When it comes to powerful female songwriters, there are some names that come around again and again. Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, Carole King – these are the women whose voices and songs have endured for decades, inspiring girls across the world for generations to pick up a guitar or sit down at the piano.
Caity Krone feels like a natural successor to that legacy. At just 21, her vocals already have the nuance and restraint of a more experienced artist, and her look radiates the effortless Southern California chic of the idols who have come before her. Even her lyrics perfectly walk the line between melancholy and sentimentality, landing in the irresistible sweet-spot of wistful, romantic cool.
To me, “Record About You” feels inspired by all of those female powerhouses, combining to make something entirely new. The layered repetitions, meandering electric guitar and touches of tambourine feel undeniably Fleetwood Mac, the balance between glass-fragile vocals and rocky elements is reminiscent of Joni, and the triumph of the final third as powerful as a Motown classic.
Most importantly though, “Record About You” stands on its own merits, and Caity stands apart as her own artist. There is something fresh in the understated way she deals with heartbreak and moving on, a theme almost every musician has had to take on at least once. While the production feels charmingly nostalgic, the frankness in both the lyrics and vocals bring this soft rock break-up ballad bang up to date.
It’s not easy to write about lost love, either practically or emotionally. How do you convey the depth of what you’ve gone through without completely bumming your audience out? How do you write a unique song about a subject that’s been tackled hundreds of thousands of times? According to Caity, the answer is simple, you don’t shy away from the emotions or the pain, but you set them against a sonic backdrop that means your listeners can’t help but dance along.
So whether you’ve just gone through a break-up or not, go listen to “Record About You”, and then come back to hear all about Caity’s approach to songwriting, collaboration and production.
How did you get into music and songwriting?
I wrote my first song when I was fifteen. I was in the concert choir in my sophomore year of high school and our choir teacher had been showing us a lot of Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Eagles, and old Motown. He had always encouraged us to start writing our own stuff and he put a lot of emphasis on the craft of songwriting, and that’s what pushed me to get into it.
What is your favourite thing about it?
That I can articulate my most irrational and outlandish thoughts in a way that’s understandable and digestible. If most people’s favourite songwriters had to explain the inspiration behind their most personal songs to us in plain English, we’d probably think they were crazy.
Is that the only reason you write?
I write to lay down how I’m feeling on paper, so the spells of sadness and anger and dizzying happiness aren’t forgotten or in vain. A lot of the time when I’m sad, writing the feelings down on paper is the only thing to get them out of me.
Do you think that’s a selfish or unselfish approach?
Both, I think. On the one hand, I initially write to give myself a sort of catharsis. On the other hand, that music can change people’s lives. Nothing has given me as much comfort or encouraged my personal epiphanies more than my favourite songs.
How did you find your current style?
It’s probably mostly down to my choir teacher. I dove down the rabbit hole after he introduced us to the great singer/songwriters and artists I mentioned above. I fell in love with Fleetwood Mac — and then The Eagles, CSNY, Simon and Garfunkel, old Motown and soul. That felt really authentic to me sonically, so it’s the type of lyricism and songcraft I aim for as well.
Do you have a favourite song?
“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. It’s just perfect. Everything about it works together to make this beautiful three minutes and something of music – I couldn’t even try to break it down.
What makes that song, or any song for that matter, good?
Authenticity, I think, and whether or not you’re writing about something from an honest standpoint. What makes a song great for me is those moments where the melody, the instrumentation, the lyrics, and the vocal performance all work together to perfectly convey what you’re aiming to say in the song.
Those moments happen for different people at different moments to different songs, but for me that’s the entirety of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, the ‘do you want, do you want, do you want to dance with me, baby?’ in “All I Want” by Joni Mitchell, the piano walk down to ‘one more song about moving along the highway’ in “So Far Away” by Carole King, the chord change and ‘these days…’ of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” (But the Taylor Goldsmith cover, for the moment). I could go on.
Do you think modern listening habits like streaming impact songwriting?
Back in the day people could lie about their play numbers and embellish a bunch, but now everything is so transparent – you can see everything. I think that makes songwriters look at what’s performing well on Spotify and try to emulate that with their own writing and production, which is detrimental to authentic songwriting. It’s cool to see how much of an impact your music has made and how many people are listening to it, where they listen, etc. but I think for songwriting itself, it just makes for a lot more self-consciousness.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a songwriter?
That the best songs you have are inside of you. You don’t need to work with an A-list songwriter or producer to achieve incredible songs. You’re much more capable on your own than you think you are.
Where do you start when you go to write a song?
When I write on my own, I either write lyrics ahead of time and put them to music later or I do both at the same time. A lot of the time I’ll write lyrics with a concept of what the music will sound like but no concrete chords or melody attached. Melody and music don’t ever come first for me, but when I’m collaborating with one of my writing partners we do things differently each time.
So is there more emphasis on lyrics than sound for you?
Having great lyrics is essential for a great song, but I think at the end of the day the song needs to sound good. No one will go back to listen if you have good lyrics with a horrible melody and production that sounds wrong.
It’s sort of like Instagram – if you want to communicate your message, you have to do so with an appealing photo, because it’s a photo-based platform. Music is auditory, so to communicate your message, the song has to sound good. The sound is what carries your lyrics to someone’s heart. So I think you have to have both because lyrics are what your heart remembers.
How does collaboration work for you?
I’ve been co-writing a lot with Eian McNeely, who plays in a band called The Heirs. We formed a really amazing writing partnership very randomly, and it’s been amazing. I think a lot of people try to do everything themselves just so they can say no one helped them, and sometimes their work suffers for it. With Eian and I, we push each other and challenge each other’s ideas in the most respectful way, and we’ve learned to figure out what whatever song we’re writing needs.
With some songwriters who make a living writing for other people, you go into a session and they just want to churn a song out without getting to know you, or they want the song to sound specific to what will do well in the current pop landscape. Besides Eian being insanely talented, this is the first time either of us has taken writing seriously, so all we care about is making music we like. We’re figuring it out together, and that’s really cool.
How do you write a melody?
I actually have no idea. I really just try things until I think it communicates a feeling properly. It’s all about it feeling right – I don’t have any method for doing that.
How about lyrics?
My hero Stevie Nicks said in an interview once that you should journal every day on one side of your notebook, and on the page next to it, poeticize it so you have lyrics to draw from when you’re writing. I started doing that in January and it’s really helped my writing a lot. I pull from that, or I get a burst of inspiration and write full a song’s worth of lyrics in one go.
Do you have a strict plan in mind when you start writing or do you find the song along the way?
Both! Sometimes I’ll come up with a line I really like that I know will be the main concept of the song and build around that, and sometimes we’ll ad lib an amazing verse and realise ‘okay..so this is what this song is going to be about’.
Would you rather write about personal experiences or general themes?
Personal experience I think, but it’s more just an articulation of how I’m feeling. Like, not everything in my lyrics actually took place, but they’re all the product of a situation I’m going through.
What role does production play in your writing?
I’m still figuring that out. A lot of the time the production is really clear while writing – like, it needs this certain type of drum sound, this guitar, etc., but sometimes it’s a mystery. Production can’t make up for a bad song, it’s more about listening to the song you created and seeing what the song needs to clearly show the feeling you want to represent.
What was the first part of “Record About You” to be written?
Funny story. I was with my friend Tash, who’s a great songwriter, and I was showing her a couple ideas that we could work on, and she wasn’t digging any of them. Somehow, we got into talking about this guy I was meant to write with, who was a real jerk. He said he was too busy to write but that I could text him lyrics, ideas, and voice memos for him to chime in on.
I had sent him a couple lyrics, and he responded ‘I don’t really like the first lyric or the second’ when I had only sent him two lyrics. So we were talking about how lame that was, and she asked me what I had sent him. The first lyric was, ‘I could write an entire record about you, baby’, and she turned to me and said ‘wait..that’s our song’. So we sat down at the piano and wrote the chorus. Lyrics and melody at the same time – and that’s how we wrote the rest of the song too.
Is the song about any situation in particular?
Yes, but I’m not going to share the story just yet. I’m in the process of writing a record, and I don’t want to give anything away.
Did you write it for the person you’re singing to, for yourself, or for an audience?
I’m not sure, maybe all three. It felt like a relief to write, it helped me come to terms with the thought that ‘okay, I’m accepting the fact that things are always going to come back to you.’
How do you want your audience to respond to the track?
Whatever they want to! I hope they feel good listening to it and singing along. I hope it makes them dance and they’re happy when it starts to play.
What’s your favourite part of the song?
The first chorus, when the bass line (shoutout to Reef – he was incredible on this song) slides in and the word “baby” lands so softly on the first line. That, and the outro with the “say you want it, say you want it like I do” in the background.
Any other production details we should pay attention to?
I think the magic of the final recording of Record About You was that it sounded so similar to the original recording sentimentally. It was just me and a keyboard in Tash’s apartment, but that same feeling is communicated with all of the instruments in. That feels like a job well done to me.
I saved up for like three months working two jobs to record at my favourite studio, The Village, with my favourite engineer and producer, Matt Dyson. We did the whole thing in one day, and then an extra couple hours when I went back to record some harmonies.
So what’s next for you?
I’m working really hard writing my record right now. Eian and I are writing almost every week and I’ve also been writing a lot on my own and with my friend Andrew Heringer, and a few other friends. Hopefully, new music and shows are coming sometime in the winter!