Music News & Reviews

Singer Colbie Caillat is from a musical family

Colbie Caillat took only one guitar lesson before writing her first song.
Colbie Caillat took only one guitar lesson before writing her first song. COURTESY PHOTO

Growing up, Colbie Caillat used to look to her fireplace for inspiration.

“In school when you write down what you want to be when you grow up, it was, ‘I want to be a singer, and I want to win a Grammy some day because my dad has one, and I see it on our fireplace.’ ”

Ken Caillat, who won a Grammy for producing Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” album, accompanied his daughter to the Grammy Awards a couple of weeks ago when her dream came true. After Colbie won two Grammys for her collaboration with Jason Mraz, the father and daughter now have three Grammys between them.

“I’m going to put one of my Grammys next to my dad’s and one next to my house,” said the younger Caillat, who will perform to a sold-out crowd at the Clark Center on Feb. 25.

Having a parent in the music business surely helps one realize the dream of becoming a recording star. Yet, having a producer father didn’t guarantee success. While her parents tried to convince her to take guitar lessons, she initially declined, preferring to sing only.

“I was a really lazy teenager,” she said. “I didn’t really work that hard for stuff.”

When she was 19, she finally broke down and took a guitar lesson. But just one.

“I went to the lesson, and I learned four chords,” she said. “And I went home that night, and I wrote my first song.”

With four chords down, she figured she had learned all she needed to write music. But she eventually hooked up with fellow songwriter Jason Reeves, who taught her more chords. When she began recording their songs, a friend convinced her to post them on MySpace. The song “Bubbly” became an Internet sensation.

While she responded to people who liked the songs, she didn’t spend a lot of time trying to build an Internet audience. Yet, she soon had 100,000 My-Space “friends” (now she has over 460,000), and her songs were streamed millions of times.

“After a half a year or so, I had grown a fan base on my own,” said Caillat, now 24. “People just kept spreading my songs to their friends, and I eventually became the No. 1 unsigned artist and then got a record deal. I didn’t really expect any of it to happen. I wasn’t trying for it.”

While a few unsigned artists got recognized through MySpace, timing was everything.

“Now MySpace is over with, and it’s all about Facebook and Twitter,” said Caillat, who still maintains a strong MySpace presence. “It’s weird how we’re all evolving that way.”

The songs Caillat had posted on MySpace became the foundation for her first album, “Coco.” A second album, “Breakthrough,” would feature more feel-good, catchy tunes.

A Ventura County resident, her songs draw heavily from the California lifestyle, and her videos frequently feature California surf scenes.

“Just living in the beautiful, sunny warm weather every day and being able to drive to the beach in 20 minutes or wearing just sandals and a tank top or sun dresses — that’s the lifestyle I like,” said Caillat, a fan of Jack Johnson’s breezy surf tunes, “where I wear simple makeup and my hair’s always a mess.”

As she became more successful as a solo act, Caillat began to collaborate with other artists. At the Grammys she was nominated for collaborations with Mraz and Taylor Swift. In fact, in one category, the Mraz/Caillat song, “Lucky,” was up against the Swift/Caillat song “Breathe.”

“I love both songs, but I wanted ‘Lucky’ to win because that song has been played all over the world. Jason and I have toured together playing that song in different countries, and it’s peoples’ wedding song,” she said. “Plus, I knew Taylor was going to win a million others.”

Reach Patrick S. Pemberton at 781-7903.