Pop’s most brutally honest rising star talks TikTok fame, rewriting her music and quitting the Co-op
Caity Baser has a lot of emotions surrounding the release of her last EP. “I was buzzing, nervous, happy… Everything,” she says. “I felt everything, all at once. It was amazing.”
The 20-year-old singer-songwriter is buoyant, talkative, quickly switching topics mid-sentence and pausing to ask if I’ve listened to this Katy Perry song, how old I am, if spell my name like hers. Her music is known for being brutally and sometimes hilariously frank, and it’s clear within a couple of minutes of talking to her that her open book persona is completely, genuinely her.
“I remember making them and being like ‘Oh my god, these are sick!’” she says, speaking about the songs on Thanks For Nothing, See You Never. “Now they’re all together in a little package.” She’s excited to take them on her tour and hear her passionate fanbase scream every lyric back at her. Like many artists who had their break on TikTok, Baser’s listenership is a close-knit community with whom she is on friendly terms. It’s this community that empowers her to fill her music with all the details of her personal life.
“It’s not scary, because I feel like they’re all my friends now,” she says. “I feel I’ve built a base of closeness. Me just telling them what’s happened, start to finish, is just another way for them to feel close to me. Here’s what I was wearing. Here’s how I smelt. Here’s what I ate…”
We caught up with Baser ahead of her return to Reading & Leeds festival to discuss her journey in the music industry so far.
What first drew you to songwriting?
Not being able to deal with my emotions. Like, having no one to talk to. Then I was just like, “Hm, I’ll just talk to myself about me…”
You get straight to the point in your lyrics – you tend to be very direct in what you’re saying.
Yeah, I think it’s because I spent so much of my life beating around the bush and sugar coating everything. I was afraid I was gonna hurt someone’s feelings, afraid to say how I actually felt. Now that I have a platform of people supporting me and telling me that they want me to tell them how I feel, why wouldn’t I do it? So I’m just like, “Here’s what happened, here’s how I feel about it!”
When you first started opening up like that online, was it intimidating?
Yeah, it was, because when I first started doing music, I had never done music properly before. And I was lucky enough to have the most warm, loving welcome into the music industry ever. I worked with these boys called Future Cut, who are like dads, and they’re so cool. I’m literally their little kid now.
I remember making my first EP and being like, “Oh, my God, can I say that?” And they were like, “Yes, Caity! F*ck it!” At the start I was definitely a bit reluctant. Because I was still finding out who I was. But now I know who I am. And people know who I am. And I feel like I just have a really safe space to be myself, which is really cool.
Imagine all the emotions you get when you’re 20. And then on top of that, I’m doing my dream, meeting all these crazy people. I have so much to talk about all the time.
From the beginning, were you ready to jump into music with both feet?
100%, from the get-go. It was like, quit my job, let’s dive in. Straight away, headfirst. Just see what happens.
Where were you working?
I was working at a pub, I worked there since I was 15. And then I quit the pub because I hated it, and I got a job at the Co-op and I was gassed. I was like, “Yay, I’m going to save up.” I had a mate that had a studio and I was going to pay him so we could start making music or whatever. So I had my first shift at the Co-op, and then I posted that TikTok that blew up, went to London, met my manager, met Future Cut, had my second shift and cried the whole way through it. Because I was like, how have I just gone from everything I’ve ever wanted to back to what I thought my life was gonna be forever? And then I cried. My mum picked me up and I was like, “Mum, I’m quitting.” I went in the next day to the boss that I hadn’t even met yet and was like, “hey, I’m quitting. I’m gonna be a pop star”.
I just think that once you get that opportunity it doesn’t come around again. I just had to dive in, even if it was gonna be a bit difficult. Luckily, I had a support system around me to get me through it. And now I’m fine because, you know… success.
Do you think he believed you when you said you were going be a pop star?
Probably not. He literally looked at me like, “who are you?” And I was like, “literally no one. No one. I’ve worked here twice”.
You blew up on TikTok just before everyone worked out that TikTok was where you wanted to be as a new artist. What drew you to the platform?
I think it’s just because it was lockdown and there was nothing else to do. I was umming and ahhing for ages over whether I should post a singing video. And it was actually my brother and my dad who were like, “if you post the video, and it doesn’t blow up, we’ll give you 50 quid”.
So it was win-win. I posted it. And then it just went f*cking crazy. I remember posting it, cringing myself out, almost deleting it, turning my phone off, turning it back on, having all these new followers, all these comments and people just being like, this is amazing, I feel this, I relate to this”. I was like, “What?!”
There have been a few occasions where you’ve released a song and then released a new version afterwards – like when you released ‘Friendly Sex’ and then released an “angrier” version. What was the thinking behind that?
Because there’s two sides to every story. When I made ‘Friendly Sex’, I was like, “oh, my God, I’m falling for this person, so I don’t think we should have friendly sex anymore because I love you”. And then I realised he was just a massive d*ck. I want to keep the relationship I have with my fans where they feel close to me, and instead of just keeping those feelings to myself, I want to be like, “Look, here’s what’s happened. He’s a prick and I’m angry now”. Because as a listener, it’s nice to hear that everyone else goes through that sort of stuff as well. I think it’s kind of nice to be validated by a stranger.
You did a similar thing with ‘X&Y’, where you released a ‘What I Didn’t Say’ version. Was that a similar situation?
Yeah, it was. My response to heartbreak is just anger. But then, deep down, I have a heart of gold. And I love love. And I was just like, you know what, I was quite sad, actually, in that situation. And again, I want people to see another side of me because I don’t think many people have seen that side of my vulnerability, because I’m very honest and open, but I’m more comfortable being loud and angry and bold. When it comes to being emotional, and sensitive, I’m a bit like… bleh. I thought I would just give it a go. And people liked it. So, slay.
Was it difficult to strip it back and show that more vulnerable side?
No, it was so easy. It was just a conversation with the producers – every single studio session is a therapy session, which is why I’m so lucky that it’s my job because a lot of sh*t goes on and I don’t like talking to many people. But we kind of just had a conversation and just turned that into lyrics. It was nice to express myself in a different way that I’m not as comfortable in. It was a step out my comfort zone, but now I’m comfortable in it. It’s cool to be sad when you’re in love.
Is that generally the writing process – you go in and you step up to the mic and you have a chat?
It depends. Some days I’ll make a song in my room or get an idea and then go into the studio with that idea. Other times, the producers will have an idea and we’ll go off that. Also, I have a list of song ideas and concepts on my phone. That’s the title of the note. And it’s like, loads of phrases and words that people have said where I’ve gone, ‘Ooh, that’s cool’. And then I’m when I’m having a block day, I’ll go on that list and be like, ‘Oh, this could be cool’. It’s just different all the time. But most of the time it’s about my experience and that’s why it’s easy to tell the story because I’ve gone through it.
Which artists are inspiring you at the moment?
I love SZA more than life itself. Have you listened to her new album? Oh my god, it’s amazing. When it came out, I had a bath for about four hours. Sorry if that’s TMI. I was literally just laid there, listening to her whole album on full blast. My dad knocked on the door like, “are you okay Caity?”. I love her so much. I also love Piri – she’s my mate and I just love seeing my mates slay. I love FLO at the moment, they’re so cool. I love Lizzo, Doja Cat, Charli XCX. I just like seeing women, especially girls, just f*cking making their mark.
When you were younger, what was the live performance or album that made you think, “I’d like to do this”?
When I was seven or eight, I went to a Katy Perry concert. My mom bought me tickets for Christmas, I think, or maybe I did something good. I can’t remember. And it was at the O2. I’d never been to London before, never done anything as big as that. I went dressed as Katy Perry, obviously. And we were at, like, the very, very top. I just found it mad how this one person made all these people feel connected, like we were friends, and like we’d all been through the same thing. I was seven years old, crying about heartbreak! The power that she had in the room… everyone was watching her. Everyone was doing what she said, listening to what she said. I thought, “f*ck me, that is so cool. All these strangers, and you’re like their best mate, and you’ve helped them through their hardest times. How does that even make sense?”
It was this one moment in her set too… She was playing ‘Pearl’, from her very first album – and she floats out into the crowd on a cloud, and I remember just being like, “This is amazing. I have to do this”. And then I went home and just envisioned all the things that I could do. From that point on, any gig I went to, I was just like, “that’s going to be me”. That’s going to be me. I’m going to be that. Make everyone lose their minds and help everyone with my music. It’s just such an amazing feeling.
You’ve had a taste of some of those massive shows already – you’ve already played Reading and Leeds, where you’re headed again this August. What did that feel like?
God, it is literally the best feeling in the whole entire world. Going from a tiny little box room and taking it to a stage. At Reading and Leeds I thought nobody was going to turn up. I never get nervous, but I was sh*tting myself before Reading. I opened the curtains and there were like, thousands of people there, and they were all screaming my songs at me and I was like, “What are you all doing here? Joy Crookes is playing!”.
It was just mad. Then at my shows where people have come to see me… I can’t get my head around it; that people pay to come and see me and spend the evening with me. I’m in cities that I’ve never been to, and people know who I am and want to come and see me. What? Shut up. It’s crazy.
What are your main goals for the next few years?
World domination. CB take over. I want everyone to know who I am. I want to help people just like Katy Perry helped me. I want to connect with everyone, make loads of different sorts of music, travel the world, win a Brit, win a Grammy, kiss Jack Harlow. And learn to drive.