These are “bubbly” times for Colbie Caillat. The 24-year-old California singer-songwriter’s sophomore album, “Breakthrough,” debuted at No. 1 in August, following up the double-platinum success of her 2007 debut “Coco” and its hits “Bubbly” and “Realize.” She’s also scored hit
duets with Jason Mraz (“Lucky”) and Taylor Swift (“Breathe”) and is one of the artists chosen
to contribute to the Special Olympics fundraiser “A Very Special Christmas Vol. 7,” which comes out Nov. 24.
And while she’s been around plenty of success — her father, producer and engineer Ken Caillat, won a Grammy Award for his work on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” — Caillat is a bit overwhelmed to be having some of her own.
“Y’know, I can’t believe it,” says Caillat, who despite being a “lazy, laidback teenager” managed to parlay MySpace popularity into a recording career. “You always hope for the best, but you never actually think it’s going to happen.”
That, she adds, includes having a No. 1 album.
“I never want to get my hopes up,” she explains, “so when everyone kept saying, ‘ ’s gonna be No. 1. It looks like it,’ I just kept trying to ignore it, because I didn’t want it to not happen.
“Really, ’m just so everyone who helped me along the way and to all the people who just went out and bought (‘Breakthrough’) because they just wanted to hear what I had to say.”
And on “Breakthrough,” she feels they’re hearing a different, or at least more mature, artist than the teen-turning-20s aspirant that Caillat was when she wrote and recorded the material on “Coco.”
“I’ve grown up a lot over the past two years,” she says. “I know more about myself and what I like musically and production styles and different writing techniques. I’ve learned a lot about just not caring what people think — wondering, but not worrying about it. I know if I go with my gut, it’s going to be right.
“So I knew exactly what I wanted for the record, and I was able to express that to my producers and the people I wrote songs with. To be able to do it the way I wanted and have it actually turn out the way I wanted feels like such an accomplishment.”
She started working on the new album after spending 18 months on the road supporting “Coco.” But Caillat did manage to mix her “business” and pleasure; she turned a family trip to Hawaii into a three-week working vacation with co-writers Kara Dioguardi and Jason Reeves tagging along.
“There’s no better way of writing songs than being around good people in a beautiful location and getting to really tap into your mind or whatever you’re going through at the time,” Caillat says. “We had this house on the beach and we would go on jogs every morning and do Pilates and make smoothies and have bonfires and barbecues and go swimming and get tan ...
“And in the midst of all that, we would be playing guitar and piano and writing songs and creating these beautiful melodies together.”
Caillat’s goal for “Breakthrough” was to make it “very diverse. I wanted different styles of music. Some of the songs are reggae. Some are acoustic pop. Some are electric, or very stripped vocals with just piano.” She wound up with more than 40 contenders, of which she recorded 25 with producers such as Mikal Blue, Reeves (who duets on “Droplets”), Greg Wells and her father, who Caillat was able to work with in a more intensive way than she did on “Coco,” which he executive produced.
“This was actually sitting in a studio with my dad for four months,” Caillat says, “and of course he was in Hawaii with us, so he was already brewing up these production ideas for the songs. He also knows the kind of music I like, so it was easier for us in that situation.
“But we were learning from each other, too, and we compromised. Like, he wanted violin and cello on one of my songs, and I was like, ‘That is not my kind of music ... ,’ but he taught me that by adding these little colors in the back of the mix, it adds these beautiful little sounds to make those songs different than the others.
“And, of course, I had to put my foot down on other songs. But it worked. We worked really well together.”
Lyrically, “Breakthrough,” like “Coco,” deals mostly with matters of the heart — and, according to Caillat, features many songs written about a former boyfriend and the couple’s on-again, offagain relationship.
“He was my first love,” she says, “and I went on tour right when we started our relationship, so it was always up and down. I would go on tour and break up with him, and I’d come home and we’d get back together ... We’ve realized we aren’t meant to be together, and that whole game of back-and-forth is really unhealthy.”
Most of the songs on “Breakthrough” deal with relationships of one form or another — “You can always relate to that,” she says — and while Caillat is currently dating someone, her primary focus is on “Breakthrough.” Touring will take her well into 2010, and she’s recorded some other holiday material that she expects will surface in the near future.
“The crazy schedule is the biggest surprise in this (career),” Caillat says. “Honestly, sometimes we’ll fly every day, if not twice a day, in different countries. I’ll wake up at 4 in the morning and have to do hair and makeup, and then I have to do radio interviews and performances, and then TV performances, and I’ll do phone interviews for a couple hours on the drive somewhere. And then I have sound check and have to get ready for the show, I play the show and then I have a meet-and-greet after the show ... and then the whole next day starts over.
“There is no preparation for that. You just have to go along and get used to it ... and make sure you still have time to make music, which is the most important thing.”
Colbie Caillat and Howie Day perform Friday (Oct. 9) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $28. Call (248) 399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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