You wouldn’t guess it from her successful career and accolades, but Colbie Caillat gets nervous when she performs on stages alone. “I always had stage fright and for my solo career, most of the time, it was a struggle,” says the singer, best known for hits like “Bubbly” and “Fallin’ For You.”
But Caillat doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. Now, she has an entire support system with her on stage in the form of her new band, Gone West, which includes Caillat; her fiance Justin Kawika Young, who holds 11 No. 1 Hawaiian songs on the music charts; Jason Reeves, a friend Caillat has co-written songs with in the past, who is also a recording artist; and Reeves’ wife, songwriter and Country Music Award-nominee Nelly Joy.
Gone West released its first EP, Tides, in January, and is going out on tour this summer, making a stop at The Birchmere on July 7, at 7:30 p.m. We talked to Caillat and band member Nelly Joy ahead of the tour. Highlights from our conversation are below.
How did Gone West get its start?
CC: Jason and I met in 2005. Then we wrote my first album, Coco, together and we’ve written some 30 songs together in the past 14 years. In 2007, I asked Justin to join my band and two-and-a-half years into it, we fell in love and we’ve been together for nine years now. The same year, Justin started dating Nelly, and Nelly and Jason met in a writing session in Nashville.
NJ: Jason and I have been married for seven years now. So, we were friends for a couple of years and then started dating. We all met up as friends first, worked together and then fell in love.
CC: Two years ago, we all did a tour for my album, The Malibu Sessions, and it was the four of us on stage. It was a four-part harmony and that was the first spark where we realized, “Oh, we should actually start a band together.”
Colbie, what made you want to make the switch from singing solo to being in a band?
CC: I always wanted to be in a band. I always thought it looked fun getting to share the success and go through the hard times together. I’d always see bands doing interviews together and it looked so interactive. We naturally just did this two years ago, and it showed me how much fun playing can be, and how fun being in a band can be. And not just being in a band, but it was being with my fiance and my best friends. It truly was something I always wanted.
Why country music?
CC: What’s great is that I always felt like I fit better in country’s lane with my music being acoustic. A country band was a natural progression and I think a fit that was always there.
NJ: Yeah, the first time I ever heard Colbie sing “Bubbly” I thought it could cross over into country. It’s really cool now to go out to these music directors at the different radio stations and see them genuinely excited about Colbie being in country music right now. I think it’s a great lane to be in for storytelling and organic, acoustic music. We’re really pumped.
Tell us a little bit about the band’s name. Why was Gone West chosen?
NJ: When we’re not in Nashville, which is where we all live right now, we have all usually gone somewhere that’s “home.” So, Justin is from Hawaii, Colbie is from California, Jason is from Iowa and I’m from Texas. That’s really where the name came from—we’re always going west.
What have fans’ reactions been to the band so far?
NJ: I think my favorite part about it all is reading their responses online because I was a little nervous at first. When you’re first putting out music, and knowing that Colbie is a very well-known solo artist, and Jason and Justin have their own solo careers too … I was just thinking, are they actually going to like this? But the fans were like, “Finally!” It was almost like they expected us to come together and there was a genuine enthusiasm and a lot of support.
What can we expect at the show at The Birchmere?
NJ: It’s a great moment for our band, Gone West, to connect the dots in a sense of how we became a band. There’s going to be some old Colbie Caillat hits, there’s going to be some Justin, some Jason and I, and we’re going to really tell the story of how everyone started making music together.
CC: It feels like they’re sitting in a living room hanging out with us and just getting to know us, and hear new music that’s intimate and invited.
NJ: And last time we were at The Birchmere, it was for Colbie’s tour for The Malibu Sessions. Jason and I were opening and Justin was opening, and then we all played with Colbie. It’s kind of like a full-circle moment. We’re going back, and this time we actually have a name for what we’re doing now.
To buy tickets to Gone West’s performance at The Birchmere, click here. // The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; $55
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