INTERVIEW: Caley Conway, the Ethereal Songstress
It is hard to describe Caley Conway and her music as anything but ethereal. With a voice that lulls you into a daydream and lyrics that bring you back to earth, she combines sharp wit with warm melodies to form a style distinctly her own. “Silk for Life“ , her first full length album with Caley Conway and the Lucy Cukes, is a breathy ode to the everyday life. After a deep dive into Caley’s repertoire I found my personal favorite, “Cheese Song“, a wistful ditty that highlights both her voice and the eloquence in which she can describe the mundane. This past week I got in touch with the singer-songwriter to pick her brain about all things music.
(I recommend listening to “Volcano Song” as you peruse)
B&E: How long have you been playing music and singing?
CC: Just about my whole life. I started taking piano lessons at 3, and singing along with musicals, soundtracks, whatever else I was exposed to at an early age. I later went through a phase of being too self-conscious to sing in public, which I think helped my guitar playing along, but I’m glad I got over it.
B&E: Was it something that came naturally or that you have developed over time?
CC: I’ve definitely developed my musical skills and continue to do so, sometimes painstakingly, but I’m very lucky that music has always come pretty naturally to me. I could attribute much to my early exposure to piano, dance and song, but I also have a musical family and I think genes has a lot to do with it. That said, there’s not much else that captivates and sustains my attention the way music does, so I’m inclined to put more work into it.
B&E: What was the name of the first band you ever played in? What kind of music was it?
CC: My first band ever was called CCC, or Triple C. It stood for Conway, Conway & Conway, and consisted of my sister, cousin and myself. We had a few originals, and the rest of the time would cover Smash Mouth songs acapella. I think I was 7 or 8.
B&E: How many instruments do you play? And of those instruments, what is your favorite?
CC: I could get away with saying 5- Guitar, Ukulele, Piano, Alto Saxophone, and Tamboura, but I haven’t played the sax since high school, and I’m pretty terrible at the piano. Ironically, those are the only instruments I’m proficient at reading staff music for. Anyway, guitar is by far my favorite. It’s portable, beginner friendly, and so adaptable to different music styles and situations.
B&E: Who is one artist you have on repeat right now?
CC: I’ve been listening to Margaret Glaspy and Big Thief pretty chronically. Trying to devour as much female-fronted stuff as I can. It gives me a real kick in the pants. Oh, and J.E. Sunde’s solo stuff I’ve become a recent fan of.
B&E: How do you typically listen to an artist or discography? Do you play on shuffle or listen from start to finish?
CC: Start to finish. I can’t stand when a listening medium (Spotify, for instance) shuffles an album behind my back, nor when it feeds a stream of related music once the album is done. The last song should resonate with you into the silence that follows the album. Or, in the case of a cd player in a car, followed by the album’s first track, seducing you to listen again.
B&E: Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
CC: No! My taste in music is impeccable! Everything I like is objectively excellent!
B&E: What is your favorite venue to play shows at in Milwaukee?
CC: Gotta say, always have a good time at the Bremen Cafe. Other than that, Anodyne, Linneman’s and the Jazz Gallery come to mind. There are tons of great places though.
B&E: What is your favorite venue to see shows at in Milwaukee?
CC: Again, Bremen Cafe. It’s free, and there’s a room for music separate from the bar. I also like hanging out at Company Brewing. It’s wide, and usually chaotic enough to settle my social anxiety.
B&E: Have you toured outside of wisconsin before? If so, where?
CC: The Lucy Cukes and I did a weekend tour that took us to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and back in less than 3 days. There was a lady down there who wanted us to play for her wedding. So we did.
B&E: What is your newest project?
CC: My newest project is a bass, drums and electric guitar trio with plenty of auxiliary percussion, that sometimes incorporates a background vocal section. It’s still under the name Caley Conway, and I still play solo pretty often when the occasion seems to call for it.
B&E: How does your newest project compare to your other projects/bands?
CC: Well I’m still hoping that, like my last project, the main focus will be the songwriting. The Lucy Cukes featured acoustic instrumentation, though, whereas now I’m playing electric guitar and arranging songs to kind of bring out my style of playing. I’m challenging myself to be my own lead player, and more musically self-sufficient in general. The new project will likely go a bit deeper into my experimental mind, mainly because that’s where I’ve been writing lately.
B&E: Do you have any shows coming up in the near future we should be on the look out for?
CC: I have a solo show coming up this Sunday, 6/18, at the Jazz Estate. I’ll be opening for touring friends King Cardinal, from Denver, and Lady Cannon, one of my local favorites. I’m really looking forward to it.
B&E: Are you recording anything currently?
CC: We’re at the beginning stages of what I hope will become an EP. I can’t say how long it’ll be before it’s ready, because in the past all such estimations of mine have been waaaaaay off. So we’ll just have to see.
This coming Sunday (6/18/2017) she will be preforming at the Jazz Estate. See below, and see ya there!