New York musical theater performer turned Los Angeles singer-songwriter Caley Rose joins us at adorable Japantown cafe Chitchit Coffee + Matcha to discuss the real-life experiences that inspired her long awaited music releases, her musical career journey, and accepting the crazy things life throws at us.
So you’re gearing up to release your debut EP, or a collection of long-awaited music, and we are super excited about it!
Caley Rose: Ah! Me too! *laughs*
Would you like to give us a little bit of insight in regards to the lyrical themes and instrumental elements we’ll be expecting?
Caley: Of course! So to me, it feels like every song is very different, but it was more about the journey in finding out who I was as an artist and what I wanted to say. When I was starting out, I wasn’t really a songwriter and kind of let the producers in the room guide what I was saying, what the sound was, and all these different things. I later on found myself as a songwriter, like, I accidentally took a class, and I’m so glad I did because it helped me figure out who I was. But at the beginning, I was writing for other people because I thought it was too late for me to be an artist. I was just like, ‘Ok, I’ll be happy being a writer.’ But then I found that there were just too many things that I wanted to say through song. It ended up being that I was ready to write for myself as well as other artists. It’s just so different when it comes to writing your own stuff, you know? Things are a bit more emotional. I like to pull from fulfilling experiences throughout my life. It’s always fun to go into a session with someone and be like, ‘How is everybody feeling today? Is there anything that you need to write about?’ If I have a big thing going on in my life, I’m like, ‘Can we write about this? I just had this experience and I feel like it really needs to be expressed.’
Yeah. We as listeners feel the experiences that the artists are feeling, and a lot of times that’s why we tend to lean on specific types of songs or artists because we feel their experiences in our own lives as well.
Caley: Totally. And the thing is, you have to make it not only mean something to you, but you have to make it universal enough of an emotion or words or melody to reach other people as well. If the song is just self-serving, other people might not be into it.
You never know!
Caley: Yeah, that’s true. *laughs*
And which song would you say was your favorite to write and then record?
Caley: It’s hard to pick a favorite because they’re all your babies, but the one that I wrote with Cassie [Boettcher] and Jaclyn Yangyuen is called “Something New,” and that one was particularly interesting. It was the day that I found out I was pregnant in the morning, and I had two girlfriends coming over to write. My husband and I were like, maybe we’re not going to tell anyone because you’re not supposed to tell anyone when you’re pregnant for the first trimester, but I don’t like rules and I don’t like keeping secrets because I’m a songwriter. *laughs* You’ve gotta tap into all that and use it. Throughout the day I was just like, ‘There’s no way I’m not going to be able to tell the girls about this tonight!’ So they came over and we wrote a song about it, and then I told everyone the whole first trimester that I was pregnant because I can’t keep a secret. It’s very hard to be a songwriter and keep secrets because you need to be using that material, you need to tap deep into those emotions and be honest and vulnerable, so to have secrets like that is not great. So that song is just a fun celebration of great news and not wanting to keep it a secret called “Something New!” The production was very happy and bright and celebratory, so that was fun to write and fun to record. It flowed out easily in a lot of ways, you know? Sometimes they’re just that easy, and sometimes they take you months to craft.
Well, it was definitely a great reason to want to be inspired to write that’s for sure!
Caley: Yeah, totally! Someday my future daughter will hear it and that’s very exciting.
She’ll be like, ‘That song was about me!’
Caley: *laughs* Exactly, one of many!
And kind of going into a bit about the music industry, modern listening time can kind of tend to favor more of the streaming based aspect as well as shorter releases like singles and EPs as opposed to like a full length album. Why do you think music consumers are more about that type of listening experience?
Caley: I mean, I think all of our attention spans have just gone down. Even like with songs on the radio, you’ll hear the chorus twenty seconds into the song as opposed to a minute, or no intro when songs used to have an intro, it’s just changed drastically in those ways. I like it because I’ve always been a singles person. I’ll dive deep into artists, but I’ve never really become a fanatic of someone. I just tend to be really into the one song and playing it on repeat and being obsessed with it for a week, and then the next week it’ll be another song that’s not necessarily by the same artist. I like being able to release in that way because I don’t have to feel like everything goes together or kind of the same. My first song was super and happy clap-y, and then the next one is super emotional…
Such is life. *both laugh*
Caley: I know, right?!? It just feels freeing because I was worried that I needed to be happy, clap-y all the time, you know? I needed to kind of sit in this box and within these boundaries to create a collection of songs, but the whole singles game is helpful in that way because I could do something different. And then eventually I’m going to go super dark for a couple songs, and I hope that they’re accepted so I don’t have to be this very straight and narrow artist in that. I think it’s great to be creative in the ways you express creativity.
Absolutely! And kind of going a little bit more into the idea of creative expression, if you had to choose one path or either doing complete works or only singles, or even just songwriting for the rest of your life without performing, which path would you choose?
Caley: Oh, gosh. Do I have to? *both laugh* I have to admit, I love performing. I can’t help loving it. I wish I didn’t want to be an artist in a way, because it would be easier to just write a bunch of songs. I guess not ‘easier,’ nothing’s easy, *both laugh* but I can’t help loving to perform and loving to sing. I love writing as well, and I want to be able to write for other artists as well as myself, so I hope that I won’t need to choose. When the material comes from me it just kind of happens, and so I can be like, ‘Oh, that one’s for me,’ or if it fits another person then it fits another person, you know? It’s working that way so far. I don’t want to choose! *both laugh*
We’re all indecisive! That goes back to the lack of attention span.
Caley: *laughs* It’s true! You know, we only have one life, we might as well mix it up and do what we want to do. I don’t want to fit in a box!
Boxes take up space anyways!
Caley: It’s true! And just having moved, I know that! *both laugh*
So a fun question for you, if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Caley: Oh gosh, this one’s also very difficult. *laughs* I’d probably choose Maggie Rogers. I have such a girl crush on her. She’s just so cool and free spirited. She’s such an inspiration. I watched her perform on SNL, and I had a sad night because she’s just so good and I want to be that good too. She just seems effortless in the most beautiful way. I would also want Adele on there too because I think her voice is incredible, and she seems like such a fun gal pal. She’s friends with Jennifer Lawrence and they they go out together. So the music and the personality and all of that just seems fun. And then the third choice would be Pitbull because I just love him! *both laugh*
Caley: I went to his concert in Vegas, and it was just a huge party! Everyone was just so happy to be there, and I just loved what his music did for people. It made them smile and dance and celebrate. And gosh, what would it be called? Hmm ‘Fun?’ *both laugh*
‘The Mr. Worldwide Tour Featuring…’ *laughs*
Caley: Right?!? *laughs* Yeah, just ‘The Fun Tour.’ You want people to have fun, but you also want people to feel.
There are still feelings in the fun, and especially depending on how much alcohol you have. *laughs*
Caley: It’s true!
So you are originally a New York native and now you’re here in California. How would you say that the music scenes are similar or different between the East Coast and the West Coast?
Caley: So I grew up in Buffalo and then moved to New York City, and I did a bunch of off-Broadway stuff there thinking I was going to go into musical theater. Then I read The Secret and learned about the law of attraction and the fact we only have one life. It kind of opened my eyes to how we only have one life, and there are people out there living the life that you want to live, so why not you? We’re all atoms and molecules and souls and cells, whatever you believe. So then I was like, ‘What I really love is pop music. Why am I not doing that?’ There’s an exercise where you picture yourself, or your hands, and where you’d want them every day doing what they’re doing, and for me, it wasn’t musical theater, it was in a recording studio doing pop music. So I started a little bit there, but I didn’t know who I was at all because I wasn’t writing, and I was letting other people guide my writing. New York was where I made all my mistakes, and then I came over here and I made more mistakes, *laughs* but better, more educated mistakes.
Life is full of mistakes, and then you learn your lesson, hopefully. *laughs*
Caley: As long as you learn and don’t repeat too many times. *laughs* But yes, New York was like ‘shooting myself in the foot land,’ and now, La La Land is the ‘very different, but good land.’
It’s like the pillow landing land.
Caley: Yes! *laughs* In New York, I mean, I did a couple of shows there, but I didn’t love the music that I was doing, and so I just didn’t feel proud of what I was doing. And that was no one’s fault but my own because I was at whatever age, not knowing myself but I was trying to know myself. It just takes time, and then through discovering songwriting, and really becoming a songwriter, I figured out more of who I was and what I needed to say. I love it here. I’ve always been thankful for the opportunities that I had here and I’m very grateful for venues that let me play.
Yeah. Having the opportunities is better than having no opportunities at all.
Caley: Absolutely. And I’m a much happier person here, so I feel that New York just wasn’t a great place for me. In a lot of ways it was very intense, and I’m already very intense, so me plus the city was too much intensity for me. *laughs*
We’re still intense here, but more like a chill intense. *both laugh*
Caley: We at least have things to help you be more chill.
Yeah! So going into what you were talking about with your experience in musical theater off-Broadway, but you also have some training in opera, which is super impressive.
Caley: Thank you!
Yeah! Would you say that those kinds of experiences also helped shape you into the artist that you are today?
Caley: Totally! I was studying voice, started with classical and then moved into opera when I was eight. I’m very thankful that I have that training because when I moved into musical theater I was able to bring in that training. It’s indispensable, and I’m so thankful, and it’s why I am who I am. But then it felt like it was kind of a dirty word in pop music, so for awhile I felt like I had to not speak of my musical theater past, and then if anybody said that I sounded ‘musical theater,’ I was like, ‘Aw man! I’m trying so hard not to!’ It does feel like a dirty word still, but you know, I never would be the way I am without it, so I have to consider it a blessing. I got to meet Sam Hollander, who’s written everything on the charts right now from Panic! At The Disco songs to Fitz and The Tantrums songs, and he was like, ‘Don’t hide that! That’s something to be proud of!’ So hearing it from him, who’s writing amazing rock music, I was like, ‘Ok. I have to just be proud of it and embrace it.’ There should be a blend of styles, and shouldn’t have to be one or the other. Easier said than done, of course, but we all try.
I feel like it’s getting a little bit easier nowadays though. People are starting to be more open-minded.
So who or what influences you as a songwriter and an artist?
Caley: Everything! *laughs* It’s funny, sometimes you’ll get inspiration from the smallest things or even snippets of conversations that you walk by. I really like to, like I said, to have personal experiences when going into a songwriting session and say, ‘Can we write about this?’ It can be, you know, deep emotional sagas of your life or it can be just the little things used as inspiration. And sometimes they end up being fun or funny songs, like, a friend and I wrote a song about being at the beach on a Monday and it being a cool experience. You don’t have to take yourself so seriously sometimes, but you know, that deep emotional stuff is also awesome too!
Yeah! So going into our favorite topic ever – social media. *Caley laughs* Would you say that it makes it easier or harder for artists to make names for themselves?
Caley: I think it makes it easier and harder because you have a direct link to people in some respects, but then I also feel like a lot of time that I could be putting into writing and playing and singing is being put to social media. I wish I didn’t have to worry about that, I guess I could hire a digital someone to help me, *laughs* but at the same time it’s a creative outlet, so you can have fun with it. If you try to make it fun, it’s a nicer way to look at it. It’s also nice to be able to connect with people, like, the whole reason I met that Billboard writer that we talked about is because I was able to reach out directly after I met him in person. That direct line of communication, it’s like, what other time could you do that, you know?
By carrier pigeon, of course. *laughs*
Caley: Snails and pigeons! *laughs* So yeah, there’s good and bad in everything. It does feel like pressure, but it also feels like creative excitement rather than something you have to do. The judgement is real though, and it’s so scary. Artists are just so vulnerable in so many ways. I’m an uber sensitive, so I’m constantly worried about what I put out there on social media and how it will be perceived. It’s scary, but I mean, we sign up for that judgement, you know?
It’s a love-hate for sure.
Caley: Yeah. We try to love it.
We try our best. *laughs*
Caley: Yes, you’ve got to have a positive outlook about it.
So I wanted to ask, as a female artist, do you feel like women in the music industry need to portray themselves in certain ways in order to be successful?
Caley: Yes. I mean, image is everything for everyone, right? Guys too, like Harry Styles wears what he wears on SNL and people get talking, and he’s a guy. For me, I like wearing cool things and enjoy putting on makeup, and I do think that we’re put under a microscope in some ways, but if you embrace it and use it to your advantage it can be awesome. It’s fun to be able to express myself creatively in that way, and I haven’t had any negative repercussions, luckily, but I’m sure a lot of people have. I feel like there’s a lot of positive community on Instagram in a lot of aspects.
Caley: Yeah! Just trying to put love out there and hope to get it back in return.
For all the hate that’s out there, there is triple the times more love.
Caley: Totally! But about the question, like, I’ve heard about writing rooms where they’re writing for a girl, and there’s not a girl in the room at all, and it’s like, ‘Don’t you think you’d need a female perspective in there? Just one? Let us be one fourth of that room or, God forbid, fifty percent or even outnumber you.’ But that doesn’t happen. We’re working to change it though. I see the statistics for how many female producers there are and I’ll think to myself that I should be a producer for that reason. But I’m not interested in being a producer, so I don’t want to force myself to do something I don’t love. We have to do the things that make us happy. I’ll still produce and co-produce, but it’s so crazy to see how there are a few female producers on the charts and how few female writers are on the charts. Most of the female writers on the charts, like the top of the charts, are also artists, but there are still more men on the charts who are not artists. And it’s just shocking when you hear about rooms writing for girls, especially writing for like a tween, and it’s all men. It’s just like, ‘No women? Really? You didn’t even think that it was a good idea to get a woman in there?’
It’s like, ‘We know how she was when she was twelve.’
Caley: Exactly! You’ve never been a woman dude! Get a woman in that room!
And then they’re like, ‘Well, my daughter’s twelve so I know.’ Ugh! The worst!
Caley: Yeah! So annoying! I would practically pay to be in that room!
Steer her in the right direction!
Caley: Exactly! We need more female perspectives in writing.
Caley: And everywhere.
Yes. And in entertainment in general.
How do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Caley: To be honest, my biggest fear about becoming a mom was how it would affect my ability to continue my songwriting career. It’s only been two years since I got on this path, and it’s been the happiest two years of my life. I finally found my purpose, and I was worried that I would never have time to song write or perform live again. I knew that I really wanted a family, but was terrified about what becoming a mom would do to my career. Would people assume I was too busy to write? Would people think of me as ‘old’ because I am a mom? Well, those fears were crazy, as fears usually are. Most days lately are spent in co-writing sessions via Zoom during these crazy quarantine times, while my now ten week old daughter naps on my lap. Sometimes she cries so loudly that I need to mute myself or thank my co-writers for their patience and understanding, but I certainly haven’t slowed down, and also don’t plan to do so. Plus, the same awesome people that wanted to co-write before I had my baby still want to co-write. I’m sure everything will get more complicated once my daughter starts to crawl, then walk, then run, and every day is a balancing act for sure, but I’m so thankful that I have some awesome spinning plates to balance!
It’s always so awesome to hear about people talking about their passions and how much they love it. I mean, yes, people talk about their jobs all the time, but you can tell when someone really loves what they’re doing, and that’s what you’re showing.
Caley: I’m very thankful to be where I am because I’ve had years of my life where I wasn’t doing something that I loved.
Better late than never!
Caley: Yeah! That’s why I never want to stop.
So if you could give your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far with music or with life, what kind of advice would you give her?
Caley: I would want to tell her to keep going, hold on, and that I’ll get better. But also, I thought I had no business being a songwriter, and that was so silly to think. I’d been trained as a singer from when I was eight, so if someone else has been a songwriter from when they were eight, I thought I should deflect to them to make decisions and let them take the wheel. If I could’ve found songwriting earlier I think I would have been a lot happier, *laughs* but I don’t think there’s any way it would have happened for me, you know? Life works out the way it’s meant to, and as long as I found it now, I’m very happy. So yeah, I would say, ‘Hold on. It gets better. It gets so much better.’ and ‘Be a songwriter sooner.’ I’m so jealous of any sixteen year old that I meet who’s a songwriter and she’s going to the same conferences that I am because they got such an earlier head start. I was at a conference and I had said to my husband, ‘ How did I not find this earlier? I wish I started doing this earlier.’ And then that sixteen year old gets on stage and is like, ‘I wish I’d known about this conference, like, two years ago when I started writing. I feel so behind.’ And my husband is like, ‘Ok, the sixteen year old feels behind, you’re not the only one feeling that way.’ *both laugh* As long as you find it when you find it, right? So no regrets, because it got me to where I am, and this is why we have the stories we have to talk about.
Absolutely! And what do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Caley: My one hope is that people feel like they’re not alone. With the sad emotions, with the happy emotions, with the weird emotions, I want people to know that the human experience is universal. It’s not just this sad, terrible, embarrassing thing, we all share, and because I myself hate loneliness so much, I don’t want anyone to feel lonely or alone or isolated. When I write about sad stuff, I want them to know they’re not alone. When I write happy stuff, I want them to know they’re not alone. I just want to make people happy.
And to end us off, apart from the upcoming release of your EP, what big plans should we be expecting from you in the near future?
Caley: With what’s going on in the world currently, I aim to connect with listeners now more than ever, but virtually. It feels more important than ever to connect virtually now, with family and friends through FaceTime and Zoom, and through live streaming platforms for my music. My upcoming live shows have gotten cancelled, so I’m trying to connect via live stream instead. In the first live streamed show I performed during quarantine, I was surprised to get so emotional, but it hit me that this was the only way to connect with people through music. It felt beautiful to at least try to connect with people, so I cried! I think we need to do everything we can right now to fight this isolation through safe means, to reach out to people who feel lonely, and to connect. I’ll be live streaming on Saturday, April 25th on Facebook in order to connect more directly with listeners and to celebrate my upcoming release, “Something New,” which recently won an emPower Posi Award! Any way we can forge connection and community right now is worth attempting. We are in such dark times, and I am clinging to any way I can to find smiles and laughter where it still lives and to bring smiles and laughter to people through music. It feels like a small thing to do, but sometimes small pleasures are all we have.
About Chitchat Coffee + Matcha:
I’m sure I’m not going to be the first person to admit that they swore off matcha because of a chain coffee company, *cough Starbucks cough* but sometimes life inspires you to try something again, and luckily, Chitchat Coffee + Matcha was there to reintroduce matcha to me in the best way possible. Nestled in the trendily developed apartment/condo section of Japantown, you’re instantly greeted by not only a happy and bright color palette set to the tunes of light piano, which I think is a fine music choice that all walks of life can enjoy, but also friendly and informative baristas that go the extra mile to help you decide on your drink order. Their menu provides a well-picked variety of coffee favorites, ceremonial matcha recipes, and combinations of the two, complete with intriguing options like the Matcha Rose Latte and the Sugar-Free S’mores Latte. I opted for The Incredible Hulk special as it was a blend of matcha and espresso, and I’ve got to say, as someone who was skeptical about trying out matcha again, I instantly fell in love! Plus, Whitney Port from The Hills was at the shop when we did our interview. The whole experience was a win in my book!