Loud, funny, vibrant and sensitive: words that describe British singer, songwriter and pop provocateur Caity Baser just as easily as they describe her music. Wise beyond her 20 years but packing enough teenage energy to still cause trouble, Caity's the big sister you always wanted, the best friend your mum says isn't allowed to come round any more and the best member of your favourite girlband who's just gone solo. She is all these things at once, but after one listen to her music you'll know she is, first and foremost, very much Caity Baser.
Unusually in era of boom-and-bust TikTok flotsam, Caity's an emerging artist who sees her initial success on the platform — going viral during lockdown with the first upload of her own music — as just the first step of a long journey, rather than an end in itself. Through a creative partnership with producers Future Cut (Lily Allen, Little Mix) she's already bagged critical plaudits and millions of streams for songs like X&Y and Friendly Sex: songs that, as Caity's swelling fanbase already knows, showcase an artist who's as direct lyrically as she is in person.
"I don't really do metaphors, I'd rather just say what I mean," she reasons. "I'm not going to go, 'oh, you've eaten my heart out' if what I really want to say is that you've pissed me off. How I am in songs is how I am in conversations — when I write, I imagine I'm talking to my friends."
Increasingly, with sold out shows around the UK nurturing a deep personal connection between Caity and her audience, talking with friends is exactly what Caity's doing. It's a connection that's rare and intoxicating, and when Caity talks about her first ever concert (imperial phase Katy Perry at a Teenage Dream-era O2 show, which Caity attended in a purple wig) the pieces fit into place. Despite seats right at the back and right at the top, which at the O2 qualifies as being in a different postcode, she didn't feel disconnected. "I just felt like: 'Oh my god, I want to do that and I want to be you'," she remembers today. "She treated us like we were her equals at a party in a really big house." Not all heroes wear capes; some teachers have bras that fire whipped cream.
That gig was a decisive moment for Caity, and a world away from the Southampton council estate Caity called home — it was an area, she reports, where there wasn't much going on. She still managed to have the "best childhood ever" with family holidays in Cornwall caravan parks an annual highlight, but school was shit and boring. She got through it by taking refuge in the music room. Sometimes she'd leave lessons for a toilet break, head straight to the music room and never leave. She'd lock the door, turn off the lights and teach herself to play piano. "I'd sit there and be like, 'Oh, that sounds nice. Is that a chord? Maybe.' And through that, I learned how to write songs."
Later Caity expanded her tastes to artists like Lily Allen, while other influences were inherited from her parents: storytellers and performers like Billie Holiday, Chet Baker and The Carpenters. Caity can still remember the moment she first heard Nat King Cole's Unforgettable, the full-body goosebumps, and her demands to play the song again, and again, and again. (A very Caity-esque detail: she was eating Cheerios at the time.)
With school out of the way Caity lined up a job at the Co-Op and wondering how she'd ever realise her ambition of making music professionally. She came up with a plan. Or two plans, really. One was work hard for a few years, save money, move to London and try her luck. The other was to work hard, carry on working hard, never really make it as a singer, work some more, then eventually die at some point. Plan A seemed more appealing.
Caity turned 18 during lockdown and, like so many of us, was struck by a sense that life was passing by. With lots of time to do nothing she knocked together a quick song about being broke, called Average Student: she found some beats on YouTube and did her stuff over the top. It was, she says, "a song about not knowing where your career's going, and just kind of winging it. Because winging it was the only option I had." Until then she'd never post videos of her music online. Her friends would say they were cringy and embarrassing. They'd say things like: "Are you on TikTok? Hate you, that's so embarrassing." Her friends were dicks, obviously. But lockdown meant their voices weren't quite so loud any more and Caity posted the song. She found her finger hovering over the delete button, but left the video online and went to bed. She woke up full of regret and went to delete it, and that's when she discovered it had somehow hit over a million views.
To celebrate she went to the local M&S car park — her main social highlight during lockdown — plugged in her aux lead and blasted the song at top volume. Every time she looked, the count had gone up by another thousand views. One view was from someone claiming to be a manager, who got in touch. "I'd just turned 18," Caity remembers, "so I was going: 'Who are you? What do you want?'" She was expecting some sort of chancer; the manager turned out to be very legit indeed and the next thing she knew she was in London, in the studio with Future Cut. "I'd never like been in a proper studio before," Caity remembers. "There were awards and platinum discs everywhere. But weirdly, I never felt nervous. I never felt like I don't belong here."
In the first session Caity worked on a new version of Average Student. It went so well that more sessions were booked in — a whole week of recording what formed the basis of Caity's debut EP and first mixtape, Lil CB. By 2022, with releases like Friendly Sex and X&Y racking up millions of streams, labels were showing interest. Most would ask her things about her TikTok numbers, and how she'd grow her Instagram reach, but they didn't ask her much about her music. Then came EMI. They didn't know that they already had a trump card — Caity's obsession with both Elton John and Freddie Mercury, who'd both been on EMI's roster over the years. But they did treat Caity like a musician. They visited her in the studio, to see how she worked. They took her out for food, so they could get to know her. Eventually she was invited to the label boss's house, so they could see if they vibed with each other. Caity signed in the summer of 2022, and work started on the music set to cement Caity's status as one of the UK's brightest popstars.
This is usually the part in a bio where the artist modestly, if slightly unconvincingly, says something about how it's just important to be heard for who they are, and how simply getting their music out there is a reward, even if it only touches a few people's lives. Caity believes all that, sort of, but she won't pretend she doesn't have big plans: "I want to be worldwide," she grins. "I want to be selling out the biggest arenas in the world."
She's off to a pretty good start, and her debut festival appearances at Reading and Leeds were a summer high point. "Best moment of my life," Caity declares. "At Reading I had no idea if anyone was going to turn up — even on the way there I was hanging out of the car window inviting random strangers to come and see me. Then I got on stage and I couldn't see the end of the crowd, it's like it went on forever." She finished her set by sharing pizza with the front row, hugging anyone who asked, and signing a few boobs.
"The problem is," Caity smiles, "I keep saying things are the best moment of my life, and then two weeks later something else comes along and tops the lot." Not a bad problem to have, which is just as well — it's one Caity will have to get used to.