Songwriter Interviews

Colbie Caillat

by Carl Wiser

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Back when Tom was your friend, Colbie Caillat uploaded her song "Bubbly" to MySpace. The effervescent anthem quickly racked up an impressive 10,000 listens, and the friend requests poured in (she might still be in your Top 8). A year later, "Bubbly" was a hit single and Colbie was a 22-year-old star.

Fame is a byproduct of her career: Colbie is foremost a songwriter, and a very good one. She writes her own songs, usually collaborating with top tunesmiths like Kara DioGuardi, Toby Gad and Jason Mraz. Taylor Swift, who calls herself "a huge fan," wrangled Colbie to co-write and sing on her 2008 track "Breathe."

Just five years after her first hit and eight years after learning to play guitar, Colbie's discography includes the hit singles "Realize," "Lucky" and "Fallin' for You." Her fourth album is Christmas In The Sand, where she provides a seasonal soundtrack for those in warmer climates (Colbie is from Malibu). She wrote four original songs for the album, and also teamed up with Brad Paisley for "Merry Christmas Baby" and Gavin DeGraw for "Baby It's Cold Outside."

Colbie told us about her songwriting philosophy, her favorite lesser-known song, and the one that she thinks of differently after falling in love.
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): Jason Reeves told us that his favorite part of co-writing a song is "stepping outside of your own feelings." (He also said you were the easiest person to write with.) Have you written any songs where you've done it from someone else's perspective?

Colbie Caillat: Reeves is my favorite person to write with! He's so brilliant. Writing is so natural for him. We both write songs from our personal experiences but we also love to write songs for other people, what they are going through in their lives. It gives us more to write about, more for our listeners to relate to, and means a lot to the people we write them for.

Songfacts: How does writing Christmas songs compare with writing non-seasonal tunes?

Colbie: I think writing Christmas songs is very limited. I couldn't imagine writing an entire Christmas record. I love writing with no limits, no boundaries, no expectations.

Songfacts: Of the Christmas songs you've written, which one is your favorite, and why?

Colbie: My favorite is "Christmas In The Sand" because it was the first idea I had for writing for the record. It shows how us Californians occasionally spend our Christmases. And it's really fun, upbeat and quirky. The video for it cracks me up. I'm dancing on the beach with elves and Santa is surfing in the water.

Colbie's father is Ken Caillat, a music producer whose credits include the Fleetwood Mac albums Rumours and Tusk. He produced some of the tracks on Colbie's first three albums, and all of the songs on Christmas In The Sand.
Songfacts: What is your dad's production style, and how is he different from other producers you've worked with?

Colbie: He knows how to add such beautiful colors and instruments to every song, make them all sound different and sound classic. He also loves spending every moment he can working on the music he's producing. He just gets so excited about it. He never clocks in and clocks out. His creative musical train is always running.

Songfacts: How has your songwriting changed over the years?

Colbie: Learning from all the writers and artists I've worked with over the years has really helped me grow a lot. I can write in so many different styles now. I used to just write with my guitar. Then piano. Now I know how to write to tracks and beats and come up with melodies to no music at all. It's so fun!

Songfacts: Are there examples of songs that have taken on a different meaning for you after you wrote them?

Colbie: When I wrote "Lucky" with Jason Mraz I couldn't fully relate to it because I had never been in love with someone I considered my best friend. Then I fell in love with my boyfriend Justin Young and got to sing that song on stage with him every night and could relate to the song 100%. It was an amazing feeling.

Songfacts: Of your hit songs, which was the most difficult to write, and which was the easiest?

Colbie: "Bubbly" was the easiest. I seriously wrote it in 20 minutes. It's one of those songs that just came out naturally.

"I Never Told You" was a long work in progress. I started it by myself when I was on tour in Germany. Then two years later I played it for Jason Reeves and Kara DioGuardi when we were writing together in Hawaii for my album Breakthrough, and they helped me finish writing it that week. It's now one of my favorite songs!

Songfacts: Which of your lesser-known songs is your favorite, and why?

Colbie: My song "Battle." I wrote it all by myself, it was about a situation that was going on with my family and really was emotional for me.

November 14, 2012. Get more at colbiecaillat.com
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Comments: 3

  • JeannineKeep it up
  • Tj . from Cobb Co. Ga.Wonderful work . Love your spirit. See you in the ATL. One day.
  • David from Orlando, FlI became a fan of Colbie's music after hearing "Bubbly" and "Fallin' For You" on the radio. I think it's really refreshing that there is still room for simpler, more personal music these days when hi-tech sounds and fast-paced lives seem to dominate much of the world's landscape. I actually saw Colbie in concert once and really thought she was good. At one point, she even asked the audience if she had done alright since she previously had trouble with a prior performance of the same song! I thought it was really nice that someone as successful as Colbie could still admit her mistakes in such a humble manner. I will continue to enjoy the music of Colbie Caillat in the near future, including her next album scheduled to be released in early 2014. It's a good way to relax, especially when under life's many pressures.
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