Caleb Caudle Crafted His New Record With Johnny Cash’s Guitar In Hand

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Caleb Caudle has a message for himself on “Better Hurry Up,” the first single off the Nashville country singer-songwriter’s forthcoming record of the same name.

“It’s a motivating call to arms for myself,” Caudle tells American Songwriter. “And, if I needed it, others probably needed it to. It serves as a reminder that every single morning when we wake up, we get a chance to change our life. It’s in the small choices and the big decisions alike, that are only yours to make.”

If there’s a sense of warning in Caudle’s message, there’s also a sense of optimism: “It doesn’t matter what your past looks like, or the mistakes you’ve made, because those are long gone and ain’t never coming back,” he says. “Move forward, set goals and stay focused on them, and constantly chase your dream. It’s all up to you and it’s only up to you. Time is ticking so get to it.”

“Better Hurry Up” is a slow burning country rock number that foregrounds Caudle’s gruff vocals with support from acclaimed singer-songwriters Courtney Marie Andrews, Elizabeth Cook, and John Paul White. Caudle delivers the chorus with mounting determination over the twang of steel guitar: “The time is running out / so you better hurry up.” The tempo builds to a funky, winding groove, then slows down for the final a capella chorus.

Recorded in Johnny Cash’s cabin outside of Nashville, Better Hurry Up sees Caudle at his most comfortable and confident.

“For the first time, I truly feel like myself,” Caudle says. “I’ve found a sound that feels uniquely my own and feel so proud of the work we’ve done here. The glory goes to the all-star ensemble of musicians and singers, and everyone behind the scenes, who took such great care of my songs and facilitated this entire process.”

Members of that all-star ensemble include instrumentalists Mickey Raphael, Dennis Crouch, Fred Eltringham, Russ Pahl, Laur Joamets, Pat Sansone, and Rhett Huffman. In addition to Andrews, Cook, and White, Gary Louris of The Jayhawks also contributes vocals. The only song on Better Hurry Up that Caudle didn’t write himself is “Regular Riot,” which he co-wrote with The Highwomen’s Natalie Hemby. 

Better Hurry Up is Caudle’s eighth album following 2018’s Crushed Coins, but it’s his first as a Nashville resident. Caudle and his wife moved there from Winston-Salem, NC, just before recording the album in Cash’s nearby cabin-turned-studio. (Known as the Cash Cabin, this is the studio in which Cash recorded much of his celebrated 1994 album American Recordings.) Caudle crafted Better Hurry Up with one of Cash’s guitars in hand.

“In the studio, I was offered the incredible opportunity of playing Johnny Cash’s guitar on the entirety of the album,” says Caudle of the recording experience. “I felt heavy with reverence but not with pressure. I was overwhelmed by the peace it brought my mind. I’ve never worked in this way before, with this cast, in this studio, with this level of openness. I felt rewarded for changing my approach to the writing and recording process.”

Caudle kicks off a national tour on February 7. Better Hurry Up is out April 3 via Soundly Music.

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