A Q&A With Singer-Songwriter Caroline About Her Latest Project, Brother Bird

Image credit: Chris Bauer

A Q&A With Nashville-Based Singer-Songwriter Caroline About Her Latest Project, Brother Bird

brother bird is a project from Nashville-based singer/songwriter caroline. And while another year is her most soul-stirring collection yet, drawing from the Cranberries’ melodic vibe, the shoegaze influence of Mazzy Star, and the guitar tones of Big Thief, under the surface lies a common muse: waiting for something to happen. And under all the pretty, soothing sounds on the record lies the particular style of caroline. “I would say I’m a happy person and playfully sarcastic. But I get the most raw and honest I can be in my lyrics. My music is kind of like a vessel.”

Her full-length album, “another year” will be release on March 8, 2024, via Easy Does It Records. The single “something better” was released November 7. Watch the video stream/download the track today.

Image credit: Chris Bauer

What musical advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self not to bend so much to other people’s expectations. I’m a people pleaser at heart & I got really in my head about making music that catered to a certain audience/demographic…  even colleagues and former management. I wish I would’ve just followed what truly moved me, but you live and learn. and I’m here now. 

The music business is very much a business. How do you stay creative while also running yourself as a business? i.e. social media posts, booking shows, creating merch?

I really really despise social media. Pretty much on all fronts. It’s definitely the part of my job that feels like a job. It’s necessary, but gross, and extremely unappealing to me. There’s a balance to everything, though. If i focus too heavily on one side I can see it hinder the other. I have a handful of albums and books that I dive into for inspiration when I’m having a hard time switching the business side off. Anything John K. Samson literally always works. 

What music-related book do you believe every member of your band or team should read?

I’m pretty obsessed with ‘the singer’s talk’ right now- it’s a series of interviews by Jason Thomas Gordon. he asks a bunch of (very legendary) singers about their voices.. how they found their sound, how they keep it healthy on the road… who they emulated early on.. if they’re confident or nervous before shows… etc etc.. My very close homie/ mentor, Andy Hull, recommended it. I try to read at least one a day and then spend some time with a record or two that was referenced. I read Neko Case’s this morning and she said the coolest thing when asked how she felt before stepping on stage… she said, “i usually feel pretty good- not that i feel like I’m good at singing so much as when you start singing, it’s like you turn on a light, and that light keeps you safe”. The book really touches on the unspoken pressures of being a lead singer, too. It’s deeply physical and kind of insane, really. I just love it. I think every musician should read it.

 If you had one piece of advice for a novice musician just starting out, what would it be?

I think it would be the same thing I would’ve told younger me— follow what moves you. not what moves others. not what is expected of you, but what excites you.  

Every artist has a creative spark and a unique journey. What was the inspiration that started your musical journey?

I come from a pretty music-obsessed family. My parents introduced me to all the good stuff early on.. the beatles, james taylor, carly simon, carol king, paul simon, neil young… They signed me up for piano lessons against my will. I wanted to quit so badly, but I stuck it out through grade school (they said I would thank them later. which I did)… I didn’t really love piano, though, until my 20s. I was gifted my first acoustic guitar at 13 & that’s really what sparked it for me. I would spend hours studying youtube tutorials and making shitty little covers in my bedroom on my desktop. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. 

At what point in your music career did you have the idea to pursue your current musical path and how did you go about it? So many avenues to explore, how did you know what was the right direction?

I was super unhappy my first year of college and just sort of went out on a whim and tried out for a televised singing competition show. I ended up making it and staying on a hell of a lot longer than I thought I would. I left the show with a fan base and immediately started touring from there. I went from a handful of open mic nights in my hometown to a few cover songs on TV… to touring in front of packed rooms. I had absolutely no idea how to “tour” or even play a show. I learned in front of a lot of people, which was humbling. and humiliating. I’m grateful for all of it, but I was DEFINITELY thrown to the wolves. TV just has a way of attracting the worst type of people in the industry. I spent several years catering to those people. I made music that I thought would impress them and make them want to keep me around. Same with the audience I gained on the show. I just wanted to make everyone happy and I lost myself entirely in it. That’s really the spirit behind ‘brother bird’. When I wrote what ended up being my self-titled EP – it was really the first collection of songs that felt like my own. Like I was saying what I needed to say, not what I thought people wanted to hear. It felt like starting over in a lot of ways and that was kind of the most exciting thing about it to me. I never know “the right direction” to any avenue, but authenticity is absolutely number one to me. I am working towards that every single day. I will never make art to appease anyone else ever again, and I think that’s a good place to start for most artists. 

Have you always been a musician?

I’ve always been pretty musical, but I never really considered myself a musician until I started a career in it, which was at 18. 

What was your first musical performance or project as a musician?

I wasn’t really considering myself a “musician”, so I don’t know if this counts, but I did open mic nights in my hometown at this coffee shop (Picasso’s) throughout high school.. I would get there like 3 hours early to sign up and just shake in the corner until they called me up. I’d play for maybe 10 minutes? I was terrified the whole time & completely obsessed. 

Is there a fellow musician you greatly admire? 

yes, so many. Andy Hull comes to mind first- he is literally a brother at this point. a mentor, a close homie. I have always been a mega fan of his work. I really think anyone who isn’t just hasn’t heard it yet. It’s undeniable – a complete gift to be able to work so closely with him and pick his brain. He has been super hands on with everything ‘brother bird’ from the jump, even down to the name. He introduced me to my booking agent, brought me on tour, produced the first LP. I’m eternally grateful for this dude. I feel really similarly to the whole MO (Manchester Orchestra) camp, and same to Kevin Devine. Kevin and Andy are two of the best lyricists of our time and I will absolutely die on that sword. It might seem like a bias, but I felt that way before I knew either one of them. I am a better artist just for knowing these dudes. I’ve really really lucked out in the music family department. and I will never ever take that for granted.

What do you believe is the most essential quality for a musician? 

this has become a common theme in this interview for me, but authenticity. I just can’t really stress that enough. if you’re not moved or excited about what you’re making it’s kind of insane to expect anyone else to be. 

Can you share what’s next for you and your music? 

I’m thrilled to be releasing my sophomore record, another year, in march…  hopefully a lot of touring will follow. I’m dying to play these songs full out. I felt the same after releasing ‘gardens’, but 2020 threw a big fat wrench at that dream. i have slowly started writing my third LP. which already feels like my best work.. I have several side projects with artists that I admire greatly. I can’t say too much about that yet, but the future is bright!

What are some themes surrounding the new album, another year?

Everything changed for me during this record. I’m no longer married.. I definitely avoid divulging into the drama publicly, but it obviously seeped into my art. it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through and I wrote this record while coming to terms with that, so it’s definitely present. I simultaneously felt very stagnant in my career at the time.. the big theme, i think, is just waiting around for something to happen. something to give. This record feels like a coming-of-age story for me in a lot of ways. it feels & sounds very me.

How have you grown as an artist since the release of your first EP in 2018? 

I’ve grown so much. as an artist and as a human. They go hand in hand. I have failed a lot, but I’ve also learned what I want and what I don’t want. the type of person and artist i want to be and the type i don’t. I have spent a lot of time avoiding change and growth.. out of fear or shame or doubt .. a number of things, I’m sure. I am just excited to finally be embracing that. we’re not supposed to stop growing. 

What is your songwriting process look like?

I usually write pretty subconsciously. I’ll find a melody on guitar or piano that I find inspiring and just loop it.. spit out some gibberish until I have something to say. so many of my songs mean something entirely different to me now. It’s like I was coming to terms with something that I was entirely unaware of at the time. It’s why it’s my favorite part of the process. 

Do you collaborate with other artists to write music?

I have a handful of people I love writing with. I can be pretty stingy about the words if it is for my own project, though.. but writing is a lot more than just the lyrics. My ideal co-writing scenario is someone bringing a really inspiring melody/ structure to a session and letting me go home and float words around it. I still get in my head writing lyrics in front of others.. I just find it more freeing to do it alone and bounce them off of each other later. 

Tell us about your new single, “something better” and the making of the video.

i wrote ‘something better’ around the holiday in 2021. I was in a super stagnant place at home and in my career… I didn’t feel good enough in a lot of ways. i was trying to be someone *socially* i wasn’t .. and for a long time… I was stuck on a dark people pleaser hamster wheel. and I still wasn’t pleasing anybody. That’s a pretty grim place to find yourself. i “quit” music pretty much every other week.. then i would hermit in my studio and write a song about it. *eye ROLL*. my close pal, Chris Bauer, filmed the music video for me in St. Louis (my hometown!). i downloaded a free trial of adobe premier pro and learned to edit.. it was a doozy, but i was kind of into it. and the irony in that is not lost on me, BTW. 

What’s the best music-related book you’ve ever read for inspiration and growth in your musical career?

definitely ‘the singer’s talk’, as i mentioned before… i also just finished ‘the creative act: a way of being’ by Rick Rubin. It’s wildly inspiring. I would recommend it to literally anyone interested in any form of art. I tore out a page with the quote, “art creates a profound connection between the artist and the audience. through that connection, both can heal”.. and stuck it on my fridge. a lot of encouraging nuggets in that book. 

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