Caitlin Canty is a Vermont original
By Janelle Faignant
Staff Writer | January 02,2014
Photo courtesy of Caitlin Canty
Brandon Music will welcome back singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty on Saturday.
Authentic is the word that fits Caitlin Canty. It resonates. It’s the word that comes to mind when she first answers the phone, and it’s a description many reviewers have used to describe her music.
The 31-year-old singer-songwriter’s sound straddles genres, producing a melting pot of rock-folk-blues-alt-country. She has released two full-length albums, with a third on the way. Live Album Review online called her second album, “Golden Hour,” “eleven exquisite songs of bedroom folk and gentle Americana that deserve a wider audience.”
Her soulful melodies bear her personal stamp and have been steadily catching on. She will be performing Saturday at Brandon Music at 7:30 p.m., with fellow Vermonter, musician Matt Lorenz of the roots-rock/junk-folk trio Rusty Belle, for their first-ever Vermont appearance together.
Canty grew up in Proctor, but has lived in New York City for several years now. She sang a lot in high school, and was in chorus and played trombone, but was “more of a jock.” She went to a liberal arts college and took a couple of classes in songwriting, dabbling in it, but it didn’t appear obvious that she would establish a career in music early on.
“Crafting my own stuff was later on,” she said in a recent interview.
After college Canty found a job in the music industry, as the first employee of a startup, where she says she learned how to put on a live show.
During that time she played music on the side, but felt she didn’t really have anything to say yet. She was still figuring out how to play music and make a living at it.
“It took a long time to learn how to navigate (the music) world,” Canty said. “(You) kind of make it up as you go along, honestly. Not just writing the songs but the business side of things.”
Canty kept it up while working her day job. New York City’s live music venues became a testing ground for her. She started out playing the terrible slots, early slots, very late slots, eventually bringing more and more people out to hear her, earning better time slots.
“You just build it by being there and trying,” Canty said. “(There isn’t) any kind of how-to. Just try to do the best you can with every show I think.”
A little later Canty got a job in sustainability consulting, still playing frequently on the side, eventually releasing a couple of albums.
“Then I just quit (the day job),” she said. “I really didn’t think I could take myself seriously if I weren’t 100 percent behind what I was doing. It’s hard to split yourself between things and expect that you’ll do both well.”
Five years later, that decision has bode well for Canty, who is a full-time musician now.
Her songwriting process varies, and possibly depends on the song and the day. The essence of creativity, it seems to evolve and flow with whatever is working.
“The process lately has been don’t sit around,” Canty said. “If I have an idea I try to stop everything and go hide from the world and finish it.”
Many of her songs spark from situations in life, she says.
“A line somebody says, or some theme that’s cutting across my own life or my friends’ lives. Maybe a line or two, (and when) it comes together melodically that’s like a little seed.”
At that point Canty says she tries to detach from the story.
“It becomes more about following that seed and trying to make the best song from that idea. There’s something very personal about it at the start, the beginning is the most personal, and then it becomes an attempt to be more universal.”
Keeping track of ideas is also part of the process, and she has a cache of them in development on an ongoing basis.
“When I’m about to make a record, I’m writing a lot of songs, I’m digging through the ones I left behind ... (it’s) an exciting time,” she said. “Because you have to put off everything else, like touring, or making dinner,” she laughed.
Canty has been collaborating with many musicians, including Lorentz, who backs Canty in the upcoming show and appears on her latest album.
“I was learning a lot from him and we started writing a bunch of songs,” Canty recalled.
“You figure out the process, and you work with other songwriters.”
Canty says sometimes it works, sometimes something is written in a few hours and it’s great, and then there are times nothing comes from a session, but the process is always valuable.
“Someone else’s tricks and tools of getting to the point, or figuring out a chord or, you know, working next to people and seeing how they work — you can see for yourself how they think and craft something.”
Canty and Lorenz have been collaborating for years and the Brandon Music show will showcase Lorenz’s “Suitcase Junket,” where he plays a bunch of instruments as one setup — some percussion instruments played with his feet, singing, and guitar, fiddle or banjo to back Canty up.
She says they met after playing back-to-back shows at a music festival and found they were fans of each other’s music. After four years writing and performing together, this will be their first Vermont show together.
Brandon Music presents singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty, with Matt Lorenz, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 4, at the Brandon Music Café, 62 Country Club Road in Brandon. Admission is $15 (a pre-concert dinner available for $15; reservations recommended; BYOB); call 802-465-4071, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information, visit www.brandon-music.net.