In the digital era, it is easier than ever to cover up actual feelings with a smile on social media. Voicing those feelings can be intimidating, and at times, even scary.
Cassie Boettcher has been there herself. However, with her new EP More Than That, she delves into deeply personal stories of heartbreak and love lost, hoping others can learn to embrace less-than-ideal feelings as well.
Read along as Cassie details her musical roots, the songs on More Than That, experimenting with instrumentation (or lack thereof), “feeling” her feelings, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Cassie Boettcher: There was so much music around me as a child that I didn’t realize would be so influential in my life. On the drive to elementary school, my dad always played the local rock station, and I’d hear artists like John Mellencamp and Tom Petty. As I started to get older, Kelly Clarkson was absolutely one of my idols… I went through a serious Kelly Clarkson phase. Early Taylor Swift, too. I’ve always naturally gravitated toward music that tells stories and makes you feel things, and I didn’t realize it at the time. Acoustic, folk, and country music are still my favorites because of the stories they tell.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to pursue music as a career?
CB: I can’t remember a specific moment that I knew, but it was definitely in high school. I was so involved in the music department and in choir, show choir, and musicals… and was teaching myself to play guitar at night. The combination of all those things was what led me toward music, I think. I started writing songs in math class… and one of my teachers even gave me extra credit for writing a song about what we were studying in class at that time. I think that’s why I passed!
PC: Your song “October Sky” from your EP (Philosophical) Words was featured in Rob Burnett’s film We Made This Movie. How did that opportunity come to you? What did it mean to you at that point in your career to have your song noticed in that way?
CB: I had submitted the song to a contest online. It was one of those things where I knew a million people would submit and it would be a huge shot in the dark if the song was actually picked. I was in Yellowstone National Park with my family when I received a call telling me that it was one of the songs chosen. We were going in and out of cell service, and I remember freaking out that they would change their minds because of that… thankfully they didn’t!
In a way, it was a turning point. I had been playing out a lot at the time and was so honored and thankful to have been included. It was reaffirming to me that maybe I could actually do this.
PC: “Maybe Someday” has become a signature song in your catalog. What do you think it is about that song that has allowed it to connect with people the way that it has?
CB: Big shoutout to the video game Tom Clancy’s “The Division,” for all the love it’s given “Maybe Someday!” It’s a tune that I definitely didn’t think would become a signature song, but I’m glad that it is. It’s different than something I normally write, because though it talks about love, it also touches on other things. I feel like it’s especially relevant in this day and age with how the world keeps changing and getting a little crazy. But we still need to have hope that “maybe someday” the world will become a better place, we’ll all support each other, accept each other for who we are, and just love each other.
PC: Why did you decide to release “He Feels” as the lead single from your newest EP More Than That?
CB: When I played the songs for trusted friends prior to the release, it was one of the songs that stood out the most and got the most reaction. I thought it was a good song that summarized the whole record, the theme I was focusing on, and the strongest way to preview what the rest of the record was like.
PC: “Someone Else Was Here” is one of the standouts on More Than That. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
CB: I was spending a lot of time with a guy at the time and was super into him. I came over to his place once, went into the kitchen for something, and saw two matching wine glasses with drops of red in the sink… which became the first line to the song. Slowly I started seeing signs that I wasn’t the only one in the picture and when I wasn’t there, someone else was.
PC: “Song For Lucas” is my favorite song on the EP, and goes into incredibly deep detail about what seems like a personal heartbreak. What is it about you that allows you to open yourself up to people and be vulnerable at times through your music?
CB: Opening yourself up and being vulnerable is definitely the most difficult part of being a musician! It’s something that I’ve struggled with, because I tend to not vocalize these things in my daily life, but instead share them on stage with strangers… it’s funny how life works. I take that to account because for some reason, I was given this gift of storytelling and want to share my songs and stories to help and inspire other people.
PC: On its surface, “…Baby One More Time” seems like an interesting song to cover for the EP, but fits with the “love lost” theme throughout, and musically, fits very well with the other songs. What went into the decision to cover that song for the EP?
CB: I had done a short cover of it on Instagram a few months before and received good responses from it. I started thinking and imagining what it would be like if it was “country-fied circa 2008 Taylor Swift.” If you really listen to the lyrics of the song, it’s not the happiest! I wanted to emphasize those lyrics, and allow listeners to understand what I love about the song: the storytelling. Producer Gene Micofsky just understood that feeling as well and nailed it.
PC: As a whole, each song on More Than That deals with a heartache or love lost in some way. Was that an intentional theme you wanted to focus on what writing for the EP, or did that come out naturally?
CB: It was not an intentional theme, but strangely enough, it did come out naturally! The songs were the highlight collection, if you will, of my life since releasing (philosophical) words. They were the songs that best summed up my life from that period of time, and putting them all together felt right, and it felt like the right time to share them.
PC: The instrumentation on More Than That is much more sparse than on (Philosophical) Words. Why did you feel that sparse instrumentation was the best way to go about recording this EP?
CB: Instrumentation is so much fun to play with and adds so much depth to a song. With these songs, I wanted to focus the most on the lyrics, because at heart, I’m a lyric person. The producers I worked with could tell that as well, and just knew how to make it happen. When there is added instrumentation, it’s detailed and placed in specific spots to emphasize the necessary parts of the song.
PC: You worked with a team of three talented producers on More Than That. How did the opportunity to work with each of them bring out the best of yourself as an artist on the EP?
CB: Working with multiple producers helped me to continue learning about the recording process and building a song. So often when I write songs, I have ideas of how I want them to sound when recording. But being in the studio changes that! The whole team I worked with on this record really helped me learn that taking risks is worth it. I’ve never had mandolin on a track before. We did that on the “…Baby One More Time” cover, and it’s one of my favorite parts.
Working with an amazing team is great because it helps you continue to grow as a person. And if you’re never growing and just sticking to things because it’s what you know, is it making you a better person and helping others? Whatever I do, I just want to keep growing and learning, and I’m so glad I’m able to do so.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from the More Than That EP after listening all the way through?
CB: I hope that listeners take away the feeling that it’s okay to have your heart broken. It’s okay for relationships not to work out. And it’s okay to mourn those feelings. In this day and age, when feelings are so often covered up by Instagram posts portraying perfect lives (I’m guilty of doing it too), we are so often afraid to show the truth and how life really is. Feeling things is important. And we need to remember that.
PC: It’s been seven years since you released the (Philosophical) Words EP. Where do you think you’ve grown the most in the time since that release?
CB: Seven years?! That’s crazy! I feel like I’ve grown in so many ways since that release that I can’t even begin to describe. In the past, I felt like I had to make music in a certain genre so people would listen to it. Looking back at (philosophical) words, even though I loved it at the time and it still has a special place in my heart, I felt like a part of me did conform and settle.
With More Than That I wanted to make the record that I wanted to make and something that I was proud of, even if no one listened to it. I wanted to focus on the core of the music and the message of the songs. I’ve learned so much more by working in the studio about how to vocalize what sounds I want on each song, which has really helped shape how they turn out and the overall sound of the record too.
PC: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
CB: Recording more songs… and hopefully releasing them! Going outside my comfort zone and dabbling with new sounds. Collaborating and writing with new people. Playing shows in LA. I want to tour so badly! If not this year, then next year.
*Images courtesy of Cassie Boettcher and Cassie Boettcher website*