If nothing else, 2020 has given artists ample time to hone their craft. For Caitlin Quisenberry, 2020 has provided her the opportunity to release her first three singles to great critical acclaim, get a head start on her upcoming EP, and more recently, make her move to Music City to pursue music full time.
Her success this year was prefaced by spending nearly her entire life on stage, a golden ticket from American Idol at just 15 years-old, and classical voice training that laid the foundation for the vocal sustainability that is so cherished as artists make their way through their careers.
With three single releases under her belt and a rapidly growing fanbase, Quisenberry has made the most of her musical introduction. The beautifully sad “Blue” puts the Denver native’s smooth, rich vocal on display, while “SOS” allows her to show a more rocking, energetic sound. With the release of her newest, fan favorite single “Let Love Die” in May, Quisenberry has cemented herself as an artist to watch closely as the year unfolds.
We chatted with Quisenberry about taking the leap to pursue music full-time, the support she’s received with her first three singles, what listeners can expect from her upcoming EP, her big plans for the rest of the year and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Caitlin Quisenberry: I like any singer that sings with passion and from their soul. You can tell when someone sings because they truly love to sing. You know what I mean? They feel it with every muscle in their body. Those are the types of singers who have influenced me the most. To name a few, I’d have to say Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers.
PC: You’ve been performing and playing music for most of your life. What was it about music that connected with you so early in your life? At what point did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
CQ: Singing was something I never had to think about doing, it just flowed out of me, almost like on automatic. It came so naturally to me at such an early age that sometimes I didn’t even notice I’d be singing; that is until I started getting weird looks from other people around me [laughs]. I grew up Southern Baptist (my grandpa was the preacher), and so a lot of the music I heard early on as a child was beautiful, soulful, gospel music. However, I really only wanted to pursue music as a full-time career very recently. Well, I take that back. I think deep down, I always wanted to pursue music as a career, but I decided to suppress those dreams and pursue something more practical at first. Upon graduating Pepperdine University with a 3.89 GPA in Philosophy and an emphasis in Vocal Performance, as well as a certificate from Pepperdine Law School, I decided to take a gap year to study for the LSAT. My plan was to go to law school the following year and become an entertainment attorney. During this year of studying, I started to miss having music in my life. I was very involved in my University’s choirs, as well as private voice lessons, and it was really hard making the transition from singing every day to not singing at all. So, I decided I would post an Instagram video of me singing, which at the time was something I VERY rarely ever did. I sang “Millionaire” by Chris Stapleton. It ended up getting a lot of attention, and a producer in Nashville DM-ed me asking to fly me out to record with them and be featured as one of their Breakout Artists. My life direction and path forever changed in that moment. I decided law school would always be there, but this opportunity to go after my dreams wouldn’t. So, I decided to go for it and here I am today!
PC: At just 15 years-old, you auditioned for American Idol and got a golden ticket to go to Hollywood. What did having that success so early in your career and having the belief from the judges mean to you?
CQ: Validation is always nice to hear, but I think what it actually taught me is don’t let one person’s opinion of you shape the person you become. That show is so subjective, and there are a lot of other factors that go into it other than just your voice. Being on the show also gave me an incredible amount of confidence to be able to perform later in life. I mean, talk about nerve-racking for a 15 year-old! There still are very few things I’ve done in my life to date that are more intimidating than that initial audition. I’ll always be thankful for my experience on the show and I’m very proud to have received a golden ticket.
PC: You studied classic and sacred a cappella music and have been trained by major opera artists. Can you talk about what drew you to that style of music and when the transition into making country music with your own artistry happened?
CQ: Of course! So Pepperdine is very classically focused. So, there was really no other option if I wanted to go to school there. However, I am incredibly fortunate that I was able to be classically trained, as there is nothing more helpful and beneficial for your voice in the long run. When I try to explain it to people, I always try to compare classical singing to dance. In dance, a lot of dance programs require you take Ballet so you can have a strong foundation and grow from there. That is essentially what classical voice training gives you; it trains and strengthens your vocal muscles, technique and breathing in such a unique way that a lot of other singers never get the benefit of having. Although, singing classical music was never my favorite. My favorite kind of music to sing was country. I guess I just loved the stories country music was able to tell, and I naturally had a country flare in my voice.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your debut single “Blue”? What went into the decision to release that song first?
CQ: Nervous, excited, unsure of how it would be perceived; really, a whole mix of emotions! I had come to peace though where I knew I was happy with the song; it made me proud, and that was enough. I was overjoyed though from the positive feedback it received, and when CMT announced they would be adding my music video, that was a big stepping stone for me in my career. And then recently, you all, Pro Country, put it on your “Best Singles of 2020” top ten list! That was a HUGE HONOR and came at the perfect time as I was packing up to move to Nashville.
PC: CMT premiered the music video for “Blue,” which has been viewed nearly 22,000 views on YouTube and been streamed over 30,000 times. Is there a level of validation that comes with having that success on your debut single?
CQ: Definitely. It is always nice to receive praise for the work you are creating and to know that the long hours you are putting in are paying off. I really am most thankful for my family, friends and fans for being so supportive of me and really doing whatever they can to help me with my music career; whether that be sharing their contacts, sharing my posts on socials, etc. The success of my music would really be nothing without the loving people that surround me.
PC: Your second single “SOS” is quite different both stylistically and lyrically than “Blue,” and was written by Megan Conner and Pete Stewart. How important was it for you to show that level of versatility in your sound on your first two singles?
CQ: It was very important to me to show versatility! I never want my music to all sound the same. I really want each song to stand on its own, and each to have a unique vibe and story to tell. I have a diverse background in music myself (from classical to country), so I want my music and song choices to reflect that.
PC: Your newest single “Let Love Die” was released just over two months ago, and has already earned over 60,000 streams on Spotify. What do you think it is about that song that is allowing it to connect with listeners the way that it has?
CQ: I think it’s because the song has a very profound message that is relatable to so many. The journey of anguish in the breathtaking ballad, laced with an unforgettable chorus and catchy hook leads to learning one of life’s hardest lessons. When it feels like you aren’t in control, you still can be, in that you’re always in control of how you react. Another cool little insight on the song is that it was actually on hold with Miranda Lambert for a couple years prior to when I was asked to record it.
PC: Your website mentions that you are working on your debut, self-titled EP. What information can you give about the EP? What can listeners expect to hear?
CQ: Yes, so thus far, I’ve been releasing my music as singles. I’m going to start promoting my next single “Imogene” that is scheduled to release July 31st, 2020. After that, I plan on working towards the release of an EP. About three weeks ago, I recorded five more songs. I’m working on the production side of them now and will most likely release one or two as a single with a music video and the rest as an EP. I have some REALLY awesome songs in the mix and I can hardly wait to get them out! One is country with a flare of jazz, another is definitely more pop and leaning EDM, but all are country at the core. I like to experiment, but always within the country realm.
PC: Off the Row Magazine recently named you as their “Artist of the Year” and featured you on the cover of that specific issue. What did having that recognition mean to you?
CQ: Yes, that was very special for me. It was very surreal to see myself on the cover and to see that all my hard work was paying off. I felt incredibly thankful for being chosen for such an honor. Off the Row supported me very early on and continue to be such a light in my life. I really am so lucky to have met them and have them as part of my music team. They do it ALL! From pitching songs to me, to co-writing with me, photoshoots, music videos and production!
PC: Just this year, you’ve released three singles, landed on the “New Music Nashville” curated Spotify playlist, and as we mentioned, had a song premiered on CMT and you were named Off the Row’s “Artist of the Year.” In a year that has been hectic to say the least, what has this year meant to you and your artistry?
CQ: It has been a VERY hectic year already, and we are only half way through it [laughs]. Having my music take off during this time has really been such a blessing. Being busy with that has been nice because it’s given me something positive to focus my attention on. It’s a crazy time for all of us, and I am really thankful that music has been a great outlet for me to stay mentally strong. We have to keep pushing forward, even through the hard times, and I’m truly grateful for the recognition and support that has been shown from Spotify, CMT, Off the Row, my family, friends and the many others along the way.
PC: 2020 has altered most plans of artists so far. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
CQ: Yes, well I’m actually moving today to Nashville so I can pursue music full time! My plan is to really hit the ground running when I get there: get my merchandise up, release new music, music videos, and then, of course when things get back up and running again, I’ll be doing live shows and hopefully can start touring! My goal is to get signed with a record label.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
CQ: New song, “Imogene” coming July 31st with an animated music video to follow.
Listen to my music here: https://lnk.to/CaitlinQmusic
New Merchandise coming in August at caitlinquisenberrymusic.com
Reach out to me on my socials:
Facebook: Caitlin Quisenberry
*Images courtesy of Caitlin Quisenberry*
**Find Caitlin’s music on The Best of Pro Country playlist!**