It's one thing to sing in your car, bedroom or even in a recording studio, but it's another to go on stage to sing for hundreds or thousands. Getting "butterflies in your stomach" would be expected, but becoming frozen with fear — to the point of crying and going on stage late may not be that much of a surprise either.
The second scenario was the case for singer/songwriter Colbie Caillat. The platinum-selling artist had been on stage "maybe 10 times" before she went on tour with The Goo Goo Dolls.
"Oh my gosh! Yes, there were times when, honestly, I would have to go on stage like 15 minutes late because I would be so nervous that I would start crying," Caillat says by phone from her California home. "It was really hard for me at the beginning. Luckily, I've adjusted and now I'm excited about it, but for a while there it was really tough."
Caillat -- rhymes with ballet -- has always enjoyed singing, but the thought of being a full-time performing artist never really crossed her mind, but her friends saw otherwise.
A few years ago, when Caillat was writing songs and had just started to learn how to play the guitar, friends pushed her to post some songs on the networking site MySpace. Caillat said, "OK ... then do it for me." Within roughly six months, she was getting 50,000 plays a day.
Her friends scheduled her to perform at cafes and soon enough she was signed to Universal Republic Records, ready to release her debut album, Coco. "I think eventually I would have [become a singer], but I think the difference between me and other artists is that they're usually really driven and motivated and they love everything about this job and they love being known and performing," Caillat says. "For me, I enjoyed singing, writing songs and recording, but my friends literally had to put songs up on MySpace and book shows. If it wasn't for everyone reminding me and pushing me to do something with it, I might have just been a studio singer."
With more than 34 million hits on her MySpace page in less than four years, it's no surprise Caillat says her success has taken some adjustment time. "It's very exhausting," she says. "Even when I'm home, I have schedules every week to be writing songs with different writers, personal trainer appointments ... I don't get a chance to breathe, but it's also really good to be busy, too."
Caillat's had music in her blood from a young age. Her father, Ken, is a record producer who won a Grammy for Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. As a young girl, Caillat would spend time in the studio with her parents -- her mom also worked there. She quickly got a grasp of what to do, and what not to do, in a studio atmosphere and started recording when she was 15.
"I've seen other artists these days -- when they're in the studio, they don't know how to sing on the mic or certain things that, since I've grown up around the studio, I know exactly what to do," she says. "I guess it's just like home to me. I was never a performer though, so that's where I'm having to learn and get comfortable on stage. Being in the studio is more of a natural thing for me."
She's also polishing her guitar playing skills. Her father told her she needed to play an instrument and become a songwriter if she was to have any hope of success. For her first album, Caillat says most of the songs were written with only about four chords. The talent of producers and her co-writer, Jason Reeves, helped add some depth to the music.
"I can play enough guitar to be able to write songs, but I don't play as much as I should," she says. "I'm not comfortable enough -- I only play three songs on guitar during my live performances and the rest of them my band will do, because otherwise I'll throw the whole thing off," she adds with a laugh, noting her goal is to eventually have a guitar with her for the entire show.
She used to play piano, but abandoned it in favor of the guitar, though she plans to buy an upright so that she can "fall in love with it again."
Amidst the touring since her album came out in the summer of 2007, Caillat has been on a steady diet of songwriting. She plans to spend some time songwriting with other writers in Hawaii in January before hitting the studio at the end of that month.
While she says most of her songs continue to have an uplifting feel and up-tempo rhythm, Caillat also acknowledges there are some changes in her sound. "My song 'Out of My Mind,' we added horns to it," she says. "There are a couple of new songs I wrote with Dave Stewart that have violins throughout the whole song. I've been opening it up to different instruments."
So is there pressure on her for the success of her sophomore album, which she plans to release next summer?
"Everyone always says stuff like that," Caillat says. "In the beginning, when I only had a few songs, most of them were sad or slow songs. I was worried that I fell into the pattern of all my good songs being written in the beginning and I was done. I've been writing for the past year-and-a-half and we have at least 25 songs now and we're going to be writing for the next month-and-a-half and then for two weeks in Hawaii, so I'm not worried at all. I think it's gonna be great."
Colbie Caillat will perform at Amos' Southend on Dec. 19, 8:30 p.m., with John McLaughlin. Tickets are $22 in advance and $25 on the day of the show.