When Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Colbie Caillat found out I was a fellow Gemini, our interview instantly seemed more like a conversation between long-time friends. It’s not common to have that feeling when you talk to a 29-year-old musical superstar who’s sold over 6 million albums, 10 million singles and played before sellout audiences around the world. But she makes it feel very natural, and she is much more comfortable being called Colbie than Ms. Caillat.
Like most of us Geminis, change for her is welcome, something she still aspires to even as her fourth album, “Gypsy Heart,” begins presale tomorrow (September 2) prior to its release on September 30.
“You understand exactly what I felt when I was doing this new album,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Southern California. And I did. When “Gypsy Heart” is released, millions of fans will find that Colbie has blended the best of several worlds into her fourth album. It’s been a work in progress for months.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she told me. “I named it ‘Gypsy Heart’ because I really didn’t want to name it ‘Gemini,’ though I could have. I’ve gone back and forth almost every day as we wrote and recorded these songs. Every writing session, I thought that the genre could be different—from synchronized pop songs to some with a darker tone, and I wanted to just keep writing all fall and winter.” What Colbie concluded was that “I didn’t have to be in just one category, to write for just one genre. So I basically divided up songs for this album among genres.”
She began a nationwide tour in late August to promote “Gypsy Heart.” An EP, “Gypsy Heart Side A,” was released earlier this year. Already, the most recognizable song is “Try,” a collaboration with musical genius/ producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds that makes a powerful statement about female body image. Its lyrics came from something Edmonds said to her while they were working on the new album.
“While we were writing, Kenny told me, ‘Stay true to yourself. Don’t’ let them change you. You don’t have to try’,” she recalled in discussing the song in a release. “It was such a liberating way to start the session, and we kept rolling with that message. It explains literally every step a woman takes to get herself ready to go out in public and how exhausting it is. There’s so much we have to do in order to make ourselves ‘beautiful,’ so we feel accepted in the public eye.”
Many people submitted “treatments” for the video, but Colbie said “they had no depth or emotion.” Instead, she created a video where she is joined by several women who, like Colbie herself, are shown transforming themselves in reverse, removing layers of cosmetics, wigs and extensions and ending by showing their natural beauty.
“It showed the process that many of us go through—sometimes 2 to 3 hours to get ready,” she said. “I have long, thick hair, but I still use extensions, as you can see in the video when they’re removed. It was fun to show up on the set with no makeup and no extensions, and then adding them. The video is the process shown in reverse. Again, very liberating.”
The video for “Try,” with nearly 22 million views on YouTube, has become an anthem for women everywhere. Like the release of “Gypsy Heart,” Colbie is also excited about the new tour.
“This is like something we’ve never done before,” she said. “New sets, new lighting, new props, and amazing sound system, and huge TV screens and videos for the audiences. We’re very excited to be back out on the road, visiting some of our favorite cities and some new ones.”
And there’s another aspect to Colbie’s career that I wanted to discuss—how she has reached the heights on her own talents, even though she certainly could have used the “in” of her father, famed music producer Ken Caillat.
“I kind of grew up with Mick Fleetwood in our home,” she said with a smile. “I call him Uncle Mick. But when I was preparing to record my first album, I had such a hard time saying no when he offered to play drums. I wanted any success that might come my way to be the result of my hard work or talents. It’s proven to be the right way to go.”
Colbie has turned her stardom and fame into working for great causes as well. She is a spokesperson and supporter for the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, Farm Sanctuary, the Surfrider Foundation (which fights for protection of beaches and the world’s oceans) and Save the Music (promoting music education in schools).
“I just want to write songs that stay with people,” she said in her album press release. “If fans can listen to my music in repeat, and play my songs during memorable moments in their lives, that’s amazing. I want that more than anything.”
It’s easy to see why Colbie Caillat is so successful and likeable. So easy, you don’t even have to “try.”
–By Tom Haraldsen