Though Caitlin Hall, a freshman mechanical engineering major, didn’t start performing until high school, a music video for her first original song “Silhouette Lies” just went up on YouTube two weeks ago.
“I always liked singing, but I never really knew if I was good at it,” Hall said. “I did a solo for my eighth grade Christmas concert, but other than that there wasn’t really anything that I did.”
That all changed when her high school, Paramus Catholic in New Jersey, put on its first ever talent show “Paladin Palooza.” Caitlin decided to perform “Oh! Darling” by The Beatles with a friend, and they ended up winning first place.
“It was the first time I had performed for a contest,” Hall said. “I got pretty comfortable up there. I honestly get really nervous when I’m by myself; when I have a partner signing with me I’m not that bad.”
Hall performed again the next year, her junior year, with a band and they got third place. Senior year she decided to try singing by herself, and won first place again.
Throughout high school Hall said she didn’t have a lot of free time to invest in music. She joined the drama club but wasn’t able to participate in the musicals because her parents didn’t want her to quit softball, which interfered. She also joined the choir but “ended up having to quit because sports got in the way again.”
The talent shows helped her try her hand at singing in public, and her senior year she did push to make time for the school musical.
Though she didn’t get to sing by herself in the show, her participation in it definitely left an impact. This past summer, the summer after her senior year, she was contacted by someone who saw her in the musical and told her about a singing contest she could join.
“I joined it, and I didn’t know anyone in it at all,” Hall said. “The winner got $100, a photo shoot, a song-writing session, a song that gets published, and a music video for that song.”
Well, you can guess what happened. Hall did win the contest—first place with all of the prizes.
“This was the first time they ever had it [the contest] so I was kind of the ‘Kelly Clarkson,’” she said. “They just had their second one, and I’ll be performing for the finals of it on the thirteenth.”
The contest—called “The Key Element,” put on by entertainment company LOA Entertainment—was done in the style of the TV show “The Voice,” with each judge choosing a contestant they want to mentor. When Hall won first place she wrote “Silhouette Lies” with her judge aReJay Ella.
“That was the first time [writing with someone]—I’m not really a ‘lyrical genius,’” Hall said, laughing. “What I do is I write in general. If I get really mad or upset I write it out and will feel better.
“My writing basically just consists of rants, and I try to form that into a song/poem type of thing. But it has to be in the moment. It’s the same thing with drawing. I can’t just draw on the spot, it’s more of like a ‘if I feel it, I do it.’”
Hall said that journaling helps her sort through emotions, something that came in handy when she was writing her song with Ella. Though she said it was a frustrating process because she’s a “corny person” and “tends to be on the cheesy side,” she and her mentor had mutual consent on all aspects of the track, from instrumentals to lyrics.
“The song is about insecurities,” she explained. “In high school I had a rough patch, I just wasn’t happy with myself, so I wrote the song about that.”
Once the song was complete it was time for the music video. It has been up on YouTube for two weeks now, with about 400 views, and she filmed it in the Bronx a month beforehand.
Most of it was actually filmed at MC’s neighbor’s campus, Lehman College. Other parts also take place on the 1 train and Van Cortlandt Park.
“The part where I had to do ballet was the most challenging part to me because I just don’t dance like that and I was just trying not to look stupid,” Hall said with a grin. “I was so afraid I was going to look weird on camera because I’ve never seen myself on camera before.”
Despite these concerns, Hall said she likes how it turned out and admits “it’s pretty cool” to have a video produced and online.
As for future plans, Hall said she’s “more of a go-with-the-flow person.” For example, a few weeks ago she decided to do the “open mic night” on campus, so she said if there are any similar open opportunities she’ll gladly take them. She even tried auditioning for “The Voice” once.
She maintained a close relationship with her judge, who is more a mentor now, so she plans on writing another song with him in the near future.
“I don’t want to call it a hobby because I think it’s more than a hobby right now,” Hall said. “It is a passion but I don’t see it being something that can support me later on, which is why I’m doing mechanical engineering. All artists have a backup career, so this is mine.”