One and a half years after the release of her first EP “Another Thing Dear“, Caro Kelley is back with a full album release. “Playroom” is a collection of 10 songs, ranging from Jazz to Folk to Rock, and beautifully showcasing Caro´s incredible vocal skills and versatile musicianship.
With songs like “I’m Awake” and “Fool” the American born singer/songwriter brings back interesting, original arrangements to a copy & paste kind of music landscape.
“Mother May I” and “Gold” show the singer´s soft side with warm, intimate vocals and stripped back instrumentation.
Her release party at Lost Weekend on October 8th was a sold out show in celebration of months of hard work in the making of the record.
Caro Kelley is a savy musician with roots across different genres and being both a talented songwriter and great performer she’s literally the full package. A rising starlet which we will sure keep watching and listening to for years to come! It is our honor and pleasure to chat with Caro about her new music masterpiece today.
Caro, big congrats on the release of “Playroom”. Tell us a bit about the concept of the album and how it came into existence.
After the release of my EP, someone in the music industry said to me that I was a little confusing to market. They recommended that I pick a genre of music and commit to it. I actually think this is pretty good advice, but I decided to rebel and lean into the multi-genre idea. I come from a diverse musical background and I like writing in different styles. It feels authentic to me, and especially in a live show, I like hearing different kinds of music all swimming together. I chose the name of Playroom because I was trying to musically argue that music and creativity should feel like a playroom; we shouldn’t worry about what is expected of us but create freely.
Right on! The many different genres blend beautifully into one concept! What stands out to me are the poetic lyrics. Tell us a bit about what inspired “Little White Stones” which is one of the raw gems on the record.
The lyrics of Little White Stones come from two separate poems I wrote in college. My creative writing class visited a dollhouse museum to get inspiration and some of the images come from that trip. When I was writing the songs for Playroom, I pulled up my old poems and stole some of the lines! “you work, do not/notice little white stones/
look at her body” comes from one poem, and “bellows, bellows./the walls are very high./the door is very thin.” comes from another. I like that the song itself sounds very dainty and pretty, but the words are disquieting and strange. As for what the song means, I have an idea of what it means to me, but I hope the open-endedness means that listeners can decide on meaning for themselves.
When did you write the songs and what generally inspires you as songwriter?
I decided I wanted to release an album, so I sat down in December of 2021 and wrote all 10 songs. I am not the kind of person who is constantly writing and coming up with song ideas. When I decide it’s time to write a song, I write very quickly, and when I am finished, it’s like my songwriting brain just turns off! I always have a variety of inspirations. I decide on what I want the lyrics to be about, or I decide on a style of music or a chord progression that I really like, or I write a piano lick or a hook and build out from there. Each song on the album came about from a different central idea that I was trying for. I think that is what helps each song feel distinct from the others; they were all written differently.
That´s interesting and quite cool! You´ve recorded the tracks at Munich Sessions Studio with your trusted producer Patrick Thompson. How did you communicate your ideas, making sure him and the people involved got your vision?
Patrick and I are close friends and have played together for over 5 years. I think that really helps in the working relationship with a producer, because I trust him musically, and I know he respects me and my vision. If we disagree on an idea, it’s always going to be for the betterment of the album. One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Ronson about music production; he said “there’s nothing better than being wrong.” When someone challenges your ideas, you end up being pushed outside the box and can make much better decisions. I’ll give you some examples. “Canyons” was a ballad until Patrick suggested that the drums play the upbeat, bluegrassy rhythm. I was not sure about the idea at first, and now I love it. I would have never thought of that. Conversely, I had to fight to keep the introduction of “Gotta Be” with the high piano octaves being completely on their own. I knew it is what I wanted even though it is unusual, as normally the drummer would want to hit their crash cymbal on those notes. Now we all agree that it really works. But all these discussions are the best part of creating an album when you trust your producer and team and they trust you. The process becomes so creative and so much fun, and I am always sad when it’s over.
What is your personal favorite song on the album and what does it mean to you?
I love them all, but “You Were Right” is my favorite on the album. The song is really personal and it felt good to write it, and I think musically it’s really strong. When I came up with the tag at the end of the chorus (“you were right, you were right, you were right, you were right”) and the idea of the new chord appearing and the rhythm stopping, I was so proud of myself. It’s hard to admit when you were wrong and someone else is right, and so repeating those words feels like a sort of chant or a mantra. The best part of songwriting is discovering how the music can aid the lyrics and make them pop, and I love the way the song turned out.
I agree! It is amongst my favorites as well! Caro, your album got funded in parts by Initiative Musik, a German artist development initiative that funds indie musicians with extraordinary talent. Tell us a bit about the program and whether you would recommend other artists to seek out opportunities like that?
That’s right, the Initative Musik funded the album. That includes the recording, music videos, vinyls, and more. It was a relatively complicated process, especially as a non-native German speaker, but I am so grateful to them for the support. It was not only a big financial help, but it feels wonderful to have someone from outside look at your ideas and say yes, this is worth our support. I would highly recommend that anyone considering such a big project should look around for funding opportunities. There are many!
We chatted back in March 2021 for the release of your EP Another Thing Dear. When looking back on the past 18 months, what were some of your biggest learnings, being a female indie artist in music and what were some of your highlights thus far?
So much has happened since then! I have been learning how to trust myself and my instinct. In the long run, it doesn’t really matter what is expected of me or what other people do, or what is popular in the music industry. So many people are very concerned with doing the “right thing” as opposed to doing what is authentic. When I just let myself be creative and surround myself with people who listen to me and who push me out of my comfort zone, then the creative process becomes an absolute joy. And I think that authenticity shines through in the album.
It definitely does! What are your next steps with “Playroom”? Will you play a couple of live shows anytime soon? Where can fans catch you?
I am always playing live shows, and you can catch my schedule on my website at carokelley.com or on my Instagram, @caro_kelley. Some highlights will be opening for the Ocelots on November 7th, a solo show at Lach und Schieß in December, and the online festival in November with Sound of Munich, which you can catch on youtube. And keep your ears open, new music is of course on the way!
Thank you so much for your time and thank you for the music!
All photos by Thomas Trachsel
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