In my own words
Finding my voice as Cait
I’m not exactly sure where my lack of confidence came from when it comes to speaking my mind. I always wanted to be “good” and “liked” and I avoided being embarrassed in any way. My worst fear as a kid was being called-on in class only to confidently spout the wrong answer. To me, that would be mortifying. If I was going to say something, I had to be ready. I had to have the best, most perfect answer.
Maybe it was society’s way of raising girls to be quiet, good, and sweet. Maybe nobody told me it was ok to say the wrong thing. Maybe I thought being agreeable and accommodating would get me lots of friends. Maybe growing up a blonde always made me feel like I had to be extra careful not to come off as stupid - always wanting to prove myself a “smart blonde”. One thing I know for certain is that this fear of imperfection is the one thing that kept me from owning my voice throughout my life.
I’ve always been a writer. I write better than I speak. I love words and rearranging them and finding the best possible combination to convey what I mean. It is rare that I say exactly what I want to say when I want to say it - which is probably why I was drawn to songwriting. As a 14 year-old freshmen in high school in Verona, Wisconsin I realized: Someone somewhere wrote the songs that so perfectly catered to every emotion I was going through - and I could write songs like that too. My world started to open. I could finally craft my thoughts into the perfect phrase, take the time to put my words together exactly how I meant them - and match them to melody to best evoke their emotion. It was like seeing color for the first time.
"It is rare that I say exactly what I want to say when I want to say it - which is probably why I was drawn to songwriting."
And the best part is that people heard me. On my terms. In my way. It was the highest form of expression I had ever tasted and it gave me the smallest feeling of power - something I had never known.
For the first time, I had a voice.
Flash forward, I arrive at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts as a wide-eyed 17 year-old, simultaneously terrified and in awe of my soon-to-be life in the city. I grew up in a house that sat right on the edge of suburbia - basically across the street from farms, cows and corn fields. City life was only something I had dreamt about and seen in movies. I fantasized about taking the subway and walking through crowded sidewalks cradling a Starbucks cup while wearing my headphones - which is precisely what my life became. For those 3.5 years, I spent most of my time in tiny apartments and Berklee classrooms surrounded by some of the best and most talented people I’ve ever come across - most of whom are still my good friends today. People I ate almost every meal with, got drunk with, cried with, laughed with. People who pushed me to dig deeper in my writing and let more of myself out.
My voice was getting louder.
At this point, I had a whole slew of songs that I wanted to record. I wanted to play shows and release albums and make music videos. I wanted it all, I wanted to be a “real artist” - and I got nervous. What made me different than any other girl who wrote songs? Was I even marketable? Why would people care about me? Listen to me? The same insecurity creeped back up like I was a kid in class again scared to be called-on. If anyone asked me these questions, would I have the answer? Would I have the right answer?
So I thought, “I’ll brand myself.” There was a buffet of brands to choose from for a female pop artist: I could be the dark, emo, indie-pop girl. I could be the colorful, retro-pop princess. I could be the free-spirited, hippie songstress. I just had to pick one, right?
I chose the “colorful retro-pop princess” brand and changed my stage name to Caity Copley - a nickname I had in college. I thought it had a “ring to it” and would be “memorable”, but what I didn’t think through was that I would have to introduce myself as Caity Copley at every show, event and meeting (which honestly never felt natural to me).
I curled my hair for every show, I wore 1930’s & 1940’s inspired clothing and poofy skirts, and I made myself a retro-inspired logo that included a flamingo. I was doing what I thought I was supposed to - and I kept up this facade for a couple years until I moved to Los Angeles at 22.
One night, I was getting ready to play a show at Bar Lubitsch in Los Angeles as Caity Copley, and I was curling my hair. I remember this moment so vividly, I was stressed and I was annoyed. I had never been that skilled at curling my own hair and I hated the fact that I had to in order to keep up with my “look”. I have naturally straight hair, and you’ll usually find me in a white t-shirt and high-waisted jeans - I never wear retro-fashion in real life. I stared back at myself in the mirror and realized that I was doing this to myself and absolutely none of it represented me.
It only took me curling my hair for the 100th time to realize, but there it was staring me straight in the made-up face. I didn’t look like myself, and I didn’t like it. Even my main single at the time was a song mostly written by someone else. What was I even doing?
My voice got quieter.
I had my first meeting with a music publisher not long after this. A guy who I think was about my age, peering down at me from the other side of his desk in his Hollywood office as I played him song after song. There wasn’t one song he liked. Not one. He had criticisms, dislikes and “advice” for every single song. He ended the meeting with the infamous music-publisher-one-liner, “Send me more” - which I did. Only to never hear back from him again.
Little did I know then that this meeting was actually no big deal, and nothing was going to come from it anyway. I wish I could go back and shake myself as I was sitting in my car afterwards with tears in my eyes feeling completely defeated. It was my first meeting in LA and I completely bombed it. I was just called-on in class and uttered the complete wrong answer. I felt like I failed.
And my voice got quieter.
I had a manager at the time who wanted to put me in writing sessions with other songwriters, and I felt myself avoiding it. I had excuses like, “I don’t have time” or, “My schedule is just so crazy” or, “I just want to write on my own” - which were sometimes true, but I know now that it was really due to my fear of speaking up that still lingered from being a perfect kid.
The whole point of being in a writing session is to be open and unfiltered. You sing raw lyrics and play unfinished melodies, you bounce unpolished ideas off each other until it starts to become an actual song. Sometimes, you’ll sing an idea that others don’t like, and you need to be able to brush it off and keep going. Historically speaking, that wasn’t something I felt like I could do.
I started to see that if I truly wanted this, I needed to change. New Years Eve going into 2017, it was my resolution to do as many writing sessions as I could that year with different writers. I needed to practice having confidence - fake it ‘till you make it. I reached out, I cold-emailed, and I showed up. I did it. The first few sessions were hard, but the more I opened up, the more I loved it. That is how I met and started working with my collaborators on most of the music you’ve heard this year, and I cannot tell you how thankful I am that I made the decision to try.
My voice was coming back.
Throughout my time in LA, I of course had to pay the bills. When I moved here, I started working for a couple women business owners, one of them named Sue Bryce - who I still work with today. She’s a photographer, speaker and educator who’s own journey with self-love and confidence has brought her a community of people who value growth and transformation - a community who have since embraced me as their own.
I remember this one time when Sue helped me do an interview - she was filming as I spoke to the camera about a song I had written. I didn’t have a script, I was sweating and fumbling over my words. Unsure of what to say, totally frozen and in my head, she looked at me and said, “Just trust your voice.” Something no one had ever said to me. Something I had never said to myself.
"She looked at me and said, 'Just trust your voice.' Something no one had ever said to me. Something I had never said to myself."
In 2018, I wanted to come back into the artist game with new music and a new perspective. I’ve done a lot of work on myself, I’ve been tested, and I’m finally starting to get a glimpse of the confident woman I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve got insecurities that creep up, everyone does, but I’m learning how to deal with and ultimately beat them. I make a lot of decisions every day that I’m not sure are the right ones - but the only thing I ask myself now is, “Is this me? Would this represent me?”
I took my name back as Cait because that’s me. I’m Cait. That’s what my family calls me, that’s what my boyfriend calls me, that’s the version of me that I want you to know. That’s the only “brand” I want to abide by from here on out, and that’s the only voice that could ever truly say what I’ve always wanted to say - and it’s louder than it’s ever been.
Thank you for being on this ride with me, I appreciate you and love you and I can’t wait to show you what I’m working on for 2019. May this next year bring you new ideas, perspective, and growth. Cheers!
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