Music has the power to change a life. Or several lives. Or they can just bring things to the surface that you may have tucked away in yourself for quite some time. Regardless of what you think music is to you, what music genre you listen to, what era of music you are a fan of, one can’t deny this fact and proposition- that music changes lives. A song, at the right moment and time in someone’s life, can change the trajectory of that particular person, whatever that is. I know we have all heard the cliché saying that ‘music is the universal language’ (but hang on, isn’t the universal language food?), but regardless of how cliché that sounds, I betcha that statement is 100% dead-on true. Because it is. No matter if you love rock, or pop, or country, or metal, screamo, folk, acoustic, even Christian music or worship music; music can creep into our very souls and show us things about ourselves that maybe we haven’t realised they were there in the first place. Listening to music can be a cool thing as we enjoy something and have a good time (like when music is just background beats at a party); or music can really transform a person’s character and personality- from the inside out. It is when the music can really transcend its time period and artist, that it can truly be considered timeless- lasting years upon years, and still having the same impact on people now as I’m sure it did back then. For we may not always have to understand what is being said in the music for us to be impacted and affected by it in a positive way- just because all the classical pieces don’t have words, nor the famous opera singers, delivering their work in English; that doesn’t mean we can’t be connected to the songs, even on a soul level. Music is here to stay; and is a reminder for us all that songs delve into territories and circumstances that often a sermon or a discussion online, can never do. Millions of things are often discussed in songs that can be relatable to people from all walks of life- love is discussed. Hate is discussed. Identity, worry, belief in God, doubt, uncertainty- there’s a lot of things that music often gets right, and why there is always a certain appeal to music in all its forms and facets, across decades and years, and in and amongst all the zillions of musical genres there have been. Music makes you feel happy, sad, convicted, compelled, challenged, and everything else in between.
And that is partly why I’ve decided to undertake this blog series- because music is so important to a psyche of a human, it was in the last few months of 2018 that my mind started to swell and think and wonder- and I came up with this question- who are some of the most influential artists in modern music history, that have not only shaped their own respective genres they have worked in, but also challenged perceptions of that genre across the board, and have impacted music full stop? Now here I am in August 2020- 55 blogs in; and loving every moment of my exploration of music that I may not otherwise have delved into, if not for this daunting (but nevertheless rewarding) blog series. For as I take a reflective look at the artists I’ve dived into thus far, I am amazed at how much of these artists weren’t listened to on a regular basis, even as late as 15 months ago or so. While I thoroughly enjoyed and listened to artists like Switchfoot, Skillet, Carman, Delirious?, Tenth Avenue North, Rebecca St. James, Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith (all Christian artists!), I wasn’t as familiar with a lot of the rest…and that’s ok. I’ve realised this now- that to listen to something that is unknown can be a way for getting out of our comfort zone and into a place of discovering something new, unique, wonderful, and exciting. Different music artists have made me feel different things as I’ve listened to them throughout the weeks and months- and this particular artist for blog #56, I’ve felt a lot of happiness, peace and joy when hearing these songs, even though a lot of them come from a place of heartbreak.
Colbie Caillat, American singer-songwriter from Malibu, California; has been in and around the music industry for quite some time, since releasing albums from 2007 onward within her folk-pop/R&B genre. And though now in 2020, she’s currently in a band of four under the guise of Gone West (the band now delve into the realms of country music, a far cry from Colbie’s beginnings as a folk-pop/R&B singer-songwriter), it has been her presence as a solo artist (and now as part of a band) that has made her music all the more accessible and relatable to people from all walks of life and all scenarios and circumstances people find themselves in, myself included. Colbie for me was actually a late addition into this top-100 influential artists list- and I don’t doubt it, that up until last week or so, I wasn’t really aware of her music as much as I knew that I could’ve been. I found her from hearing about Gone West, then travelled back and examined her discography leading up to Gone West’s inception, finding that I did in fact knew some songs here and there, but not too much. And as I’ve heard a lot of her music over the last few days or so, I’ve come to enjoy this sunny/breezy/down-to-earth/positive artist, who has crafted her career on the themes of hope, encouragement, positivity and honesty, things that are seemingly lacking in such a music industry that seems to care more about $$ than heartfelt lyrics. Colbie’s music as a whole makes people feel good when they listen- and is an artist that has made me realise that such a genre that Colbie (the solo artist, not Gone West) has invested herself in, is in fact a genre that is underrated (folk-pop/R&B), and a music style that I thought I knew of but didn’t- and now that I’m much more familiarised with the acoustical nature of it, love it all the more. With Colbie’s contemporaries within the mainstream industry being that of artists like Jason Mraz, Gavin DeGraw, Jack Johnson, Sara Bareilles, Andy Grammar, OneRepublic, John Mayer and Sheryl Crow; Colbie’s success over the years with a plethora of radio hits, is further solidified by her passionate and enthusiastic demeanour in video interviews, alongside her ability to deliver folk-pop inspirational melodies that have impacted the hearts and homes of people from around the world for more than a decade- and especially now, where her music (and Gone West’s) are just artists we need to invest in, more than ever before!
‘…I think music brings us together in so many different ways. Whether you put music on and you dance to it with someone that you love or with a group of people or you’re in your car blasting it on your way to work whatever it is, it brings you together, it connects you. Lyrically, it completely connects you because again, you feel like you’re not alone in that situation, whether it’s a really difficult time in your life or a really passionate/happy time in your life – you realize that everyone in the world at different times goes through these same things. And it really relates us, connects us, and you feel like you have that bond with someone, it kind of makes you feel like you know them. And gatherings, live concerts, at dinner parties and holidays and I love music from different eras because I feel like there’s always a different time of day or event that I’m doing where I can listen to those different styles of music and again connects me with whoever I’m listening to we have that bond.
I think music is a form of therapy. Listening to it lyrically or just to the music, it puts this emotion over you and it’s always a different emotion and I think it’s extremely healing and empowering. And I love when songs can allow you to cry or dance or laugh. There’s really an emotion for every style of music and it’s so – it brings people together, it relates people. Because even if you have different beliefs or your from different places even different languages, it’s the most amazing thing when you travel overseas and I’m singing a song in English and whatever country I’m in, they are singing along with me or it feels good to them. And again if you have different beliefs with someone but you like the same music, you can still relate to that. It’s just there’s no barrier with it…’
It is in this quote above that I have come to appreciate Colbie’s assessment of what music means to her, and that indeed, music is the universal language of the soul, as much as we try to argue that food is. Nevertheless, Colbie’s beginnings into a music industry that is so cut-throat today, started off way back during the era of MySpace- and how she went to become over time, the top unsigned artist on Myspace through her music. Maybe someone from a record company heard her songs on the social media platform, but whatever the case, now the rest is all history, and we can see that something that had a start on a social media platform very unassuming (I mean, who really gets famous from uploading songs to Myspace, in this time and space called 2020?), can grow into things unimaginable, wonderful and beautiful, as time goes on. Colbie’s heart for delivering music that has an honest flair and a knack for being authentic, is something that is infectious, and as I’ve heard melodies over the last few days, from ‘Bubbly’, ‘Fallin’ for You’, ‘Try’ and ‘Never Gonna Let You Down’, to ‘I Do’, ‘Brighter than the Sun’, ‘Live It Up’, ‘All of You’ and ‘What Means the Most’ (to name a few); one cannot deny that the place that a lot of her music comes from, is a place of hope that has sprung up from hurt and personal experience. And for people to resonate with another’s music, because of their personal experience attached to the track, is such a beautiful thing. Its great when someone can relate to a song because the singer of it has gone through the exact same thing. Colbie’s singer-songwriter abilities has really shone over the years- from her very-much underrated The Malibu Sessions to chart-topper ‘Try’ that really champions self-worth and acceptance above anything else.
It has been a joy to listen to Colbie, and understand that not even a week or so ago, I hadn’t really had the foggiest, of her music and her style of musical arrangement (even though a few of her songs, ‘Bubbly’, ‘Try’ and ‘Fallin for You’ inclusive, have been on heavy rotation on my local radio station, Hope 103.2). And that’s ok. I’ve realised that just because you don’t know about a music artist, or unfamiliar with a certain genre, doesn’t make their music any less valid than what you have been listening to all this time. In fact, it has been during the moments where I’ve taken a leap of faith and tackled artists in this blog series that I know next-to-nothing about, not even their musical genre style (Hanson, Bryan Adams, Train, The Corrs, Five for Fighting…and now Colbie Caillat), that I’ve walked away from it all with a more enriched and well-rounded appreciation into said particular genre. Colbie’s fusion together of acoustic music, pop music, folk music and R&B music, is something to be beholding, and an artist to be respected and admired in and across an industry where genre-crossing and genre-moulding/fusing isn’t necessarily the norm. Artists tend to stay in their lane in terms of their musical genre and what they’re good at, and for Colbie to come and give to us music that can fit in a myriad of genres, depending on when the songs were released, and the general feel of the album, is something remarkable. Colbie’s songs are a gem, and can hopefully encourage us all that music, regardless of genre, has the ability to reach deep inside us into the places that maybe we ourselves are unaware we had, and give us the tools it takes for us to confront issues in our own lives and the lives of others.
‘Bubbly’ is quite possibly one of the most impactful, famous, popular and heartfelt songs I’ve heard from Colbie ever, and is also one of her first songs she has ever recorded. And it was indeed ‘Bubbly’ that was one of the first songs Colbie posted to her Myspace page way back in the day, that led to music executives and record companies taking notice of her. ‘Bubbly’ the song is a nice track that features all the imperfections that we would want to take out of it if we had control- the umbububs that you do with your mouth to create a beat and sing in the shower with…yep, that’s there in the song. Its raw, organic, acoustically driven, and one of the standout tracks on Colbie’s first album, 2007’s Coco. As Colbie herself reminds us all about the process behind the song itself and what it means to her, we see that though the song isn’t necessarily about anyone specific in Colbie’s life (at the time of writing it), it is still about ‘…the feelings you get when you have a crush on someone and they make you make smile all the time; they give you butterflies and you just adore everything they do. I didn’t have a crush on anyone, and its always fun to have a crush. So I was just thinking about missing those feelings and wanting them…’ The song itself- a chart-topping radio hit. Spending 7 non-consecutive weeks at #5 on the Hot 100, and 14 at #1 on the Hot Adult 40 Tracks (on par with Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’, and only bested by Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated’), the song also had the privilege of being the longest running #1 debut radio single by a female artist (12 weeks), even since the Adult Contemporary charts (of which the song was #1) was introduced from the 1960s onward. Those numbers that I just mentioned back there, for anyone who is a numbers fan, is just crazy. And it is for those numbers alone, as well as the sheer impact that her 2014 hit ‘Try’ has had on people struggling with self-esteem (more on the impact of ‘Try’ later on in this blog), that Colbie’s place here on the top 100 Influential artists list, has been widely contested, by myself, for this last week, eventually relenting and realising, that yes, Colbie’s songs and impact over the last decade or so has been to a point where influence can be seen for people hearing these songs, myself included. ‘Bubbly’ is a joyous song about the giddy first-effects that happen when you realise you are in love (or maybe in lust or infatuation, no one really can distinguish between these three nowadays) with someone, and from that certain point onward, all you want to do is just be in the presence of the other. And maybe, just maybe, all the incoherence that happens when you are in a state of love, is all worth it- I haven’t been in love, but hope that the love that is presented as true, goes past the first few times of butterflies and giddiness, and hopefully, ‘Bubbly’ encourages us all to connect with people not just on a surface level, but deep in conversations too.
‘Oxygen’, the first track on Coco, was in rotation a lot on my very on Spotify when I listened to Colbie’s music over the last few days, and though not an actual radio at all, ‘Oxygen’ nevertheless shows to us Colbie’s heart to always be someone’s lady and never leaving them, as she views a boy from afar and longs to be in relationship with them (but isn’t in the song, for whatever reason). The song’s title of ‘Oxygen’ is the way it is for a couple of reasons I’ve figured out- oxygen is needed for life and breathing, and when you are preoccupied with a relationship, when all you can do is just think about them, the capacity to do anything else just decreases, and thus, oxygen in a figurative sense, that was once flowing through you at a steady rate, has now plummeted because of your ‘unhealthy’ obsession. But the flipside can also be true- that when in connection with someone you know is right for you, your ability to do things with the other by your side is like oxygen for your life- the person you want to be in relationship with, can either take your ‘oxygen’ away, or enhance and build upon it. ‘Oxygen’ for me is one of the first songs- alongside the songs I heard on the radio (but they don’t really count), I did hear from Colbie, and it is in that respect that such a song as this is sentimental. So is ‘The Little Things’, the third official single from Colbie, which speaks about a relationship that is at a crossroads, where the persona in the relationship is wanting clarification as to where the relationship is heading, and longing for a relationship to hopefully stand the test of time and not go south because of indecision and uncertainty on both sides. Emotive and poignant, ‘The Little things’ is a reminder that it is indeed the little things of a relationship that make it- what happens on a day-to-day basis and things we often take for granted. ‘Battle’, one of Colbie’s lesser known songs, also on Coco, is also another songs, not an official single, that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed over the last few days, but not because of the subject matter, but rather because of the honesty of the track. While the song itself can be seen as a ‘battle’ and a personal situation she was going through, we see vulnerability rear its head in this acoustical track, as Colbie herself explains her own feelings towards it- ‘…I wrote ‘Battle’ about my frustration with our government and politics, my opinion on the war, and about people and the hurt and harm they can cause when they get too wrapped up in their own agenda. About wondering how they could feel no remorse, and why instead of owning up to their mistakes and doing what is right, they continue full force on the same path, refusing to take the necessary steps to begin to make things better again, and telling twisted stories and imposing fear along the way to gain supporters on their side that never even heard the truth…’ It is in this explanation of the song that I am amazed at Colbie’s songwriting ability, and how she has been able to take a subject matter like a situation in her life, and write it in a way as if she was writing about a political situation, and still have people relate to it- that in and of itself is a great thing that only few artists can accomplish.
Colbie’s other hits on Coco, both on a professional level, and for me as I’ve been hearing her music over the last few days, are songs that are as much poignant back then when her 2007 album released, as they are right now in 2020 when we revisit them too. Songs like ‘Realise’, about someone wanting their friend to realise that they are in love with them, and hopefully reciprocation can take place, or ‘Dreams Collide’, when you want so badly for a dream of yours to come to fruition and become reality, to see things that are not yet, become certainty in the now. ‘Something Special’, on the deluxe version of Coco that came out in 2008, is an R&B/folk track about accessing the thing inside of us that is capable of doing special things, the value inside us all that is unique on a human level; while ‘One Fine Wire’ is a melody about the ever-underrated fear of stage fright and the feelings that come from facing such a fright head-on and what comes from the processing of what a fear like that, can do to you. It has been these songs on Coco that have formed the foundation of where Colbie is right now in her life, and reminds us all that often it is the first album, as raw and unfiltered and real and unpolished it is, that is by far one of the most emotive and poignant, for any artist- it is especially the case with Colbie. Colbie’s albums from here on out have a sense of radio marketability about them, and that is ok, but in light of her down-to-earth unashamedly folk album of Coco, I’ve felt these last few days that this 2007 album encompasses a lot of what current folksy music and artists should aspire to become. Folk music is indeed underrated when it comes to placing it against pop and rock, and Colbie’s music, and even her Gone West material to some extent, gives people a licence to enjoy something that is different, but different in a good way. Too much of mainstream pop isn’t necessarily a good thing, and Colbie’s music is a great alternative for anyone who is somewhat fed up with the songs and artists that are being churned out today, at a rate that is exponential as it is showcasing of their lack of relatability to the general audience when it comes to topical lyrics and songs that connect on a soul-to-soul atmosphere, something that Colbie herself has, and something that people should have when they’re creating music whose purpose it is to heal and provide a sense of comfort and hope, especially during this COVID-19 2020 era!
As the albums go by and the years tick on, we continue to see Colbie’s vulnerability and a side of herself not necessarily championed as much in the music industry. We see songs about love, hope, loss, heartbreak, beauty, self-esteem, hope, never forgetting a person, the joy that comes from the start of a relationship, and everything else in between- which is why I reckon Colbie’s music is so relatable to a lot of people from different walks of life, with myself also slotting in there in some category called ’30 yr old single male’. Colbie’s songs, not only on Coco, but throughout her whole discography, have been a bright spark amidst the chaos and calamities that this world has faced over the years, and even now in such a time as this uncertain moment of COVID-19, we can use a bit of positivity which is Colbie Caillat. ‘Falling For You’, from 2009’s Breakthrough, is the first radio single, and is such an innocent song about falling for someone, who may or may not be your type, and you realise that they are the only one in the room. It is a moment of realisation that comes when you lock eyes with someone that gives you a little intrigue and maybe excitement, and then realise that maybe, they’re feeling it too. While the song itself doesn’t travel to deep in its lyrics, like trying to figure out if the person, the persona is ‘falling for’ is really ‘the one’ or not, the song still is happy and positive and a reminder that often the person that we fall for, can be someone that we least expect (in the music video for the song, Colbie’s character is being impressed by an overweight underconfident man). ‘I Do’, from Colbie’s third album All Of You, features Colbie on the ukulele and features a great acoustical/Californian vibe, where the song is perfect to be heard during a summertime where these types of songs are of abundance. ‘I Do’ the song is about how you can be so focused on self-care and be by yourself, and be ok with that, and then when someone comes out of left field, in a very good way, your perspective of what you know about being in relationships, and your assumptions of what they could be like, goes way out of the window, and everything you may have known, needs to be relearnt all over again- which is a good thing.
‘Favourite Song’, Colbie’s collaboration with U.S. rapper, actor and comedian Common, is a pairing in a track that seems very unlikely, ultimately works for the most part, even though some of the rapping seems a little bit disjointed compared to the overall vibe of the song as a whole. The track itself has a great meaning whereby Colbie asserts that she wants to be ‘your’ favourite song- and by meaning ‘your’ it’s probably referring to the other person in a budding relationship, wanting the other to think of you and for you to be at the forefront of their mind, which is cute and honouring in some ways, but in others, can seem downright controlling. Nevertheless, this song, in all the faults that you can pick from it, was a single from her 2011 album, and a song that, though disjointed, has a lot of heart and good intentions, a song that feels like it’s coming from a good place even if its execution can seem a little lacking. Nevertheless, Colbie continues to bring to us powerful hit songs that tug at all of our emotions, and remind us all that there’s a song for every season in life, especially during now where people feel trapped and locked away, trying to beat a virus that is unseen and unprecedented, life never before.
‘I Never Told You’ speaks of a timely issue of regret, and especially during such a time as this- quarantine, regret can be something popping up for a lot of people. This song by Colbie speaks about regret from a romantic standpoint, but such a song as this, can hopefully spark things about ourselves that we can often regret, that can be romantic, or not- that’s the beauty of regret, it is universal, and it is in these moment of quiet reflection and a time where the world is pressed ‘pause’ that can tangibly do something about our own regrets, before they eat away at us. ‘Lucky’, featuring pop-folk artist Jason Mraz (famous for his own songs ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’), is a love song in its truest and purist form, about the feelings of goodness that comes from being in love with your best friend (and them reciprocating of course!), and how often the best spousal relationships come from being friends first, while ‘Begin Again’, both in its original and reggae format (and from one of Colbie’s underrated albums, 2009’s Breakthrough), speaks of the need for relationships to give it a go a second (and maybe even a third time), before separation and divorce happens. The persona in the song longs for a reunion between lovers, and speaks of how ‘…I know we’ve said a lot of things, that we probably didn’t mean, but it’s not too late to take them back, so, before you say you’re gonna go, I should probably let you know that I never knew what I had…’, a reminder that in every relationship that is on the rocks, we always have a choice- to press forward and fight for what we once believed in, or to salvage what can be salvaged, turn another page, and start anew, whatever that may look like. Facing these decisions is never easy, and ‘Begin Again’ is a reminder of how delicate and difficult these decisions really are. On a very much lighter note, ‘Brighter Than the Sun’, like ‘I Do’ in a thematic sense, speaks of a love that is new and fresh and exciting that it can be compared to the brightness of the sun- overwhelming and all consuming. Almost entirely driven by the acoustic guitar (which almost never really happens in a folk/pop song, there’s literally no trace of an electric guitar, for the most part, on a lot of Colbie’s songs, this one included!), ‘Brighter than the Sun’ is just a happy joyous song, and also a track co-written with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, so…what can go wrong?
‘All of You’, the title track from Colbie’s third album, speaks about giving the whole self of someone, and the persona in the track longing for the other to unveil their true selves, assuring them that they will never walk away regardless. For a relationship can only blossom and flourish when honesty, realness, unveiling of scars, is placed in a forefront, and a lot of Colbie’s music, is a reminder of this fact, especially a lot on her third album All of You. Which is a theme that other artists may not talk about in their music, which is good to see someone like Colbie discussing issues that need to be said, especially when it comes to vulnerability and honesty. ‘You Got Me’ from 2009’s Breakthrough, is also in a similar vein to ‘I Do’ and ‘Brighter than the Sun’, and speaks about how a person can have such a hold on someone, and that love and feelings of it can arise from a place of coming to terms with how much time you spend thinking of the person, or how much you believe this person enhances your life and challenges your to be a better person. The lyric line ‘…I hope we always feel this way, and in my heart I know you’ll always stay…’ is the essence and heartbeat for a lot of love songs by Colbie- a lot of them say similar things, and at the end of it all, it’s melodies from the heart at a certain point in time where Colbie feels things for someone. That may change in the future, but one thing remains true at the point of writing said song about love- that the cliched ‘it’s better to love and lost, than to never love’, is certainly true. Even if now looking back, people can see heartbreak and loss at what was once bliss and maybe even mistakenly love, begs the question- can you really love someone, on the off-chance it doesn’t work out? A lot of songs by Colbie suggest that such a chance should be taken, and songs like ‘I Do’, ‘Brighter Than the Sun’, ‘You Got Me’ and ‘All Of You’, all challenge us to strive and undertake authentic relationships, whatever they look like, over fake ones any day.
Gypsy Heart and The Malibu Sessions, unveiled by Colbie in 2014 and 2016 respectively, are the final two albums released before Colbie moved from a solo-artist status to combining in a group setting for Gone West, and in my own opinion, these two albums are some of the most emotive and heartfelt I’ve heard out of her whole career. Both these two albums are have more a universal appeal, not necessarily highlighting romantic relationship, but life struggles and things that the everyday man can apply to on the street. Take ‘Blaze’ for example, from 2014’s Gypsy Heart. A 3 minute EDM pop melody- a big departure from Colbie’s folk-pop/R&B roots, ‘Blaze’ speaks of having fun and coming together as a group of friends, celebrating life and taking risks…even if it comes with cops at the end of it. ‘Blaze’ is a reminder to always have your own group of friends where you can be yourself with, to enjoy a good time, and connect with on a level that reminds us all of how good it is to have friendships and relationships (not the romantic kind) that we bond together with, on a shared common interest level, but also on a level that brings out the best in each other, whatever that looks like. ‘Live it Up’ has Colbie revisit her own struggles with stage fright, allowing a song with big instrumentation to still be about lyrics that vulnerable and heartfelt. As Colbie herself explains, first to ABC News Radio, and second to Billboard, ‘…Yeah, it’s still a struggle [the stage fright]. Like, every time I do it, it gets a little easier and a little better and I watch back, I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, it wasn’t as bad as I thought in my mind.’ But no, it’s still there. I think it’ll be there forever, and that’s just something I’m learning to accept…’ ‘…We wanted it to sound really huge and loud and strong, then having the lyrics be more vulnerable. I wrote [‘Live It Up’] about my stage fright and how I’ve struggled with that my entire life. To me, it was a really fun balance having a song that sounds so different but lyrics that are just honestly what I’m going through…’ I’ve always loved ‘Live it Up’ from a musical standpoint, and so to hear the story behind in from a vulnerable place, it makes the song-opener to Gypsy Heart all the more inspirational. ‘Land Called Far Away’ is a song that brings Colbie back to her folk roots in a song rooted in reality and an understanding that love doesn’t necessarily have to be for someone right now, that they can realise that they need to work on themselves first, so that they are open to love in the future. Often at times, there’s pressures from outside sources- your friends, family, the media, society at large, that convince you that to have a relationship is the end goal, and if you’re not in one, then you need to take steps to be in one. ‘Land Called Far Away’ speaks of how it’s ok to, according to the song, ‘…save my love for love in a land called far away…’ If we feel like we’re not in the right headspace to give vulnerable parts of ourselves away to people, then we don’t have to. Love comes when it comes, but we don’t always have to respond so flippantly and with open-arms as people think we should. God knows the timing of love in our lives, there’s no pressure, literally. This song is a great reminder for us to not let our perceptions of what love and being in love should look like (time-wise), overwhelm us beyond belief.
‘Never Gonna Let you Down’, ‘Bigger Love’, and ‘Hold On’ are the other inspirational songs from Gypsy Heart, with all of them having some-kind of spiritual element to them. ‘Never Gonna Let You Down’, released with an accompaniment video about dogs and the unconditional love that dogs give to their human ‘masters’, speaks of a love that lasts through difficult times, and the best of times. While the song, in light of the video, is discussing about the love that dogs give humans and vice versa, I’ve always seen this song as the Lord Jesus Christ singing to us, declaring from the outset that ‘…I’m never gonna let you down, I’m always gonna build you up, and when you’re feeling lost, I will always find you love, I’m never gonna walk away, I’m always gonna have your back, and if nothing else you can always count on that, when you need me, I promise I will never let you down…’ ‘Bigger Love’ speaks of a love that happens to someone that is so enveloping and so unconditional that you have the confidence, the know-how, the grace that covers you, and the love to always come back to, so that you can venture out and try things in life, even if failure and heartbreak happens. The song speaks of a familial love that will always be there when all other loves fade, but more important than that, it is a true reminder of the bigger love given by God to us in all circumstances, something that can often slip your mind when you’re running from this thing to that in your everyday activities. ‘Hold On’, a song only on the German edition of Gypsy Heart, was a co-write with Ryan Tedder, and reminds us all of how when you’re in certain situations where you don’t know if you should hold on or let go (in a relationship sense), all you can do is just have the wisdom, from the Lord, to know what the next step is. Your head’s telling you something, but your heart wants something else. I guess in a lot of circumstances, to hold on or to let go is considered an art, because one can never really know. A song that is strikingly similar thematically to Bebo Norman’s ‘Pull Me Out’ or even Warren Barfield’s ‘Love is Not A Fight’, we are given hope and courage that relationships are fighting for, and with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic at the helm in writing this track, ‘Hold On’ is certainly a winner- may not be commercially though, but a winner nonetheless.
The Malibu Sessions was brought to life in October 2016, but here’s the fun fact of this album- this album was recorded and ready to go before Gypsy Heart and was the album that was intended to released as Gypsy Heart, but then wasn’t. The songs on Gypsy Heart were then recorded, and this album, the original Gypsy Heart, was crafted into The Malibu Sessions, an album with its reggae/acoustical/R&B/folk nature harkens back to the days of 2007’s Coco, in a good way. It makes 2014’s Gypsy Heart look polished (nothing against the songs themselves), and the songs here on the 2016 album, feel more like Colbie herself. Which is why this album from Colbie, holistically, follows Coco as the most coherent and story-telling, as Colbie delivers songs from a much-more universal relating standpoint than a lot of previous material. ‘Gypsy Heart’ the song, speaks of being a nomad, and reminds us very candidly of what touring musicians often feel like during their touring life. Some people love touring, some people love family, but in and amongst the whole life which his being a musician, we ought to be reminded that to have a gypsy heart, is a bit of a calling, because the toll it takes on family to have someone be a musician and to share their craft with the world, is a tough, tough gig. Only if you have bandmates that are also your life-soul mates too, or you are in a team and your loved ones are on the road with you, that I reckon relationships last on the road. ‘Gypsy Heart’ is a reminder of the real issues that come with music and touring, while ‘Goldmine’, the album’s first radio single, speaks of having gold and riches (in a metaphorical sense) when we are in the presence of our special someone, and knowing that love and company and being in the presence of another, is far richer than the monies we can amass, but still feel empty if we don’t have anyone to share it with. Other standouts on the album include acoustic-pop ditty ‘Like Tomorrow Never Comes’, a track about the simple things in life, and being still and reminded that often the best things in life come from family and those who love us, rather than what we think can give us happiness (chasing the proverbial wind); while ‘Only You’ is a simple acoustically driven ode to Colbie’s loved ones, and a reminder that to write a song of affection to someone doesn’t’ necessarily need to be that big or grandiose- something like ‘Only You’ will do. ‘Good Thing’, complete with gang vocals and a joyous anthemic vibe, recognises that sometimes relationships can be more complicated than they should, and such a song as this, as joyous as it outwardly is, speaks of this heavy subject matter. ‘Good Thing’ encourages us to embrace the good things in our lives, like relationships, to stop asking reasons why a relationship should or shouldn’t last, why two people are compatible or not, and just enjoy the ride of it all.
‘Running’, another acoustically driven track, speaks about taking journeys with your loved ones, and understanding that often such a big thing like touring, doesn’t feel as good by yourself than it does with someone with you every step of the way, while ‘Don’t Wanna Love You’ is as vulnerable keyboard-driven track about listing all the reasons why you don’t want to fall in love with someone, but then realise that you’re in love away, a reminder that love often goes by no rules and everything you’ve known about it goes out the window, when you start to experience it for the first time. ‘Now’ rounds out the album in powerful fashion, a 5-minute anthemic melody that cries out for our attention, understanding that life ought to be lived in the now- tomorrow isn’t really promised, and yesterday has already happened. The song itself channels a lot of Matthew 6:25-34, titled ‘Do Not Worry’, and is a conscious moment for us to ponder- our Father in heaven calls us to not worry about the future (and the past), and if such a song from Colbie also addresses this same theme, then we really need to start not-worrying. And even if Colbie’s own religious persuasions, or lack thereof, is involved in this particular song (or any songs previous), I firmly believe that a lot of the songs from Colbie, are God speaking to us, reminding us all of the unconditional love and acceptance given to Him freely, that our own troubles and worries need not to be focused on, that He is always with us and will forever be, highlighting the relationship we have with Him that will always be, even when other relationships fall.
If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Matthew 6: 25-34 (The Message)
I guess if you were to say which song has impacted me the most out of every song from Colbie and her discography, I’d say ‘Try’, from her 2014 album Gypsy Heart. A song that I constantly heard on the radio, but never really attributed it to her, ‘Try’ is a reminder for us all to stop comparing ourselves to the person next to us, to run our own race, and to realise that we all have value and worth in our own right. ‘Try’ tackles the issues of worries, insecurities, bodies, especially of women, and feelings of inadequacies that we would never measure up, for fear of disappointment. ‘Try’ challenges these assumptions; and asks the questions of whether we like ourselves when we’re in the room by ourselves, rather than just cat-towing to what other people think. And if we don’t like ourselves when we’re alone, then why not? This song is one that can challenge us all, but also be a catalyst for positive change as all these issues to do with bodies, worries, insecurities and the lot of it, all come bubbling to the surface, as they were often hidden in ourselves to begin with. Colbie’s courage in writing a song like this is utterly remarkable- ‘Try’ is by far one of the most motivational mainstream tracks I’ve heard in quite some time- it even received a cover of it from the then-popular CCM powerpop all-girl group 1GN way back in 2014 as well. ‘Try’ is a moment of realisation that the effort we try to put in so that other people like us a certain way, we don’t have to do that anymore. Because God loves us, and that ought to be enough.
Colbie not only has unveiled to us albums of her own, but she has also delivered to us, songs and other collaborations, not on previous albums, but nevertheless standout tracks in her career as a whole. Way back in 2008, she teamed up with the album series Disneymania to release her own rendition for The Little Mermaid’s ‘Kiss the Girl’ for Disneymania 6– and while I myself haven’t really watched that much of The Little Mermaid at all (I reckon only once), the song nevertheless is iconic in Disney culture, and for Colbie to have her own folksy interpretation of the song, is a great treat. ‘Here Comes the Sun’, the very famous track from a little ol-band called The Beatles, is given the Colbie Caillat treatment for the Australian deluxe version of Coco, while ‘Breathe’, a collaboration with Taylor Swift from her 2008 album Fearless, is a great fusion of folk and country- at the time of recording, Taylor was much immersed in the country genre, whereas now, she’s currently traversing the pop-folk line, I’m ironically Colbie was back in the day! Colbie also collaborated with pop artist Gavin DeGraw for the song ‘We Both Know’, the theme song behind the movie Safe Haven, and features the theme of a back-and-forth between two lovers dealing with struggles that a lot of people in modern middle America can relate to. Gavin’s vocals compliment Colbie’s quite well, and in fact, both Colbie’s collabs with Taylor and Gavin, in my opinion, feel much more organic and relatable than Colbie’s unique and out-of-the-box collaboration with Common way back in 2011. Colbie also brings to the table the song ‘When the Darkness Comes’, especially for the movie The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, with the song speaking of how the persona will be a light for someone trapped into the darkness, hoping and praying that this light that is given to the other person, will guide them home; while arguably the biggest collaboration of all of Colbie’s is the fusion of artists Paul McCartney, Colbie herself, Jon Bon Jovi, Natasha Bedingfield, rapper Sean Paul, Sheryl Crow, Leona Lewis and many, many more, to create ‘Love Song to the Earth’, an anthem to raise awareness of the things we as humans do to the earth that are endangering it for future generations. While the song on the surface can seem borderline ‘worshipping’ the Earth, the song nevertheless is a reminder to treat the world we’re living in right, and that to respect the Earth is to respect the creator of it- God Himself.
Which brings me to 2020, and what has emerged from four years from whence The Malibu Sessions was unveiled is something completely different, and something maybe even Colbie herself didn’t even envisage. In 2018, Gone West was borne- and now consists of four members, Colbie herself, her fiancé Justin Young (who is now unfortunately her ex, after a breakup in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantine in early April), long-time co-writer Jason Reeves and his wife, Nelly Joy. Together they form the quartet band, who is now heavily involved within the country genre…and so what does that mean for Colbie’s own solo career? Not really sure, but as I myself have been listening to Gone West’s ‘debut’ album Canyons, there’s a lot of hope, joy, heartbreak and emotions to be found within these 13 songs. While it may take some getting used to, for us to make the transition from hearing Colbie as a solo artist, to hearing her in a group, the end result is still songs that make us all feel emotions we may not have been in touch with for quite some time. While a lot of Colbie’s solo stuff have been about love, and the joys and hopes that comes from new relationships, a lot of the band’s new album is more focused on things that happen and the aftermath of pear-shaped experiences- what happens after a breakup and what does a broken relationship look like? Songs like ‘Gone West’- the title named after the band (or is it the other way around), are the rousing points of the album, as Colbie, Justin, Jason and Nelly speak about this notion of travelling to the west to experience life, maybe in a different setting and scenery, than what has been initially experienced, all with the purpose of looking at things from a new perspective and hopefully gain some understanding with people with a different viewpoint. With a lot of country-style imagery, ‘Gone West’ evokes the notion of traversing the landscape into places unknown, where you take the courage that you have and enjoy the journey of exploring things you may never have, if you didn’t take the chance to. The song is an embodiment of the band and its own challenges as being a band, considering that all four members have had quite the success individually, especially Colbie. Nevertheless, Gone West, band, and Canyons album, are some of the most unique collaborative outfits I’ve heard for quite some time. While we don’t know if Colbie will ever do solo material or just continue on with the band for quite some time yet, what I do know is this- that songs like ‘Gone West’, as well as other kickers on the album, remind us all that Colbie has continued in the music industry in some shape or form. ‘What Could’ve Been’ is a song sung from two points of view- a guy and a girl, about the lament of a relationship gone broken, while ‘Confetti’ is the confession of feeling relief and release after a breakup, and a realisation that the person you were with were holding you back. ‘R&R’, an acronym commonly used as stating the terms ‘rest and relaxation’, is a summery track about flowing with the road and radio and going on road trips to discover things about the country you may not have been aware of, and ‘This Time’, another standout vulnerable track, is one about the urgency of connecting with our loved ones because of the uncertainty of the future and the fragility of our own mortality.
Colbie’s music throughout the years has been many things, from the acoustic-folk goodness of Coco, to the relationship-style tracks of the albums Breakthrough and All of You, while the latest albums in The Malibu Sessions and Gypsy Heart speak more towards the universality of themes that we can all relate to. Then came Gone West and with the big difference from Colbie’s initial folk-pop/R&B to her new country quartet, we see an evolution in her music that makes us appreciate her ability and craft all the more. While I personally may take some time getting used to Colbie’s new band (maybe in the future, Gone West can re-record some of Colbie’s earlier hits and turn them into a country-esque melody), both Colbie Caillat the artist and Gone West the band are just gems to listen to if you want something unique, powerful, heartfelt and encouraging, all at the same time. And maybe, just maybe, with the fusion of Colbie’s folk-pop, Justin’s contemporary Hawaiian musical atmosphere, Jason’s skill as a songwriter, and Nelly Joy’s experience in being part of a duo/band, all within the backdrop of a country vibe, is something that can at least allow someone to check out their music at least once. Even if you don’t like Gone West, there is still Colbie’s original music. And who knows, maybe there’ll be a new sense of life and purpose as this band continues on into the future. Colbie’s music on its own is good, and with her new band, is just as new and exciting. This is one country group (can you really, really call them country though?) that we all need to look out for in the upcoming weeks and months ahead. Take it from me, their album Canyons is by far one of my favourite ‘mainstream’ albums of 2020, alongside others like Mayhem to Madness (The McClymonts), Silver Landings (Mandy Moore) and Twenty Twenty (Ronan Keating).
‘…there are a lot of compromises and learning from each other. Like any partnership, not all parties are gonna always agree on the same thing, so it’s been important for us to be able to incorporate all of our individual ideas and styles together, so it truly feels like Gone West…because each of our musical backgrounds is completely unique to where we grew up, you will hear moments of inspiration from each of us individually on Canyons. We’re all from different places, Tennessee, Iowa, Texas, California, Hawaii, but when those choruses hit and we sing together, we sound like “one voice.” It’s truly special!…’
Does Colbie Caillat and Gone West and their music make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Bubbly’, ‘Try’, ‘Fallin’ For You’ or ‘Gone West’, that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!