Band: Caleb Caudle
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club,
916 Charleston St.,
Tickets: $10 at the door
While pop overtones have been dominating mainstream country, the alternative audience continues to influence an enthusiastic niche. Artists such as Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell have carried the flag, but singer-songwriter Caleb Caudle is one of alt. country’s most popular new artists.
His albums “Tobacco Town” and “Paint Another Layer on My Heart” have established his place in the genre, and he has more new music on the way. As he visits the Azalea City, Caudle is preparing for the release of “Carolina Ghosts,” a new album listeners may have an opportunity to sample at Callaghan’s Sept. 15.
Stephen Centanni: Huffington Post has called you “the next Jason Isbell.” What do you think about a comparison like that?
Caleb Caudle: Aw, man, it’s great! I feel like Jason and Sturgill have really opened things up for the whole genre. It’s been great to see those guys get so much success and opening doors for guys like me or John Moreland or Aaron Lee Tasjan.
Centanni: “Tobacco Town” was a breakout album for you, and “Paint Another Layer on My Heart” seems to have gotten you even more attention from the critics and a wider listening audience.
Caudle: It was great. You’re always hoping for progression. I think it’s encouraging. Hopefully the next one will be able to build off of that. It’s already done, so I’m pretty excited to get it out there.
Centanni: Tell me about “the next one.”
Caudle: It’s called “Carolina Ghosts.” I recorded it here in North Carolina. I had some friends come in from Nashville and some friends from North Carolina as well to play on the record. It’s pretty country. It’s a little bit more country than anything else I’ve done, because pretty much all I listen to is Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, George Jones, Randy Travis and all that stuff from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Centanni: The last album was written on the road, because you keep a hectic tour schedule. Judging from what I’ve seen over the past few months, that hasn’t changed. You pretty much stay on the road. Is this another road-inspired album?
Caudle: It’s a little different. About 18 months ago, a little bit after “Paint” was released, I was living in New Orleans, and I quit drinking. I moved back home to North Carolina, pretty much, after that. It’s kind of a homecoming record. So there’s not much about traveling and missing anyone. Life was getting better for me, and I kicked some of the habits that I needed to kick. I was just trying to get focused and hunker down and write a good batch of songs.
Centanni: What was it like going home after living in New Orleans?
Caudle: I missed North Carolina the whole time I was there (New Orleans). It was hard coming home from a tour to New Orleans, because that wasn’t home. It felt like you were still in this strange place. Your mind is never set to ease, because you’re still having to use a GPS to get around your neighborhood. So, it felt like you were still on tour.
Centanni: Tell me about the songs on this one.
Caudle: There’s some stuff where you could tell I had put down the bottle, but I didn’t want to make it this whole preachy record about all that, because it seems to be a personal thing. When I moved home, I started dating my girlfriend, who I’m living with here in North Carolina. A lot of it are those early-on-in-the-relationship type songs. I think that’s kind of like where really my head and my heart were this time around, with falling in love and getting my mind right. I’m trying to give the listener a snapshot of that time.
Centanni: You were talking about being a fan of country from the ‘70s and ‘80s. That’s what this is sounding like to me. There’s so many songs about putting down the bottle and rekindling love. I’m really going to go out there with this, but it’s been my observation with the blues that you can’t really sing the true blues unless you’ve lived what you’re singing about. It’s almost like a curse. You can create this great music, but you have to live all that stuff too. Would you say you’ve had that kind of situation with this?
Caudle: Definitely, I wore myself into the ground. From that, you start learning what not to do and how to tour better. I don’t think you have to be going through stuff to write a good song, necessarily, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be have been through some of it. You’re coming out on the other side and looking at yourself, and you’re like, “Man, I was an idiot.” I’m just trying to get smarter and just focus on writing and performing.
Centanni: What are you most looking forward to your fans hearing on the new album?
Caudle: I’m really excited to just hear what people think. It’s the first time I’ve made a record where I feel like I’m taking a huge leap forward production-wise. I was just listening to a lot of that ‘80s Merle Haggard stuff. I just love how all those records like “Big City” and “Going Where the Lonely Go” are snapshots of maybe six months of his life. The production is just perfect, and he’s just singing about what he knows. I just think people are going to be able to connect to it. What I’ve been trying to do since day one with this whole songwriting thing is to find people to connect with what I’m doing. I think there’s a lot of life within this record that I’ve never touched on before. I’m excited for people to get a hold of it.
Centanni: Did you work with Jon Ashley again on this one?
Caudle: We did. We flew Jon in. He’s out in L.A. now. It’s also the same band from last time, except that I brought in a new pedal steel player named Brett Resnick. He’s from Nashville. I got a Dobro player on board too. Then Bonnie Whitmore sang some harmonies.
Centanni: Last time I saw you at Callaghan’s, you were doing the solo acoustic thing, and you’re doing the full-band thing this time. Would you say the full-band show is a different experience?
Caudle: It’s different. I’m really excited about it. It’s the first time I’ll be taking the band out. I’ve been touring solo non-stop for quite a while, so it’s really nice to have the opportunity to get back to some places like Callaghan’s and some other spots throughout the Southeast that I’ve never brought a full band to. There’s going to be some low key stuff that we do, but we’ll also be playing five or six new songs off the record. So, that will be pretty fun.