WORDS: NIALL DOHERTY
For Caity Baser, the biggest reason her fans find her music so emotionally affecting is because she writes songs as if she’s talking to her friends.
“I think when they listen to it, they feel like they’re speaking to me and it feels like they’re close to me,” says the chipper 20-year-old from her home in Brighton. “I’m not being metaphorical, it’s literally, ‘Here’s what happened, start to finish, every single detail.’ A lot of people have gone through what I’ve gone through and it’s nice to hear it completely honestly.”
Baser says the life experiences resonating so keenly with her ever-growing group of diehards (she has 11.8 million TikTok likes) include relationships, friends, growing up and the struggles of life, all delivered in her trademark, no pussyfooting-around manner.
“It’s not sugar-coated,” she continues. “Some of the things I say are quite empowering. I say to them, ‘If you haven’t got the balls to say it, say it from me, here’s the song, go scream at someone.’”
It’s an approach that has Baser, who has been tipped by BBC Radio 1 and MTV, primed for stardom in 2023. Her music ranges from garage-influenced bangers to modern pop grooves, with lyrics that sometimes come across like furious, hilarious late-night texts delivered from the Twilight Zone.
As is par for the course with contemporary pop stars, her meteoric rise was given lift-off by an early song, Average Student, becoming a viral hit on TikTok. Follow-up singles Kiss You, Friendly Sex and X&Y, released after she signed with EMI, have laid the foundations for long-term success, with Baser’s old job in her local Co-Op fast becoming a distant memory. By the end of 2022, she had clocked up over 16 million streams on Spotify (where she already has almost 600,000 monthly listeners), although the weight of being touted as British pop’s next big thing is no biggie, she insists.
“Pressure is good,” she says. “If you didn’t have pressure then it wouldn’t motivate you to work hard and you’d be a bit of a dosser. Pressure fuels me to impress everyone.”
Her upcoming EP sets out an ambitious stall. Titled Thanks For Nothing, See You Never and telling the story of a relationship from its ‘you’re great’ beginning to the ‘you’re a dick’ conclusion, it sees Baser pull together the different strands of her swaggering pop sound. Across its six songs, she’s worked with the Maisie Peters and Mimi Webb production duo The Nocturns, Lily Allen’s Smile collaborators Future Cut and Manchester pair WhyJay and LiTek (Aitch and Central Cee).
“It’s a big mixture of people from different backgrounds that have brought out different things in me,” she beams. “WhyJay and LiTek do grime and rap and now they’re doing British pop, it’s so cute!”
Baser’s influences are similarly varied. Brought up on a Southampton council estate, she would skip lessons to hide away in the school music rooms, writing songs inspired by her idols Freddie Mercury, Etta James, The Carpenters and Katy Perry. The bombastic, brash pop of Perry made the biggest impact over both her music and visual aesthetic.
“She was just cool,” she recalls. “She was wearing things that were quite out there, singing about things that were quite out there. I take inspiration from her when I do my videos, with her facial expressions and stuff like that.”
Another big influence was an experience in the studio when she was 18 with an unnamed male co-songwriter who refused to take her seriously.
“He wouldn’t speak to me, he’d speak to the producer and was trying to write for me,” she explains. “Every time I tried to speak to him, he completely disregarded me. And his lyrics were shit!”
Baser says she knows a lot of female artists of a similar age who have gone through the same thing.
“Because you’re a girl and you’re young, they think you don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says. “Why should I listen to a 50-year-old man telling me how to make TikTok videos?”
The incident helped to forge a determination to be in charge of her career.
“It never happened again. It was good, though, to experience it, just to be like, ‘Oh, that shit is still happening,’” she says.
Happily, everything else Baser has encountered in the music industry has been at the opposite end of the spectrum.
“I’ve loved everyone I’ve met and worked with, it’s been great,” smiles Baser, adding that she signed with EMI because they were the only ones that made her feel like they really wanted her.
“I had to schmooze with a few labels,” she says. “But EMI would graft, come to the studio, call me, catch up…”
Despite its importance in her own success, she baulks at the industry’s over-reliance on social media and the non-stop requirement for content.
“I love making videos,” she says, slightly wearily. “But there’s nothing I’d love more than to just perform and not promote, even though I know I have to and I do enjoy it. But then social media is such a beneficial tool, you can reach so many people.”
She also looks at her Spotify For Artists app four or five times a day, scanning the data and keeping on top of who is listening where.
“It’s cool to know what city is the most popular, or the most listened to country,” she says. “I can include that in what I do next and know better.”
After a rapturous appearance at Reading and Leeds last year, where she got the entire audience to put their middle-fingers in the air and tell her ex-boyfriend he was an idiot, not realising he was actually in the crowd, she’s looking forward to playing more stages this summer. One date she’s especially eager for is Boardmasters in Newquay. She considers the Cornish town her second home and she’s keen to show some old acquaintances how she’s doing.
“People in Newquay used to love me, then they hated me for a bit, and now they love me again,” she says. “I can’t wait, I’ll be like, ‘Look at me now!’”
More than settling scores, though, what Caity Baser is really excited about is the new wave of emerging female artists that she feels part of and their growing influence over where pop music is heading.
“We’re all so young, out here making music for a living,” she finishes. “It’s female empowerment all the way and I love that.”