Started in 2018, the Indigenous Artist Spotlight series is intended to foster greater awareness and understanding of the strength and diversity of Indigenous art available in Ontario and beyond. Find all of our past Spotlight interviews here. This month, we spoke with singer, songwriter, and producer Caitlin Goulet.
Caitlin Goulet’s voice is vulnerable, confident and emotionally charged. The Métis singer was described by CBC Reclaimed host Jarrett Martineau as “One of my favourite new artists from the West Coast underground… Caitlin Goulet writes songs that are like dreams you can get lost in.” Her album “Inside Thoughts” explores the inner world of a sad-girl gone bad-girl who’s bossing up and healing. Raw, conversational, and unapologetic lyrics are channeled through a dynamic and magnetic voice. Her alt-pop, dream-pop, and alternative R&B stylings are likened to Banks, FKA Twigs, Solange, Tei Shi, Lana Del Rey, Tove Lo, Aaliyah, and Brandy.
Caitlin has performed at many festivals, intimate, and mid-sized venues throughout Western Canada and on the West Coast of Turtle Island. She also loves to perform at house concerts. Prior to focusing on music, she studied and performed theatre, graduating from the Randolph College for Performing Arts in Toronto. She has recently started learning music production and records music at home with her husband while they balance parenthood and full-time jobs. After spending a few years in Vancouver, she is reconnecting with her hometown, Calgary. Caitlin Goulet looks forward to more performances and releases in 2023.
Transcription of the Interview:
Sydney Yang: Hello, everyone. My name is Sydney. My pronouns are she/her and I am the Digital Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Ontario Presents. I am an Asian woman with long hair and bangs and I am currently wearing a purple sweater. For this month’s Indigenous Artist Spotlight, I am joined today by a truly talented and phenomenal Métis musician, Caitlin Goulet. Before I begin the interview, I just want to remind everyone that captions are available for this interview and you can find the transcript for this interview on our website, link in the description box below. Caitlin, welcome, and thank you so much for joining us today for our Indigenous Artist Spotlight.
Caitlin Goulet: Thanks so much for making time for me. I’m really excited to be here talking about music. I haven’t done this a little bit. So it’s a great way to start off the new year.
Sydney Yang: Perfect. Amazing. So quick, a little bit of an icebreaker. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Caitlin Goulet: So I was born and raised in Alberta. I’m Métis, my background is Cree, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, and on the settlers’ side of my family, I’m Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and French, so a very mixed bag. And I’m a theatre kid and a diagnosed neurodivergent who is learning how to navigate life as a parent. And working artist as well. And yeah, I’ve lived in Calgary, I’ve lived in Toronto, Vancouver and Kamloops as well, so a lot of different, very different places. And my new album, I announced this in 2021, but it’s still new because COVID made everything, you know, kind of pause, the album Inside Thoughts is out everywhere. And I’m really honoured if anyone would like to give it a listen.
Sydney Yang: Amazing. All right. So for our next question, in an interview with Stir, you list a number of artists, including Mariah Carey, The Doors, Vancouver’s Men’s Chorus, Janis Joplin and Spice Girls as inspirations. Was there something in particular about these artists that drew you into their music and how their songs shaped your identity and your artistry as a musician?
Caitlin Goulet: Yeah, I mean, a lot of it, especially as a child, a lot of the music that I listened to was kind of introduced to me by the adults in my life. So, Mariah Carey was definitely my very first inspiration as a singer, as an artist. A number of adults in my life had her albums, and I remember when her first album came out and we listened to it all the time and I was just, you know, she’s just so talented as a singer.She’s doing a lot of her own writing, and aside from doing like the really fun, energizing bops that she has, she also has some really inspirational songs like Hero, Stories, and There’s Got To Be a Way from her very first album. So between her and Janet Jackson, those were my two, I guess, like first inspirations and idols as a little girl to them. Yeah, my uncle sang in the Vancouver’s Men’s Chorus, so a lot of family members had the cassette and listened to it all the time. And I kind of I don’t know if that’s why I became a bit of a choir nerd, but I definitely got into choir a lot as a kid and even into theatre school and even as an adult. This magical experience of creating sounds with a number of other people, and feeling the soundwaves hit your body and being a part of that is something that I miss. But it’s a big part of how I make music too and I’m really into harmony.
Caitlin Goulet: I got into The Doors because my stepdad, actually. I was really into this band, it’s a Canadian band called the Tea Party that we saw at the CocaCola stage at the Stampede if anyone in Calgary is checking this out. And my stepdad was like, “That guy was just like Jim Morrison.” He was talking about Jeff Martin, the lead singer, and I was like “who’s that?” cuz, you know, I’ve never heard of them before. And I started listening to it and I kind of got into this classic rock muse phase. I don’t really know how I came across Janis Joplin, but that kind of all happened around the same time. And obviously, Janis Joplin is a hugely influential female artist who’s a trailblazer in her own right. And yeah, I just really appreciated the rawness of her singing and her writing. So yeah, that gave me a whole different type of influence, I guess when I grew up listening to a lot of pop and dance music with my mom and then getting into classic rock, getting into jazz, I got into a lot of different stuff.
Caitlin Goulet: As I got older, I got to more like, hip hop, more jazz of course, and electronic music. Yeah, so I just got exposed to a lot of different stuff. And like I said, a lot of it was, you know, from the adults in my life. And then as I started to make my own music, I really got into like female artists, into more bunch of bands like the Spice Girls. I know you mentioned when you were talking earlier, that was kind of one of the first bands that I got into them, and No Doubt, I was buying my own music. I was like a pre-teen, like, you know, 11, 12, 13. And I really wanted to make sure I was supporting female artists. I don’t know why I was so political at that age, but it was important to me. And I also felt like seeing those women doing their thing in a male-dominated industry, and especially women who were in genres that are very male-dominated, I think, gave me the fortitude to just keep going, you know, through all the rejections through like some of the sexism that women still encounter in the music industry. I think seeing that other people found a way to make their own path, it really inspired me to do the same. That was long-winded, but a lot of my stories are.
Sydney Yang: Wow, that was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that. Amazing. I kind of want to circle back to your album, Inside Thoughts. You describe your artistic process as envisioning songs, as movie scenes or montages, and trying to figure out what that picture would sound like as a sonic landscape. Can you describe some of the imagery you use as inspiration for the songs in your album Inside Thoughts, and what was the process like of translating images into sound?
Caitlin Goulet: Yeah, I mean, it was it was a very interesting process because I was working with Van Ber, and that’s V-A-N B-E-R, who is really artistic and creative with a lot of synth sounds, and allowed me to really explore that and indulge in that creative process. At the time, I was working in bars, I was trying to do that artist hustle. I was living the single life and so I kind of just from what I knew, like when you’re out in the streets of Vancouver and there’s neon lights reflecting off of wet pavement, or like the sound of cars passing and you’re in the backseat of a taxi and the windows down, it’s just really specific. They call it sense memory, it’s like an acting method. A lot of actors use that, I guess. I just kind of like envisioned those specific things and like colours or like specifically, like an imaginary character walking, oh my god, I just spilled my coffee, of course I did. Imagining a character walking up the street and like, what would they be wearing? Like, are they, is she wearing like, fishnets, or ripped jeans or shimmering heels or like, what’s this?
Caitlin Goulet: Where is this character coming from in the moment that she’s singing this song? Where she going? And who is she talking to? And it’s just a lot of that does come from like my acting background, which I don’t do as much anymore, but it just helped me to sort of like create this picture. And yeah, like some of it is sounds that you would hear, I guess when you’re in those settings.
And some of it is like, what, what does twinkling lights look like or what does that sound like in a sense? And I think when people listen to it, they’ll be like “Oh”, like, maybe if they if they hear this, maybe they might notice that, maybe they might not. You know, people will interpret music the way they interpret it. But that’s just kind of where I drew a lot of my inspiration from in terms of like, the sonic landscape and the feel that I was going for.
That’s amazing. Yeah, I definitely took a listen to Inside Thoughts actually right before this interview and I definitely got that whole like twinkling lights. It was a very kind of dreamy, almost ethereal landscape it creates. That was really cool, to kind of hear what was kind of the process behind creating that landscape. For our next question: in addition to working your day job, you’re a singer, songwriter, performer and producer. How do you achieve a work-life balance while giving yourself time to work on your craft?
Caitlin Goulet: Oh, that’s a great question, and I’m still figuring that out, especially since COVID, I’ve had a lot of big changes. I’m a mom now and, it’s just so different now, sometimes it’s just like, okay, taking a break and doing like you need to do, to allow your body and your spirit to recover, and be there for your family. And sometimes it’s like, okay, I’m ready to do this again. And then you push yourself too hard and you burn out and then you have to go, okay, let’s readjust this now. I think I just discovered what my limit is here. A lot of it is definitely help and support, in terms of life, I’ve gotten some help and support from my family with child care when there are shows that I can’t have my daughter at. You know, when I have the resources, outsourcing tasks that other people are going to do more efficiently whenever that opportunity comes, it’s a really, really big relief, I think, better boundaries than ever, I would say. Like, especially with my time, and understanding the value of my time and how can I most efficiently do what I need to do to be the reliable artist I want to be and to create the level of craft and artistry that I want to create? A really big thing, honestly, has been, it’s been a lot more important to me to get paid. Obviously, everyone wants to get paid, but when you’re a parent and you’re spending time away from your family, it really needs to be worth it and I think that’s been a really pleasant surprise for me, to have actually like been more of a sustainable artist who’s making more money since I’ve been a parent because it forced me to do that.
Caitlin Goulet: And then last but definitely not least, I cannot stress enough, the amount of support that I get from my husband and father of my child. Like, since day one, even before we were parents, he’s been really supportive of my career. And, you know, we started working on music production together. Like he just picked it up and started learning it during COVID because he wanted to support me, wanted me to be able fan out, let me do what I did in terms of like just being a really good dad and helping out with our daughter, not helping, no, parenting our daughter, cuz we’re parents. But like, just being a really good dad, that I knew who was dependable, you know, my child is always in the hands of him, and helping me make things work, you know, for me to practice or whatever, I have to give a shout out to, like, the single moms out there because I don’t know how you do it. I just, I can’t stress enough how important it is just to have, like, a great support system, have a good home life when life is like gonna influence everything and your career is so impacted by having a good home life, having boundaries, asking for what you’re worth, and then I will also say like, I do have a lot of the growth and what built what I have now before I had a child. So I’m in a position where I can ask for, you know, appropriate pay. I’ve done all that stuff. So I think for a lot of artists out there, a lot of people are thinking about, like, they want eventually have a family, I’d say, just do your best to make sure that, you build something that you can find is like, I don’t want to say coast off it, because I don’t think I’m going to coast, but right now, that’s, you know, I’m definitely running off with previous achievements. And if you do that, then make sure that you’re in a space where you’re supported and you have a good family life, it’s a lot easier. It’s definitely challenging. You know, you got to be honest with yourself.
Sydney Yang: Amazing. All right, for your next question, you mentioned in an earlier conversation that being an artist with mixed indigenous heritage is very nuanced. Can you share a little bit about your experiences as an artist with mixed Indigenous heritage and how you navigate cultural identity?
Caitlin Goulet: Yeah, absolutely. So like I’ve been really fortunate that my grandparents, as they got older, became a lot more motivated to help our family understand more about our family history. An ancestor of mine, my great grandfather, was, he went residential school and he did get out, but, obviously for generations in our family, we never really talked about our identity because people were afraid of what would happen to them and how they would be treated, when they were living in, you know, like the cities, and away from their culture and their community. And so, yeah, my grandparents really got very involved in Métis activism. They write books about it and help educate our family. But, it is, it is very new to us, because like I want, I very much want to connect with my culture and talk about it, and honour my culture, and connect with other people. And at the same time, I always want to be so aware of my white privilege and, um, respectful of people of colour in all spaces, and just mindful of, like, how I’m showing up and taking up space and appropriately. At the same time, understanding the importance of our stories too, you know? We are Indigenous. And I think that it’s important to pass that on and to not just disappear because, honestly, that’s what some people want us to do. They want us to disappear. I had a lot of non-Indigenous people challenge me about race and say something to me, and I find that really interesting, that they feel like they want to validate my identity. It’s almost like, is it just because you don’t want, are you trying to make people disappear? Are you trying to, you know, I don’t want to go too far into it. It’s like, I’m done with it. But yeah, it’s, it’s definitely like an emotional thing for me. That was something that I think was like a lifelong journey, trying to reconnect and finding ways that I connect and then I can share that with my family and with the child. Um, she, she’s got a really diverse cultural backgrounds. So yeah, just trying to be respectful as possible, and learn much as possible. So, you know, find confidence in what makes me Métis.
Sydney Yang: That was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that.
Caitlin Goulet: Yeah.
Sydney Yang: So my final question for you. Is there anything else that you want to share? Do you have any upcoming work that we should all keep an eye out for?
Caitlin Goulet: I’m just getting back into doing some more live shows for 2023. I’ve got a couple coming up in Calgary and one is, I literally just got the offer letter this morning. So. So subscribe to my newsletters so I can tell you more about it. But it’s the RAW Artists Showcase called Prototype on January 15th. I will be looking to release some singles throughout the year as well. My timeline’s pretty flexible because I’m still balancing my family life, but tune into to my socials, tune into my newsletter, cuz I will be out there, playing shows and releasing music.
Sydney Yang: Thank you so much, Caitlin, for taking the time to sit down with us and participate in our Indigenous Artist Spotlight. You can find Caitlin’s social media channels in the description box below and at the bottom for the transcription of this video. Thank you so much for watching this video and we look forward to seeing you in our next Indigenous Artist Spotlight.