Caroline Spence Shares Poetic Inspiration and How ‘Mint Condition’ Came to Be

We recently caught up with Caroline Spence at Mercy Lounge before she opened up for Ron Pope.  Caroline is hitting the road with Ron for the beginning leg of his tour, and she took the time to sit down with us and chat.

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Caroline Spence has recently released her third, full-length album, Mint Condition and it is one that was narrated by people in various states of searching. Spence has become synonymous with her poetic style as well as an ease of listening with clarity and acute attention to detail. She is based in Nashville and has been steadily rising in recognition with each effort released.

American Songwriter: What do you recall as being your first memory of really being touched by music?

Caroline Spence: The Beatles. My dad had these cassette tapes, that I listened to over and over and over again.  I used to play Beatles as a game, and I was always George. The music was fun and it made me really happy, and it was all I really wanted to do. 

AS: When you are in process of writing and/or listening to music, are you more drawn to lyrics or melody?

CS: Umm, I would say lyrics mean the most to me…like listening to a song for a first listen, I always tune into the lyrics.  If something really hits me I’m like ‘Oh I love this song’. But there are a lot of different stuff I listen to just cuz it’s fun, and it honestly could be in a different language and I just like it. I’m more of a lyrics person, though.

AS: If you could have a dream collaboration today, it could change tomorrow…but today, if you had to answer, who would it be?

CS: Bruce Springsteen. (giggles) Tall order.  Don’t hold back!

AS: Shoot big! ha! Who is currently one of your inspirations?

CS: Inspiration, hmm, I don ’t know.

AS: It doesn’t even have to be musically…

CS: Oh I would say Mary Oliver poems, are one of my grounding forces. I love, love her poetry.  I would say an artist I just discovered recently that I am super into is Ethan Gruska, who helped produced some of Phoebe Bridgers stuff, and he has just been putting out songs and I am super into them right now.

AS: Well, you can tell you are really into poetry. Your songs are poetic and beautifully written.

CS: Well, thank you! I love Mary Oliver because she writes very simply, too, but you get a lot out of it. Simple is good.

AS: Are there any locations on this tour that you are really excited about visiting for any particular reason?

CS: I have never been to Canada before, and we are doing one show in Toronto, and I think have a couple days off there, so I am pretty excited about that, even though it is January! I brought my big coat, just so I could go exploring!

AS: Ok, So a couple questions on “Mint Condition” and I will let you take off to prep for the show! When did the process start for you and how did you start navigating through it? Was it a decision made with your team, or did you just have all of these songs that you wanted to put together?

CS: Most of my record I decide who I am going to work with on the production side, and I give them a big pile of songs.  Whatever feels like it sucks the least, you know? But it’s like, if you have written something, and sit with it awhile, it’s hard to see it with fresh eyes and hear it with fresh ears, so I’ll send the producer 30 songs, and be like ‘what do you think?’.  I’ll always have 4 or 5 that I will definitely go to bat for, but it’s always been an interesting process selecting the songs. And then, also, the story of the album comes to me when we start sequencing it…it’s like ‘oh duh that’s what the album is about, of course that’s what I have been writing about!’ That’s sort of how it’s been for me so far.

AS: So you just have a slew of stuff, and you feel like you just need to get it out there.

CS: Yeah, but it’s like, what are the best ones, and which ones are going to tell the stories.

AS: What was your greatest challenge and your greatest victory in making this record?

CS: Oh, that’s an interesting question. Umm, I mean, I will say one of the songs I am the most proud of because I pushed myself vocally is called “Wait on the Wine”. That was a big challenge because I have never, I mean, it’s basically on the bottom and top of my range. Even when I wrote it a few years prior I couldn’t sing it.  Then as I was going through my songs and tracking a few to figure out what I wanted to put on the record I sang that through and I was like ‘oh I can hit those notes!’  That was one of the ones that I was thinking maybe it won’t go on the record, but my producer really liked it and that was one he really fought for.  So singing that live every night, I still get nervous. It feels like it’s a recital or something, I don’t know! That was a challenge to me to be more of a singer than a songwriter, but also a victory, because I can do it now!

AS; Funny how they go hand in hand, right? The challenge and the victory on the other side. Ok, last question. If you could give any aspiring female artist one piece of advice what would it be?

CS: Find your community because there are a ton of us and they will be your best allies and biggest support system.  Team up, and don’t give in to the dialogue that there is only room for one of us because no one actually thinks that.  Also, just, I have always kind of joked about this, but the beauty of being a woman with something to say is a lot of times people don’t care what you have to say, so you can just say what you want, without the pressure.  There is really no beautiful way to put that. Just…write truly, because there’s really no consequences.

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