Cassidy Rae Gaiter could be described as a singer-songwriter but she is also a dancer, experienced musical theatre performer, and holder of a Bachelor of Music. She released her debut EP in 2017, and now released a new song, ‘Boy Like That’.
Originally from Adelaide, Gaiter moved to Sydney to study; she returned to her home city recently just before making another big move – to Nashville. This move is, she says, ‘daunting for sure. Moving anywhere [is]. Moving to Sydney for me was scary because I didn’t really know anyone, but I went and that ended up being like the best time of my life. So I’m trying to go into this with that same mindset because this is all I’ve ever wanted, so it’ll be great.’
The road to Nashville, however, is paved with Gaiter’s extensive musical achievements. She started performing at a very young age, although she can’t remember exactly what her first performance was.
‘It would have been probably Adelaide’s version of a talent showcase or something at school,’ she says. ‘I would have been so small, probably six or seven, and I probably sang something Shania Twain or maybe “My Heart Will Go On”, Celine Dion, which is so weird for a seven-year-old!
‘I can’t pinpoint it because I’ve known nothing else apart from singing. I’ve always done it and always been doing it.’
Although her parents aren’t musical – ‘I don’t know where I got it from,’ she says with a laugh, ‘maybe a great-great-great-grandparent down the line’ – they have been ‘super supportive, which has been amazing because this career is not easy and there’s a lot of ifs and buts and what-ifs that go along with it. So I’m very grateful that they have just let me do it.’
Gaiter says that the key to her full-body immersion in a musical life is that ‘I just like performing. The stage is where I feel completely at home and completely myself, even if I’m playing someone else on stage, which is a little bit weird. But I do love it. It’s just what I feel like I’ve been called to do. And I can’t see myself doing anything else.’
While she might have carried on performing without adding her Bachelor of Music, she says, ‘I always think you never stop learning and you should never stop learning. I teach singing but I also get lessons, because I think you’re never going to get to a point where you don’t think that you can improve. That’s what I believe, anyway. And there was just something about doing a Bachelor of Music and having to be somewhere every single day, working on something that you love and honing your craft. And sometimes I think, Did I need to spend that time? Could I have just gone straight into the industry and use that time to do that? But when I think about how much I sang in those years and how much guidance I got, and how much my voice improved just because of how much I was singing and the pressure behind what goes into getting a degree, I would never take that back. And you have to be a little bit realistic about this industry, and I think having a Bachelor of Music was so important to me just in terms of a back-up plan down the line.’
Having completed her degree, Gaiter was ready to release some new music – which came in the form of ‘Boy Like That’. It’s a change in musical style and lyrical direction from her EP, which Gaiter says was ‘definitely very conscious. My first EP, although I still love it – and you always cherish your first project – I guess I was young. I didn’t really know how to assert my ideas and I was a little bit … coerced in a direction that I didn’t always want to go in.
‘So I’ve taken these last few years to step back and keep writing and find the sound that I want to be. That’s why I waited so long to release anything after the EP because I was trying to do that and making sure I got it right. I think I’ve got that with “Boy Like That”. I’m very happy with it and that’s definitely more of the direction of the artist that I want to be.’
The difficulties with musical direction on that first EP came about, she believes, because of the genre of music she’s working in.
‘There is a little bit of a stigma [in country music] around being too pop or being too rock, losing the traditional roots of the country. And although that’s exactly what I grew up on and that’s what made me absolutely love country music – and I still listen to like old school country and that sort of stuff – I wanted to be a little bit more pop. But I guess the decisions that I made with who I went with to record my EP, and who was helping me out in terms of giving me advice on what songs to do, were on that little bit more of the traditional side of the industry. I said, “Okay, yeah, yeah, that’s fine” and just went with what their suggestions were. In hindsight, I think I learned a lot from the experience, but I wish I had asserted my opinion a little bit more.’
Crossover between country, pop and rock is, Gaiter believes, very healthy for the genre.
‘I think having these crossover genres and songs opens up country music to an even bigger audience,’ she says. ‘A lot of my friends don’t listen to country music but they listen to Taylor Swift or they quite like my new song because it is more pop and that makes them experiment a little bit more with country music. So I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think if anything it’s an amazing thing to have more people listening to country music.’
When asked if her background as a performer shaped her voice and, therefore, determined a musical direction or if she shaped her voice for the direction she wanted to go in, Gaiter says, it’s ‘probably a little bit of both. I’ve always been a bit of a mimic my entire life. I don’t know if that’s my music theatre background or anything like that, but I would always try and sound like whoever I was listening to. So it has been a bit of a journey trying to find exactly what my voice is. I guess with “Boy Like That” it was cool because when you’re writing your own music, you’re just singing however your voice is. And I really liked the colours and the tones that the more poppy-country sound was bringing out in my voice. So that’s maybe why I decided to go down that route with “Boy Like That”.’
The song has a clear message about women not putting up with bad behaviour from men in relationships, and it’s standing up for yourself. Gaiter says the song was written by her with some friends a couple of years ago, in Nashville.
‘I’ve been sitting on it for a while,’ she explains. ‘I always knew that that would be the song. I just didn’t know when was the right time and how I was going to do it.
‘So we were just sitting in a writing session, having a chat, and we were chatting about boys and we were all throwing out our experiences and things like that. And one of the girls said, “Don’t you just hate boys like that?” And I said, “Oh, I think there’s something in that. I think that’s a title.” And the ball started rolling. The song really did write itself as four girlfriends together just talking about things that boys do that we maybe don’t like or whatever and our own experiences. But, yes, I’ve totally had experiences that have influenced the songs. I want girls to know that you don’t have to put up with that, put up with a boy not treating you right.’
The impressive video came about because Gaiter received a grant from Music SA to work with a filmmaker from Adelaide ‘and do a collaborative process for music videos,’ she says. ‘So I went in saying, “I actually don’t mind what ideas you have to do with the video because I just think it’d be so cool to have someone else’s idea.” Obviously I had ideas about what the song was and cool things that I could do, but I really wanted to hear what he had. So that’s why he came up with this more cinematic kind of break-up, getting with another girl’s best friend, whole situation. And it is exactly what the song’s about, you know? So it was a really cool process doing that video.’
Gaiter says that as a songwriter she started out like the character Scarlett (played by Clare Bowen) in the TV series Nashville.
‘I was just writing poems,’ she says, ‘and then one day [I came] along to the poem thinking, Oh my God, this is a song. So that would’ve been about middle school, early high school I would say. I was always into the lyric and then putting my own vocal melodies onto it. Then after high school I picked up the guitar and they kind of became songs.’
With these many facets of her musical life – including teaching – Gaiter must put out quite a lot of energy, especially during performances. She has learned to find the balance, she says.
‘Luckily I am a very outgoing, bubbly, energetic person,’ she expains, ‘so that definitely does help. But I have had to learn to when I’m not having to do all those things – be on stage or write or sing or perform or whatever – I have had to learn to take some time for myself as well and just chill out and build that energy back up. But luckily all the things I do are exactly what I want to be doing. So although you have to have so much energy, that’s what I would rather be doing. And it only fuels me as I’m doing it, if that makes sense.’
She’s also learnt how to find the balance with an audience.
‘Crowds can really affect like your performance,’ she says. ‘Not so much in my own music and gigs, because you can get lost in your own songs. But I used to find it so much in theatre. Depending on the crowd it affects how your performance could be. And audiences can vary as well. It’s so crazy how much an audience can give you. And it could be the exact same amount of people the next time and they can literally give me nothing. So I guess that’s another thing that I’ve had to learn is trying to get the exact same performance every single time no matter what you’re getting back from the audience.’
Gaiter will, of course, be finding new audiences in Nashville. Also ahead of her is the writing and recording of a new album – although the recording won’t necessarily happen in Nashville.
‘I’m definitely going to write for it,’ she says, ‘and I would love to get something out as soon as I can. And obviously being in Nashville, it would make the most sense to record there as well. But I just recorded “Boy Like That” with Andy Mack here and that was such an amazing experience and he does really get the sound that I want, so I would love to do other stuff with him in the future. Everything is really up in the air, so I’m just going to see what happens, but definitely working towards an album.’
Not long after this interview Gaiter flew to Music City to start her new adventures, taking her considerable talents with her. For new fans enjoying ‘Boy Like That’, hopefully it won’t be long before that album eventuates.