Caity Krone is a true renaissance woman. Her graceful, poetic lyrics hit hard and she’s a renowned photographer who captures that same wistfulness in her photos. Her new song “Villain” details a complicated relationship with a high school frenemy, and it feels so poignant and honest. We talked to her about the challenges she's faced lately, believing in your vision, and keeping promises to yourself.
Let's start with how you got started in music and what made you go, "This is what I have to do."
Caity: I always wanted to be a singer growing up, right? It was the first thing I ever wanted to do in life. I feel like at this age, are my dreams my dreams because I love doing them or because someone at a young age told me that I was good at it and just sort of went through with it? In high school, I was like, "Okay. I need to write my own music." It's the first thing I ever wanted to do, and it never really occurred to me to want to do anything else until photography, which is a meditative practice to go through music.
I feel like those go hand-in-hand, though.
Caity: It's amazing. I started photography to self-fund my music, where I would just take photos for my friend's releases, and it sort of spiraled into what it is. I took an internship at a nonprofit, a music photography nonprofit-- or women in photography nonprofit. And my first paid photography job with Billie Eilish when I was 20. When I photographed her, it was actually the night that I self-released my first song on Spotify. It sort of reinvigorated the dream when it mixed with photography. Because then, building up my releases, I would reach out to songwriters who would not take a session with me just as an artist because I was too small or whatever. And I would trade photos, like a photo session, for them for a writing session. So that was also really helpful. It's very symbiotic.
I love that, though. That's smart. So tell me about "Villain." Tell me about the story behind it, the inspo.
Caity: "Villain," I feel like, is a fun song because it feels, to me, very universal lyrically. I feel like it could be about a toxic relationship. It could be about a partner or whatever. For me, it's about this girl that I grew up with in school who was just foul to me growing up. She was so mean. She always made fun of me and made fun of my body specifically. I think that there were just some formative experiences because she was so tall and so thin and so mean. We were the perfect frenemies growing up, school frenemies. She ended up getting pretty famous, but not that famous. So I was just like, "Is everything that she said about me true because she's successful now?" And I mean, "Look at her. She's so thin. She's so stylish. She's so this, and she's successful, and I'm not." So there must be something wrong with me, and it must be what she said. So the song is about that person and that experience growing up.
I feel like that's something that there's not enough about, like friend breakups, frenemies, things like that because it's such a-- I went through a friend breakup a while ago. That was so difficult.
Caity: Because it feels like everything they said is-- it feels like proof of concept, I guess, or it feels like they were proven right. You're like, "Okay. Well, there must be something wrong with me. And it must be exactly what you said. And maybe I should starve myself." And it's like, "Okay. Well, how do we get-- how do we get over there?"
And you're like, "There's no karma in the world because you're supposed to suck, and I'm supposed to become super famous because you bullied me." That's how the movie works.
Caity: Because we were in this toxic dynamic, and I was not very nice to her and was not the person I wanted to be. The thing is, when you're in a toxic relationship, as much as you want to play the victim, you become someone that you aren't proud of. I run a little bit hot. So when I get upset, I am not super nice. I talk my shit and stuff like that. So that was a situation where it's like I was talking shit about her all the time. Granted, it was high school. But you do the things you're not proud of. It's like, "Okay. Well, I was supposed to be the perfect victim, and you're supposed to be the evil witch." This narrative really isn't working for me. The second lyric in the chorus is, "I could never be the better woman. You wouldn't let me." It's like, where's the equilibrium of making peace with the truth of the situation?
And tell me about the music video for it, too. What was the visual inspiration?
Caity: I was on a music video set shooting behind the scenes on a set for this artist. And the director and I were talking, and we were like, "We have to do a video sometime," and she was like, "Yeah, I have this concept I've been wanting to use for a long time of a woman mudfighting ring," and I was like, "Oh my God, I think I have a song for that," because it's a perfect way to encapsulate the way that women just suck to each other. I feel like you get the undertones of what it means. It's mudfighting and not actually beating each other up. It's an interesting concept because it's something that looks really violent and feels really violent but on the surface is not really like that, and sort of juxtaposing with that sort of doll-like imagery of the other setup. It's like these people who are supposed to care for each other and look out for each other are also tearing each other apart on the inside.
I like it when you get the vibe, but you can let people interpret it as their own thing. What has been kind of the biggest challenge for you in your career so far?
Caity: I feel like I have a really big issue with trusting myself. I feel like it-- I've been trying to do exercises that help me build trust with myself recently. Because I think, as a musician, it really comes across when you don't trust your instincts, and you don't trust your decisions. There are so many decisions that come with making a song. And when you feel like you don't trust yourself, there's a likelihood that your creative instincts get lost. There's a Phoebe Bridgers quote. I think it's in a Pitchfork article or a Pitchfork interview she did. She was like, "I was so scared of making people mad that I let people play a bad idea on my song." I just really want to trust myself and trust my own voice.
I feel like that's so hard, especially for women. I feel like it's hard when you have a vision, and you feel like everyone has input, and you have to be like, "No."
Caity: And it's like, "Thank God." I used to hate - not hate being independent - but you grow up, and you're like, "I want a manager. I want a label. I want this. I want that." And it's just a bunch of people telling you who to be at its worst. And so it's kind of nice to have space to figure yourself out. But then also, you're scared because you don't have any direction in that sense.
You're the only person that's in charge of you?
Caity: Exactly. So you don't trust yourself. And you look to other people, too, like, "Is this okay? Is this good? Is this good?" I think your artistry-- and you see it in photography, too. Your artistry is you, your decisions, your instincts, your choices. So I think that if you don't have trust in that, it just presents some issues. That's definitely the biggest thing that I want to work on.
And you said you had exercises you were doing to help?
Caity: Just make little promises to yourself. I've tried to just make a list at the top of every week, being like, "This is how I'm going to show up for myself this week." And a big touchpoint has actually been exercising. I have a really strange relationship with exercising. I'm doing it to change my body in this way, and if I don't do it enough or hard enough, then it's not worth it. And I'm like, "I'm just going to show up for myself and just do a little bit every day." Or however many times I say I'm going to do it that week. It's just something little like that.
That makes total sense. I like that because I feel like we don't work on relationships with ourselves. That's such a weird concept that I'm like, "Oh my God. I need to have a relationship with myself." It's like everyone says self-care, but it's like doing a sheet mask.
Caity: I was just going to say. It's more than a face mask. It's about actually showing up for yourself because showing up for yourself influences how you show up in the world. And I feel like I've got so much social anxiety and so many things that are just like, "Oh, my God. If you were just a little more chill with yourself, you'd be so much happier."
Once you realize no one cares, it's a very freeing thing. What would be your best advice for women in music for young women getting into this, or just young women in general?
Caity: For photography, make sure you know your photo rights. Don't sell off your rights. That's a big one for photos. Don't let people exploit you, and never sign a work-for-hire agreement.
For musicians, try stuff and put stuff out, and don't hold on to things and be precious because you think that you need to make the perfect thing. The time that you spend sitting on stuff and not doing anything is the time that other artists spend developing and getting better and honing in their craft.
Then as a person, just tell yourself that you're beautiful every day because I look back on my life and I'm like, "I thought that I was ugly for so much of my life," and it was wrong, and your youth is going to pass you by thinking that you're ugly and it's not fair because you're not.