Touring behind her recently released, critically acclaimed album Mint Condition, Americana singer-songwriter Caroline Spence and her band played the Pearl Street Warehouse recently.
Acoustic guitar in hand, Caroline opened on June 2 with a cut from the new album — “Long Haul.” After the song, she told the audience how excited the boys in the band were to bring the gum balls from the green room with them onstage, despite her warnings that they’d lose their flavor by the second song.
Caroline wrote “Hotel Amarillo” after a long day of driving from Colorado to Amarillo, Texas. Caroline, who describes herself as “an introvert who performs,” risked ordering Chinese food in West Texas and sat down to watch HGTV. She also had wine brought to her, and got a tipsy, in which condition she recorded the majority of the song on her phone that night.
Stream Mint Condition by Caroline Spence on Spotify:
Switching to an electric guitar, Caroline shared a story about the rather tall guitarist in her band. (“He makes me look 5’4”,” she said. “I’m not.” I’d never seen someone have to duck to go through the stage door at Pearl Street previously.) Apparently, they had a running gag in which he said he had tech’ed for Whitesnake. Recently, however, they played a private party, and the cousin of one of the guys in Whitesnake was there. When the cousin asked Caroline’s guitarist if he knew such-and-such from the band, the whole gag fell apart.
Caroline said that she felt like the next song she played was the loneliest song on the album, but it’s turned out to be a lot of people’s favorite. She described “Wait on the Wine” as her version of a power ballad, and told the audience that she couldn’t sing when she wrote it.
After “Wait on the Wine,” the band left the stage, and Caroline stayed to do some solo work. She was checking to see “if I can still do this job,” and she more than proved that she can. “All the Beds I’ve Made,” she told the audience, had just passed 10 million spins on Spotify, and she joked about that meaning that she still hadn’t made more than a pittance off the song. Clare Bowen, an actress on the Nashville, is recording it.
While “Lay It on the Line” came out a few years ago, “Sit Here and Love Me” appeared on Caroline’s new album. She told the audience that song is a response to a relationship with a very sunny person who always wants to fix things. I found this song very relatable; I can’t discuss anything with anyone in my family without them either trying to fix to my life or telling me they’re not sure why I’m talking to them.
The band came back and Caroline introduced “Softball.” As a little kid, Caroline got excited about t-ball and wanted to become a pro baseball player. But then she was told that only boys could play baseball and girls played softball. Since she couldn’t be like her heroes, she lost interest, and didn’t even give softball a try. She said that we need to stop stifling girls’ opportunities and frustrating their dreams.
After “Whose Gonna Make My Mistakes,” Caroline closed her set with the crown jewel of Mint Condition, the title cut, released in May via Rounder Records. She wrote it when she was 23, when she’d been in Nashville for just a year. She was listening to Old Yellow Moon, a collaboration between Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Her goal, she said, was to write something good enough for Emmylou to sing, and she did. When she was recording the album, she decided to go for it, and she asked Emmylou to sing it with her as a duet.
For her encore, Caroline came back out alone with her electric guitar. The Charlottesville native talked about going to see Mary Chapin Carpenter at Wolf Trap, “a very Virginia thing to do.” Through Carpenter’s albums, Caroline discovered Lucinda Williams, which “broke my brain.” Mine, too. Caroline sent the crowd home with an excellent cover of “Passionate Kisses.”