There are buoyant, propulsive rockers (female empowerment anthem “Going Going Gone” and first single “Mess of You”), the fiery and powerful (“Cost of Love” and “Heart Like Mine”), as well as soaring, graceful love songs (“Say Love” and the soulful “If You’re Gonna Fall”). Caldwell also covers Melissa Etheridge’s “Sleep While I Drive” as a tribute to Etheridge, whose “Come to My Window” Caldwell performed memorably on Idol. “We kind of conceived this album as a modern-day Melissa Etheridge moment,” Caldwell says. “I’m a massive fan of hers, as well as of Bonnie Raitt and Ann Wilson.
I just love these fearless female rockers who sing straight from the heart.” Caldwell strove to achieve the boldness of her favorite artists on Without Regret by recording songs that spoke to her, such as “Cost of Love” (written by Diane Warren) and “Heart Like Mine” (co-written by American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi and Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger), as well as co-writing four highly personal songs: “Taking Back My Life,” “Human After All,” “Frozen,” and “Say Love” — all of which document the different stages and emotions surrounding relationships. For Caldwell, the overall theme of Without Regret is just being human. “Like everyone else, I’ve had hardships: broken family, broken hearts, and thank God I did because I’ve been able to write honestly about the experiences in my life that have affected me in both good ways and bad,” she says. “If my music can give someone that push they need just to keep on going, then I’ve done my job.” To help her deliver the authentic vocal performances she knew the songs required, Caldwell turned to producer Marshall Altman who has worked with singer-songwriters Matt Nathanson, Marc Broussard, and Kate Voegele, among others.
“Marshall was amazing because he really welcomed all the emotion that went into making this record,” Caldwell says. “He taught me to embrace the imperfections — to stop worrying about every note being perfect and just let go.” The most important thing, Caldwell says, “is that I jumped over to the fearless side. This album is my first step in allowing people to know ‘I’ve been where you are, I hurt like you do, but I’ve turned it around and made something positive moving forward and so can you.’” Caldwell developed her fierce determination through a childhood that had its share of obstacles. Born in Katy, Texas, she describes herself as an attention-seeking kid who would climb on the coffee table, throw her hands in the air, and scream, “Look at me! I can do this!” “I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer,” she says.
“I just wanted to perform for people.” That desire led to four years on the beauty pageant circuit, from ages 5 to age 9. “I loved the hair and makeup. I loved rehearsing,” she says. “My mom would have these extravagant outfits made, like red lamé with silver fringe and she would spray paint a silver cowboy hat and boots for me, the whole nine yards.” A fan of country music and such artists as Reba McEntire, the Judds, and Randy Travis, Caldwell became obsessed with appearing on the television talent show Star Search, “the way people are with American Idol today,” she says.
She wound up winning the competition five times, the most wins for a junior vocalist on the original version. At age 12, she landed a gig as a featured performer on a singing revue called “Country Tonite,” which meant a family move to Branson, MO, where the show was located. Caldwell sang country favorites six days a week, performing two shows a day, “doing full-on numbers where the dancers picked me up and I’m wearing a headset,” she recalls. Her mother told her she could stop anytime, but she loved performing and carried on for three years.
Then at age 15, she decided she wanted to move back to Katy and “just be normal.” Around this time, her parents’ marriage fell apart, her relationship with her father deteriorated, and her mother struggled to support her and her younger sister. Caldwell coped by going through what she describes as a rebellious phase, but the absence of performing took a deep emotional toll on her. So when auditions for the second season of American Idol rolled through Texas, Caldwell decided to take her shot and rode the wave all the way to the Top 10. When the show ended, she set out on a nationwide trek with the other finalists on the “Idols Live!” tour, then parlayed her fan favorite status into a stint as a correspondent for the entertainment/extreme sports program 54321 on FOX Sports Network, followed by a job as an entertainment correspondent and host for the TV Guide Network.
“I enjoyed hosting, but I didn’t want to let go of music or my dream of making an album,” Caldwell says. She spent several years working with her mentor, hit-maker Diane Warren, and several people approached her about numerous music projects, but nothing concrete really panned out until mid-2008. That’s when Caldwell wrote several songs that finally hit the emotional notes she knew she was capable of. The strength of her songs, plus her powerhouse voice, landed Caldwell a deal with Vanguard Records, part of the Welk Music Group.
Shortly thereafter, Vanguard partnered with EMI Music Group to release Without Regret through Vanguard/Capitol. “My two main philosophies are that everything happens for a reason and never apologize for who you are,” Caldwell says. “I try to live by both each day. I wasn’t meant to make an album any sooner because it wasn’t the right time for me. Now I’m on the right path and I really feel, for the first time, like I am truly fearless.” Read more on Last.fm.
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