For Caleb Caudle, clarity was discovered when he put the bottle down and started to pick up the pieces of his life worth holding onto. Closing in on 30, the Winston-Salem singer-songwriter spent most of his early years in a haphazard whirlwind of dive bars, empty backroom stages and endless miles, a state of mind where one begins to wonder just what it all means, or if it was meant to be anything at all, this ole dream held tightly and up to the bright lights of stardom.
Following in the footsteps of Americana/country stars Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell, who both found clarity (and eventual success) once they hit rock bottom, brushed their shoulders off and raised their heads high, Caudle is currently entering a trajectory of sound and audience all his own. He has set down deep roots in his native Winston-Salem, a place he draws not only inspiration from, but also cherishes the further down the road he pushes in his own endeavors.
With the doors kicked open by Simpson and Isbell, and also the recent megastar status achieved by longtime Nashville singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton, a wave of nitty-gritty talent is cresting high on the horizon of Music City, ready to crash down and clean out the stagnant growth and repetitive tone of what country music has become (or lost) in recent years.
On his sixth album, “Carolina Ghost,” Caudle harkens back to the golden age of country music, as lyrical wordplay and musicianship focus on the sincere depths of everyday life, and not the “bro-country” party animal, chasing girls attitude one cringes when overhearing today. This North Carolina troubadour bridges the gap between the 1980s honesty, talent and warmth found in the works of George Strait, Randy Travis and Merle Haggard and what we all have yearned for these days on our stereo, and onstage, ready to strike a chord deep within our souls.
Garret K. Woodward: With every musician seemingly in, or moving to, Nashville or Austin, why Winston-Salem?
Caleb Caudle: It’s just home. And you know, Nashville is great. I have more friends there than anywhere else, and I already feel like I’m part of that scene. I tour there a lot. But, the last place you want to go at the end of the tour is somewhere that you don’t feel really comfortable — you want to go home.
GKW: How did this all start for you?
CC: I played my first show when I was 14. It was a lot different back then. I was in a garage band, listening a lot to The Replacements and The Clash. Paul Westerberg (of The Replacement) did a really great job turning people onto more roots-based music. From Paul, I got into Uncle Tupelo, The Jawhawks and Whiskeytown. That’s when I started going way back and fell in love with early David Allen Coe and Merle Haggard.
GKW: What goes through your head when you’re onstage?
CC: It’s not a conscious thing at all. I feel sometimes I kind of get lost in what I’m doing and take myself to place where I mean what I’m doing, where I’m very focused and very deliberate. At this point, whether its writing or touring, or even merchandise and marketing, there’s not much room for error, so it’s all about planning, and being sober has helped all of that.
GKW: What do you want the listener to feel?
CC: I want them to relate to what I’m singing about. It’s nice to hear what a song means to them. We all take songs and apply them to our lives. And I think the goal of a songwriter is to write a song in a way that can be applicable to a lot of different situations. I try to not put restrictions on things when I’m writing, but it tends to come back to what’s going on in my life at that time. It’s finding that balance between true aspects in your life and being able to emphasis those situations and emotions.
GKW: Was there a moment when you knew a song could be anything you wanted it to be?
CC: The realization I did have, was that as time goes on, you think less about a formula for writing a song, and more about the people already listening to what you have to say. I try to not fit in a mold, because the people coming to hear you, they’re coming for something real, and you try and keep doing what you’re doing without forcing it — being you, openly and honestly.
Want to go?
Americana singer-songwriters Caleb Caudle and Aaron Lee Tasjan will hit the stage on Friday, April 15, at the Asheville Music Hall. Sammy Guns will open the show at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 day-of-show. To purchase tickets, visit www.ashevillemusichall.com. To learn more about Caudle, his current tour, or to purchase his latest record, “Carolina Ghost,” visit www.calebcaudle.com.
1 The Sarge’s Animal Rescue Foundation “Eat, Drink and Be Giving” fundraising event will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, at Boojum Brewing Company in Waynesville.
2 The Ugly Dog Pub (Highlands) will host The Dirty Soul Revival (rock/blues) at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9.
3 The Mud Dauber (Didanisisgi) Pottery Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 16, at the Cherokee Fairgrounds.
4 BearWaters Brewing Company (Waynesville) will host The Darren Nicholson Band (Americana/bluegrass) at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 14.
5 Lazy Hiker Brewing (Franklin) will host Porch 40 (funk/rock) as part of their Appalachian Trail “Thru-Hiker Celebration” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9.