Caitlyn Shadbolt takes us through her debut album, Songs on My Sleeve

Australian singer/songwriter, Caitlyn Shadbolt’s career has gone from strength-to-strength since competing on 2014’s The X-Factor. After a strong EP release in 2015; she released her debut album, Songs On My Sleeve earlier this year. The album debuted at number one on the country ARIA Chart, and featured its infectious, fun, runway smash hit single, “My Break Up Anthem”. Caitlyn is set to perform at major festivals this year including Broadbeach Country Music Festival, the Gympie Music Muster and the Deni Ute Muster, followed by a national tour later in the year.

Your debut album, Songs On My Sleeve debuted at number one on the country ARIA charts. Congratulations! Were you surprised how fast it charted?

Yeah, it was bizarre. I got a text message at 7am that morning. I was like, “Aw, go away” It was my Project Manager telling me the album was at #1 already. It’s great [and] so exciting! 

Sorry to start the interview on such a tragic pun – but how long have you had these songs ‘up your sleeve’? How long have you been working on the album?

Hey, that’s a clever one! How long have I had these songs up my sleeve? I released my EP in 2015 and I guess you could say I’ve probably been writing almost after that. I wrote with different songwriters from all around the world. I wrote about the things that I believe in, relate to and put my personality on paper, quirky.

You co-wrote all twelve tracks on the album. Does song writing come easy to you?

Not always. I think like any songwriter, you can have your song writing blocks and times when you can’t write the lyrics fast enough, as there’s so many ideas popping up at once! I enjoyed co-writing because if you ever did get stuck, you’d have someone else in the room to help you and vice versa. I love the reasoning behind country music – the songs and stories, but you can still make it commercial in a sense. 

Were there many songs that didn’t make the album cut?

Yes, there were too many! Because I’m always writing about things I relate to I’m always attached [to my songs] and therefore I’m like, “Oh, I’m sorry to leave one of my babies out!” It was tricky deciding on only twelve [tracks] but I also feel like the songs can be used for other people or maybe my next album.

Your lyrics read quite like a diary. Is it hard to be vulnerable and give people an insight into your personal life through song? 

It is, totally! Some of my friends even listened to the album and were like, “You’re not one to gossip in conversation but when it comes to writing songs, it’s like, “Oh, okay, that’s how you feel. Well cool. Now I know!”. (Laughs)

And even sometimes, for my Mum to hear the songs, you can tell she’s really understanding what’s going on behind the scenes. I think song writing, you’ve got to be honest – that’s the best way to connect with people and for people to relate, because chances are everyone’s been through a similar situation.

I’ve spoken to many artists who’ve said they need to have a hand in writing a song to feel connected to it. Can you personally connect to a song if you haven’t written it yourself? 

Yeah, sometimes. If the situation or lyrics speak to you then you can relate. Sometimes you find yourself writing about other people’s situations as well – you’re putting them in first person even though it’s about someone else and that’s the beauty of song writing. Yesterday I was doing an in-store signing at Sanity and they had the album playing over the speakers. I found myself tapping away and singing along and forgetting, in a weird way, that it’s my creation – which seems lame but cool at the same time! (Laughs)

Track 6, “Me Without You” features vocals by fellow X-Factor contestant, Reece Mastin. How did the duet with Reece come about?

Initially, I wrote that song with Morgan Evans and Phil Barton over in Nashville. We wanted a strong male vocal to be on it and Reece, he’s a great vocalist and he’s going down a similar path with a more bandy-Americana vibe as opposed to pop-rock. I asked him and he was totally keen. He sang the shit out of the song! People are loving [the song]. Who knows, it might even become a single itself.

Would the album have turned out the same if you hadn’t gone to Nashville to write and record it?

No, Nashville was one of the biggest, best chunks of my song writing. There’s just so many great people. I also have APRA to thank for a lot of my song writing expeditions – they put on classes called “song hubs”, basically it means all these awesome song writers get together and spend a week writing together. That’s where a lot of my favourite songs came from – so, Nashville and APRA, good combination!

You launched the album in your hometown of Gympie and you’re returning later in the year for the iconic Gympie Music Muster. Featuring hundreds of performances across five stages, covering genres such as country bluegrass, folk, blues and rockabilly. This year’s line-up is made up of 100% home grown Aussie talent including Adam Brand, Busby Marou, Travis Collins, Amber Lawrence, The Sunny Cowgirls and many, many more.

I’ll be back at my hometown festival for another year, which is cool. This year I’m playing on the main stage of the Muster. When I first started going to the Muster, I was performing in the talent quests and losing essentially, so it’s cool to see what a few years of hard work and practice can do. (Laughs) Gympie’s such a supportive town, so there’s heaps of friendly faces and always a really good atmosphere at that festival. I’ll still be going for years and years even if I’m not performing.

Is it nerve wracking to have started off playing to smaller crowds in the talent quests and now making that jump to larger crowds on the big stage?

It can be. What I’m learning is, if you’re more prepared, it’s certainly not as nerve wracking but I think nerves are good. It gives you adrenaline and keeps you on point. Halfway through the set you realise that the nerves are disappearing and you’re just having fun. The more times you get on stage, the more you are good at going into damage control if something does go wrong. (Laughs) Every gig is a great experience in one way or another, and it prepares you for the next one.

Reece is also performing at the festival. Is there a possibility of performing live together?

Yeah, absolutely – it would be silly if we were both at the same festival and didn’t play our song together. It’s a matter of whose set it will be in. A couple of years back at the Gympie Muster, Judah Kelly (winner of The Voice 2017) [and I] used to sing a Lady Antebellum song as a duet – that’s probably the coolest duet I’ve done!

Australian performer, songwriter and actress, Jessica Mauboy is one of the artists headlining at Gympie. She came into the public eye in 2006 as runner-up on Australian Idol. Your story is similar in terms of getting your start on a television series. Is she an inspiration to you to see how far she’s come after essentially such a short time in the industry?

Totally! With those shows, it’s what you decide to make of the situation. They’re so renowned for artists to have success and then go nowhere, essentially, or to be shelved by a label. Jessica Mauboy has worked hard, stayed passionate and positive, and [is] still kicking around today. She’s doing great. She’s definitely an inspiration. It’s great she’s having so success as an Aussie and on an International level [as well]. She started in Tamworth – she did the Telstra Road to Tamworthshe’s got country songs in her set. It’s a festival. It’s mad for live great music!

What advice would you give to anyone on The Voice or any of those shows?

Make the most of it because, before you know it, it’s over. The thing with live TV is there’s so much stress involved. It can be such a whirlwind, so I just say take in every moment. If you work your butt off, don’t wait for things to come to you, go out and earn em. I went on that show to get some experience and exposure and I got a bunch of bonus things. I keep kicking along and see what else I can achieve.

As well as the Gympie Music Muster, you’re performing at Broadbeach Country Music Festival – a free event which last year saw over 30,000 people flock to the busy Gold Coast metropolis. What makes the two festivals so unique?

Gympie specifically, the atmosphere, you can’t really beat it. Even the land it’s set up on is great. And you’ve got Broadbeach – a country festival in a city [which] is unique in its own way, but it works so well. This’ll be my first time performing at Broadbeach so I’m keen to see what all the folk are like and to get in amongst it.

Songs On My Sleeve is out now. Caitlyn  performs at Broadbeach Country Music Festival (July 28th-30th) and Gympie Music Muster (August 24-27).


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