Veloura Caywood! Lansing lo-fi!
Cathy Illman aka Veloura Caywood
photos by Kim Nastal
By Rich Tupica
The sound of tape hiss is the back drop of Cathy Illman's brilliant catalog of lo-fi, homemade recordings.
The crackles and pops of the cassettes are merely accents to a catalog of solo music that range from bittersweet and raw to glaringly heartfelt and poppy.
The prolific East Lansing singer/songwriter, also known by her stage name Veloura Caywood, started recording songs on a cassette tape 4-track recorder as a high schooler in 1997. Since then her voice has become increasingly powerful, reflecting her classic country idols Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.
Her seamless blend of ‘60s garage rock and girl groups mixed with old country will be showcased live for the first time in over four years on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 at the Small Planet in East Lansing, Mich.
Illman, 30, said her three Veloura Caywood albums are unconventional and primitive.
“I didn’t know how to use the 4-track that well,” she said. “I didn’t use effects or know how to make it sound professional. I wanted to do the opposite of that. I didn’t want to learn how to use it, I wanted to do it my way. It ended up sounding really lo-fi.”
Her songs were always written and performed all by her lonesome, which caused her to have to make due with the lack of an actual drummer.
“I would just use whatever was around for percussion,” Illman recalled. “I’d take a CD case and I’d hit it with a pencil, I’d hit shoes together, or whatever happened to be around at the moment.”
Illman said she is heavily influenced by ‘50s and ‘60s rock and some ‘90s acts like The Muffs, Nirvana and early Beck. However, it’s her love for Hank Williams Sr. and an assortment of other true country singers that has helped her to become an honest songwriter.
“I like old country music because it’s sincere. Emotions are really important,” she said. “Everyone can relate to the feelings, even if they can’t relate to the situation. To me country music encompasses that idea. I don’t know how many times I have cried listening to Tammy Wynette. It’s pure and it’s from the heart. That’s how I write.”
Illman also played in numerous Lansing bands starting around 1996. Stints with Vulture Island, Atlantis and The End Times were Illman’s introduction into the local music scene. Another venture was her all girl ‘60s revivalist band The Flamingo-gos, which lasted from 2003-2004 while she lived in Brantford, Ontario.
“Playing in The Flamingo-gos was fun,” she said. “We were all into vintage clothes, so on stage we’d wear old go-go dresses or colorful psychedelic vintage clothes and go-go boots. We also had a pink go-go stand for our live show that was covered in fake pink fur for people to dance on.”
While Illman admits her time in The Flamingo-gos was the most fun she’s had in a band, she is most proud of her solo albums, which feature her most personal lyrics.
“When I first started, it was all about boys. It was the only way I could cope,” she said. “I was dating this guy who was really crazy and I could never understand what he was thinking. I wrote lots of songs about him. They were angsty songs.”
As for her comeback show at the Small Planet, Illman said it will be strange playing her old songs.
“It will be weird because I don’t feel that way anymore. I can’t relate to the old songs anymore. Some are about people I haven’t seen in 10 years. So I don’t care about them anymore. I like the songs, but the feeling, I have to apply it to something new. I have to get my mind to think about it in a different way to be able to play it.”
So why, after four years, did Illman decide to give music another go?
“My life has taken a good turn. A whole bunch of good things happened all at once. It made me want to get into music again,” she said. “I went through this phase where I was depressed and just wasn’t motivated. All the sudden all these good things happen. I got a new job, I got engaged, I moved into a house that I love and I met a bunch of new people. Stuff started working out.”
Links to Veloura Caywood:
Click here to visit Veloura Caywood on MySpace.
Click below to hear her album "Kins" for free!
Click here to LISTEN to Veloura at Cometkaze.com .
Cathy Illman on her property in Haslett, Mich.
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