Caroline Fenn - Interview
by Lisa Torem
published: 23 / 2 / 2013
Lisa Torem chats to young singer-songwriter Caroline Fenn, who comes from Buffalo in New York, about her debut album, 'Fragile Chances'
Caroline Fenn’s debut CD, ‘Fragile Chances’, offers her emerging fan base a dynamic mix of tenderness, optimism and imagination. Her gentle voice and plaintive guitar paired with mature, introspective lyrics instantly sparked producer David Cloyd’s interest and that partnership features prominently into the mix. Based in Buffalo, New York, the singer-songwriter continues merging her education with an exciting career. In an interview with Pennyblackmusic, she disclosed her aspirations and writing style with humour and intelligence. PB: Hi Caroline. Congratulations on your debut, ‘Fragile Chances’. I found myself lost in thought while listening to the album. Street sounds, deadlines and other things that generally occupy the mind seemed unimportant when I focused on your lyrics and the mood your songs inspired. Is that how you felt when you wrote the songs? CF: Definitely. When I write, I’m completely absorbed in the little world that the song creates. When I focus on that one feeling or person or idea or situation in the song, I have to kind of tune out all the other ones. PB: Is there a certain time of day or setting that inspires the themes of your work? There are some musicians who swear they write best on the subway or at a 3 am diner. CF: I find that I actually write best when I’m bored, as strange as that seems. It makes room for ideas I wouldn’t normally think of. My favorite place to write is the living room in my home in Buffalo. It is tucked away and I’m practically the only one who uses it, so I can leave all my papers in a mess. PB: Some of the stories bring us back to our own childhoods. ‘Can’t Handle This’, for example, has this line: “When I was young I needed tables to reach for the highest shelf.” That line, to me, conveys a sense of feeling vulnerable, yet courageous and ambitious. Does that describe what you would like to express about your own early years? CF: I love it when the lines in my songs mean different things to different people. To me, that lyric is about how when you’re young, you need help in more obvious ways than when you’re older—but that doesn’t mean that we still don’t need to rely on other people when we grow up. PB: In ‘I Liked It Better’ you say: “I liked it better when the problem was two plus two/I liked it better when I knew nothing about you.” So after the honeymoon period of the romance, a lot of other issues occur. Is that what you were getting at? CF: Well, I didn’t really write this song with the intention of being romantic, but I’m glad that it can echo with people in a way that relates to them personally. When I wrote it, I was realising that first impressions aren’t always what they seem, and sometimes they can fool you for a long time. Once you break past that façade, you don’t always like what you find. PB: ‘What Is My Life/It’s not ordinary/It’s not extraordinary….” You speak to all of us with this one. Has your life become more extraordinary as a result of your artistic pursuits? CF: It’s extraordinary that people can finally hear my songs! I love hearing from fans and getting feedback from people. It’s wonderful to have your art where it’s supposed to be - out in the world where people can experience it. PB: By current standards, ‘Fragile Chances’ might be considered under-produced. Your voice and lyrics really come through with clarity. How did the production decisions evolve and how long did you spend creating material and recording in the studio? Was the recording process enjoyable or daunting? CF: It was both! I wrote some of the songs in a day, and others took weeks. David and I spent months and months really crafting the songs and talking about where we wanted to take them in the studio. The decision to “under-produce” was a very deliberate one on our part. It was important to us that any additional instrumentation should enhance the songs rather than overwhelm them. Once recording started, I spent hours and hours on acoustic guitar and vocals. It was exhausting, but in the best way. PB: Hook and Ladder, which David runs, is a relatively new label and you are a relatively new recording artist. That said, have you learned anything from each other? CF: I was still in high school when I recorded this album, and now it’s being released during my freshman year of college, so I’ve had to adapt to working professionally in the music industry while worrying about pre-calculus. But I’ve definitely learned a lot from the experience so far. PB: Though many of the songs primarily feature your vocals and guitar, there are some nice, instrumental flourishes. I especially like the piano. Who were the other players? CF: Actually, David Cloyd played all of the additional instruments. I was used to hearing my songs with only my guitar and voice, so it was really cool seeing how the other instruments filled them out. I remember David running the piano part for ‘What is Gone is Gone’ by me, and really liking how reminiscent of the ocean and waves it was. PB: Who are your favourite artists and genres currently? CF: I really love the Avett Brothers, Jason Mraz, Counting Crows, Mumford and Sons, Coldplay, Andrew Bird, and I’ve been listening to Damien Rice a lot lately. I love kind of mellow music that makes you think. But then there are times when more poppy artists are appropriate. If you pulled up next to me in the car, I would most likely be singing lyrics off the radio at the top of my voice and dancing badly. PB: Are you a self-taught singer and guitarist, Caroline? When did you first get the urge to express your feelings through songwriting? CF: No, I’ve had my fair share of guitar teachers. I think I’ve had six or so, and David was the last—that’s how we started working together. I wrote my first song when I was fifteen when I couldn’t keep what I was thinking to myself anymore, but it didn’t feel right to simply say it. Ever since, when I’ve felt something bubbling, needing to get out, I write a song. PB: If you could choose one super power, what would it be? CF: I would love to be able to speak to animals, although that would probably mean I would become a vegetarian. PB: What are your plans for supporting ‘Fragile Chances’? CF: We’ve only just started! I’ve done a couple release concerts - one in my hometown of Buffalo and another at my college - and I hope to perform more and more as the year progresses. We’ve been promoting the album on AirPlay Direct, and so it’s being played on radio stations in the U.S., the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Canada, Norway, and even Macedonia! It’s available on iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, and everywhere else music is sold. You can also check out some of my songs on YouTube, LastFM, Spotify, and very soon to Pandora. And I love connecting with my fans on Facebook and Twitter. You can check out http://www.carolinefenn.com for more news and info. I must warn you though - if you follow me on Twitter, you might hear the occasional complaint about midterms and dining hall food. PB: Thank you!
most viewed articles
current editionRobby Krieger - Set The Night on Fire, Living, Dying, And Playing Guitar with The Doors
Boomtown Rats - Ten Songs That Made Me Love....
Lida Husik - Interview
Cathal Coughlan - Interview
Rick Wakeman - Interview
Peter Doherty and Frederic Lo - Cavern Club, Liverpool, 27/3/2022
Cliff Richard - Not Fade Away
Simon Bromide - Interview
Candlelight Tribute to Coldplay - Manchester Cathedral, Manchester, 1/4/2022
Wolfgang Flur - Interview
previous editionsWorld Party - Interview
Sam Brown - Interview 2008
Cliff Richard - Vs Elvis Presley
Trudie Myerscough-Harris - Interview
Eric Chappell - Interview 1
Pete Brown - Interview
Ruskin Arms - The Image That Made Me Weep
Half Man Half Biscuit - Ten Songs That Made Me Love...
Melanie Blake - Interview
Joy Division - The Image That Made Me Weep
most viewed reviews
current editionRupert Wates - For The People
Banjo Jen - Fine Line
Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri - The Long Ride Home
Bonham-Bullick - Bonham-Bullick
Dead South - Easy Listening for Jerks Parts 1 and 2
Family - A Song for Me
Loop - Sonancy
Stereophonics - Oochya!
John Mayall - The Sun is Shining Down
Weather Station - How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars
Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors
Amanda J. Window
Dominic B. Simpson
L. Paul Mann