Waking in the middle of the night and writing down everything that popped into her head, carobae was afraid to go back to sleep for fear of missing out on the song, and the mess of thoughts rummaging through her head. Reflecting on the sacrifices and tribulations to make her dream a reality, carobae (real name Caroline Baker), began writing her storyline mishaps, betrayals, regrets—and some good bits—and wrote the title track of her debut album, scared to go to sleep.
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“In the past year, I’ve dealt with a lot of self-isolation, shame, and intrusive thoughts due to my struggles in developing a relationship with the internet,” said carobae in an earlier statement. “For me, writing ‘scared to go to sleep’ was my way of coming to terms with everything going on inside my head.”
Written and produced solely by the Nashville-based artist, with a number of tracks co-written, scared to go to sleep came at a time when carobae wasn’t sure she wanted to make music again, following her dual EPs, The Longest Year: Part One, released in 2020 and Part Two in 2021.
Ultimately, “scared to go to sleep” opened the can of worms, and the remaining songs of the album, are immersed in more dream-like imagery, says carobae. Also submerged in angst, the songs that followed fit the notion of scared to go to sleep, and facing some of her most revelatory thoughts, from the opened and closed relationships of “dead endings/happy endings.”
Rapping through Message in a bottle, finger on the throttle / Hard to post a pic when they’re all fucking models / I could give it all up and go home / I could leave a note or I could write a novel, carobae is also dissecting the means of external and self-validation and the dark clouds in her head.
Throughout, scared to go to sleep is unshaken from the alt-rock “till the day i__,” a rumination on the uglier ends of the music business, and into the more uptempo pop-punk of “stab my back” and “naked in a crowd.” She delivers her original missive to her awake self on “scare to go to sleep,” singing Cause I’m scared to be alone / With the thing that makes me think / All these fucked up things, with more vulnerabilities exposed on latter tracks “he’ll never know” and “ear ur heart out” before the closing silver lining of “silver line”—Saying it’s gonna be okay / No matter what they say /You’re better than the shitty day.
Writing a majority of the tracks on her own with some co-written with Brandon Shoop, Megan Redmond, Raziel, Sean Kennedy, and Lauren Mandel, the 24-year-old artist has also continued working with songwriters in Nashville over the past several years and even co-wrote Nicolle Galyon’s 2018 single “self care” with Sasha Alex Sloan.
For scared to go to sleep, carobae pushed herself even further on this album, instrumentally, learning how to play drums while recording.
She spoke to American Songwriter about how the album pieced together, how songs often start as poems, and the urge to get out of her comfort zone.
American Songwriter: How did scared to go to sleep start piecing together for you since the back-to-back The Longest Year EPs?
carobae: Well a majority, if not all, of the songs from The Longest Year were written when I was putting out songs from 3am (2019), so I hadn’t written much that I was in love with for a few years. When I’m writing for myself, I typically write a handful of songs solo, then take a step back and try to figure out the big picture of what I’m saying. These songs [on scared to go to sleep] felt important enough to release. I started to notice a common theme with the topics I was writing about on my own in January and felt I needed to write a whole album to process a lot of internal conflict I had going on.
AS: What was it about these songs that was resonating with you as you were writing and eventually recording everything?
c: The oldest song on the album is “he’ll never know,” which I had written a while back and always knew I wanted to release it. I was just waiting for the perfect sonic landscape. The rest I wrote pretty much at the beginning of this year. It was really important for me to get this album out in 2022 versus sitting on it for another year because I’m still very much feeling a lot of themes I wrote about in scared to go to sleep. I wanted to be able to present the world with something that I could still connect with.
AS: What was the common thread between the 12 songs?
c: I think when we’re growing up, a lot of us have an idea of what our dreams are gonna look like when we’re older. On paper, I’m living my dream every single day, but the reality of it is that it comes with a lot of sacrifices and shitty situations you never imagined you would be in. The idea that our dreams can actually become nightmares is a big theme I have throughout the album. There’s a lot of exhaustion, bitterness, frustration, and anger, but also hopefulness. The commonality between all the songs is all the emotions that come with having a dream and seeing it through.
AS: Now that you’ve had some time with these songs, have any shifted in meaning since you first wrote/recorded them?
c: “Stab my back” feels like it has new life every time I sing it. Even though it’s about one specific person, I’m not as upset with them as I originally was when I wrote the song. Every time I perform it though, I feel like I’m singing to somebody else who’s treated me kinda shitty. It’s equally as cathartic as it was writing it in the first place.
AS: As you were producing the album, was there something you wanted to approach differently, sonically, on this album?
c: I actually listened to a ton of music the entire time producing the album, because I wanted to understand why I was so drawn to certain songs and what the elements were in the songs. I realized a lot of bands I like don’t use a ton of extra plug-ins. They let their musical ability shine through and use any synths or other parts to support the song, so when it came to recording the parts, instead of using digital tones on my guitar, I recorded through my pedals and amp and didn’t touch the tone after. I tried to not quantize as much as possible too so it felt like I was playing in the moment.
Programming drums have always been my biggest insecurity as a producer, simply because I’m not a drummer. I didn’t want that to be the one thing holding this album back, so I learned some basic drum patterns—enough to become a better listener and understand the purpose behind using different parts in a kit—and started programming drums as if I were playing them. Afterward, my fiancé Jon and I mic’d up his kit and recorded him playing what I wrote. This record would sound completely different if I hadn’t pushed myself like I did, and it was 100 percent worth it.
AS: What kind of songwriter are you now? How do songs typically come together for you and has this shifted at all in the past several years?
c: I used to consider myself more of a melody writer, but this album really made me into a lyric writer. I wanted listeners to feel like they related to the songs without me completely stating “I am sad. I feel alone.” Most of the songs actually started from lyrics I wrote more as poems and I did the melody after the fact.
I’ve always been a “song first, production later” person, in that I’ll write the entire song out first and then produce it after. However, lately, I’ve been trying to chase whatever I feel at the moment. If I’m writing a song and I hear a guitar lick, I’ll go ahead and record that in, or if I get off track and start writing a completely new song then I’ll forget about whatever I was doing before. To me, those moments are gut feelings that should be followed through.
AS: What kind of songs do you find yourself gravitating toward or writing now?
c: I’ve written a few songs after the album was done that I can see fitting on a deluxe version because I still feel a bit attached to “scared to go to sleep.” More recently, I’ve enjoyed exploring even darker tones and I’m sure whatever I do next I’ll find a way to get out of my comfort zone even more.
Photos: Dillon Deskin / Stunt Company Media