When creating the soundtrack to certain generations of music, there’s a handful of songs that are impossible to omit. When shifting focus to 70s soul music, “Killing Me Softly” will typically find itself near, if not at the top of those soundtracks.
Several artists have taken a crack at the iconic 1972 hit, ranging from Luther Vandross to Colbie Caillat, and as the song turns 50 years-old in 2022, Caitlin Quisenberry is throwing her hat in the ring, turning in a cover that builds from a somber piano and vocal melody to and epic arrangement mixed with belting vocals and rocking drums and guitars that even impressed original singer/songwriter Lori Leiberman.
We caught up with Quisenberry to talk all about “Killing Me Softly,” crossing genre lines, more new music this year and more!
Pro Country: Your last single, “Good On Me,” was a country and disco infused tune. How much do you enjoy crossing genre lines and paying homage to various styles and influences of your sound?
Caitlin Quisenberry: I love crossing genre lines! With my musical background being diverse, it makes the creative process so much fun. I had GRAMMY nominated producer, Sal Oliveri, produce this, and he has a number one with Pink and Chris Stapleton, so he really knows how to meld different genres together. I want each single I put out to have its own unique sound, and be a pleasant surprise for my listeners.
PC: Why did you feel that your newest single, a cover of “Killing Me Softly,” was the right follow up to “Good On Me”?
CQ: “Good On Me” is an upbeat, mid-tempo song, so I knew I wanted to follow it with a slow ballad to give my listeners the variety they’ve come to expect and appreciate.
PC: 2022 marks 50 years since the first version of “Killing Me Softly” was released. How long have you had it in your mind that you wanted to record the song yourself, and what is it that you love about the song?
CQ: It’s a song my mom introduced me to years ago; it’s one of her favorites and now one of mine too. I love reading about the history of songs; it’s something I spent a lot of time doing as a vocal performance student at Pepperdine. When I started digging into “Killing Me Softly,” I found it fascinating, and it has a lot of drama surrounding it as well. Like Lori Leiberman, the artist who came up with the idea for the song, after seeing Mr. McLean perform at a club in Los Angeles. She wrote in her diary that listening to his songs were as intensely personal (and as embarrassing) as if he had read aloud from her own letters. She was also the first to recorded it, but then was unfairly cut out of the writing credits. Through knowing more about the song, my passion and connection to it really developed. When I sing it, I really feel the words, and I think it’s one of the most brilliant songs ever written. I wanted to celebrate it and be part of its iconic history, so I decided to record my own version and put it out 50 years after its first release in 1972.
PC: When recording an iconic song like “Killing Me Softly,” what emotions come with putting your spin on the song? Is there any pressure you felt to do the song justice?
CQ: Yes, there was definitely pressure. This song has been covered by hundreds of artists across all genres, but the ones most of us know are the original by Lori Leiberman, then Roberta Flack making it a number one hit, followed by The Fugees also making it a number one hit. The person I was most concerned with liking/appreciating my version was Lori Leiberman. When my version was released, I tagged her on Instagram. She responded to me saying, “Thank you Caitlin! Wonderful version!!!!!” She also shared it on her own social media! For me, that was the highest compliment I could have ever received. We then began messaging each other about the song and she invited me to her concert coming up in NYC, so I am actually going to get to meet her and hear her sing soon. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for this! She also just released “Killing Me Softly” again on her latest album, so I’m hoping that song is in her lineup to sing!
PC: “Killing Me Softly” features an impressive musical build leading to a belting climax. How much did you enjoy working on the arrangement with your producer, Jason Wyatt?
CQ: Jason Wyatt is a musical genius, and I am blessed to know him and work with him. I was able to tell him what I wanted: to start out with the delicate nature of the song, not only for its beauty, but also to preserve the history of it. As an artist, I also wanted to leave my mark on it, and that’s where the build came in as well as my desire to add the steel guitar into the arrangement. Jason produced “O Holy Night” for me, which is very similar, with a soft start that also builds to a belting climax, so I knew he would create what I was wanting, and I have to say, his arrangement definitely exceeded my expectations. Jason also sings on every song I record with him. He has this cool rough rocker voice that pairs nicely with mine. It is a blast to record with him, not only for his creativity, but for the intense energy he gives me when I’m laying down my vocals.
PC: What are your plans for the rest of 2022 and going into 2023?
CQ: I have three more songs scheduled to release this year. My next one is very country (recently pitched to Yellowstone, TV show) then my last two are Christmas songs (recently pitched to Hallmark). I wrote all of them, so I’m extra excited for you all to hear them. I have so much new music because I’ve been writing up a storm. 2023 is going to be another big release year for me with many songs already recorded. This Friday, October 14th, I’m releasing the music video for “Good On Me”, so be on the lookout for that. My next live performance in Nashville is on November 14th at the Virgin Hotel with The Women of Country. If you’re in town, come see me!
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
CQ: I want to thank you, Justin, and Pro Country for always supporting me and my music. You were one of the first country media outlets to pick up and promote my music and I am truly grateful for all the interviews we have done. Pro Country is also where I go to discover new artists and read more about the ones I do know. Thank you for everything you do!
*”Killing Me Softly” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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