Caleb Caudle changed up everything on his upcoming new album Better Hurry Up — from which the track “Let’s Get,” featuring Willie Nelson harmonica player Mickey Raphael and Courtney Marie Andrews, is premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Feb. 20).
The album was recorded during a period of transition for the country singer-songwriter. Two years ago, his wife quit her job to go on the road with Caudle full-time, and the couple moved from his native North Carolina to Nashville. On Better Hurry Up, his eighth release, Caudle changed his recording practice as well, going for a live-off-the-floor method with producer John Jackson of the Jayhawks, holing up at Johnny Cash’s rustic Cash Cabin outside of Nashville with other guests such as Jayhawks frontman Gary Louris, John Paul White, Wilco’s Pat Sansone, Elizabeth Cook and Caudle’s own parents.
“I didn’t want to use headphones or anything like that,” Caudle, who played one of Cash’s vintage Martin acoustic guitars on the set, tells Billboard. “I got really into some of those newer Dylan records, where they’re just around one mic, it seems like. I was just interested in that process because I’d never done it that way. In the past we’d piece together the records, the more modern way of doing things. This time it was me in a room with the band, no click track. It just felt better.”
Cash Cabin, he adds, felt like the exact right place to get the sound he was looking for, too. “It’s a real heavy vibe out there — in a good way,” Caudle says. “That played into what we did. I feel like I write a little bit darker kind of songs, and [Cash Cabin] really played into that.”
That said, “Let’s Get,” led by Raphael’s harmonica, has a loping, soulful feel that’s lighter than its subject matter. “I feel like with most of my songs I let something bother me just long enough, and then I write about it,” Caudle explains. “I think with ‘Let’s Get’ I was going through the whole, ‘Why not me?’ [thing that] tons of self-doubt all artists seem to go through. I could wall in it, but the healthiest way to deal with it is to get it down on paper and say what I’m really feeling. It’s not tongue-in-cheek, necessarily, but you can laugh at yourself. And you realize it’s not just musicians; Everyone’s going through the same feelings in their lives.”
Better Hurry Up, due out April 3, also features Caudle’s first-ever co-write, a song called “Regular Riot” with hitmaker and Highwomen member Natalie Hemby. “I’ve tried it a few times before but never got to a place where I didn’t feel like we were forcing something,” says Caudle, who’s since written another song with John Carter Cash. “I still find a lot of pleasure in writing alone. That’s my outlet. That’s the thing that makes me feel better. But if the [other] songwriter’s right, I can definitely see writing a few more like this down the line. I don’t know if I would want to get in a room with four other people, but must me and one other person, I think we can get in a good place.”
Caudle begins his next round of touring on March 11, which will include showcases at South By Southwest. He’ll be playing in Europe as well as North America during the year.
Listen to “Let’s Get” below.