CAROLINE WATKINS is forging a path in music her own way — taking her passion for ountry music and making a name for herself in Nashville as a singing and songwriting force in her own right. What began as an infatuation with the written word evolved into a love of lyricism that led her to a career as an artist.
The Belmont University grad has garnered praise for her music, and was even the recipient of the Miranda Lambert Women Creators scholarship.
Her education at Belmont opened the door to a major publishing deal, which in turn opened more doors to her own artistic endeavors. She’ll be bringing her acclaimed songs to Saddle Bags on Fri., Nov. 30. We caught up with her ahead of the show to find out more about her rise in the Nashville ranks.
How old were you when you first got into music and started writing?
CW: I started writing when I was really young. I actually started writing stories as soon as I learned how to write [laughs]. I would write stories and they would turn into novels as I got older and older, and by the time I was showing my mom these 100-page novels and asking her to read them. I did that for a while, and when I was about 10 is when Taylor Swift was getting famous. She was writing songs and I was like, “Well, I can write songs too, I guess.” I stopped writing stories and started writing songs.
My parents are big country music fans, so I listened to a lot of that. The first album I ever bought was by Jo Dee Messina. I listened to her a lot, Alan Jackson, Sara Evans - and as I got older I got into people like Eric Church and Miranda Lambert. I just love country music. That’s always kind of been my thing. I liked to sing ever since I was little, so I started taking voice lessons around the time I started writing songs. I got serious about it when I started high school. I started to play places around town like the Bluebird Cafe - really tried to start treating it as more than just a hobby.
What was your experience at Belmont like? It seems like a real nucleus in Nashville in terms of getting started as a songwriter. What was your big takeaway from that experience?
CW: I loved Belmont so much. My sophomore year, I got the Miranda Lambert Women Creators Scholarship, which is basically just a year of tuition for any woman in the music programs. She’s been one of my biggest influences in music, so to have that from her and from Belmont was probably one of the coolest things to happen. But it was really just affirmation to me that Belmont really does support music and songwriters.
Do you feel like you always wanted to take the path of being your own artist, or do you prefer being a writer?
CW: I’ve always wanted to be an artist and a writer. I’m the oldest of four girls, so I always wanted to be the center of attention [laughs]. I started performing when I was younger, and started playing at honky tonks around Nashville throughout high school. My senior year in high school, I signed a publishing deal with Warner-Chappell as a songwriter, so I decided that I was going to spend about two years writing and trying to find what I wanted to say.
This year I decided it was time - I finally got the music that I want out there. Right now we’re in the process of recording some stuff to release, but I spent the past year really writing and performing a lot. I got to open for Willie Nelson, and I got to sing onstage with him.
That’s like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
CW: Yeah, exactly. Just getting that experience, and playing a bunch of shows at music venues around the country has given me a lot of experience with being on the road. It’s been a nice new way to do music.
Is there something about being an artist that you particularly enjoy?
CW: I think my favorite thing is getting to play songs that I’ve written on stage. That’s part of the main reason I wanted to be an artist. I write things that I want to say, and I want to be the one to say them. It’s a lot of fun to be on stage and have people relate to these songs I’ve worked so hard on. For them to come up to me after show and tell me that they can relate or have experienced similar things in their lives, that’s the payoff for me.