Colbie Caillat made a name for herself with the pop hits “Bubbly,” “Realize” and the Grammy-winning “Lucky” in the mid-aughts. Now the singer-songwriter is going a little bit country ― and she’s taking a few people she knows well along for the ride.
On Friday, Caillat releases “Canyons,” her debut album with Gone West, a four-piece act with strong songwriting chops and powerful harmonies to back them up.
“I always wanted to be in a band and I thought this was a perfect opportunity,” Caillat told HuffPost in a Build Series segment back in March.
Gone West features Caillat and her ex-partner, Justin Kawika Young, who’s had a successful career in Hawaii. Gone West is also made of Grammy-winning songwriter Jason Reeves and his partner, Nelly Joy.
And they have a lot of history together, to say the least.
Caillat and Reeves co-wrote her debut album, “Coco,” in 2005 ― and they’ve been writing together ever since. During that time, Caillat became acquainted and got romantically involved with Young, who played guitar on her tours.
“I took a little break from my solo career. We moved to Nashville and wanted to try living somewhere new. Jason and Nelly were the reason we moved there. We got to meet so many musician friends and just get to know a new city, which was incredible,” Caillat said. “I think it was just this natural progression from the past 14 years of knowing each other and working together and then living in Nashville.”
Those creative juices started flowing, and soon they wrote the songs that would end up on Gone West’s 2019 EP and this new full-length debut.
“We all loved it so much. Just hearing our voices back on tape together, we kind of knew this was something special and we should try running with it,” Joy said.
“We’re all used to working together as couples, so it’s natural,” Young said. “We started working together for many years before we fell in love, and the same for them.”
One of the standout tracks on the new album is “What Could’ve Been,” a harmony-filled song about a past love. Although all four members of Gone West were in happy relationships at the time they wrote songs for the album, they didn’t have to dig too deep to channel heartbreak.
“We’ve all experienced that sense of regret when you look back at the relationship,” Young said. “Man, if I just would’ve said this or done this or changed this, maybe things could have been different.”
Since getting together as a group, Gone West has already gained some traction. They gave their first ever live performance onstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, opened for George Strait in Las Vegas and have played shows around the country. And so far, working with friends and romantic partners has only had its upsides.
“It would actually be hard not to be with your person when you’re traveling this much and you’re putting so much time and energy into something,” Young said. “Making music together is an intimate thing. And being creative, you’re with people you’re close to and feel safe being vulnerable with.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Caillat and Young are currently together. They recently split up after a 10-year relationship, but remain a part of Gone West.