It’s human nature to question the outcome of certain life experiences and wonder what could have happened differently. What if one different decision could have totally altered everything? Caitlin Quisenberry ponders that thought too, and with her new single “What If,” she’s putting a voice to those thoughts. Serving as her first release in almost a calendar year, “What If” also serves as the first song she has co-written of the now six tunes she has released. With heavy-hitting songwriter and producer Ben Simonetti along for the ride, Quisenberry is quickly putting together an all-star team of producers and co-writers as she looks to close 2021 and enter 2022 with several new releases.
We caught up with Quisenberry to talk about her evolution as an artist, all about “What If,” having a hands-on approach with her music, a timeline for her new releases and more!
Pro Country: Your last single, “Get Loud with Me,” was your most sonically explorative song you’ve released. How important is it for you to explore your sound and to continue to work to identify what you want to sound like and say as an artist?
Caitlin Quisenberry: Exploring and identifying my sound is very important. It’s something I’ve put a lot of thought and time into. I had five more songs I recorded that I had planned to put out following “Get Loud With Me,” but during my time of evolution, they were no longer a fit for my direction, so I never put them out and began songwriting and working closely with my producers to create new music that told the better story of who I am as an artist.
PC: Your newest single, “What If,” was released nearly a year to the day after “Get Loud with Me,” and served as your first release in 2021. What kind of excitement/emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to make your return this year?
CQ: My excitement to start releasing my new music was over the moon, especially since my last release was a year ago! In that year, I really put my nose to the grindstone. I was new to Nashville and making the most incredible connections and friends. This was a year of building my foundation so I could come out with explosive music. One of my producers, Sal Oliveri, said it best in an interview; he said, “This is Caitlin 2.0!” I got into several amazing songwriting groups with top writers here in Nashville. While creating my music, I also wanted to hone in on building my fanbase and keep the fans I had from the first singles released, so I started the CQ Newsletter at the beginning of January. I put out a weekly newsletter every Monday morning inspiring creativity. I have close to 600 subscribers now and they are my biggest support system. Creativity is so important to me, I even started a separate art account on instagram: @caitlinraeartwork. Go check it out ;)! I also designed more CQ merchandise and started the CQ fan club. I was nervous and excited for this release because it’s the first song I’ve put out that I wrote, so that has put me in a much more vulnerable state then with any other release.
PC: Why did you feel that “What If” was the right follow up to “Get Loud with Me” and to introduce yourself this year?
CQ: I’ve written and recorded a lot of music this past year, so which one to bring out first was the toughest decision! “WHAT IF” is very different from “Get Loud With Me” and I think that exemplifies the direction my music is going in. The main goal with my new music is that it’s relatable and the lyrics tell very vivid stories.
PC: You co-wrote “What If” with Stephan Laplante and Ben Simonetti. Can you take us in the room and talk about the inspiration behind the song and how it came together?
CQ: The song was inspired by a relationship I was in that left me with a lot of “what ifs.” Growing up, I really enjoyed the movies, “Sliding Doors” and “The Butterfly Effect.” I was always so intrigued by the theory itself and would often ask myself, “What if this or what if that…” playing out what could have happened. I brought the song to my producer, Ben Simonetti, and he really liked the idea behind it and what I had started. Then together we wrote it. Around the same time, I was also working with Stephan Laplante. He was my guitarist for some shows here in Nashville. I played it for him and he had a really cool idea melodically to take the bridge up on the line, “right out all the wrongs.” Once I heard it like that, I had to keep it. So, although he wasn’t part of the writing room day, he did contribute melodically to the bridge, and I wanted to give him a percentage of the song for that. I will never forget Ben calling me late the night before I was going in to record with him. We started tweaking and rewriting the song! Although it was a little stressful at the time, I’m happy we did it. I completely trust Ben, I mean, he’s probably the best writer in Nashville!
PC: A music video was released to coincide with the release of “What If,” which also served as your directorial debut. What was it like for you to be at the helm of the project, and how important is it for you to have a certain “hands-on” approach with the content you’re crating?
CQ: I was very nervous to be both directing and acting in my music video. I almost hired an actress so I could just focus on directing it, but my family encouraged me that I could do both, and now I’m happy I did. I wrote the script, so I knew it better than anyone and knew exactly what I was wanting. My male actors were so perfectly cast for their roles; they made it easy for me. I’m a very hands-on person in everything I do in my life, and it’s hard for me to let others take control. If I could have been behind the camera, I would have done that too! [laughs]. My videographer was great about stopping between takes so I could watch everything back and make the changes needed. Then I even got to edit with him after. That was something new for me. It was exhausting but worth it, and during the process, I learned that I really love editing as well. As of today, the “WHAT IF” music video was also added to CMT’s video page, so I was super excited about that!
PC: You’re working with heavy-hitting producers Ben Simonetti (Zac Brown Band) and Sal Oliveri (P!nk and Chris Stapleton). What has it been like for you to work and collaborate with people with their collective talent? What can you take away from the experience?
CQ: I am beyond blessed to be working with Ben and Sal! I hold on to everything they say and do because they have so much experience and expertise and are at the very top of their game. I don’t work with them together, each did 3 songs for me and I’m getting ready to start recording more. Ben is an incredible songwriter, so that’s an enormous plus for me to be able to songwrite with him as well. He’s also been very helpful with my release strategy and introducing me to some of the major players in the industry. His connections are priceless! I also love working with Sal for many reasons, first, our work personalities are the same; we are both very type A and very organized! He really knows my voice and plans the instruments around giving me a lot of space for laying down my vocals. They both really allow me to be part of the process from start to finish while guiding me in the right direction for my brand and artistry. I was honestly pinching myself while working with them!
PC: Your website mentions a string of singles in the coming months. What information can you give about your new music? What can listeners expect to hear?
CQ: Thanks for going to my website, I designed and created it myself! Yes! I do have a lot of new music coming out! I have a very aggressive release strategy planned to release a new single every 3 weeks. Right now I have it planned out through March 2022!
Here is my release schedule for the rest of this year:
“I Will, I Swear, I Do”- Release date: Oct. 8th
“Love Her Out Of My Head”- Release date: Oct 29th
“Take Only What You Need”- Release Date: Nov. 19th
“O Holy Night” (Christmas cover)- Release date: Dec 3rd
PC: Of the things you can control, along with releasing new music, what are your plans for the rest of the year and going into 2022?
CQ: I’m planning to continue to make songwriting my priority. I’ve landed into some amazing song writing groups and absolutely love what we are producing! I have a couple music videos I need to film, and I’m already back in the studio recording more music. Now that I have a lot of new music that I’ve written, I’m looking forward to doing more writers rounds and playing out in all the fun Nashville venues.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
CQ: I want to thank you, Justin, and Pro Country for doing this interview and supporting and believing in me from the very beginning. I love following you and all you do for artists. I’m honored to be part of that very special group.
*All images by David Dobson*
**”What If” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!**