Caitlin Koch is a Nashville-based retro-soul artist/singer/songwriter with grit best known for her performances as the singing rugby coach on The X Factor USA. After stunning audiences worldwide with her soulful rendition of “Stop In The Name Of Love” by The Supremes, Caitlin would go on to tour the US under Abdul Inc. (Paula Abdul).
Caitlin Koch is a Nashville-based retro-soul artist/singer/songwriter with grit best known for her performances as the singing rugby coach on The X Factor USA. After stunning audiences worldwide with her soulful rendition of “Stop In The Name Of Love” by The Supremes,
Caitlin, you will be a new name for UK & Europe audiences, despite touring in 2017. Tell us about being known for performing as the singing rugby coach on The X Factor USA
Yes, Oh! my goodness was such a blessing of an experience for me personally. Um, you know that was, I think, my goodness, 10 years ago now. Too long ago, but I sincerely love my experience. I know the singers come away from those shows sometimes and they don’t always share the same sentiment but from my perspective. We got to travel, and Simon Cowell was our mentor and we got to see, the UK; we were in Paris shooting and it was just such a wonderful experience for me. It was the first season that aired in the US for the X-Factor, and so therefore it was broadcast. I think in 13 or 14 different countries. It was just wonderful, I thought it was cool because they always tried to configure a story; you know, but like I’ve played rugby I played in high school and then I coached when I got out of college and I’ve played all over the place. They ask you all these questions when you’re auditioning for these shows and for them to pick that one thing out. It is strange what becomes media focus, rugby is important in Wales it is our national sport. Absolutely. Well, that’s the crazy thing is, you know that, and it was such a platform for rugby in the US because it’s not as well known here; it really isn’t and so for the US. People still to this day are like really rugby, we play rugby; and I’m like yeah US is doing their thing, we are far behind, but we’re trying. We try so hard. And it was women’s rugby as well, a double rarity…. Yes, absolutely. You know one of the girls that I actually coached at my high school – Orchard Park High School is going on to play for the Eagles, which I think is fascinating. That’s brilliant, isn’t it? Yeah, we’re proud of her, Emily Henrich, she is a powerhouse. American football is the sport we are all obsessed with. Yeah, it’s a hybrid you know of soccer and rugby, we love it over here. I’m from Buffalo NY, which the Buffalo Bills our hometown team and I’m obsessed with them. I think it’s whatever you’re exposed to whatever you grow up with, I thought that being part of a rugby club was so cool and so different because people aren’t as exposed to it here, unless they travel. It has definitely come such a long way. I mean from when I started back in high school like now there are clubs everywhere nationwide, you know, and they travel, and you know we were lucky being from Buffalo cause we got to play in Canada. The Canadians put us to shame. Like I remember we were driving up to this scrimmage that my coaches had scheduled for us. It was my first game was like my first experience actually playing and it was just a scrimmage from when I tell you we were on a school bus, arriving up to this pitch and I’m looking at what I thought was the guy’s team and I’m like damn they’re big, you know? It was the girl’s team we got annihilated I like literally died that game like I’m pretty sure I was concussed like we just got completely obliterated was so embarrassing. But what a learning experience you know? Yeah, yeah. I will never forget that.
This follows on from the whole Women’s Rugby experience. What challenges do you find as a woman in the music industry?
Sweet Lord, hahaha! (Caitlin chuckles loudly) I thought let’s follow on with an easy question… Oh God, I don’t know. I think it’s important it’s addressed Liz do I answer honestly, Jesus? Yeah. I mean, it’s like anything, right? It is your perspective and how you look at it. It can be both a blessing and a curse. I think you know country music specifically, which I’m located in Nashville. You know, I wouldn’t say that I am, you know country. Coz I’m not, I wasn’t born in the South and I don’t sing with a southern accent but it’s just crazy to me that specifically, you know that genre of music is so far behind. Liz, have you ever been to Nashville? No There are like I don’t know exactly what the numbers are, but there have to be like 40 to 50 male singers per one female like it’s gotta be something like so out of whack like that. I get it from a business standpoint that male country artists do sell. You know, it’s proven. When I see people like Mickey Guyton and other female artists were coming through the country music circuit. It’s just refreshing and inspiring and encouraging to see some of these women get spotlighted because. This you see these Award shows in the same artists are winning over and over again. And being you know, thrown into this, this pool of talent that we have here, and seeing down the street, you know somebody who is literally a cross between Etta James and Loretta Lynn, just singing on the street corner, you know? It’s like you wonder what is going on at the top, you know, for all this talent to be here, and such a small percentage of it be highlighted. That is one thing that we see here and generally speaking, the world is always harder on women; women are harder on women; men are harder on women, again it is the perspective you look at it. It can always be viewed as a challenge.
Do you find one of the problems is everything is not just the singers, but everything else is so male orientated so you often get a good woman and then the bands are all men and the sound engineers and everything else is very much geared up to the male perspective. For example, if a sound engineer has only ever engineered for a male voice. Resulting in women often tonally sounding the same, yet we all have different speaking voices.
Yes, absolutely. I think we’re touching on something that’s not music industry-specific. Women are stepping into shoes; they’re doing the thing. It would be nice to see them get highlighted. I mean when I tell you that my friends, that I sing with and go hang out with and sit in with and they come in and sit on my shows like are so stupidly talented and that goes back to The X Factor too. That was such an eye-opening experience for me because I was so young and being exposed to just how much talent there is out there, not just great voices but very unique God-given gifts. I don’t know if the music industry is properly highlighting the talents that we see before us, nationwide, here in the US. Definitely in Nashville and I can speak to that because it’s my experience. The female perspective and experience is always interesting, isn’t it? And down here in the South you know I will say, Liz, it’s different my looks and my like image have never been so commented on so much prior to me moving down here, especially if you start talking to industry like men who have been in the game a long time, and don’t know what is politically correct anymore. It is definitely interesting! I would love for everything to be about the voice and the music, I really would, and I don’t know how we get there. But that would be nice. I think we just continue to do our own thing and hope that it works out.
You have moved to Nashville Tennessee, this must have been a big decision. Has this helped in your songwriting craft to be at the heart of Country/Americana or to add something to the forthcoming album due later this year? What was the motivation to pack up your bags?
Oh yeah, Liz, I was living in New York and traveling to shows and to tour So I am. I mean, I love living down here, but I will say that the reason behind it was specifically to just immerse myself in a more, musically oriented community and environment. Songwriting being a huge part of that, songwriting wasn’t something I was very familiar with or good at, I don’t pretend to be good at it to this day. But being surrounded by people who do this for a living, and, have made it, you know their lifestyle and their career has been such a blessing for me. Songwriting has become a very therapeutic thing for me as an artist it was an area of my craft, a skill set that I had not developed at that time, so I wanted to develop it and I had like two friends down here and I was like, alright, that’s where I’m going. I never really fit in Liz between you and me in LA. I can’t even bring myself to get Botox-like it’s just not gonna happen for me. New York City I don’t even know really like what the music scene is there. It’s probably super oversaturated would be my assumption. But in Nashville, there are people doing it they are making livelihoods. Doing it, enjoying it and they help each other. Which is, I think, the most beautiful thing about it.
It must be nice being somewhere where it is so music-centric and people go there for the music.
You would be shocked at who you could see by just going down the street. You know, Adam Wakefield is a good friend, he was runner up on The Voice two or three years ago. And he plays the Sunday Jam down the street here in Franklin, every week and to see that level of talent for a $10 cover charge which is basically free.
In the last twelve months, we have found our entertainment through streaming services. Do you feel this will impact people’s desire to purchase CDs and go into town for a live performance?
Why because of the streaming. Yeah. No, Liz, I think we were a shit show before the pandemic. The music industry was a shit show before the pandemic. At least I know that over there you all still have really devoted music fans. At least that was my experience from touring over there, which I really appreciated, and not to say that we don’t have music fans here in the States. But Spotify is so huge. I mean all of these streaming platforms are so huge and they have been, and I don’t think that that changed very much. I think that there might be like going forward my fiancé and I was talking about this and that there might be a virtual option for like tickets like we were wondering if that was going to be a thing going forward. Where if you didn’t want to go physically to a show if you could purchase a virtual ticket for a discounted price. I was wondering if maybe live venues would do something like that, but I’ll be honest I think people who want to go to shows are going to go to shows and I think that it’s been that way for a long time. I think that if they want to be there, they’ll be there, otherwise, they could always like there are so many options now like people release live footage, you know from a show like a week to a month afterward. They can always probably catch it online, but there is something still so wonderful about being in person and having that human connection. I do find watching a streamed concert different, it lacks the tribal energy. Yeah, I’ll come back just fine. I think it will.
The first single, ‘Where You Began’ from your forthcoming album and has been showcased on Bluesdoodles Monday Highlights.
Yes. The songs were written over the course of the last like five, four, three, two… years. Basically ‘Where You Began’ is the general one, that sets the tone for all of the songs. The songs will all be thematically interconnected. What I love about it is that it was written in like 45 minutes on a Tuesday in East Nashville, and most of that time was basically drinking coffee. So basically, this song was written in like 20 minutes. I co-wrote it with my friend’s Dad. He is a band her called Them Vibes. And what I love about Alex (Haddad)is he so authentic, like he’s a very true artist. You meet songwriters here in Nashville, they write for a job, they have three writes in a day and that’s their career writing for the label. So they’re writing up-tempo, or we need this. Alex is super authentic and he doesn’t do it for that sole working purpose. If it’s gonna be written it is gonna be real and I’m grateful to have writers like him to co-write with because I’ll be honest, I don’t think much of a writer. But I do have emotions and I can bring whatever baggage you need me to bring to the write, and we can pull from those real-life experiences. And ‘Where You Began, started off as your traditional heartbreak, heartache song starting back after a relationship ended but. It took out this whole. It took on this whole new meaning for me during the pandemic because I found myself actually where I began in my hometown in Buffalo, NY and I was seeing musicians that I hadn’t worked with since I was like 15. You know eight class musicians who didn’t have work because everything was shut down. And we got into the studio and recorded these songs. So it’s sonically these songs, including ‘Where You Began’ is a huge collaborative effort between Buffalo and Nashville. It’s this collision of my two worlds, and so ‘Where You Began’ took on a whole new thing for me, it’s not just a heartbreak song. It’s more connected to where I’m like actually from now, which I thought was so cool. I think that’s so cool about music, how the meaning of things can like change for you. It’s like transcendent, in a way
Do you have a date for the launch of the album or is there going to be a couple more singles?
Essentially this is all a body of work like. It’s an album, but we’re going to release them as Singles. The reason why I particularly wanted to do that is because each song is then highlighted, and there’s different album artwork. And there is a story behind each song. Although they are all connected and there is a flow and it all makes sense at the same time. Like this is ‘Where You Began’ this is what it looks like and where this comes from. The next one will be, ’So Different Now’ and this is where this comes from and this is the story behind that. But they’re all songs that I just I believe in you know, and I just want to see them go out there and do whatever it is they’re going to do.
And does that help on things on Spotify platforms as well, doing really singles that way because you keep getting drip, drip, drip. While releasing the whole album sometimes the listener just listens to the whole album and never goes back.
Yes. It does. I think so. Yeah, I think so. I think for me personally, I wanted originally to release an album because I have such respect for a body of work. The songs have to be interconnected and they have a flow. You’re painting like a picture when you release an album as an artist and I wanted to do that. But then at the same time the attraction of releasing singles and also just like being able to highlight, as opposed to just seeing a tracklist. Being able to like push each one individually. I thought was pretty cool. So it’s an album but will release the singles and for Spotify specifically, it definitely helps to go to like I think an artist’s profile and see all that different album artwork, you know, so you don’t just see like a picture and 5 songs you see, one song and a picture, another song a picture, that list just looks so much more extensive, and it helps with the pre-sales and everything,
I think it helps, also the younger people because I couldn’t believe it often love a band but has never listened to a whole album and definitely not the tracks in the same order as the album. Interesting. It is interesting how they consume the music.
Yeah, it’s definitely a changing environment, which is kind of why I wanted to go against the grain a little bit, but I think in the grand scheme of things. It was okay to do it either way, honestly. I just think that when you go to Spotify, which is so huge over here? I mean like I see when I see my streams come through, people still purchase my music, believe it or not. When I get paid, for that kind of thing and they show me the breakdown of where it comes from. My music primarily sells like on other platforms, actually, which, I’m kind of grateful for because you know when you go to Spotify and you see all these streams you’re like. Ohh wow like that’s a popular song or whatever and I would like to see my numbers increase but at the same time, I am getting paid for my music so I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m really that particular about it. You know, like this. It’s that is tough like this whole. That’s why when you asked me about the pandemic and you think things are going to change, I’m thinking of myself like you know, in terms of live shows, I don’t think it will. But let’s be honest like the music industry has changed drastically over the course last twenty/thirty years and it was already in a tough place in terms of artists making music and getting compensated, touring was a huge way to make money. It was kind of like unless you were writing, it was the only way to make money. And you know if anything changed due to the pandemic, it was just that those shutdowns, but now all that’s opening back up, you know. So, I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes, it will be interesting.
Are you planning a tour over this side of the water in the near future?
I would love to get back over there. I was kind of like waiting to see you know how everything was going to transpire. You know, with travel and everything, and it sounds like you all are opening back up in June, I think.
Yeah, but I think it’s such a backlog of stuff there will be a load of clashes in the autumn. It’s going to be a nightmare. Oh! it’s gonna be absolutely crazy. I would love to get back over there. Ramblin’ Man was an awesome festival to play. I mean we did Country to Country and that was super cool and I remember playing like 3 different stages that weekend which is kind of crazy but I will say playing Ramblin’ Man was awesome I loved it. We had such a great experience. I made so many new friends you know got to see all these players that have just been so inspiring like Rival Sons, I freaking love them. Well, I freaking love them. I saw them over here 5-6 years ago in a Hole in the Wall club and it wasn’t even filled and then two years later I played Ramblin’ Man and they were on one of the main stages there and they just brought the house down. I just really liked them. If I could get back over there, I would love to play that festival again, and then I would play anywhere. Coz you know what the people are so wonderful. I love it over there. You are great. I have so much love for you and of course, it’s fun to travel. But like I’m being on tour is its own experience. I love the people over there and felt really comfortable over there. I loved it.
Lastly, what songs/albums have had the greatest influence on you as a musician.
Oh my goodness. I would say
Don’t by Elvis Presley, because when I was younger I was like 14 years old that was like the only song I ever wanted to record.
I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta James, which is just my go to, to preform anywhere because it’s easy to explain to a band, even if they don’t know this song. Also, it’s just like a huge, it just makes me happy to sing it.
Simple Man and Creep by Radiohead and I say those two because having recorded in Muscle Shoals, I just was so blown away by the history there. It initially and then when I went there and to actually experience like whatever it is that’s in the air. It is a special place. Whatever they have going on down there, you feel it. when you get there like. And having the experience of recording there and knowing some of the musicians that were original, swampers and meeting them and Simple Man became like this song that I didn’t grow up singing but I thought was very, very cool for a female to put a version out. Now that I look at it in retrospect but at the time I just liked this song and wanted to do it, you know? People comment and because the due to the pandemic those videos online have seen millions of streams now and millions of views. So, I look at the comments every once in a while and it’s like oh like I don’t think it’s right for a female to be doing this song. And then other people are like I love that of females doing this song and like sharing that perspective. I just didn’t think of it that way, but the fact that there is a female voice now on that song expressing that softer perspective of like a mother to a son I think is so cool and then Creep by Radiohead is a song that I was introduced to when I was on X Factor. It was actually assigned to me to sing and then it became a real staple in my set and I just I always feel very centred and very grounded when I sing that song. And that’s pretty much it. So different genres there.
Thank you Caitlin for taking the time out to speak with Liz about your music and so much more.