The world has become a much different place in the past two years. Some artists have chosen to lean into the massive shift in perspective and circumstance. One of those artists is Nashville songwriter Cara Louise. Holed up and writing songs during the pandemic, she has released a soulful, vibrant debut album aptly titled Wholesome Dread.
Cara Louise Wegener grew up in St. Louis, and that Midwestern sincerity and soul comes through in her writing. Originally touring and recording with the Cara Louise Band from 2013-2018, Wegener cut her teeth at honky-tonks and dive bars. Working with producer David Beeman, Wegener began honing in on a sound that combines all of these middle-American tour experiences and her huge swathe of influences. Relocating to Nashville and losing the band, she has managed to grow her folk and Americana roots into a big Laurel Canyon-esque sound.
The opening arpeggiated synth of the title and first track is enough to draw anyone in. Quickly shifting into a wide-open, driving sound, Wegener reveals her ability to explore the reaches of her range while writing gorgeous melodies. The Killers meet Angel Olsen as this fantastic opener divulges into drum-pounding arena rock, complete with hooky guitar riffs and urgent vocals. At the beginning of “Must Be Nice,” Wegener sings “I’m not making money or anyone proud / tried to quit my own bull**** but I don’t know how.” It’s a line that most artists can relate to – the feeling of knowing that pursuing your dreams comes at a cost. Throughout the record, Wegener never loses those Americana roots. Songs like “Julia” or the final track “Easy as That.” This amazing songwriter manages to combine all sorts of sounds into a record that feels like a cohesive statement – about the shape of the world and the shape of the person singing.
Cara Louise is making her dreams a reality. With each note on this record, she cements her place in America’s shifting indie rock scene as a truly magnificent songwriter and performer. I have a feeling this record will become a touchstone for a slew of artists and bands. Wholesome Dread is exactly the type of album we didn’t know we needed before heading into another long winter: summer’s dying gasp filled with hope, resilience, and truth.
You’ve continued working with producer David Beeman for most of your career. What drew you to his work initially, and what keeps you coming back?
Initially, I was looking for a producer to pull me out of the alternative country sound I had done in previous work. Adam actually pointed me in Beeman’s direction and showed me some of the albums he had worked on. They were mostly indie projects that were super tastefully done and sounded big and professional. Once we got into the studio, I just really appreciated his direction and I felt we had similar opinions on what sounded good and what didn’t. Also, I could always trust that when he worked on my songs without me present, that I would like the outcome.
What was it like to relocate to Nashville from St. Louis? I imagine the scene was a little different in Nashville.
I still feel like I’m transitioning a year in, if that says anything. St. Louis has always been so supportive, and I was really active in my community there, so starting from scratch has been challenging. At the same time it’s really inspiring to see so many great performers on any given night of the week.
This is a fantastic collection of songs that feel both personal and universal. Do you intentionally try to strike that balance in your writing?
I do intentionally try to achieve that in my writing. I can only write honestly about my personal experience, but I also always want to unite people with my songs – most of the time through a gentle reminder that we’re all dying. I’m always drawn to lyrics that tell a personal story with a broader, zoomed out look at the human experience. That’s what storytelling should do, in my opinion.
What’s next for you? Where can listeners expect to find you this fall?
We’ve got some exciting vinyl news coming soon, so stay tuned for that. Also, we have a few more shows through the end of the year in Columbus, OH, Lexington, KY, and Hattiesburg, MS.
Featured image by Adam Taylor.