From Open Mic Champion to Established Singer-Songwriter, Caroline Spence Reveals What’s It’s Taken To Get There!
Posted On 02 Dec 2014
“Spence writes with an authority beyond her years, crafting indelible phrases of heartbreak and longing” — PolicyMic
Based in Nashville, the singer-songwriter, Caroline Spence, is already quickly building a name for herself. There’s certainly a maturity and depth to her sweet dusky soprano as she relays the universal stories of love and self-discovery through detailed anecdote and careful verse. She is an Americana singer with a spry alt country vibe, a dash of bluegrass and a fine ear for a good hook.
Learn more about Caroline in the following interview:
Can you remember the moment you fell in love with music? What about the moment that you wanted to be a musician?
Honestly, I can’t remember not being in love with music. As a kid, my favorite toys were cassette tapes. It was always such a constant in my life that I never thought anything of it. The same was true with singing and writing songs. It took me a while to realize that not everyone has this intense drive to express themselves through music. I think it took staring down college graduation to fully realize that what I was at my core was a musician, a songwriter, and I wasn’t going to be satisfied doing anything else.
How have you grown up since you started performing?
I started performing when I was 15 and I could hardly play guitar. You get better at performing by just by doing it and getting to know who you are when you get up on that stage. You learn to battle your nerves, how to talk to the audience, when not to talk to your audience, and what is is your do that really moves them. It takes time to get to know that part of your self.
You’ve opened for a ton of incredible musicians like Joshua James, Lucy Kaplansky, Stacey Earle, Joshua Radin and many others. What’s been the most memorable experience? Who did you really get to chat with a learn a bit from?
I opened for Denison Witmer last year at The Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC. This was really cool for me because his song “Life Before Aesthetics” was staple on the mix CDs I used to make, back when that was still a thing. This was before I had recorded my new album and he gave me advice on production. He said something along the lines of “don’t let the production bury your songs, people will listen because they are good” and encouraged me to listen to a few records with a production style that might be complimentary. I definitely took that to heart.
Thus far, what’s a memory or something quirky that’s taken place with you (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
Well, one time I was playing an outdoor gig in Pittsburgh, PA and an acorn landed perfectly in the palm of the hand that I was strumming with. All of sudden I was holding something and I was so confused and surprised that I stopped mid-song. I had to tell the audience. It was like “what are the odds!?”
A lot of your song have very deep and thoughtful lyrics. Where do you think that comes from?
Well, I think all good song are thoughtful songs. For me, I write a song about something when I can’t work through in any other form so you have to dig deep.
I suppose that is part of it. I think it’s also just the way they are crafted. The songs that have won the awards (“Whiskey Watered Down” and “Mint Condition”) are ones that are really self-contained, they kind of answer their own questions, circle back and tie up all the loose ends. These two songs in particular took longer to write because of this sort of structure.
What is your favorite song of yours to perform?
I guess I’d have to say “Whiskey Watered Down.” I love to perform it because of the way people react to it. Sometimes they laugh after the first verse. One time there was a round of applause after the chorus. That one happened about the third time I played it out and that made me think, “hmm, maybe this one is special.”
On your website, you say, “We’re all these little heartbroken people but it doesn’t keep us from smiling.” What exactly does that mean and why do you feel that way?
We are all suffering from something and we just keep going. It’s those feelings that we do in spite of that make us human and it’s our decision to do in spite of those feelings that make us amazing. Sure, maybe I’ve written sad songs but that’s not the whole of who I am. I’m not doing it to be depressed, I’m doing it because it’s cathartic.
More times than not, influences tend to bleed through. What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
A concrete example of a influence would be “Bless Your Heart,” one of the songs on my new record. It was written in the 20 minutes while I was waiting to go see Buddy Miller play (except that 2nd verse came 2 months later). I was thinking about his music and how what I love is that his songs feel like they’ve always been there because they borrow from tradition folk and country melodies. So I tried writing around that sort of structure and what came about was something that felt just like me but sounded like something more timeless. I think from freeing myself from a form, I was able to really focus on the content. As far as my current favorites, I have been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen and early nineties Sheryl Crow lately. Also, John Fullbright has set the bar pretty high lyric-wise for us young-guns so he is keeping me on my toes.
Probably Ryan Adams. I just love his voice so much. I learned how to sing harmony listening to his records as a teenager so I feel like I’d be ready for that gig at any moment.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made while playing at a gig?
I’d say worrying about other people. Whether its the guitar player who missed a transition or the drunk guy in the front row, don’t let it take you out of your head and mess up what you are in control of.
Where do you see yourself in 10+ years?
I hope I’m writing the best songs I’ve ever written, maybe sharing a bill with one of my heroes every now and again, and touring the world with a young opening act that I am excited to introduce to the world.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like people to take away from listening to your music?
I just hope they think, “Dang, that girl can write a song.”