(Aug 12, 2022) – Caleb Caudle has shared the title track from his forthcoming album, Forsythia, due for release via Soundly Music on October 7th – listen here. Backed by Jerry Douglas on dobro, Sam Bush on mandolin and Elizabeth Cook on backing vocals, ‘Forsythia’ serves as a microcosm of the album – calming, reconnecting and soothing. It moves at a natural, unhurried pace.
“This is the most autobiographical song I’ve ever written,” Caudle explained to Holler, who premiered the official music video earlier this week. “I grew up across the street from a small general store called Gordy’s Hardware which was run by some cousins on my mom’s side of the family. They had slingshots, harmonicas, candy and pretty much everything else a kid would want. There’s a creek that runs back behind my folks’ house and I used to fish and look for crawdads back there. After travelling all over the world, this song is a celebration of my first world; a real small one. I love the innocence of it and I go there in my mind when life gets tough.”
The video, directed by Gabriel Barreto, was filmed in Caudle’s native North Carolina at various locations along the Blue Ridge Parkway – watch here.
Due to circumstances beyond his control, Caudle saw Forsythia as possibly his final album. Somehow, he turned that fear of the unknown into his most meticulous and expertly crafted collection of songs to date. A portrait of Caudle’s truest self, the record shows the artist at his most solitary and reflective. Thematically, it meets anticipation for the unknown future with nostalgia for the past and reconciles both with meditation in the present. Recorded at Cash Cabin outside Nashville, TN and produced by John Carter Cash, the album features acclaimed session players Douglas, Bush, Dennis Crouch and Fred Eltringham, and the vocal talents of Cook, Carlene Carter, and Sarah Peasall McGuffey.
Forsythia is a collection of 10 songs that form a manifesto of Caudle’s life philosophy. It’s calming, reconnecting and soothing and moves at a natural, unhurried pace. ‘I Don’t Fit In’ and ‘Red Bank Road’ provide biographical context, while songs like ‘Crazy Wayne’ and ‘Tears of Savannah’ step into the shoes of off-kilter characters. ‘The Gates’, co-written with John Carter Cash, is a foreboding folk ballad exemplary of Caudle’s ability to evoke the past with a modern touch of polish. ‘Shattered Glass’ and ‘Through My Hands’ emotionally process bad circumstances, dark tendencies and negative habits. The album finds beauty in simpler times and, though it explores a lifetime of lessons, maintains a childlike sense of hope and contentment with life as it is.
After the COVID pandemic culled plans for a lengthy tour in support of his acclaimed 2020 album Better Hurry Up, Caudle and his wife moved from Nashville back to their home state of North Carolina. For the first time in a long time, Caudle had nothing but time. He spent most of his time in the woods– hiking, observing, thinking. He considered many things he hadn’t before, like where he wanted to eventually be in life and at the end of his career. His attunement to nature opened him to channel the muse, penning his simplest desires into song. On these hikes, and in his songwriting, oak trees represented memories of pocket knives and toy slingshots bought from the general store on the rural road he grew up on; and blooming, bright yellow forsythia bushes became omens, much like their use as a symbol for “anticipation” in literature and folklore.
“The natural world has always shown up in my lyrics but with these songs I felt that get magnified,” says Caudle. “The beauty and force of it all became sacred to me. I felt unplugged from the hustle and free to pay close attention to the details and it completely changed my approach to life.”
As uncertainty for how to earn a living as a musician in a world with no live music loomed, Caudle decided to make what he thought could be his last album. He took John Carter Cash up on his offer, made over a fishing trip, to produce his next record. The carefully selected group of collaborators gathered within the holy walls of Cash Cabin, surrounded by instruments, photos and artefacts from the family.
The perfect alchemy of self-reflection, powerful songs and support from a room full of Nashville’s top musicians gave Caudle the confidence to record an album he would be happy with, even if he never had a chance to make one again. On this record, outsider influences come into play nearly as much as his foundational knowledge of traditional Appalachian folk and other music history. Simplistic arrangements – in which Caudle was the only guitarist – built a framework for space that is filled intentionally so that the songs themselves can be heard and appreciated without an overcrowding of instrumentation.
“I knew I had to bring the best 10 songs I could possibly write,” Caudle says. “I had been singing into my phone for a year and a half, not playing music with anyone. The first time I played with other musicians again was with Jerry, Sam, Dennis and Fred. I wish I could bottle that feeling up and sell it. It was pure magic and exactly what I needed.”
Caudle will tour the USA later this year in support of Forsythia, beginning on October 9th with his NPR Mountain Stage debut.
ABOUT CALEB CAUDLE:
North Carolina native Caleb Caudle’s songs have weaved their way into listeners’ lives; his catalogue is a soundtrack to weddings, births, funerals, first dates, road trips, family reunions and long afternoons spent on the porch.
Forsythia, due for release in October 2022 and comprised of ten songs crafted to be a balm to the soul in these troubled times, is perhaps his quietest record to date, and the second time he’s worked in the legendary Cash Cabin Studio, this time with producer John Carter Cash.
Its predecessor Better Hurry Up (2020), the first album Caudle recorded since moving to Nashville in 2019, spent weeks in the U.S. Americana Radio Top 30, and press coverage has included NPR’s All Things Considered, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, and more.
Caudle’s music has been featured on CMT’s Nashville and Netflix’s The Ranch, with notable playlist placements including Spotify’s Indigo & Fresh Folk, and Apple Music’s Southern Craft.