By Meghan Powers
Singer/songwriter, Caroline Spence ‘11 explained to students and faculty of the Music and Creative Writing departments how she used Denison’s liberal arts experience to land her dream career at her songwriting workshop on Sept. 25.
Spence opened with a background about her experience at Denison, as a creative writing major and member of Ladies’ Night Out and the Bluegrass Ensemble. The 26 year old attributed her success to both of her focuses while she was on campus, explaining that after she left Denison, she began to get used to writing everyday, rather than just as a hobby or course assignment.
Living in Nashville and starting her career as an intern with Compass Records, Spence shared how her writing has evolved over the past few years. Her career quickly took off, and she had her first tour in 2013.
Spence also shared some of her music, singing “Whiskey Watered Down” and explaining that it was “the first song where I felt I was doing something.” It was when she finally felt like she was putting her creative writing background and song writing together. It gave her an awareness of the audience, feeling that she couldn’t compromise the lyrics just because she knew someone else was listening. “It made me uncomfortable to sing it,” Spence said.
Poems didn’t have the voice that songs had, Spence explained, showing how writing lyrics was different than the senior poetry writing project she had done at Denison. Using similar techniques in her songwriting as she did with her course writing assignments, Spence explained her process of printing off song and reading them aloud as she would do with a poem. Spence encouraged aspiring poets and songwriters alike to be highly intentional with each word, line and phrase they use. “There’s only so much real estate to work with,” Spence said.
She shared other songs, one of which being “Mint Condition,” explaining her frustration with it, as the third verse took nearly six months to write. Spence explained that this song spoke the truth that she would normally not bring up in conversation. “The [songs] I liked best are ones I was afraid to share with people,” Spence said.
The success in Spence’s career has proven that it is worth this risk and discomfort, though. Her passion and vocal talent was validated in 2013, when Spence won American Songwriter Magazine’s June/July lyric contest and Rocky Mountain Folk Festival’s songwriter competition
As a Creative Writing major and vocalist, Maddy Schriger ‘16 attended Spence’s workshop in hopes of comfort about her similar career aspirations. “It’s so encouraging to see a Denison alumnus actually making it in that career path–it’s tough out there,” Schriger said. Feeling as though she is in the same place with her lyrically based senior writing project, Schriger was glad to hear that a successful graduate like Spence went through the same difficulty. “I’m struggling through my senior project as well; hearing her talk about how she had to sit and write for hours and hours, getting this thing done, honestly was comforting to hear,” Schriger added.
Spence released her new album, “Somehow,” on March 3, 2015, featuring 13 original songs. She’s also been noticed by Rolling Stone as one of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: Spring 2015.” Attendees of her writing workshop would agree with Rolling Stone when they called Spence, “A feather-light voice that evokes the best singers of the Lilith Fair era.”
Those interested in hearing Spence’s music are encouraged to visit carolinespencemusic.com and stream her songs on Spotify.
Photo Courtesy of carolinespencemusic.com