Latigo’s favorite cowgirl musician, Caitlyn Taussig, started performing at Latigo over the summer of 2017. She was kind enough to let me, Hannah, back her up on my violin. We are all looking forward to having her up again in 2018. Instead of sitting down to play together, this time, we’re doing an interview. Here’s a behind-the-curtain look at a real-life cowgirl, singer-songwriter.
Hannah: Tell me a little bit about yourself, Caitlyn.
Caitlyn: I’m turning 32 this month (February 25th) and was born here in Kremmling. I grew up on a ranch, and am only now realizing as an adult how amazing my childhood was. My mother took a really long sabbatical from her teaching job when she had my sister and me, and worked on the ranch when we were growing up. When we were really young we had a wonderful nanny who took care of us while our parents were in the hayfield, and when we got older we pretty much ran amok! We always rode our horses bareback out to the hayfield to eat lunch with mom so she knew we were still alive. But we just had an incredible outdoor childhood.
I went to college at the University of Colorado where I got my degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and I did a stint studying abroad in Zanzibar, Tanzania. But ranching is in my blood, so I came home from school and have been here ever since! I love the mountains and the wild places that are just off the beaten track.
I play most of my gigs in the summer, so winter tends to be leaner money-wise. I do odd jobs when I need to, such as house sitting, and I’ve also worked in town at the coffee shop and had a full-time job at one point as the county 4-H coordinator. Luckily, the ranch provides me with housing, fuel, and cell phone so my bills aren’t too bad!
I’ve been singing and playing guitar since I was a kid, and I wrote my first song when I was about 10. It was a ballad about the Prince and the Pauper. I think I grew up in a musical house and just always loved it. I sort of fell into being a professional, I got my guitar out at a horsemanship clinic with Bruce Sandifer and played some of the songs I’d written. He and some friends had just created the Californio Bridlehorse Association and they were putting on their first event in California that year and invited me to play. Another musician there started telling people about me and I started getting invited to cowboy gatherings. I really owe those guys for getting me started!
Hannah: What does a typical day in the life of Caitlyn Taussig look like?
Caitlyn: It depends completely on the time of year! Ranching is really cyclical; we do different things each season. Right now (February) I feed cows and your Latigo guest horses and then have the rest of the day to myself! Starting at the end of March we will be calving which is a round-the-clock undertaking. Summer is also really busy, irrigating, checking cows, doing projects… then in the fall, we ship our calves and pregnancy check our cows. Winter is our downtime!
Hannah: You write and perform original songs about life out here. What’s it like playing your own music?
Caitlyn: The genre that I often play is cowboy music, which is a variety of western music. Western music is about…the west! And cowboy music is more specifically about cowboying or ranching. My personal style is really folk. Traditional cowboy music can be traced to European folk songs that came over with our ancestors. A lot of old cowboy songs share a melody with old English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh folk tunes. (Example: Streets of Laredo is the same tune as Unfortunate Rake) I am certainly no expert on the history of western music, but the true experts have taken the time to research the origins of many songs.
I think musicians tend to write what we know, and you can definitely hear the folk influence in my songs. Right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mandolin Orange, my favorite songs are Waltz about Whiskey, Cavalry, and Heart of Gold. I’ve been a huge fan of Steve Earle and the Dukes for years and I’ll never get tired of Galway Girl. Other favorites are Turnpike Troubadours, 7&7, Every Girl, The Housefire… Really anything of theirs! I grew up listening to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, The Kingston Trio, and other folk music.
Playing my own music is really fun; it’s exciting to write a new song! Sometimes the excitement wears off and I don’t like playing it anymore, but people have different tastes so some of my songs are liked by friends and fans even if they aren’t my favorite.
I have played a lot of different venues in the west, all different types of gigs! Many are at cowboy poetry gatherings, but I’ve played weddings, bars, conferences, rodeos, and bronc ridings. Sometimes I only have 20 minutes and play 3 to 5 songs. Once I played a 4-hour gig in Nebraska which was truly exhausting! The biggest venues I’ve sung in have been the Anthem at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo and the Kremmling Demolition Derby, which both had thousands of people in the stands.
Sometimes I practice regularly and sometimes not, but I always regret it if I don’t. Losing my finger callouses and having to get them back is hard, especially if I have to play a two hour set with sore fingers!
Hannah: Do you ever get butterflies before you perform? What are your favorite types of gigs to play?
Caitlyn: I still get nervous, especially in bigger venues or if I feel unprepared. I’ve also recently started playing some local bars which is really challenging for me because the audience often is loud and not listening. Those gigs make me nervous, but luckily I’ve never had any bottles or garbage thrown at me yet!
My favorite gigs have been in small auditoriums with really great sound. I can connect with my audience and tell stories and know that I sound good to the crowd. Great sound men are so valuable and appreciated!
Hannah: Your first album has been well-received by the guests for whom you perform at Latigo Ranch; what was it like to create such a tangible example of your work?
Caitlyn: I recorded at a small studio in Berthoud CO with a great engineer. It takes a lot of preparation to record because any mistake costs time and money. I had recorded in college, so I knew the ropes a little. I recorded the vocals and guitar with my engineer playing bass guitar. Other musicians then came in separately to record the other instruments. That was not what I pictured; I’ve still never met the woman who sang harmonies on my record.
Hannah: Do you have plans to create a second album?
Caitlyn: It’s been slow going, but I’ve written about half of my second record and will record some covers as well. I’m thinking about going for more of a bluegrass or mainstream Americana feel on this one, but I still have some pretty pure cowboy songs on there… so we’ll see!
Hannah: If you were to give one piece of advice to an aspiring musician or music-writer, what would it be?
Caitlyn: I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice since I don’t always follow it myself, but I’d say keep playing, writing, and surround yourself with other musicians you admire. You’ll grow quickly!
You can find Caitlyn on her Facebook and Instagram, and her music is available on her website: www.caitlyntaussig.com. It won’t be long before the music is available on iTunes and Spotify. Have a listen to her tunes to get in the mood for booking your summer visit to Latigo!
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