Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Very Candid Conversation with Caroline Dare

North Carolina native Caroline Dare immediately got attention in 2016 when she posted videos on YouTube singing original songs with her acoustic guitar. One of her first singles, “Thank You Dan and Phil,” is about YouTube stars Dan Howell and Phil Lester and has over one million views on YouTube. Her rising popularity on social media brought a demand to put her songs on Spotify and iTunes. 

In 2017, Caroline released her first EP, Me, where she was backed by a band. She released two acoustic singles, “The Weight” and “Snowy Day,” before making her second EP Take It or Leave It in 2018. Unlike her previous work which was acoustic, she played with a band and recorded in a studio. Very prolific, Caroline released a few more acoustic singles in 2018 and 2019.

Today, Caroline lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is signed with Suretone Entertainment, an agency who manages Fleetwood Mac and ZZ Top. She has also teamed up with Nick Wheeler, the lead guitarist of All-American Rejects. The first single, “Dive,” off her soon-to-be released EP Dive, shows the direction she is currently taking with a studio-produced pop sound. A lot of promise and potential await Caroline, who is the youngest interview subject of my blog.

In this candid conversation, we discuss Caroline’s beginnings on YouTube to where she is now with her music, ready to make her mark on the scene. I want to thank Nichole Peters of Jensen Communications for setting up this interview, but most of all, I want to thank Caroline for her time in doing this interview.

Jeff Cramer: So what formed your interest in music? 

Caroline Dare: I started playing guitar when I was eleven years old. I got a guitar of my own on my eleventh birthday. I was always a very musical kid. I loved listening to CDs and music on my way to soccer practice and everything, so I’ve always loved it growing up. Once I got a guitar of my own, I just really fell in love with it even more. Then I ventured out into songwriting and here I am.

JC: Were there any influences you had on guitar? 

CD: I think my biggest influence musically is or was Ed Sheeran. I saw him play live and I was just so fascinated with everything that he was able to do on the loop pedal. [A loop pedal records what you are playing and then plays it back in a repeated loop, allowing you to record another line or play over it]. It just fascinated me and really drew me to want to play guitar. So he’s kind of the main reason why I began playing.

JC: When did you start songwriting?

CD: I started songwriting about half a year after I started playing guitar. When I was really little, I would write short stories and poetry. I always loved to read those to my class, and my teachers were kind enough to let me do that in front of the class and share what I’d created. But people would always ask me when I was little if I wanted to be an author, and I was like, “No, that’s not really the path that I want to take.” So it was funny because when I started songwriting, it was like my love for music and my love for writing stories and telling stories all meshed into one thing, and I just fell in love with it. That’s kind of when it really clicked for me.

JC: Okay, I guess we’ll start off with one of your first singles in 2016, “Thank You Dan and Phil.” A curious question: Who are Dan and Phil? 

CD: Dan and Phil are two YouTubers I was a huge fan of when I was fourteen. They do a lot of comedy videos and everything, so I loved watching their videos growing up and through high school. So I was on FaceTime with one of my friends, and I had the random thought of writing a song expressing how much I appreciated them, and I was kind of like, “Why not? Why not do it?” So I did. I was really scared to post it at first, but I'm really glad that I did. [To hear “Thank You Dan and Phil,” please click here.]

Dan Howell, Phil Lester, and Caroline (May 29, 2016)

JC: You released a couple of singles throughout 2016 and 2017. Then you released your first EP, Me, in 2017.

CD: Correct.

JC: Describe the process from doing singles to pulling out an EP. 

CD: So I started out posting songs on YouTube—original music—and I gained a lot of attraction and just connected with so many girls all around the world and everything. There was just such a huge demand for me to put my songs on Spotify and iTunes so people could buy it and stream it and have it in their library. So that’s what led me to going into the studio and recording songs and making EPs. I made my first EP, Me, when I was fifteen or sixteen. And then about a year later, I put out a second EP, Take It Or Leave It. In-between the EPs, I put out some acoustic singles of just me and my guitar in my room. I put that on my Spotify and iTunes. I really appreciate people listening to those songs even though they’re not high quality or produced in a studio or anything. They still just really love that acoustic vibe.

Caroline Dare, Me EP (2017)

JC: I want to talk about two songs on Me. One song, “Wish You Were Mine,” has the line, “I don’t fall in love this easily.” Was this inspired by anyone? 

CD: I wrote “Wish You Were Mine” when I was fourteen and I’d never had a boyfriend or any experience with relationships. But that doesn’t mean I can’t write about it either. I was just inspired by that sort of thing. That’s kind of how it was. A lot of people try to guess who they think I wrote the song about—

JC: Yeah. 

CD: But honestly, it’s not really about anybody specific. But it’s really funny, because a lot of people have sent that song to their crushes and it’s ended up getting them into relationships. I think that’s really cool. [To hear “Wish You Were Mine,” click here.]

JC: Actually, I'm one person who could relate to that, because I know about getting a crush on someone. I’ve been there, getting a crush on someone without really knowing almost anything about the person. Let’s talk about another song, “Long Drive.”

CD: “Long Drive” is another one that I wrote a few years back. It’s kind of about the rough patches that you go through in life, and everybody struggles in their own way. We tend to turn to things in order to cope or to get our mind off of it. I felt that driving, and just kind of going off somewhere and getting lost, is one of those ways to cope. That’s kind of what the song is about . . . you know, using driving and getting lost as a way to cope. [To hear “Long Drive,” click here.]

JC: Okay, let’s talk about the one of the acoustic singles, “Snowy Day,” you did in 2017 before your second EP. It’s an interesting tune. To me, if I have a snowy day, it means I’m telecommuting and don’t have to drive to my other job. But if you have plans and it’s a snowy day, that day can end up not being your best day. 

CD: Yeah. “Snowy Day” is kind of a Christmas song, but it’s not really a Christmas song. I think I wrote that one when it was snowing outside, and for some reason that song just came so easily to me. It was such an easy song for me to write. It's crazy, because sometimes some songs are so difficult to finish, and then others just come to you so easily. I'm really thankful that “Snowy Day” was one that just came to me. I wanted to write a fun, little winter song. I love listening to holiday songs, and I love that time of year. I was like, “I want to write my own little holiday winter song, whatever that may be.” So that’s kind of how “Snowy Day” came about . . . it’s just being fun with it, being a little cold outside, and being trapped inside. [To hear “Snowy Day,” click here.]

JC: Okay, let’s talk about Take It Or Leave It, the second EP you did in 2018. This is where you start to break away from acoustic songs into studio-produced songs. The song “Fake” definitely sounds like it was produced in the studio. 

 Take It Or Leave It EP (2018)

CD: Yeah, definitely. Take It Or Leave It was a realization that I did want to go into more of a pop direction because the first EP was very pop/country and very acoustic-based. I wanted to expand from there and see what else I could do. “Fake” is inspired by one of my favorite movies of all time, Mean Girls. It’s a very petty song about school drama. I’ve had my own experience with bullying and everything, so that’s how that song came about. [To hear “Fake,” click here.]

JC: Also on Take It or Leave It, I’ve noticed you’ve written a song, “Over That,” where the narrator has been dumped. On the other hand, there is another song  in 2019, “Anymore,” where you’re the one who’s doing the rejection.

CD: Yeah. I think it’s really cool how you can totally write from different perspectives. I wrote “Over That” about a guy I was talking to for a little while and then he kind of ghosted me out of nowhere. I was confused as to why he stopped talking to me. I wrote “Over That” when I was just trying to get my feelings off my chest . . . and that sort of thing.

JC: Yeah.

CD: “Anymore” is a completely different perspective. There’s a line in “Anymore” that says, “I know how it feels on the other end,” which kind of reflects to how I was feeling when I wrote “Over That.” Yeah, it’s definitely crazy how you can be on both ends of the spectrum. “Anymore” is about letting someone down and not wanting to hurt their feelings, but it’s kind of inevitable. [To hear an acoustic version of “Over That,” click here and to hear “Anymore”, click here.]

JC: I liked the part where it says, “I know how it feels on the other end,” because it shows that a person is very sensitive and thoughtful about it. Most rejections are kind of like, “I want out.” 

CD: Yeah. It's definitely not like, “Ew, you’re gross. Bye.”

JC: I’m also curious about a song, “Two.” That’s an interesting acoustic one. One of the lyrics is, “I think your mother loves me more than you do.”

CD: “Two” is definitely a very different song. The story is very different too. The song has its own special meaning to me, but a lot of the time I like to leave it up to the listeners’ interpretation and so I like to keep that special for them. It’s a very petty, snarky song. It’s so not like me. I'm such a nice and sensitive person, and I look back on the lyrics and I'm like, “This sounds like nothing that I would actually do in real life.” [To hear “Two,” click here.]

JC: Also, I was wondering if you were singing about yourself in that song, “So Far Away?” 

CD: A lot of people think I wrote “So Far Away” about myself, which I understand, because I definitely relate to the storyline, but I actually wrote it about a girl I found on Instagram. She was moving from her hometown in Pennsylvania to LA to go after her dreams and her passions. I just thought that was so inspiring, so I wrote the song about her. Then I ended up moving from North Carolina to Nashville to pursue my dream, so I definitely see why people would think I wrote it about myself, but I didn’t. [To hear “So Far Away,” click here.]

JC: All right. Tell me what made you decide to move from North Carolina to Nashville. 

CD: I started going back and forth from North Carolina to Nashville about once a month for about four to five days at a time. I started coming to Nashville when I was twelve and I just fell in love with the city. The more I came here, the more people I met and the more connections I made. So by the time I finished high school, I had built such a strong support system and team here, and I had so many friends that I was ready to move. It's what I’ve been wanting for the longest time, and I just feel like there are so many opportunities here. This city is so loving and accepting, and I just love being here.

JC: You alternate between songs that are acoustic and songs that have a studio production. Is there anything in particular that makes you say, “This song sounds better with my acoustic guitar,” or, “This song should have a band and let’s give it accompaniment”? 

CD: Well, I think that just has to do with me developing as an artist, especially with the recent songs I’ve written and taken to the studio. I’ve really gravitated more into like the songwriter-pop sort of genre.

JC: I was listening to the most recent single of yours that is a studio production, “Dive.” 

“Dive” single (2019)

CD: So “Dive” is my newest release. I co-wrote that song with my producer, Nick Wheeler. He’s the lead guitarist of The All American Rejects, and it’s just been so fun to work with him. “Dive” is a really high-energy anthem song about falling in love and being a little bit nervous to start a relationship but just kind of trusting yourself and falling into it. It’s just a fun, little song about that. [To hear “Dive,” click here.]

JC: Now, I understand there is an EP coming out of this—a Dive EP. What can we expect from that EP? 

CD: There are going to be four songs on the EP and we’re planning on releasing them as singles over the next few months and into the new year. New music is definitely on the way. All I listen to in the car are these songs, and every time I listen to them I just get so happy.

JC: Are these songs going to be acoustic, or are they more in mold of what “Dive” is, a pop tune? 

CD: They’re definitely more pop and produced.

JC: Do you have any plans on touring? 

CD: I really, really want to tour, especially since my followers online are from all over the place, all over the world, which is really insane. A lot of people online tell me to come to this place and to come to that place, so one of my main goals as an artist, a songwriter, and a musician is to actually play in person in front of the people who have been supporting me online.

JC: Describe your feelings about the whole process. You started putting things on YouTube. You started putting things on Spotify. What are your feelings about the whole adventure, from what got you to Nashville and now you’re working with The All American Rejects lead guitarist . . .

CD: Yeah, it’s been really crazy to experience because I have experienced self-doubt and just kind of questioning, “Is this really what I'm meant to do?” It’s just crazy. I'm so lucky to be in this situation and have a platform to influence people and spread positivity in such a creative way, and just using what I love to do and using that for positivity. It just blows my mind every time I get a message from someone online saying that I’ve helped them out of depression and with their anxiety. I’ve definitely dealt with that myself, and I’ve been in that situation before, but I was able to help someone else going through the same thing. It's really helped me not feel like I'm going through it alone. I definitely just want to keep growing, not only as a person, but also as an artist, and I want my music to keep developing and expanding. I don’t want to stop at any point.

JC: I was reading your website, and you signed up with Suretone Entertainment, the management company that represents Fleetwood Mac. 

CD: Yeah, so I signed with Suretone Entertainment about a year ago, and they’ve just been so supportive and so sweet. They take such good care of me. It's just such a blessing to have them here in town, and it’s so nice that they’ve got my back and are so supportive. I'm so thankful to have them as part of my team.

JC: So you were in Nashville when you signed up with Suretone Entertainment? 

     Caroline Dare, 2018

CD: Yeah. So not this past summer, but the summer before I was at CMA Fest [a four-day country music festival held in Nashville held every June]. My manager saw me play at the Nashville Underground during CMA Fest, and that’s kind of what got him interested in working with me. Shortly after he saw that performance, we started taking a few meetings together and I just felt like he was the right person I needed on my team. That’s kind of how that came about.

JC: And so the Dive EP is the latest thing. Is there any other project? .

CD: Yeah. So as of right now, Dive the EP is the next thing I’ve got coming out, but before that entire EP comes out, we’re releasing some of the songs on that EP as singles. You’ll be able to hear them before the whole EP comes out. That’s kind of what the plan is right now, but I'm still writing and trying to come up with new ideas too.

JC: So we can expect that you’ll be probably pulling singles, some that are just you and your guitar and then others that have a whole studio production? 

CD: I'm not sure yet. With the direction that I’m going in, I think studio-produced songs will be more common than the acoustic ones. But I love going live on Instagram and Facebook and just playing acoustically too, so that side of me will always be there.

JC: Okay. The last question I'm going to ask is you started at a young age. A lot has happened since you started. What would be your recommendation to someone else who’s around your age group? Someone who also might want to start with music at a young age. 

CD: My biggest word of advice would probably be to stay genuine to yourself and don’t get caught up in what you think is really trendy, because I think  what makes you unique is so special and makes you stand out from everybody else. I think it’s so important to stay true to that. I mean, that’s what makes you different, and that’s what changes music all of the time is when somebody else is different. So I really, really encourage people to just stay true to themselves.

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