Like all of humanity, Caleb Caudle had different plans for 2020. His new record was gaining steam, and he had a long list of tour dates to prove it. Alas, Covid. With momentum and opportunity crashing to a halt, what was a busy year became one of change. Caleb and his wife left a strangely calm Nashville to return home to the woods of North Carolina. The quiet of nature opened his thoughts to all the paths in front of him. What does a touring musician do when he can’t tour? He writes.
On his new album, Forsythia, Caleb renders his most meticulous and expertly crafted collection of songs to date. We had a chance to catch up with him as he worked his way through the final few songs at the legendary Cash Cabin. Our conversation follows.
Team Tecovas: Caleb, first things first. This will be the first time many of our readers meet you. Tell us about yourself and how you came to songwriting and this new album.
Caleb Caudle: My name is Caleb Caudle and I was put on this earth to write songs and sing them. I’m from Germanton, NC, which is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain range.
TT: Tell us about the song "The Gates" that you shared with us in the video.
CC: I went fishing one day with John Carter Cash and we didn’t catch a thing but we wrote this song and split a bag of pork rinds. It has the same thread of darkness that has ran through country and blues music ever since the beginning. It’s really about the choices we make and how that effects the outcome.
TT: We’re sitting at the little kitchen table at Cash Cabin and I have to say, just looking around the room gives me chills. How did you come to record this record in this magical place?
CC: Well, this is the second record I’ve made at Cash Cabin and long story short my friend John Jackson who produced my last record had worked out there some and introduced me to John Carter Cash. I really love it here and honestly can’t imagine recording anywhere else. Just knowing all the legends who have their fingerprints all over this place is really special for me.
TT: You’ve got some heavy hitters on this record. Give us some context on who they are and what they bring to the table.
CC: It’s a dream band! I think all of them are multi-grammy winners. Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Sam Bush on Mandolin and Fiddle, Dennis Crouch on upright bass, and Fred Eltringham on Drums. Carlene Carter, Elizabeth Cook and Sarah Peasall McGuffey all sing harmony with me and John Carter Cash produced it.
TT: Now that you’re able to get back in front of crowds, which songs are you most excited to play live?
CC: All of these new ones will be a lot of fun. It’s just great to feel the connection of the audience again. That connection is what drives me and I’m very thankful to have it back.
TT: What’s the tour schedule look like and which shows are you most pumped to get to?
CC: It starts with the 1,000th episode of NPR’s Mountain Stage and this fall we will be going up and down the east coast, Through the midwest and down to Texas. Next spring, I will be overseas and also on the West Coast. Just really looking forward to meeting new folks who are just hearing about this record. Come check out a show!
TT: We draw a lot of our inspiration at Tecovas from the deserts of West Texas and the Southwest. And you seem to find inspiration out in nature. How does that play into this record beyond a walk in the woods?
CC: Nature is a sacred place for me. The stillness of it. The force of it. I love how everything interacts, it feels like music. I do most of my best thinking there and it has been therapeutic for me over the last few years. I find myself having a lot in common with the poets Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver who spent enough time in the woods that it just becomes part of their writing. My best songs give me the same feeling as untouched land.
TT: Caleb, we thank you for your time and for sharing your craft.