Normally, 20-year-old college students don't have much time to indulge in their hobbies. But for Cara Salimando, music is her life
. For as long as she can remember, Cara has been singing. Whether she is behind a piano or strumming a ukelele, her voice holds an intangible power over the airwaves.
At first glance, Cara appears petite, rocking half-cut hair of deep purple. You simply cannot let her five-foot presence fool you. She channels a devoted attitude which fuels all of her musical projects, and her passion is indefinitely contagious.
As an independent artist, Cara has been writing her own songs since she was 10, and we do not see that ever changing. Her songs effortlessly paint lavish scenes her highs with love (see "Dream"
) or lows with heartbreak (see "Bookmark"
). Perhaps indie would be an appropriate category for Cara's music. However, she encompasses elements of pop and punk as well.
Growing up just around the corner of Asbury Park, NJ, Cara was able to channel her unique musical styles from a very young age. This area of Central Jersey was made famous by Bruce Springsteen, but musicians still flourish throughout the boardwalks and bars today.
At 17, Cara found herself on a whirlwind adventure by being signed to Universal Motown Records after being noticed by an agent in Jersey. After two years, the label went out of business. They dropped a number of artists (including Cara).
After undergoing this experience and losing her songs, Cara still never allowed it to taint her love of music and songwriting. She began attending the New School in Manhattan, and in February 2011, she was signed as a writer to Glassnote Records' publishing endeavor Four Song Night.
Instead of releasing full length albums, Cara has been working for a year now releasing a series of EPs every month or so. Her latest EP, and in my opinion, the most honest yet, is entitled September/ October
I got a chance to catch up with Cara about her hometown, touring with Ingrid Michaelson, why deep cut versions of songs are usually better, and how her fans make sure she releases her monthly EPs on time.
How long have you been playing piano/ writing songs?
I've been playing piano since I was seven years old, singing for as long as I can remember, and writing songs since I was ten.
Coming from such a musically rich area of New Jersey, did you find that helpful as you grew up?
I definitely like to think I'm a product of my area. I met a lot of people in NJ that helped shape me musically, and I don't think I would've been so involved in music at such a young age had I grown up somewhere else. It's definitely no coincidence that I come from an area so passionate about its place in music... Asbury Park home to Bruce Springsteen is just around the corner from where I grew up. Because of that, there's definitely something in the water. The local music scene is more involved and proactive than others I've stumbled upon, and creating original material was always a priority with my music teachers, rather than just learning how to play and perform other people's pieces.
You've toured and worked with some well known artists. Who were they and what did you take away from some of those experiences?
I've toured with Ingrid Michaelson, Mat Kearney, Anthony Green, Martin Sexton, Marc Cohn, 100 Monkeys (Jackson Rathbone, actor of Twilight's band), and most recently William Beckett (of The Academy Is...). Touring is maybe my favorite part of being an artist. I like the constant movement, being on the go, playing every night. I've learned how to live out of a small suitcase, and I've become pretty adaptable. Touring is always a unique experience because your time out on tour always depends on the acts you're traveling with. I've had nothing but good experiences so far. I'd say what I've learned the most often is "be prepared for the worst". Sometimes, you double park your van, and it gets towed, and you're stranded at the venue after the show with nowhere to go. Remaining calm and making friends with people who can put you up for the night are usually the best plans of action in that scenario. It's happened twice.
In the past year, you've switched to a series of monthly projects instead of releasing full albums. How is this approach in comparison to releasing full length albums?
I decided to do the monthly EP project for a number of reasons: originally all of the EPs were supposed to be brand new collaborations with producer friends of mine just to be constantly creating and releasing new material. But I work as a songwriter for a living, I'm co-writing every day and a lot of the songs I come up with I can't keep or release. So the plan changed, and I began gradually releasing tracks from my first record that I had made while I was on Universal/Motown that never came out, for free. It's a good way to keep people interested. We live in a world that bombards us with new artists and singles constantly, releasing a full length album all at once isn't enough anymore. You have to keep up with the pace that the industry is setting, even if you're acting as an independent artist. People want "more." So I decided new material every month would be a good plan of action, and my fans and followers seem to agree. They get really excited for the end of each month, and they definitely scold me if I'm late in uploading the EPs.
With names like Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, Ingrid Michaelson, and other popular indie-female artists, you still sound so incredibly unique. What can you attribute your style to?
I grew up listening to Fiona Apple and Tori Amos, and then immediately after I went through a "rebellious" pop-punk/emo phase. I loved bands like Taking Back Sunday and The Used. I like to think my style is the honesty of a female singer/songwriter combined with the catchy melodies of a pop punk-esque band. I get Hayley Williams (of Paramore) comparisons in equal doses to the Joni Mitchell comparisons, which is interesting for me.
What sort of mood inspired your Sept./Oct. EP? It sounds way more stripped down and personal.
To be honest, I had just run out of tracks from my first record to release, and I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, pressed for time and needing more songs to release. I was listening through some recordings I made on my iPhone just messing around at my piano, and found two starts to songs that I was working on. So "Pale Fire" and "Mad Girls Love Song" aren't even done, but I released them because I know as a listener, some of my favorite songs are the "deep cuts" that an artist released before the revised song, alternate versions, earlier versions... some of my favorite Regina Spektor songs are songs are those she probably doesn't even remember writing.
What can we expect from you in the upcoming year?
I'm releasing a full length album that is a three-way collaboration between myself, Billy Libby, and Patrick Meese; I did the January EP with Patrick, and I did the May EP with Billy. I thought they had a similar production style and thought if I ever made a record, I'd want those two to work on it. This past June, Billy and I flew out to Denver to where Patrick lives and the three of us meshed incredibly well - we wrote the whole record from scratch over the course of a month. It's turned out to be everything I hoped for. Expect to hear that, and expect lots of touring. I'm dying to get on the road again.
Check out the incredible lyric video for Cara's "Bookmark," released on her January EP, and download "Voices" off her most recent.
To keep track of Cara Salimando's monthly releases, follow her on Facebook