The Malibu, Calif., native said she was so shy that she enrolled in a junior college acting class to help her get past her stage fright – but it didn’t go so well.
“Right after I got a script … and had to do the scene in front of people, I quit the class and went home and started crying,” Caillat told Pollstar. “I wrote ‘One Fine Wire’ because I was so upset that I didn’t overcome my fear.”
Since that time, her Universal Republic Records debut, Coco, has steadily climbed the Top 100 albums chart, her song “Bubbly” was listed as a top download on iTunes alongside Kanye West and 50 Cent, and she landed an opening slot on The Goo Goo Dolls’ recent summer tour.
Caillat had to adapt quickly for the tour because she had only done what she called “little acoustic shows” prior to that.
“I had friends that were singer/songwriters who would play out in L.A. and I would go see them. They would ask me to come up and play with them, so I would do a couple of songs,” she explained. “I would get to be friends with the club owners and they would ask me back. I was never calling and trying to get myself into this business.
“In the beginning it wasn’t fun because I was so nervous. You know how you’re so nervous it makes you sick? That’s how I was. Now I walk around on stage and I’m starting to love performing.”
Her musical style, which draws from influences including Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley and John Mayer, and her love of Hawaii continues to draw fans and comparisons to Norah Jones and Jack Johnson.
That kind of response has inspired Caillat and guitarists Justin Young and Tim Fagan, bassist Mike White, keyboardists Dylan Charbaneau and Adam Platt and drummer Michael Baker to keep working hard.
“Each show we’re constantly trying to improve our performances. It’s a really fun process right now,” Caillat said. “It was difficult at first but it gets easier every day.
“[On the Goo Goo Dolls tour] I probably had a couple thousand [fans] for me, so it was really cool. They cheered and everything. Now we’re playing shows in 1,200-seat theatres and the crowd honestly goes insane. They’ve been stomping on the floor waiting for an encore and they sing every word of every song.”
With the whirlwind of interest coming her way, Caillat has gotten valuable guidance about the industry from her father, Ken Caillat, who co-produced Rumours and Tusk among others for Fleetwood Mac and ran his own record label. His industry contacts led to manager Chad Jensen of The Fitzgerald Hartley Company joining the team last December.
“It was through a friend of her father’s that I had worked with a few times in the past. He called me and said I should check out her MySpace page,” Jensen told Pollstar. “I invited her and her father to the office for a meeting and asked them to bring a CD.
“They wanted me to listen to it and get back to them. I was blown away immediately and called them the next day.”
Jensen saw her perform during a benefit at the House of Blues and realized Caillat’s potential.
“It was a flawless vocal performance but I didn=t see a whole lot of confidence on stage. She was playing the House of Blues with a full band. They hadn’t had a lot of time to rehearse together but, overall, she delivered the songs,” he said. “She’s shy but there’s a certain charm and sparkle when she smiles. I could tell that she would just melt hearts and be captivating.”
Several publications, including the Wall Street Journal, have written about Caillat’s rise to stardom from posting a few songs on MySpace less than two years ago. Now she’s performing before thousands and proving it isn’t a fluke.
“A lot of people were skeptical early on about the MySpace story but the page definitely helped,” Jensen said. “Selling 50,000 units in the first week is definitely a testament that the MySpace story is real. There was no manipulation. People really connect to her.”
Caillat is currently on a headline tour of clubs, as well as playing radio shows and festivals through the end of the year. Jensen said plans to go overseas and a possible package tour next year are in the works.
“Because the story’s building worldwide, I feel the sky’s the limit,” he said. “[All of this from] a little singer/songwriter who was working in a tanning salon last November and who wrote her first song less than a year ago.
“All she did was put the songs up and it spread virally. That’s the craziest thing.”