New York City-based songwriter/producer Caroline Rose has reinvented her sound on her sophomore LP Loner. Dawning an ironically sporty aesthetic, Rose delivers poignant tales of loneliness and disillusionment with a cigarette in hand. Contrasting the Americana sensibilities of 2014’s I Will Not Be Afraid, Loner combines elements of 70s punk and straight-ahead pop. (Charley Ruddell)
Your sound in the new record has developed in a more pop (and produced) direction, compared to 2014’s debut, which sounds very “rootsy” and more sparse to my ears. What inspired this shift?
Well at the time, this type of music made sense given my lifestyle, which was basically living in a car writing songs on acoustic guitar. The troubadour-esque mentality really resonated with me. Now I no longer live in a car (though I do often crash in my van), so I’ve acquired a lot of gear and skills over the years that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I also listen to a lot more styles of music, whereas when I was 21 or 22 I had this fixation that modern music would taint my creativity in some way?? I don’t know, it was totally elitist and ridiculous!
You are your own producer, it sounds like a lot of new toys (as in gear) were used in the making of “Loner” – what were the tools that left their mark on this record?
That’s true, but it’s only half true for LONER. I wanted to experiment and be able to expand my palette on this album, so I enlisted the help of a co-producer for that reason. I ended up working with this great artist Paul Butler in San Francisco, who taught me a ton. Paul and I did a session at Panoramic Studio in Bolinas, CA where we just plugged in all the synths and drum machines and old pieces of gear and just made weird sounds. We ended up recording wayyyyyy more than what ended up on the record.
We also hear a fair amount of synths in the record, what did you use and how did you “meet” them?
Most of those were from a session Paul and I did at Panoramic, but a lot of the hooks I recorded on my own gear, especially on the [Teenage Engineering] OP-1, which might be my favorite instrument ever. There’s an Arp Odyssey, Jupiter 6, Juno 106, Moog Voyager, some DSI and Sequential Circuits synths, Yamaha E-70, Korg MS-20, all the classics. We also experimented with some Buchla modular stuff and got some *very* strange and interesting sounds that snuck on there.
Do you deal with production from beginning to end, or do you rely on so-called “external ears” to finalize mixes and arrangements?
Paul and I did the meat and potatoes portion of tracking and fixing arrangements, stuff like that, but the album was still lacking cohesion in parts after our work together was done, so I ended up taking over from there and tracking some things that made the album gel a bit more––some additional guitar, bass, organ, etc, and hiring Rob Moose to track the string arrangement I’d written, which he added to in a beautiful way. But I’d say one of the most important parts of this was Andrew Sarlo’s role, who opened up the tracks SO much by cutting out a lot of the unnecessary material. I love Andrew, he’s both an incredible person and extremely talented producer and mixer. I truly think he’s one of the best around.
You mostly play guitar live, tell us about your relationship with stompboxes. If it’s love, what was your first love and what’s your last?
Oh man, well I adore everything Eventide makes. The Mixing Link is my favorite utility-type box because it literally does everything I want and need in a pedal. I have two of them. I also own the Pitch Factor and would desperately love to have an H9. Everything Strymon makes, and I am ALL about the Chase Bliss stuff coming out.
What else do you have on your pedalboard these days?
The Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl is all over the record but it’s actually used on my guitarist Abbie’s pedal board right now. I love Chase Bliss pedals SO much because they’re incredibly smart, sending and receiving MIDI, yet super compact. I prefer MIDI-controlled pedals because I can save all the settings on a foot controller, but of course, they’re three times the price. For my MIDI-controlled pedal boards, I use the Source Audio Soleman Controller.