Colbie Caillat is proof that unsigned artists can get a record deal in large part because of the Internet. The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter created a huge buzz for herself when she placed her music on MySpace. She had so many people playing her music on her MySpace page that it caught the attention of record labels, she got record deal with Universal Republic, and the rest is history. It also helps that Caillat has been around the music industry her entire life, since her father is veteran producer Ken Caillat, whose credits include the Fleetwood Mac albums “Rumours” and “Tusk.”
Since getting a record deal, Caillat has released two albums so far (2007’s “Coco” and 2009’s “Breakthrough”), and she has been nominated for multiple Grammys for her solo work and for her collaborations with Jason Mraz and Taylor Swift. Caillat’s signature pop hit “Bubbly” exemplifies her upbeat but laid-back style, and the success of the song has garnered her in 2009 the awards for BMI Song of the Year and BMI Songwriter of the Year. In this interview, Caillat talked about her influences and how she likes to write and record songs.
What should people know about you and how you became a singer/songwriter?
I was born in Malibu, in this house on a cliff over looking the ocean. It was gorgeous. Hawaii is my other love. I’ve been singing since I was 11, and only been writing for [a few] years. I wanted to be a singer, and my dad was like, “You have to write your own songs and learn [to play] an instrument.” So my parents put me in guitar lessons. I wrote a song after my first guitar lesson. It wasn’t that good, but it was a start.
And then my friend Jason Reeves and I got together, and we started writing songs. And we started working with my producer Mikal Blue. Mikal Blue, I’ve known since I was 15. He was in a band, and they were signed to my dad’s record label. He was working on his album, and he heard me sing a harmony, just standing in a room. He said, “Oh my gosh! That sounds so cool!” And then we just built this relationship. I feel so comfortable with him, working with him and writing.
Colbie Caillat at the 2009 BMI Pop Awards in Beverly Hills, California
How do you usually write your songs?
When I’m sitting at home bored, that’s the best way that songs come out of me. I’m not a confrontational person, so whenever something bothers me, I just hold it in. I don’t get overly emotional. I just pick up the guitar and it comes out. I just feel this release, and it’s out of me. It’s so weird.
Can you talk about how MySpace has affected your career?
MySpace has helped so much. Before, no one would’ve heard of me, just people in L.A. seeing a show, if I even played. I didn’t play that often. MySpace is the thing that does it. It’s a huge help.
What can you say about your “Bubbly,” your first single?
“Bubbly,” it’s funny, I love it, but I never thought it would be a first single. It just got this huge reaction on MySpace right when I put it up. I went from being the number-one unsigned artist, and then I got signed, and all of this just keeps happening, pretty much because of that song.
Colbie Caillat in Santa Monica, California, in August 2009
How would you describe your debut album?
The title is called “Coco.” It was my nickname since I was a baby. Every song is different on the album, so for any occasion, it’s fresh, it’s optimistic, it’s happy. It’s very mellow, so you can just relax [when listening to it]. Yeah, that’s pretty much how it goes.
What’s your work style when you work in the recording studio?
At the studio, I love to have the candles lit and the lights dimmed, and tea with honey and soup. I like to be warm and cozy. And the mood lighting makes the vibe so much better. When we’re in there, we’re working and writing and just being creative. When I’m in there, I’m in the moment and I don’t care about anything else. I don’t care to leave. When we’re in there together — Mikal Blue and [singer/songwriter] Jason Reeves [and I] — it’s just amazing.
What kind of influence have your parents had on you?
My dad has been there for all of it, and he knows what to look out for and what would make it better. He and my mom helped the album so much. So they gave all their advice.
For more info: Colbie Caillat website
Photo credits: AP