For the tall, beautiful, 24-year-old Colbie Caillat, the road to stardom seemed to open effortlessly for her. In the span of a year, she went from being an aspiring singer-songwriter to gaining national recognition.
It all began with the social networking Web site, MySpace, where anyone can create a personal profile and post original music for public scrutiny and approval. After a friend thought Caillat’s music should be exposed online, she made Caillat a page and posted a few of her songs. In eight months, Colbie Caillat was the No. 1 unsigned artist on MySpace. Not only had thousands of listeners taken notice, so had record label executives.
She eventually signed with Universal and released her debut album, Coco, in 2007. The CD peaked at No. 5 in Billboard in a month and reached platinum status.
But Caillat’s interest in music came much earlier in life, when she heard Lauryn Hill’s version of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.”
“Ever since then, I’ve taken vocal lessons and a little bit of piano lessons,” she explained. “It wasn’t until I was 19 that I took my first guitar lesson. I only knew how to play four chords, and I wrote a song.”
She was following her parents’ advice. Her father, Ken Caillat, is an award-winning producer, who co-produced Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 Grammy award-winning album, Rumours.
“My parents had always told me I need to become a musician and a songwriter, not just a singer,” she said. “So that day when I wrote the song, I was just kind of in awe that it happened that fast. And then I kept writing and my friend put my songs up on MySpace for me.”
Coco generated two top five singles, “Realize,” and the No. 1 hit “Bubbly,” a song originally posted by her friend on MySpace. Her singles have spilled over into neighboring genres, including the charts for Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks, Hot Digital Songs, Pop 100, The Billboard Hot 100 and even country radio.
Her MySpace page claims Caillat’s sound is like “Sweet honey flowing over rocks.” But if you ask her, she’s not so sure.
“I always tell people it’s a mix of acoustic pop with a little bit of folk-soul to it. I don’t know,” she smiled. “I like all styles of music so I think when I wrote my songs it all just kind of blended together and made this sound that I have on my record. I don’t know,” she admitted. “Acoustic pop, I guess.”
Though her sound may not fit neatly into one clear-cut category, it’s working for her. She even released a deluxe edition of Coco including new music and a collaboration with her musical icons, the Wailers.
“All of them were exactly the way I thought they would be,” she said of the group who once backed legendary reggae artist Bob Marley. “They were really friendly. It was cool because Family Man, the original bass player, he was telling me that his kids like my music and I was like, ‘That’s really funny because I’ve listened to you guys forever and now we’re working together.’”
She branched out to write with teen sensation Taylor Swift on the latter’s latest album, Fearless. After hearing Swift was interested in working with her, the two met in Nashville where they wrote and recorded “Breathe.”
“She had a concept,” Caillat said of working with Swift. “She had this idea. She had most of the song written. It was about a very important subject to her which I could also relate to as well. So, it was easy writing with her.” “Plus,” Caillat smiled, “she’s just the sweetest thing I’ve ever met and very talented, so it was really lovely working with her.”
As well as collaborating and touring, Caillat said she’s back in the studio working on her next album. She’s written 30 songs over the past year and a-half and plans to record them all to help determine which to keep.
“Each day you are in there, you add new instruments and different harmonies, and the song kind of becomes this painting, and it kind of grows on its own,” she said.
Although she’s happy to be back in the studio, she did admit to anxieties about her sophomore album.
“You do have to worry a little because, especially for me, my fans started hearing all my songs from MySpace, so they knew them ahead of time. So, now it’s going to be all brand new stuff they’ve never heard before. And that’s the only thing that’s a little scary. Like any album that just comes out, you have to get used to it,” she smiled. “But, I’m more excited about it.”