I know how much it takes out of you to make it in the music world, and I know how much it takes in the art world, and I just don’t know if I have it in me to do both.Beautiful Songwriting UK (England) - Published: 14th March 2016 - - Words & Questions: A Lonely Ghost Burning - 'Combining bravely progressive structures with unapologetically poetic folk sensibilities, Inside Out is refined and elaborate: Rosie Caldecott’s charming voice and wise, earnest delivery leaving one more than happy to be lost within the labyrinthian intricacies of a splendid debut effort.' Rosie spoke at length to A Lonely Ghost Burning last week, discussing, with thought and sincerity, her casual approach to music, why she was in no rush to release her debut record, and the difficulty of balancing more than one creative outlet.
Rosie: I don’t really come from that much of a musical background. I’m from a family of mostly artists and writers, but my grandmother was a singer. All my sisters and I studied singing and were in choirs as we grew up, and I did that all the way through to the end of high school. I learnt the clarinet throughout school: that was my instrument. I did grades in that, so I had a bit of theory background there. I picked up a guitar when I was sixteen, and found that it, basically, was just a tool for being able to write songs: as most people find.
Rosie: A very conscious one, actually. I’ve always been aware, through the whole process of writing songs, that I was developing, and I kinda always felt like I would know when I was ready to share it with a wider audience. I didn’t know if that was going to happen in ten years, twenty years or whatever, but I knew I wasn’t quite there, for a long time. I got to that stage where I’d built up enough songs that I felt were stronger. I was writing while I was growing up, and a lot of songwriters grow up really fast, and they write very mature music, very early: like Laura Marling, for example. I wasn’t so much like that. I had a quite sheltered, very rosy growing up period: not much had happened to me in my life, and it was all very teenager-y. So, I started writing meaningful music that I wanted to share with people and felt like it was going to benefit others to hear it, and I managed to build up enough songs to release an album.
Rosie: It was, I think. It was scary, and I still was a little bit unsure. But, I’d had the songs long enough; I’d written them two to four years before doing the album. Often, when you write a song, it’s just like, “Oh my God! This is amazing!” – it’s the best thing ever. Then you play it and play it and play it, and that kinda wears off, and the reality of the song hits you. But these ones stuck, and I enjoyed playing them still, so that gave me a sense that it was right.
Rosie: My process is different every time. I used to write songs all at once that would just pop out, like quite a remarkable and magical thing. I guess I’d been processing stuff subconsciously a lot, and then I just flew out with a melody. Nowadays, that doesn’t happen so much, maybe because I don’t have as much time on my hands. So, I come up with ideas for lyrics – more of a concept for the song – and I will have that in mind for quite a long time. Then, eventually, it will wind its way to the stage where I find lyrics that will excite me, and I sit down with them and the guitar or piano. But, I can’t write the whole song and then write all the melody; it has to come together at the same time. It doesn’t really make any sense to me to do it any other way.
Rosie: It’s the only thing I really know. Probably, yes: easier than others. I’m more aware of it, more in tune to it than others. I think it can come easily to anyone; it’s just that we’re quite good at not recognising it, blocking it out, being distracted by other things or just being too self-aware. That’s the problem with creativity, I think, especially for me – I don’t know about other artists – if you’re too self-aware.
Sorry; I’m being very rambly. [laughs]
Rosie: Yeah, well I suppose there are a few things that I know definitely help. One of which, is to get into a new environment. People write songs in their bedroom, and that’s a thing – I mean, you get comfortable there – but I find when there’s too much of daily life going on, I can’t do it. I’m quite lucky; I have a studio, so I can write there and I find that helps a lot. One of the issues with my songwriting at the moment – it’s in a slow patch – is all my creative energy is going into my artwork. So, even though I find them quite separate – my art and my music – they are both still drawing on the same creative energy, and I find I’m quite exhausted by the art, so I don’t have much juice in the tank for writing songs. It’s a shame, and I could probably strike the balance better; it’s just, at the moment, I’m really bashing it out with the painting.
What else is there…? For me, I don’t find it very easy writing lyrics on the computer; I find I need scraps of paper, so it can all just flow out. Then, you can screw it all up in a ball and throw it in the corner. So, that helps, and listening to lots of music. All the time. Different music.
Rosie: It’s a question I struggle with a lot: this feeling that I need to say one or the other. I’m the one that’s been like, “Oh no, I’m pursuing art and not really music,” but the reason being: it’s a scary prospect. Because I know how much it takes out of you to make it in the music world, and I know how much it takes in the art world, and I just don’t know if I have it in me to do both. But, that’s really just a limitation I’m putting on myself. I think it’s easier for me to keep making art, no matter what: as in, I can find an interesting subject to paint, but music takes a lot longer, and songwriting is very kind of ‘it-comes-when-it-comes’. And, if I have a deadline – in the past, deadlines have helped with songwriting – I’d go to the Catweazle Club, which is an open performance space in Oxford. I used to go every week for years, and that would really help with writing songs because you know you have somewhere to share them. But nowadays, even having a deadline doesn’t really help, so I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other, for me, but I think, practically, maybe artwork comes easier.
Rosie: Yeah, I try and keep it that way, because of the fact that I’m worried that if I drive it too hard, it will die. [laughs] I won’t be able to write meaningful, honest songs, which is what I want to be doing… It’s not putting too much pressure on it, that’s all, but I do feel like there’s scope, in the next few years, to pay more attention to it than I have before and think about it in a different way. The guy that recorded and produced my album was over today, and he was saying that he’d love to do another album where he wasn’t so… We were quite limited with those songs because we wanted to keep them as unfussy as possible, but we’d both quite like to do a project where anything’s possible and all options are open: maybe slightly more electronic influences coming in. So yeah, I’m excited to actually focus on it a bit more in a different way.
Rosie: This is a question that’s really funny; I find, when someone asks me a question about art, I just freeze up and can’t answer it, but I find it really easy with music. There are a lot of songwriters that I’ve been drawn to, primarily because of their lyricism: that’s what grips me. Often, it’s people that you have to get over the fact that they sound quite strange. My father listened to Kate Bush all the time, and I just couldn’t handle it when I was growing up. I was like, “Who is this weird, weird woman?” [laughs] “Why are you always listening to weird ladies?” I’ve only in the last few years began to appreciate what it is that they’re doing, and gotten past that. So, that actually has been much more of an influence than I’ve been aware of.
Then there are artists like Joanna Newsom, and bands such as Elbow, which I’ve always returned to. My love for their music is to do with the lyrics, and they don’t seem to be bound to any kind of rigid, boring structure. I’ve always listened to jazz – music that’s quite free – and I’m really turned off by very repetitive, structured songs. I, originally, never really had a structure: didn’t even have choruses, but I’ve had to start at least having a few choruses that come back – [laughs] – because people complain, and they’re like, “Well, we love this bit: Why don’t you just sing it again?” People like to have a bit that they can hook on to and remember and sing along to. But yeah, if I had my way it would just be like Joanna Newsom. She’s just really, like, all over the place. I don’t think she even has choruses, ever. [laughs]
Rosie: [laughs] Yes. It’s very rarely happy. I’ve tried so hard to write upbeat, optimistic songs, but it just doesn’t happen. So: reflective, and… like, because there’s so much shit going on in the world, and there’s so much pain and so much confusion, I find that’s the time when I usually come to songwriting and feel overcome with needing to write a song. I can’t solve things, but songwriting is, as a lot of songwriters have found, kind of a therapy – at least, for me, and I hope, for others – where I am able to work through a problem or a crisis, or just something that can never be answered and can never be figured out. But, for some reason, writing lyrics around it – that don’t directly talk about it – really helps, and just makes me feel a bit better about that situation, and relief. Or, if someone else is really struggling, that usually gets fed into a song. There have been times when I just feel like writing a song, and it will be quite light-hearted, but it’s usually trying to tackle something bigger than perhaps I should be. [laughs]
Rosie: … Yeah. I guess, a sense of hope. The songs could be quite despairing otherwise, but they always have some kind of resolution of hopefulness to them.
Rosie: Yeah, because the responses I’ve had have been kind of, “Oh, this made me cry, but for a good reason.” I do get the sense that I’m tapping into something that we’re all sharing: anxieties and experiences and emotions that often people ignore, or have to ignore just to get on with life. People that have been through similar things to me, with some of the songs, they’re helped in that scenario where they hear that song; it helps them heal, which is a remarkable thing, and it’s just an added benefit to writing music. It’s wonderful when that can happen, and it’s quite a privilege to help in that happening.
Rosie: Yes. [laughs] I mean, people love to put people in boxes, don’t they? Once they’ve heard me, people that never would normally like whatever my kind of music is… For example, a couple of weeks ago, I did a gig for BBC Oxford Introducing, and I hadn’t quite realised the line-up they’d arranged. I was opening, and then there were two acts after me; it was just hilarious! It would never normally happen; for some reason, they chose me, and then the complete, complete opposite of me – a band that were just unbelievably loud. Amazing at what they were doing, but just… screaming. I couldn’t quite understand how they’d juxtaposed those two things, but anyway… Obviously, I’m not very well-known. They were more well-known, and there was a big audience; it was packed out, but a lot of them had obviously gone for these people afterwards. I was kinda like, “Oh my God, I’m going to stand up and they’re going to be like, ‘Who the hell is this? Who’s this folky what’s-her-face? Who’s this folky so-and-so? What’s she doing?’ “
But, I kind of just ignored that fact and started playing, and actually, the whole room was silent for the whole set. I’ve had that affect before, but in a room where people are ready for it; I had no idea that it could happen to a room of people that were psyched up, ready for a crazy night out. They were quiet and respectful and, I think, engaged, because you wouldn’t be that silent if you weren’t interested by what you were hearing. A couple of days later, I got some really lovely feedback from the lady that had organised the gig, and she said, “Yeah, there were these guys and they had turned up for the music after and they really didn’t want to see what they thought you were going to be, but they were taken by surprise. They had no idea what this kind of music could be like.” And that was the biggest compliment I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget it, because to catch someone by surprise, and to reach them in that way, is what performing is all about. That’s why I do it; even though I’m not, maybe, first and foremost a performer, that’s why I do it: because it’s wonderful to be able to reach people in that way.
Rosie: I suppose I’m most fascinated by… how people, in any creative form, assimilate the fluctuating world around them and pour it back out. It’s really difficult to describe, but that mystical, magical thing that happens when human beings create something that is genuine. I always come back to the word ‘honest’.
Rosie: … Everything. I think all people should be creatively engaged in some way. I know some people struggle with it, so that’s hard to say, really; some people feel that they don’t have a creative bone in their body, but it’s just not true! I just couldn’t imagine what the point of my life would be if I wasn’t being creative.
Rosie: Yes. I guess, contemplating losing people, and things. My own mortality, as well. And change. Worrying about change… It’s kind of solidifying that – you’re never solidifying it completely, but – within a song, so that you can hold onto it and meditate on it. It really grounds you. Everything is so crazy all the time and changing all the time, so you just don’t quite know where you’re at from one day to the other. Writing songs helps.
Rosie: People, and what they do for other people. When someone really forgets about themself and does something selfless. And then, watching people who get what they deserve; so, if someone’s always been giving, and they have a big break: that makes me smile.
Rosie: I’m proud of it. I never could’ve dreamed that it could sound the way it does. I’d attempted in the past to record the songs on my own but, really thinking back on the process of recording that album, it just doesn’t seem real. The combination of things that came together in order to create it at that moment in time; it just felt like it had been holding out for that moment. The venue: being up on a hill, surrounded by sheep and rabbits and hawks. I was really, really happy, and I think that was the big thing about recording the album: that I was happy and very, very relaxed. And I’ve never been that way when I record, because I’m just really aware of the whole process and what’s very weird for me. The people, as well. The people, the place and the fact that the songs were very at home in me. I think all of those things came together, and it really shows: you can really hear it in my voice. I’ve done a lot of recording before, and I’ve sung a lot before, and I would never say that ‘this’ was really good, but I am proud of the vocals on the songs. I think it’s the best it could have been, so I’m glad it’s out there. I don’t know who else is going to find it or listen to it, but the people that have, and the things they’ve said about it, is enough reason for having done it.
Rosie: I suppose it naturally does. It’s what I live and breathe to do, other than loving people around me. I wouldn’t say I want or don’t want it to, but… it doesn’t exist without me, and I don’t exist without it, so it’s inseparable, I suppose.Rosie Caldecott featured onBeautiful Songwriting 4
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