Living Her Best Life

singer/songwriter’s debut EP inspired by local DIY spirit

Darrion Behrendt, photos by Andrea Paulseth

BUILDING BRIDGES. Local singer/songwriter Caitlin McGarvey started making music at age 13, evolving from open mics and YouTube covers to small gigs and now her debut EP, Bigger.
BUILDING BRIDGES. Local singer/songwriter Caitlin McGarvey started making music at age 13, evolving from open mics and YouTube covers to small gigs and now her debut EP, Bigger.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but if we’re being honest it also seems as if the same would go for creating an EP.

Caitlin McGarvey has been learning that and other lessons over the past yea ras she built her very first EP from the ground up. Titled Bigger, the project has been a huge step forward for the young musician, as well as a learning experience.

McGarvey has been writing songs and using music as an outlet for herself since she was about 13. She got her start in music playing open mics, other events, and recording acoustic covers on YouTube. Inspired by indie artists and singer/songwriter types such as Ingrid Michaelson, she continued to play smaller gigs at venues like The Plus after moving to Eau Claire.

“People get so stuck in what they think they’re supposed to do and they leave their dreams to be dreams. But the second you really start doing it and figuring things out, the possibilities grow, and you become so much happier.” – singer/songwriter Caitlin McGarvey on focusing on passion

After seeing other local musicians take off when they started to take their own music more seriously, McGarvey decided to take the plunge as well, and she began telling people close to her that she was going to create an EP. “I hadn’t even written any songs yet,” she said, but it was the first step towards building Bigger from the ground up.   

She decided to build the EP around one song, “Keep Your Love,” which was inspired by her first major heartbreak, and she developed what is now a four-song narrative based entirely off of that experience. She explained that her method for writing songs is to feel first, think second. Usually she starts out with something as simple as messing around on the guitar and humming melodies. Then she starts to piece words together, and eventually solidifies the meaning of phrases later on in the process.

Excitement and glamour aside, the sheer amount of time and hard work it has taken McGarvey to get to where she is today definitely is worth noting. During the time it has taken her to create the EP, she’s been working two jobs on top of spending hours meeting with people or working in the studio in order to make her dreams happen. She doesn’t mind the long hours, though. “That’s how you know you’re doing the right thing with your life,” she said.

In addition to her own hard work, there has been a lot of assistance from others who helped her to keep making progress, even when she felt discouraged. She describes herself as the kind of person who comes up with big ideas that she’s rarely able to completely finish, but finds that the community she’s surrounded herself with here in Eau Claire has really helped to change that.

McGarvey has also been fortunate enough to collaborate with various other musicians – two of whom she performs with – as well as a slew of intelligent and creative folks. Through the connections she’s made in the music community here, she has been able to build something from nothing, and has learned just how passionate the Valley’s arts community is. She described it as “young people focusing in and seeing value in the talent around here, and making it for themselves,” and overall as a group of people who just want to see others succeed.

As for what’s to come after the release, McGarvey said that the creative process of making the EP has helped her find the material for what she could write next. She firmly believes that “you don’t have to pick just one,” and hopes to find a balance between a career in music and one helping other aspiring musicians through her own management business. She plans on staying away from signing with a label and keeping her music independent, much like other artists who have inspired her. She sees indie artists as people who are onto something, that there really isn’t just one way to “make it” in the music industry if you’re willing to put in the time and learn the ins and outs of the business side of things.

“If you have something that you’re passionate about, but you can’t see yourself doing it professionally, just try it out and see if it works for you,” McGarvey said. “People get so stuck in what they think they’re supposed to do and they leave their dreams to be dreams. But the second you really start doing it and figuring things out, the possibilities grow, and you become so much happier.”

So go “live your best life” – as McGarvey would say – and make sure you don’t miss the Bigger EP release show at 7pm March 17 at The Plus in Eau Claire with opening acts D. Janakey and Savannah Smith.

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