Caitlin Quisenberry, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Cherry Creek North, is no stranger to the spotlight. She worked with Grammy-winning producer Robert Cutarella on a four-song demo when she was fourteen. The following year, she won an American Idol Golden Ticket to Hollywood. And in 2013, she sang to a sold-out crowd at the Miss Colorado Pageant at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, where she took home the title Miss Colorado Outstanding Teen.
She also performed abroad with a choir at the Prague Choral Festival in the Czech Republic. Recently, she was named Nashville’s Off the Row Breakout Artist of the Year for 2020. And she has acting cred, too: She starred in a national Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes commercial and two episodes of the ABC hit sitcom television series Black-ish.
Singing and acting has always been a part of her life, says Quisenberry, who started taking piano lessons when she was three.
“In kindergarten, I used to belt out Little Mermaid songs and Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the Titanic soundtrack," she says. "I even used to make myself have a vibrato when I didn’t have one yet.” Ever since she performed “The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow,” from the musical Annie, in her elementary school’s talent show, she longed to be a singer and actor.
Quisenberry attended Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where she minored in vocal performance — focusing on classical music and sacred a cappella music. She also studied voice in Lausanne, Switzerland, for four months with renowned opera singer and vocal teacher Karine Mkrtchyan.
“Having been professionally trained, coupled with performing on stage and on television, has given me a solid foundation to pursue my passion in music,” says Quisenberry.
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She's put that passion into her debut single, “Blue,” which marks the singer's first foray into the country-music genre as a professional recording artist.
Inspired by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt, and blessed with a soaring, pure-sounding voice, Quisenberry exudes an Alison Krauss-like quality, heard in the chorus of the forlorn, melancholy “Blue.”
“The song is a really beautiful piece, and it’s also a really sad piece, which you can hear with the violin and instruments on it,” she says.
“Blue” was co-written by songwriter Billy Falcon, the talent behind more than fifty songs recorded by the rock band Bon Jovi, and Nashville songwriter, producer and talent scout Erin McCaffrey. The song was initially written from McCaffrey’s own experience of struggling to make it in Los Angeles, where she was told she was too country for the pop-rock market and too pop for Nashville country.
It was a dark period in McCaffrey’s life when she wrote the emotional, cinematic song, says Quisenberry. “I like ballads with beautiful melodies that are raw and drawn out, so with ‘Blue,’ I was immediately taken with it. And I loved the chorus — "Blue...a palette’s saddest hue" — because I’m a painter, too. So the song is something I would have written.”
"Blue" innocently starts off referencing spring and a new budding relationship. “I remember green, the grass, the scent of spring/There was hope in my heart/I believed in everything.” The lyrics morph into a golden period of sweet innocence before mentioning the color “red” — signaling there’s a fire in the singer's soul as her love deepens. But as all good things can come to an end, things cool down and the color of mourning is highlighted in the words “Then all I saw was…blue/A mournful sound, the palette’s saddest hue.”
Recorded in Nashville, at Off the Row Studio, “Blue” was produced using only live instrumentation from A-list musicians (Mark Prentice, Danny Parks and Matthew Bubel), some of whom are Grammy winners. Using the soundboard that was once housed at the Grand Ole Opry, producer P.T. Houston was able to fashion a blend of vintage and modern sound to the song.
The storyboard for the music video, released this Valentine’s Day, was written by Quisenberry. “I interpreted the storyline for ‘Blue’ as a romantic one, where the character has many flashbacks, is stuck watching old movies of her with her love interest, and can’t stop yearning for that lost love.”
Shot in Colorado in two days — one day in Elizabeth for outdoors scenes with a horse, and the next day indoors at the Flying Horse Ranch, a popular wedding venue in Larkspur — the red-headed singer hired her longtime friend, photographer and videographer Monico Candelaria to direct and produce the video.
“I have known Monico since I was eleven years old, when he did my head shot for my modeling card," says Quisenberry. "Since then, we have worked together a lot — from many photo shoots to putting me on tape for acting auditions to send to Los Angeles.”
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Keeping within budget for the video shoot was a struggle, but ultimately, it panned out, explains Quisenberry. “It’s interesting, because I decided to ask the ranch if they would let me film for free, because I have done some wedding-dress modeling at that location in the past. They told me to send my song, and if they liked it and it was a fit with their image, I could use it. They agreed and let me use this beautiful 14,000-square-foot mansion and rustic barn.”
“I was so honored and humbled that this amazing painter created this beautiful artwork for me," she says. "He completely blew me away when he first showed it to me.”
Things seem to be moving in the right direction for Quisenberry, and with the launch of her single and video complete, she is already working on fresh material with McCaffrey and Houston, and she has three more singles ready to drop in the next couple of months.