To put it mildly, Caitlin Cannon has lived a lot of life in her years. Thankfully, when she released The TrashCannon Album in May, she offered listeners their first glimpse into her story.
Whether she’s content with “Going for the Bronze,” realizing her addictions to alcohol and a certain relationship were poisonous to her on “Deliver,” or delving into family matters with “Daddy-O Mine,” Cannon is fearless in giving listeners that glimpse, and at many points on the record, it becomes as deep as a stare, as she opens herself up pretty deeply.
We chatted with Caitlin about her diverse influences that led to her sonically diverse album, many of the songs on The TrashCannon Album and what she hopes listeners take away from it, how she plans to stay busy for the rest of 2020 and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Caitlin Cannon: As a kid, I split my time between my parents. On the drives between Alabama and Tennessee, I learned to harmonize with everything that was playing on country radio in those days. My grandmother taught me Cole Porter and Gershwin tunes, put curlers in my hair and took me to auditions. I wanted to grow up the be like Sonja Henie, the ice-skating actress. My heroes were Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Rosanne Cash, The Judds, Marylin Monroe and Ginger Rogers. In my teens, I converted into an alt-country disciple. I saw Jeff Tweedy through several relapses and Ryan Adams through his Gap commercial phase, and tried to be open-minded when they “changed” on me. I was heartsick over Cary Ann Hearst’s Lions and Lambs because it was just so exactly what I wanted to do. I idolize the late Kacey Jones, who had a band called Ethel and the Shameless Hussies I saw in a bar with my Dad when I was a three-year-old. They performed songs with titles like, “Last Night I Really Laid Down The Law,” “I Thought He Was Mr. Right, But He Left,” and “I Can Always Get Skinny, But You’ll Never Be Tall.” My songs have been shaped by the classic/contemporary country I grew up on, but also all of the genre-bended and blended music that’s not as easy to categorize.
PC: Your bio mentions that you have been performing in some capacity for most of your life. What was it about performing that connected with you so early in your life, and when did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career?
CC: Well, after a lot of time therapy, pseudo-spiritual workshops and 12-step programs, I’ve come to understand that there were some elements of my childhood that were intolerable to me. And I thought, if I became rich and famous, I would be “safe” and even people who didn’t like me would still have to be nice to my face and give me opportunities. Singing and dancing seemed like the most fun way to achieve that. And I was devoted to it, however, tortured, so when I turned to drugs and alcohol, my work became mediocre and I had no real self-confidence. I had lost all motivation to continue to scrutinize words and fictional characters other people had written, and needed to find out what I had to say. Writing songs, especially about where I came from, helped me get down to the nitty-gritty. It became the most important thing in my life after that.
PC: You released music with Caitlin Cannon and the Artillery in 2011, but what emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release solo music for the first time with The TrashCannon Album?
CC: I was feeling lucky and broke! Are those emotions? To me they are. That whole “opportunity meets preparation” occurred in a different way for me when Megan Burtt (whose songwriting and musicianship I have long admired) signed on to produce the project and worked on it tirelessly for less than peanuts to its completion. So I called in every favor I could, and put every resource I had into its release, and then… pandemic. I didn’t know if anyone would hear it. I’m beyond grateful to be answering questions about it for Pro Country today. I’m so proud it’s gone some distance, even while I haven’t been able to get in front of audiences and make bad jokes. Now, I feel resurrected by this record, and eager to make another one.
PC: What went into the decision to release “Toolbag” as the first single from The TrashCannon Album?
CC: I’m sure I was worried I’d turn some folks off and fought the urge to apologize for myself. But this record has a lot of humorist/feminist gumption, and “Toolbag” was chomping at the bit. Everything about writing with Megan, recording it, conceptualizing the video with Tage Plantell, and the artwork with Mark Cort was a smash. But if you look beyond the shock value, it’s a really well-crafted tune and some of my favorite wordplay ever. I’m pleased that we lead with the brazen “Toolbag” and finished with the classy “Dumb Blonde.” Come brazen and leave classy, ha! That’s my motto. Take that walk of shame, with pride!
PC: “Deliver” is our favorite song on The TrashCannon Album, discussing sobriety and a relationship gone sour, and was also the first song you wrote after you quit drinking. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song and how easy or hard it was for you to write?
CC: Thank you, PC! I love this song also. Writing it got me through my breakup with the Man and the Manhattan, since it was necessary to do both at once. I sometimes think I sound dogmatic or puritanical when I talk about being just as addicted to the unhealthiness of the relationship as I was to booze. I’ve had long-term sobriety twice before and it’s amazing how I’ve been able to justify drinking when I know it is poisoning my soul. It’s as automatic as trying to breathe water with no gills. Same with the guy. I guess I stay in those situations too long because I think confronting the truth will be worse than that! So I holed up, banged around on the guitar every night for about a month, and by the time it was a song I was single, sober and very much relieved! I guess you could say it really “delivered.”
PC: “Barbers and Bartenders” has been the top-streamed song from The TrashCannon Album since its release, and has been named a favorite among press/reviewers as well. What do you think it is about that song that has allowed it to connect with listeners the way it has?
CC: I wrote this song with Robin Schorr and Amanda Ply before we had any idea everyone would lose their hairdressers and bartenders! This tune has a lot of me in it, but co-writing helps me sacrifice specificity and write more universally (for instance, I really wanted to find a way to put “saloon and salon” in the lyric but it didn’t serve the song.) The simplest songs can sometimes be the hardest for me to write and stay truthful, but I’m striving to get good at that because I ultimately just want to find a little entrance into everyone’s heart.
PC: “Daddy-O Mine” is another one of our favorite on The TrashCannon Album, and is a song where you discuss you’re your father. Is there a certain level of catharsis that comes with writing and releasing a song like that?
CC: Mary Gauthier has a song I love called “Sweet Words.” I believe she started writing that song about someone else’s faults and then realized she was guilty of the same thing. I was a student of Mary’s for a while and her writing has inspired me to try and peel back that next layer beneath what’s comfortable. So, Daddy-O was a daddy issue song (and it still is) but it never felt complete until I realized–wait a second, I do that!
PC: On several of the songs on The TrashCannon Album, you open yourself up and discuss deep topics like sobriety, your relationship with your father and your mother working so she can visit your brother in prison. What is it about yourself that allows you to be so open, and at times vulnerable, in your music?
CC: Yes, pain! I can be a bit of a creative anorexic unless I have a thorn stuck in the side of my soul. Once cheese and crackers stop working, writing songs is the best way so far I’ve found to soothe that. And I like to find a joke in even the saddest of situations. Megan says this is a defense mechanism, but it’s why you’ll find a lot of sarcasm in the lyrics, usually the bridge. So satisfying.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on The TrashCannon Album? If so, why is it so special to you?
CC: “Mama’s a Hairdresser” is the oddball, and my favorite song on the record. I wanted to make a statement stylistically akin to that of Patterson Hood’s spoken word oration, although it’s really its own thing. My brother makes a cameo. I held the phone up to the receiver to record the automated message that plays when he calls from the DOC and Megan found a way to embed it in the track. I think anyone with a loved one in the system will find that part to be quite visceral.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from The TrashCannon Album after listening all the way through?
CC: I hope they will feel more amused and less alone. I hope they will want to come to a show and sing all the words with me and buy a t-shirt!
PC: 2020 has altered many plans of artists so far. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
CC: I’ll be writing my ass off. It’s been great to get to meet folks I might have not otherwise, through livestream opportunities, and pretend I hear them clapping, but I’m dying to get out there and shake a tambourine. I do believe something good will come from this hiatus, even if it’s just the best party of our lives once they let us out.
*Feature image by Karly Horenn*