Years ago Peterborough based singer/songwriter Caitlin Currie told me that she only writes songs during times of unhappiness. This sentiment would be repeated in her song Crazy, an emotional devastating ballad from her 2014 album Waking Up. In the song she sings:
“I told you that I only write when its going wrong. You said ‘Well, Honey, I hope you never write another song.’ So I’d give up this old guitar, these tired hands, this tired pen if only I’d be happy, Honey, in your arms again.”
So, when Caitlin returns during the midst of a pandemic with a brand new single titled Happy, what exactly does that mean?
“When I released the song someone wrote to me and told me ‘That title didn’t fool me for a second.’” Caitlin laughs. “I enjoy the funniness of me releasing a song and have three people contact me and say ‘Are you okay? You’re releasing music.’ But on the new album I’m working on there is a song that the hook is ‘I don’t think being sad is funny anymore.’ That sort of the theme of 2020 for me. How do we embrace the neutral? How do we create and not let the sadness take over?”
With her bright eyes peering out of a mask carefully chosen to match her outfit, Caitlin meets us at Peterborough’s legendary Only Café on an eerily quiet November night. Only hours after the Kawarthas had entered the “yellow zone”, open spaces have become sparse. But The Only Café is just below the Gordon Best Theatre where, in 2013, I first saw Caitlin perform in a local production of The Rocky Horror Show. From the moment I heard her play Science Fiction/Double Feature on her acoustic guitar, Caitlin has remained one of my very favorite performers. A talented actress and musician, it is easily her song writing that differentiates herself from other musicians in town. Filled with clever word play and deep personal meanings, Caitlin’s songs are equal parts beauty and cynicism, and her unique vocal stylings punctuates moments of intense emotion.
“The song writing is so personal, that sometimes it takes a lot out of me,” Caitlin admits. “But it feels really good, especially this year, to be releasing those parts of myself. “
So is Caitlin actually happy? In her latest single, Caitlin writes:
“I never know the darkness till it’s the only thing I’ve got, and I never know I’m happy until the moment that I’m not.”
“I’ve always been of the problematic opinion that I’d rather be miserable than just neutral,” Caitlin reveals. “If I’m miserable at least I have something to dwell on and to write about. But, if you’re sad at work, and then you’re sad about your personal life, and then you come home and write music that is sad, it’s not a sustainable way to live. This year has been so turbulent that I almost did feel neutral. When I wrote Happy, the thing that I did like about it is at the surface level it seems like a classic melancholy sad song, but to me its just a sigh. Its just a sigh of grief and not the same of my previous songs.”
“I think I’m definitely melancholy,” Caitlin continues. “It’s been a tough year, but a lot of good things have come out of 2020. I’m in a good place as far as pandemic things go. Maybe I’m not so sad as much as tired. I feel that everyone is exhausted, and that’s what Happy is as well. It’s that sigh. That release of the grief and exhaustion.”
“But I like Happy as well because its one of the first songs I’ve written in awhile isn’t about somebody. It’s got elements of my personal life in there, but its about a feeling. It’s about a mindset and a release of energy, but not necessarily about a person – which my therapist would say it good.”
Independently working on a new album from her own home, 2020 also had Caitlin collaborate with long time friends and theatrical colleagues Alessandra Ferreri, and Kevin Lemieux to create a brand-new zodiac theme musical The 13th Sign Walks Into the Bar, which premiered in September 2020 at The Open Space Festival.
“One of the positive things about the pandemic has been a lot of writing and a lot of collaboration,” Caitlin says. “We did The 13th SIgn which was so much fun. That’s been one of my favorite things about 2020. Now I’m being forced to be a lot more self sufficient because I can’t collaborate as much as I’d like to, or to go to the recording studios as much as I’d like to. So working on the new at home has been exciting. Its like a game to see what I can create with just my headphones and my computer.”
Still in the production process at the time of our visit, little information has been released for Caitlin’s next album although she wrote in a social media post ‘Hopefully I will have a super-depressing new album in store for the springtime.’”
“I have a lot of changes going on in my life, career wise and education wise, so I’m hoping I’ll have it ready for the spring,” Caitlin confirms when I ask about a potential release date. “But one of the other challenges of being self reliant is that nobody is forcing me to get it done, so we’ll see.”
Caitlin’s next release will be the first since her 2018 release Mean Old Woman. Possibly her darkest release of her career, Mean Old Woman saw a shift from her poetic heartache songs to what could only be called poetically bitter. But, with Happy there is yet another shift in Caitlin’s song writing evolution as she abandons the airy “girl with guitar” genre and brings to the surface a good old rock song that sounds like a love child produced by Hole and Leonard Cohen.
“Sometimes it’s hard for me to listen to my old music because I was so young and being so dramatic and I can remember what I was going through,” Caitlin admits. “But there are some good songs there. Some of the best songs I’ve ever written was when I was between sixteen and eighteen. I look back at them with a fondness.”
“There was a point in my song writing that I stopped making everything so kind and listenable,” she continues. ‘I can hear it in my voice. When I listen to my songs from when I’m younger I can hear myself trying to be very gentle and airy and poetic. But when you listen to Mean Old Woman the music is just harder. The façade has kind of fallen.”
“The things that scares me, but I kind of like, is that the songs have grown with me,” she admits. “When I was younger I thought I was going through all these horrible dramatic things but they weren’t really a big deal. But when I listen to them now, as someone who is older, I’m relating to these things that I wrote as a sixteen-year-old as an adult. I get it more now than I did then.”
Although ever present in the Peterborough Theater community, where he has had feature roles in shows such as The Addams Family, Spring Awakening, Cabaret and American Idiot, Caitlin seems to drift in and out of the local musical venues, sometimes being highly prolific and then disappearing for a short while. But with all the stages dark now, Caitlin’s current musical offerings are like dark gems being slowly released to taunt us until she can return to the stage once again.
” I’ve been playing live shows since I was fifteen,” Caitlin says. “I love looking back but I’m curious to see what my style of performance will be if I get back into performing after things reopen up. Especially that I am writing and producing all of this music at home, to see how it translates live is going to be very exciting.”
Find Caitlin Currie’s music on Apple Music, Spotify and Google Music and connect to Caitlin Currie Music on Facebook for more details of things to come.
PHOTO GALLERY BY SAMANTHA MOSS