Catching up with Singer/Songwriter, Cailin Russo
Catching up with Singer/Songwriter, Cailin Russo
WORDS : NOAH PHAM | PHOTOS : SAM DAMESHEK
Singer and songwriter — and sometimes model — Cailin Russo has been witness to the spotlight from various angles since an early age. Between her upbringing in a house of punk (her father was in the band Unwritten Law of ’90s Warped Tour fame), having her first studio recording session at 16 and sharing an onscreen kiss with Justin Bieber in his “All That Matters,” Russo was basically destined to establish herself within the music industry.
Read on as we catch up with Russo just before setting out for the upcoming Coachella Weekend Two. And don’t miss her playlist picks for the festival weekend at the end of the interview.
Tell us about yourself! Who are you and what do you do?
I am a singer and an artist. I have way too many ideas that I don’t know what to do with — good and bad. I’m not saying I’m a genius at all, but the tracks keep running. I love to collaborate with my friends and make art in every facet: fashion, imagery and music. I’d say those are my three favorite mediums
If you had to pick one of those three mediums, which one would be your forte in this time and space?
Music! I just quit smoking and I’ve been really inspired by everything.
Because you quit smoking, was this a habit of self realization to allow you to put yourself in a higher creative process?
Yeah absolutely. I did an interview with my vocal coach about what drives us and why we do the things we do. I think to push yourself you need to just keep working and getting stronger and change shit that doesn’t benefit the end goal and the end goal is to be the best singer and artist I can be.
What personally drives you?
What personally drives me is that I like to make goals and I want to accomplish every goal that I put my mind to — so executing my goals.
So your father was in a punk band. Can you talk about the influence of being a ’90s baby growing up listening to this genre?
I was such a little rock baby; I was born into it! You know, you are a product of your environment and naturally the first music I got into was rock and roll. And our house is fucking sick! My childhood house had a half pipe in the backyard. It was the Southern California rock-star dream. It wasn’t a huge house or anything. Just in a really quaint neighborhood in San Diego and we had all of the parties and people. I went to Warped Tour; I toured with my dad on the East Coast when I was 12. I can’t compare it to anything else because it’s all I’ve known. I’m super grateful that it’s sculpted me to be a unique human. It was awesome! Once you start coming into your own person, you’re like, “Fuck rock and roll!” I want to listen to hip-hop and jazz. Then shit comes full circle and you can’t really deny what you are. I have so much Southern California rock in my blood that it’s inevitably a spearhead of my evolution.
That’s really cool!
It’s super cool! Dad’s not retired; dad still makes music. We still exchange music and lyrics all the time.
Do you have any crazy memories of touring with your dad?
All my memories are really sweet. All these hardcore dudes with tattoos that every other parent in the world who think they are scary as shit, these guys are like my uncles! I remember being on tour and one of the guys on tour gave me a Tim Burton blanket and I loved this blanket so much. I remember my brothers and I running around the greenroom at the House of Blues and my brother’s ear got burnt from a girl holding her cigarette too low and my dad lost his shit and kicked her out. I’ve gotten to stage dive, seen the typical stuff, saw my dad get in fights.
Do you and your father work together? If so, how has that process worked out between you two? How do you bounce back and forth with each other?
Well he was the first person to ever record me and put me in the studio, I was like, “I want to make a song and do something.” So he was like, “Let’s do it.” I wrote my first song in high school.
Can you talk about that first song?
Oh my god sure, it’s called “I Don’t Care for Love” and it’s super jazzy and it kind of banged! I think I was going through a break up or something with my ex in high school and it’s super funny. And kind of cocky! I was kind of a cocky girl.
So for your next tour, will you bring your dad out?
We actually played at a festival together! We were both on the same lineup so he had his gig and I played with my band. It was pretty fucking weird.
You wrote that in high school? How old were you?
I was 16 so I think I must have been a sophomore.
How did you get involved in music during high school and in making this first song?
I wrote that song with my dad, it was just us two. I didn’t do a lot of art in high school. I was more in between dating and smoking a lot of weed, but I loved to write. I was friends with this cool band in high school called Super Groupie and I introduced them to my dad and we all got to do a song together. We did a song called Say You Want Me. 2012!
Were you in the school choir or any school bands? Or were you doing this on the side while enjoying the high school life?
I didn’t do choir or anything like that but I’ve always loved singing. But I didn’t feel it was my place because my dad’s the singer. But I’d always write poetry although I was a terrible english student. But I felt I’ve always felt good at personally expressing myself through writing. My mom has this fucking poem that I wrote in kindergarten or some shit and she hung it up in our bathroom. And it’s still there!
What were your friends doing this time while you were recording music?
I didn’t tell a fucking soul I was making music! Until this day, it’s one of the most vulnerable things for me. Especially with singing, it’s one of those things like if you really, really want to do it, you don’t want to tell people you want to pursue singing. It’s so scary! It’s maybe why I like it as well because I like to put myself in uncomfortable situations.
When did you start publishing music professionally?
I started publishing music myself professionally in September 2017. So two years ago was my first professional release! And I officially crowned myself an artist and signed to a management company in 2016. So three years ago!
So in between the tracks you were making in high school until 2017, what were you doing?
I was modeling and just writing. And from that song in high school, this guy from Warner reached out to me and we started to work together. But it fell through. So I was like, “You know what? I’m going to just model for now.” I became good friends with one of the producers from Warner, so we just made more music on the low together. I was dating this guy and he told me that if I were to pursue music, I’d have to give it my all. So I dropped all of my agencies and just fully immersed myself in music!
Through modeling, a huge opportunity came in for you. What was it like sharing a kiss on with Justin Bieber onscreen?
To be honest, I didn’t think anything of it before. I was super excited about the job. I had a boyfriend at the time. Then I got to set and I realized, Wow this is real! I was so excited; I had so many butterflies. I don’t even care I was a young adult at the time. I think this was one of the cutest moments of my life. And this was when Justin Bieber was becoming a bad boy. It really changed my career!
If you could share the stage with any artist dead or alive, who would it be?
Wow you’re going to hit me with that! First thing that comes to mind would be Lauryn Hill, but that’s the craziest thing ever! Singing “Want you Around” with her or “Your Song” with Elton John, or even “Shallow” with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper! I can see that as a super intimate ballad situation with any of those songs.
Favorite shower-time tunes to sing to?
Recently I haven’t been listening to music in the shower and I listen to music all the time so I just want to reflect. As of right now, I am fucking rinsing the Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish albums!
Are you going to Coachella this week? What are your top-five songs to get ready for the festival?
Honestly so much Ariana Grande! It’s so fucked up. I have no chill. Today I’ve been listening to “Smile.” I can’t stop listening to “Womp Womp” by Valee. “Pussy Is God,” by King Princess, “Hungry Hippo,” by Tierra Whack, and “Multi Love,” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. That’s like a depiction of all my mood for the entire weekend.