Colbie Caillat brings her sunny songs to the Vina Robles Amphitheatre

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter performs Saturday as part of Sunset Savor the Central Coast

slinn@thetribunenews.comSeptember 25, 2013 

Colbie Caillat.

COURTESY PHOTO

No one could ever accuse Colbie Caillat of being dreary. 

The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter specializes in sweet-natured, romantic songs such as “Bubbly,” “Lucky, “I Do” and “We Both Know” — sun-kissed tunes that reflect life in the Golden State.

“The whole Southern California sunny vibe was embedded in me when I was young,” said Caillat, who draws on personal experiences for her songs. “They are not ever dark or mysterious or dangerous. I don’t have that inspiration to tap into.”

Caillat will share her sound with audience members Saturday at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. The concert is part of Sunset Savor the Central Coast, a four-day food, wine and lifestyle festival co-sponsored by Sunset magazine and Visit San Luis Obispo County, the county visitors and conference bureau.

Born in Malibu and raised in Thousand Oaks, Caillat said she gleaned her musical inspirations from different sources. Her sister introduced her to reggae icon Bob Marley, while her parents exposed her to classic rock acts such as Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Steve Miller and Tom Petty.

Her friends, meanwhile, introduced her to R&B, with its “happy, uplifting lyrics and melodies and bright acoustic guitar.”

“I heard Lauryn Hill and I just loved her voice. That was my biggest inspiration to become a singer,” recalled Caillat, who was 11 at the time. She picked up acoustic guitar at age 19 and started writing songs soon afterward.

Yet, despite her natural talent, Caillat initially struggled to find her footing in the music industry.

When friends talked her into auditioning for the Fox reality competition “American Idol,” she was turned down before she even had a chance to perform for judges.

“Both auditions were horrible,” Caillat said. “I knew I wasn’t cut out for the show.”

She’s grateful now that her career grew gradually and organically, buoyed by fans who found her songs on MySpace.com.

Without the help of her popular MySpace profile, “I don’t know how far in the business I would have made it, because I really wasn’t trying,” said Caillat, who originally thought about becoming a background singer. “I was shy. I was not very motivated. … I didn’t have a dream or a passion for public performance.”

Thanks to social media, “I got this opportunity that I really couldn’t say ‘no’ to,” she said.

With the help of her father, Ken Caillat, a record producer who has worked with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar and The Beach Boys, Caillat released her debut album, “Coco,” in 2007. (The title refers to her childhood nickname.)

But her career truly took off when she recorded a Grammy-winning duet with Jason Mraz — “Lucky” — for his 2008 album “We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things.”

The same year, she teamed up with Taylor Swift on the song “Breathe.” More recently, Caillat has collaborated with artists including Common, Gavin DeGraw, John Mayer and Brad Paisley.

Asked what she looks for in a duet partner, Caillat listed three simple criteria: “Good people, good voices, good music.”

“I always reach out to people I admire,” said the singer-songwriter, who won a Grammy for her work on Swift’s 2008 album “Fearless.” “I know they’re really good singers. I know they write and put out positive music.”

“It’s seriously so bizarre to me,” Caillat added, that she now gets to work and hang out with the same artists she grew up listening to. “It’s still hard to comprehend that I wanted that when I was younger and it actually happened.”

Caillat, who followed up “Coco” with 2009’s “Breakthrough,” 2011’s “All of You” and 2013’s “Christmas in the Sand,” is now looking forward to new collaborations and fresh challenges. For her upcoming album, due out in January 2014, she’ll channel one of her favorite groups, Simon & Garfunkel.

Caillat said inspiration for the as-yet-untitled album came last year when she heard a snippet of their song “Cecilia” while out with friends.

“I was like, ‘Who is this new band?’ ” recalled Caillat, who didn’t immediately recognize the tune. “It’s so classic. It’s so positive and fun. You can dance to it, but it’s not a dance club song.”

She wants her album to reflect a similar “Paul Simon, ‘Graceland’ vibe,” she said, describing it as a “concept album” that should be played start to finish.

“The singles are for the majority of the world,” Caillat said. “This album is for my hard-core fans.”

IF YOU GO

Colbie Caillat
8 p.m. Saturday, doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Vina Robles Amphitheatre, 3800 Mill Road, Paso Robles
$40 to $137.50
286-3680 or www.vina roblesamphitheatre.com

Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907. Stay updated by following @shelikestowatch on Twitter.

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