CAPPA opens up about experimenting with her sound, being vulnerable, and finding her place in the pop genre
Story: Luci Turner
Photo: Davy Kesey
Watch out, all you indie pop lovers: CAPPA is quickly taking over the scene, and if her candy-sweet, butterflies-inducing single “Tension” is any indication, she’s showing no signs of stopping.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, CAPPA packed up her life and moved to Nashville eight years ago, determined to make a name for herself as a pop songwriter in a town historically known for country music legends, The Grand Ole Opry, and — more recently — hot chicken. “At first, it definitely felt like everybody was a little confused as to why I was there,” CAPPA laughs. “But there were tons of people there for the same reasons. Any music town is a music town, and you’re going to meet awesome people.”
But like so many other wanderers chasing a dream, CAPPA found herself drawn more and more to Los Angeles and all the Golden Coast had to offer a particularly talented pop songstress. “Every time I took a trip to LA, I’d see the amount of things I’d get done and the momentum I would get over a month, and people would be like, ‘Well, when you’re back, contact me and let me know.’ It was one of those things that I just felt like it was worth taking the shot,” she explains. “I like it a lot so far!”
A charming, charismatic blend of Taylor Swift, Halsey, Julia Michaels, and Grimes with her own fresh, youthful je ne sais pas, CAPPA is the ultimate representation of the modern indie artist. After a year long hiatus in 2016, she emerged with a catalogue of new music and a deep-rooted understanding of her sound, her music, and herself, both as an artist and an individual. “I was writing that whole time,” she says. “I just didn’t want to release anything for a while until I kinda figured out more what I wanted. I had released so much music. I wanted to be a little more decisive about what genre and what style I was really doing.”
After the release of her latest sinsgle, “Tension,” and a feature with Chicago’s singer-songwriter-producer GOLDHOUSE, CAPPA sat down with LADYGUNN and opened up about experimenting with her sound, being vulnerable, and finding her place in the pop genre.
You got your start in Nashville, writing pop music in a town known for its country roots. How did that translate into the music you were writing?
I think it took a little bit of time to find a good footing in the pop world, in terms of what I was writing, because a lot of the people that I was writing with still had primarily a country background, even they were trying to get into the pop world. So it was kind of like a little bit of a transition. It maybe took me a little bit longer than if I had just moved to LA to start, but on the other side of that, I was able to make a foundation there that, maybe just jumping into LA, I wouldn’t have been able to make because there’s so much competition.
Have the cities you’ve lived in — Philadelphia, Nashville, and Los Angeles — influenced your music?
Yeah, definitely! The last single I did was the first one that I’d done in LA one hundred percent, and it’s been my favorite so far. I think that each town kind of has their own flair, but it also just depends on the producer. There are plenty of people from LA that are moving to Nashville too, that are awesome producers as well. But I definitely feel like a next level, to some extent.
Your music is unapologetically honest; how have you been able to open yourself up and share with your fans in a way that resonates with them?
Thank you! I think that my favorite music that I connect with is music that is very honest also, whether good or bad. I mean, one my favorite bands is Brand New, and I love Jimmy Eat World. I was kind of raised on that whole era of raw, honest lyrics. Obviously mine are more pop centered, and some of them are a lot more lighthearted, but I think that maintaining the true stories and stuff that you’re going through is always good, if you can pull that over into pop music. I think Julia Michaels is an incredible example of that: of really quirky but honest lyrics. Everything she writes sounds like something that you would say, so I’ve been inspired by that a lot and I keep trying to do that more and more.
Do you think that sincerity is the reason fans have connected so quickly with your music?
Yeah, I hope so! I like to think that, at least.
You’ve gone through several evolutions as an artist since your 2015 self-titled release. How have you managed to maintain the sound that is distinctly CAPPA while growing as an artist?
It’s definitely changed. I think at first I was a little more alternative with it: bigger, swelling sounds, a little darker, a little more cinematic. I think that’s just because that’s what I was hearing come out, and I liked that. But recently the more I’m writing, I’m discovering what I’m liking. I really like pop music — like simple pop. I’m not a super dark person, and I think sometimes some of those darker sounds were a little bit inauthentic. There are plenty of people who are the happiest people out there and write the saddest music, but I wanted to find a soundscape that was tailored to what I liked to write. I wanted to put a song on in my car and be able to jam to it and love it. I didn’t really do that with the first music I released.
What’s been the hardest part when it comes to defining your sound and your place in the pop genre, and in the music industry as a whole?
There’s just a lot of music out. It’s kind of finding a consistent producer to work with. I don’t do the production myself – I do a lot of the writing myself, and I’ll bring in ideas – but it’s really finding somebody who gets what you’re going for. That’s probably been the biggest challenge because there’s so many soundscapes that you can do nowadays. It’s become more difficult to pick a lane and stay in it. A lot of that does have to do with who you’re working with, too.
Do you ever feel any outside pressure to pick a lane or stay in a box?
Yeah, definitely sometimes! There’s definitely been times where people are like, “I love this style or thing that you did, and you should do this with everything!” I’ve kind of been like, well, that’s cool, but there are a lot of different things that I want to try. I think that I’m really honing in now on what kind of sound I like and I’m going for, and have a really big vision for, but it hasn’t always been that way in the past.
What do you think is the most important thing for any woman in the music industry to know?
I think I would have been less scared of what people thought about what I was doing a lot earlier. When I first started music, I was just so worried that people weren’t going to like it, or think I was weird and just wanted to be some famous musician, you know? That was always in my head, so I was very timid in terms of really pursuing music. It’s something I still work on, but I’m totally independent, so when I’m emailing somebody, it’s coming from my email. It’s coming from me, being like, “I would really love to work together. This is what I have, this is what I have to offer. If you believe in it, cool.” It’s one of those things you have to break through, and find the people who believe in you and not care about the people who don’t. It all starts with yourself; if you don’t believe in it, nobody else will, either, so I think that if I could go back five years ago, I’d be like, “This is your advice! Now go do that!”
Your latest single, “Tension,” is incredibly upbeat and really captures all the butterflies of a new relationship, which really connects with listeners. What brought you to the place where you were ready to share a song like “Tension”?
A lot of it is not caring, and just going in to write one day and being like, “I want to write what I feel like writing,” and not caring if people think it’s too bubbly or too dark or too sad. You have to write where you’re coming from. I like a lot of the lighthearted music, and personally, I’m in a longer term relationship than I’ve been in for a while. It’s definitely had its ups and downs – “Waste My Time” is also about that relationship – so I was kind of in a comfortable place at the time where I was about to write a happy, upbeat song about a relationship and something that I’d been through at the start of it, rather than a lot of my songs, which are kind of mad at relationships or guys that I’m dating. This was the first one that I was like, “Huh, this is nice!”
What has it been like to collaborate with an act like GOLDHOUSE on your latest releases, “Don’t Go”?
He’s great! He’s a good friend of mine. He actually worked on “Tension” too; he mixed it. He’s a good friend and we’ve written together on a bunch of stuff before. He’s super talented; his production is next level. He’s just one of those producers that’s doing it all in his house in a the side room in Chicago, with just one window, and he’s making the coolest stuff. He doesn’t mind that he doesn’t live in the hub of it.
You’ve released two successful EPs and toured nationally. Did you have any idea that you would accomplish all of this in just three years?
No, I didn’t! I mean, it has always been a goal of mine. In my head, I want to be so much further (laughs), but I think that’s the case with everybody. I was really happy because I’d been releasing music since I was 16, trying to find exactly what I wanted to do and what style. I also wasn’t one of those people that was born an amazing singer. I had to work really, really hard at it, and the same with songwriting and guitar. All of it has definitely been a challenge, but it was always just something that I knew I had to and wanted to do. So when I started releasing music and people liked it, I was literally crying. I was like, “Oh, I’m so happy!” It’s just been awesome, with the feedback I’ve gotten, or to see people post about it. Glades is one of my favorite bands, and they recently posted a song of mine and was like, “This is my favorite!” and I was like, “You’re my favorite!”
What’s your next step?
I would love to release a lot of music. I’ve really only released two songs over the past year, other than a feature with GOLDHOUSE and a recent one with Justin Caruso, but I would love to start releasing more of my music on a regular basis. I have some music right now that I’m holding onto that I really love. My goal is to be releasing something every couple months. I’m playing a lot more shows now also, and I’m writing for other artists. I have a couple of cool things in the works with that. I’m kind of just hitting it from every angle, but for me, as long as I can be doing music forever, and as long as fans are liking it and connecting with it, then I’m very happy.
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