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Caitlyn Stages a bold reappearance after forced downtime

Culture

Following the success of her 2017 debut album Songs on My Sleeve, Gympie-based country-pop musician Caitlyn Shadbolt has just released her long-awaited follow-up, Stages.

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When InQueensland caught up with Shadbolt, she explained that she had started out the year in high spirits and was optimistic about what 2020 had in store for her.

“I walked into 2020 thinking, ‘yep, this is going to be my year, I’m going to smash it’, and then it was just sort of like, ‘ohhh … never mind’,” she laughed, before admitting the forced downtime had also been a blessing in disguise.

She said she had enjoyed spending time at home with her partner, guitarist Matt Smith,  who plays in Sydney pop-rock band Thirsty Merc, admitting their usually conflicting schedules meant they didn’t ordinarily see much of each other.

“This year has been the longest we’ve ever spent together,” Shadbolt said. “I think it’s the year I never knew I needed.

“I feel like when you’re in the music industry you’re just hustling all the time and you never get to rest and you feel too guilty to have a day off, so I’ve actually really loved just being able to be at home and rest – I needed a break.”

That’s not to suggest she’s only been living a life of leisure though, with Shadbolt recording the majority of Stages during lockdown, with all her vocals and acoustic guitars engineered at her home studio and producer Stuart Stuart bringing the tracks to life in Brisbane studio.

Although Stages is still a “country” album, broadly speaking, Shadbolt said she had enjoyed approaching the writing process without any preconceived notions about genre, and have songs such as the sparsely produced, piano-driven Porcelain sit alongside the likes of hook-filled country-pop number Bones and pop-oriented latest single Edge of the Earth.

“I wanted to be able to spread my wings and have more creative freedom, so if I want to write a typical country song – whatever that is – I can, but I also want to be able to just write as a songwriter and write the melodies and the lyrics that feel like they connect with.

“I listen to a lot of stuff that isn’t country – probably only you know 20 per cent of what I listen to is country music, whatever you want to call that but country music nowadays is so broad.

“I still would call myself an Aussie, pop-country artist, and I love playing [country music] festivals but I think the thing that has probably bothered me the most is that if you go to do an interview or something and have people go, ‘oh, she’s a country singer, where are the hay bales and the Akubra?’

“It’s like, ‘hey, you can play country music and not wear a cowboy hat – that is possible’, you know what I mean?”

It has been more than six years since Shadbolt first came to public attention after making the quarter-finals of reality-television show X-Factor in 2014 and she admitted that had changed a lot as an artist since then, she had no problem with her appearance on the show still being a point of reference for audiences.

“I have definitely grown a lot since then because when you’re 18, you don’t even know who you are as a person – you spend the next five or ten years working that out,” she said.

“But I think people naturally just kind of hang on to that first impression and stuff, which is fine because if people make the connection and go’ oh, that’s the girl from X Factor, let’s buy tickets to a show’, I’m not going to complain about that.”

“It’s a really cool kind of mix of songs – it’s like this beautiful singer-songwriter stuff, if you love that sort of stuff and there’s also some modern pop-country stuff. It’s a real mixed bag and it’s a great insight into the past couple of years of my life.”

Shadbolt has already launched Stages with a couple of live shows and will also be playing at the Country on Keppel festival this coming weekend and although she said it was exciting to be performing again, she stressed it was not something all artists were fortunate enough to be doing.

“I would also say that if you are wanting to support local artists, the best thing you can do is jump on an online store and buy your favourite band’s T-shirt or a stubbie cooler or a CD or something – it’s a great way to show your support.”

Stages (ABC Music) is out now.  Shadbolt plays the Country on Keppel music festival on November 14-15.

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