At only 21, Caroline Kole has more experience than most artists her age. At 13, while performing at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennesse, Kole was discovered by Reba McEntire. This partnership led her to a managing and publishing deal, and success in the country music scene. Now, several years later, the singer/songwriter has revamped her style as a pop artist.
Following a handful of successful singles, Kole is releasing her EP, Only Slightly Emotional. The EP comes with news of both a tour and more music in the works! I sat down with Caroline Kole to talk more about the new EP and her success at such a young age.
Tell me about the inspiration behind your EP Only Slightly Emotional!
Well, the EP as a whole is pretty upbeat, bright and colorful – however, the lyrics are a little heavier in this EP than my last one. The title comes tinted with a little bit of sass and sarcasm towards the emotions I was feeling when writing these songs, which I feel represents the project as a whole!
How is this EP similar and how is it different from your music in the past? Would you say you’re taking any risks?
I’m more honest, but I’m still me. I’m learning more about the person I am, the person I want to be, and am going through the same personal growth that we all experience! From that process, I’ve definitely been able to embrace certain aspects of the world and myself more fully, so I’m excited for this EP to be out to show that growth… And, also, I’m anxious to share what’s next!
Do you have a favorite track on the EP, or would that be like asking you to choose a favorite child?
Yes! It’s like the favorite child question! To which I say, they’re all special in their own ways! They each mean something different to me, and I hope people will “befriend” these songs (my little children!) – whether they need a feel-good moment, music to create some ambience or something to relate to!
Talk a little about the inspiration for the track, “Always Almost” in particular.
To start, it’s a true story – the details are 100% accurate. This song was born out of frustration with a relationship, and suddenly all these questions started eating me alive – when to know when you can truly say you’ve tried your best, when to know it’s worth it to invest in something, and when to know it’s time to walk away. For all those reasons, this felt like a risky song to write. I knew the “inspiration” for the song would hear it, and this song was just as personal as a journal entry, so it’s hard to share that with anyone else. However, we’re allowed to have these questions and we’re allowed to get what we want out of life and a relationship, so I had to sit down and answer these questions. It was hard, but I ultimately decided to release “Always Almost” as the focus single off of the EP.
You were discovered by Reba at age 13, what was working with her like?
It still feels like a dream! She is one of the most hardworking, authentic, talented women I’ve ever known and through our time touring together, I had this insane and unreal opportunity to truly learn from the best. I would perform my opening set, and then sit side stage or front of the house and just watch the way she moved, how she spoke, how she interacted with her audience (and if you’ve seen a Reba show before, you know how loyal and fun that crowd is). She excels at everything she does (and she’s literally done everything from Broadway to TV to a killer clothing line…dang!), and it stems from this beautiful appreciation for her career and her fans. She truly enjoys every second of it. She is an all-star woman that I am so grateful to call, not only my role model but also my friend.
Explain the personal and professional struggles you’ve encountered in the music industry thus far. How have they molded you?
I think that every step along the way molds me. The great moments, the not great, the tours, the fact that I’m still a full-time college student, one wouldn’t be without the other which wouldn’t be without the other.
What’s it like being a female in the music industry?
I’d say it’s pretty much like an exaggeration of just being a female in society. The lows are lower and people will celebrate your losses, everybody has something to say to your face, behind your back, or to you on every social media platform. I’m lucky to not have experienced too much of that due to such a solid support system and team (and the fact that people don’t watch me near as closely as they do Ariana Grande), but it totally exists.
Do you see your young age as a disadvantage or advantage in the music industry?
I see it as both. I’ve been performing since I was nine years old at beach bars across my hometown in Clearwater, Florida, and it was kind of a novelty thing. Then it turned into “you’re not old enough to write songs that people will actually listen to” and “you’re not writing enough” and “aw, that’s cute.” However, I’m strangely grateful for all of those “constructive” criticisms and all the people that voiced them (I’ll remember forever) because now I’m 21 and have literally been writing and performing for over half my life!! And there aren’t a lot of people in the pop genre that are my age and can say the same thing. It’s made me tough, but when you see people singing your songs back to you, relating and loving the music you’re releasing…. or opportunities to tour internationally as Reba McEntire’s opening act… or one of your songs debuts at #32 on a Billboard Dance chart….dang, it makes it feel that much better!
Have you ever doubted your choice to pursue music? If so, what’s kept you going?
I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t second guess myself all the time! But rarely have I doubted music. I have really bad days where I ask myself if anyone even cares if this music is actually gonna connect to anyone – you know, all the questions that make us feel really great and super happy! But having my Starstruck Management team, a supportive fan base, and an equally wonderful family, I’m able to shake that off and keep creating music with 110% of my passion!
Tell me about a moment in your career that has left you extremely proud.
Recently, I got the call from my buddies VAVO to check the Billboard Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart. I was on my way to my psychology class and they sent me a picture that showed “Right Now” debuting at #32 on the chart. I almost instantaneously cried so hard in my car, still on the way to psychology class. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and excitement – I’ve been in the pop music scene for a bit now, but this was great validation for what I’m doing and where I’m heading. I can say I had a dance song on the Billboard Chart. It’s still so crazy to think, and say, and type! And yes, I still went to psychology class.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?
My mom and Reba McEntire. As I mentioned earlier, Reba has a heart of gold and a work ethic, unlike anything I’ve seen before. But so does my mom. She has been right by my side on this musical journey since I was 8 years old, driving me to guitar lessons, band practices, gigs, printing out my set lists for me – she’s always been a rock I could count on, and still do! I don’t know where I would be without her, honestly!
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists in the field? How has your success story panned out?
I say if music is what you want to do, do it! The sooner you can start practising (practice is key!), the sooner you can get out performing locally, the sooner people will start to know your name, the sooner you’ll get comfortable on stage – go do it! It’s fun and there’s room for all of us.
Feature Image credits: Logan Christopher, courtesy of Caroline Kole.