Colbie Caillat’s upbeat, country-touched Malibu pop music projects a certain semblance of optimism, an image of a cheerful California girl. But beneath her sunny veneer lies rough patches and painful obstacles the 24-year-old breakout singer-songwriter had to overcome to find a place of personal comfort in an industry for which she was ill prepared.
“I would always build these barricades around myself,” said Caillat, citing her struggle with constant personal doubt. “I was having a crutch for far too long and letting myself get away with it. Eventually, it was making me want to give up on my passion for singing.”
Her passion is what initially elevated Caillat to mainstream musical recognition. Online self-promotion via MySpace caught the eyes of Universal Records. The label quickly signed her, enabling Caillat to release her 2007 debut album Coco, which would reach double platinum status in the United States.
Such massive starting success thrust Caillat into a spotlight that prompted her self-doubt, first in the form of intense stage fright.
“I’d cry sometimes before shows,” said Caillat. “I had to make myself break through my fear of being up on stage and speaking in front of people. I wanted to prove myself wrong, that I could actually overcome it, get better and enjoy what I do.”
To quell her fear, Caillat said she would have friends dare her to approach strangers, start up conversations and pretend to be someone completely different. Practicing helped her avert apprehension, headway that contributed to her titling her latest album Breakthrough — which debuted in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart in August.
“It’s breaking through anything that you stop yourself from doing because it’s difficult or scary,” she said. “That concept is from the situation I’ve been in over the past two years, having to deal with this fear and breaking through it every day.”
Breakthrough also reflects musical maturation for Caillat. On Coco, she said she didn’t know enough about music. Through constant performance and working with different producers (including American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi), she said her voice became stronger, her knowledge of available instruments to work with increased and she developed a vision for how she wanted her sophomore effort to take shape.
“I got to be there every single day for five months working on each song and making this painting of all these colours, adding it all together and making a record how I wanted it to sound.”