part of the business. It all seems to be paying off. Among all the accolades Canty has been receiving since Reckless Skyline dropped, NPR recently featured Canty on its Heavy Rotation blog as one of the 10 songs it “can’t stop playing.”
Looking ahead, Canty sees a busy year with big changes. A move from New York to Nashville is planned for the spring. “I’ve been going there for two years, and I love it,” she says, adding that it is provides an “easy lifestyle” for musicians, with a good airport, affordable cost of living and a vibrant creative community. “It’s a songwriter’s town.”
Beyond the move, Canty will be touring this spring and fall as she continues to grow her fanbase and raises awareness of her music. It requires dedication, focus and drive, all of which she has in spades. The life of a professional musician may not be an easy one, but for Canty, who is seeing the benefit of that work, it’s difficult to imagine doing anything else.
Find tour dates and Canty’s latest album Reckless Skyline at caitlincanty.com.