The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Two-Time Grammy Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter, Colbie Caillat
It’s not hard to look up to Colbie Caillat. She’s a singer, a songwriter, pianist, guitarist, composer, and a role model for a legion of fans worldwide. Aside from music, she’s a fervent advocate for animals and for the environment, acting as a supporter and spokesperson for organizations like ASPCA, the Surfrider Foundation, Farm Sanctuary and more.
Caillat is a two-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter who has sold over six million albums and 10 million singles worldwide. Her breakthrough hit “Bubbly” remains “one of the best-selling digital tracks in history” and her multi-platinum debut COCO hit #5 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart upon release, while her sophomore set Breakthrough landed at #1.
Most recently, she released her fourth studio album Gypsy Heart, which features her hit single “Try.” Co-written by legendary producer and singer-songwriter Babyface, “Try” has become one of the biggest performing songs featured as iTunes “Single Of The Week.” What’s more, the companion video for the song, which she’s receiving an award for at the She Rocks Awards, has become an online phenomenon, quickly amassing 30 million views.
Below, Caillat tells us the defining moment she knew she had to write “Try,” her burning desire to start a vegan line, her earliest musical memories, and much more.
Visit www.colbiecaillat.com to learn more, and attend the 2015 She Rocks Awards to see her live performance and award acceptance.
WiMN: You’ve heard “no” numerous times throughout your professional life having been turned down from American Idol twice at the early stages of your career, and also got some pushback from your label with an album you were hoping to release. How has that rejection helped you succeed and grow as a musician?
CC: Well, sometimes the word no is a great thing. It’s someone reminding you to work harder, and life’s reminder saying that exact path you are wanting actually might not be the right path for you. Re-evaluating your wants and efforts is always a good thing. Sometimes we want what we want, without realizing there’s something else out there that’s more fitting. The word no can be a great wake-up call. The word no can make you stronger.
WiMN: When you heard Lauryn Hill performing “Killing Me Softly,” what exactly went through your mind?
CC: ‘I love Lauryn’s voice. I need to sing like her. I need to feel that emotion when I sing that I feel when I hear her sing. Strong and soaring vocals, but effortless.’ So I started singing at school talent shows and taking vocal lessons every week.
WiMN: If you hadn’t been a musician, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
CC: Interior design or photography. I always wanted to be a photographer on safari in Africa, and loved decorating my parents’ house in high school with furniture from Ross, LOL. So when I went to a junior college I took both those classes, as well as Ethics, Child Behavior and Speech (to help me with my stage fright).
WiMN: We were instantly captivated by your song “Try” off of Gypsy Heart. What was the defining moment in your life that triggered your desire to write that song and empower other women?
CC: Sitting in the writing session I had with Kenny Edmonds, Jason Reeves and Tony Dixon. It took me venting to them about the stress I feel as a woman everyday with the pressures and responsibilities of always looking polished, and then them telling me I don’t have to try so hard, women don’t have to try hard at all, they don’t understand why we do. And it freed me. I felt liberated and I don’t know why it took me so long. Years of my dad and boyfriend saying the same thing, ‘Stop changing yourself, why do you need to dye your hair? Get your nails done? Pluck your eyebrows? Natural is beautiful to us.’ I now only live by that mentality, and I’m so happy.
WiMN: Your 2009 release “Lucky” with Jason Mraz remains one of our favorite songs. Which other artists would you love to collaborate with?
CC: I’m lucky enough to say (no pun intended), that I’ve gotten to work with most the people on my list, Jason [Mraz], Common, Babyface, Gavin, Natasha, Taylor. I would love to work with Coldplay and now Sam Smith. And TONS of ‘70s classic rock artists!
WiMN: Tell us about the limited edition charitable sweatshirt and t-shirt you designed with Represent.
CC: I drew a sketch of my favorite view on the island of Kauai and under it wrote out the tattoo that’s on my arm that says ‘be calm, be still.’ It’s a reminder for me to not stress, not be nervous on stage, not make rash decisions. All the proceeds get divided up and given to charities I admire and believe in, Farm Sanctuary, Humane Society of the United States, and the ASPCA. Speaking for animals who can’t speak for themselves, and teaching people to treat them humanely and with kindness.
WiMN: What is your earliest musical memory?
CC: Singing in musicals with my mom and my sister at Pepperdine University for Christmas plays. I was shy back then and never auditioned for leads, only sang in groups.
I also remember being at the studio and record label with my parents all the time. Fleetwood Mac was the first concert I ever went to. Well-done mom and dad 🙂
WiMN: Tell us about your burning desire to start a vegan clothing line.
CC: I’m a vegetarian, aspiring vegan. I don’t wear clothing or buy things that are made of animal materials. Over the years of having to find alternative clothing that’s vegan, looks great and is comfortable…it had been hard. It’s getting better, more great options are out there, but I always wanna change something about each item. So I’d love to start a line like that where people would want to wear it cause it looks just as good if not better than a product made from an animal that was harmed for our excessive shopping habits.
WiMN: What one piece of advice would you give to young aspiring female musicians looking to make it big in the music biz?
CC: Learn everything you can about the business you are going in, from every aspect, from every perspective. It will help you sooooo much along the way. You will run your business better, be more successful and definitely be well-respected.
WiMN: What does it mean to you to receive a She Rocks Award?
CC: It’s a great honor and privilege! I hope that it inspires other women – to know that you can be successful in this industry, that you don’t have to follow the crowd and that it’s ok to just be you.