Singer / Songwriter Chloe Gilligan speaks to heirwaves about her new EP “Come Down,” her love for Nashville, and the personal journey to discovering her sound.
When Chloe Gilligan first set foot in Nashville, she immediately knew that she was meant to thrive in the heart of Music City.
It was New Year’s Eve, and the Belmont University campus was closed for winter break. Gilligan had been in Nashville for less than 3 hours, but it didn’t take long after wandering the campus for the Georgia native to know that it was meant to be.
“I just said, I don’t need to look anywhere else. I’m going to live in Nashville and pursue music. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I just had this moment, this feeling, this is where I’m going to be,” Gilligan reminisces.
And that is where she’s been ever since. Gilligan graduated from Belmont University’s prestigious songwriting program in May of 2018. She admits that it’s rather intimidating leaving Belmont and jumping out into the real world, where the talented alumni are consistently curious as to what’s next for the young singer / songwriter.
Gilligan released her debut 3-song single, Post-Summer in 2016, which she followed with the release of her single “Not Lonely, Just Alone” in 2017, and has dedicated her time to writing consistently and discovering her true sound when surrounded by so many influential voices in Nashville. On Monday nights, she can often be found performing with Nashville female singer/songwriter collective, the Song Suffragettes at The Listening Room Cafe.
In November 2018, fans of CW’s All American got to hear a clip of Gilligan’s single “Unsure” when it was featured on an episode. Following that, she released her latest 2-song EP, Come Down, featuring two new songs, “Come Down,” and “Sidewalk Someday.”
“The songs are about 2 separate ‘relationships,'” she says, laughing that relationship may be a strong word for one of them, describing the all too well known label-less period. “We were basically dating but not dating.”
“When you’re in your 20’s I feel like there’s this weird pressure to get married,” she admits, “but there’s also this weird pressure to be by yourself and find out who you are at the same time, which is very conflicting,” she says with a laugh. “You’re trying to date, but not date, but kind of date – but it’s okay if it’s not too serious – but then it feels serious so, what do we do with this? We’re not going to get married…” Gilligan exclaims, stating that feeling of not knowing where a new romance is headed was the inspiration behind her new song, “Sidewalk Someday.”
The song opens with the lyrics: “Can we both just admit we’ll never get married?” Gilligan says that it’s essentially about taking the pressure to be serious off, and being about to smile about it in the future. “It’s sort of saying, let’s takeaway the fact that we didn’t work out, and let’s talk about the fact that we really cared about each other,” she says.
The second song the the EP, “Come Down,” Gilligan admits is about a current relationship. “I wrote it back in May!” she laughs, “I always say, you signed up for this, you’re dating a songwriter! But, he’s in a band, he gets it.” The song itself was about a time where she was unsure of where the relationship was headed – if it was going to be serious, or just a fling – it was difficult to tell.
With lyrics such as, “maybe we’re not in love because we don’t move like magnets, but I love the way I move when you’re around,” Gilligan says she didn’t know where it was going, but that was okay for where she was in her life at the time. It was more about enjoying life in the moment without having to worry about what’s next.
The EP is a transitional release for Gilligan, she she begins to evolve into the next phase of her career as a pop singer/songwriter.
“These two songs made sense transitionally,” she says of the EP. “They are a nice bridge between my older songs and what I will hopefully release in the future,” she exclaims.
As she leans towards more of a pop sound, she admits that Nashville has become a wonderful melting pot of genres where she has been able to take the time to find her sound and work her way towards the genre she aspires to flourish in.
“I grew up with country music, I love country music, and I could see how my music could sound like it has a country influence,” Gilligan says. “A lot of songs in my realm today, it just comes down to adding one steel guitar to make it country. Or programmed drums instead of organic sounding ones…” she said, stating that the actual genre is a very blurry instrumental line. “It’s kind of a relief of pressure for me, when someone is like ‘oh this is country music’ or ‘this is pop music,’ for me it allows me to go between the two, and see what I like and pull to the center. I have a producer who is great at helping me blend the two.”
“For me, it’s all about the songwriting,” Gilligan says. “If the instrumentation behind it can carry the story of the song – the genre doesn’t matter. I’m such a lyrically driven person. It my not be strictly a country or pop song but it could be a good song. You don’t need to put a label on it!”
Gilligan adds that she has written songs that fall under a wide variety genres. From songs that are specifically geared towards TV or film, to songs that are heavy rock driven. “It’s nice creatively,” she says, “I have a couple of random electronic songs that I’ve written – that will never come out under my name – but it’s a nice weird little outlet!”
Gilligan admits that like a lot of Nashville singer/songwriters, she gained an immense amount of inspiration from being a Taylor Swift fan in her earlier days.
“I got a guitar my freshman year of high school,” she begins, “and one of my best friends did too. She learned a couple chords, but I learned like 200 songs in a few months, and my dad said, ‘oh, so, you like, really like this?'” she says, laughing at the memory. “They knew I liked music and they knew I loved to sing, but I got that guitar and I just zoned in.”
When she realized that she could go to school for songwriting, she found Belmont the first semester of her sophomore year of high school. When she visited over winter break, and stayed at Opryland hotel – she was hooked.
“I’m so thankful my parents have been so supportive of everything,” she says. “They love visiting Nashville, which is good, because my sister is now a freshman at Belmont, so we’re both here.”
Gilligan describes the atmosphere at Belmont University as rather intimidating at first. “You go from being THE music kid in high school to essentially just another kid at Belmont. Everyone can sing, everyone can play guitar, everyone writes songs, everyone has a Youtube page…” she says, “You get there freshman year and everyone’s like, ‘yeah I’m releasing this big EP in October, what are you doing?'”
The building for the songwriting program is right on music row, a little away from campus. It’s the building that Gilligan describes as her safe haven as she began to figure out what her ‘thing’ was going to be. “The teacher’s were always really aware of what each kid’s talents were,” she says, adding that there were only about 30-40 kids in the program the year that she was there. “The teacher’s were so supportive… I call them my music dads!” She laughs, “One of them even has a Grammy! But it really felt like they just truly wanted all of their kids to succeed.”
Gilligan has also spent an immense amount of time performing with the well known female singer/songwriter collective, the Song Suffragettes, and she took part in their viral single “Time’s Up” at the height of the Time’s Up movement for women’s equality.
“I got to audition, then it was around every two months I would play, then once a month, and then the ‘Time’s Up’ video happened – which was a whirlwind of an adventure.” Gilligan states that she was asked on a Tuesday if she wanted to join, and the song was recorded on that Thursday, and the video was filmed on that Sunday – a very quick turnaround during a very pivotal movement.
“It was all over social media, the movement, and it was really cool feeling like I was a part of it because of the song and the video. It forced me to form an opinion from research and interviews. Now, with everything that comes out from the feminist movement, it’s so fascinating watching it all flourish, and it’s been awesome to be a part of it.”
The Song Suffragettes show it sold out almost every Monday night at The Listening Room Cafe, and Gilligan admits that they don’t just show up and sing, but that they are a true team. “I mean I’ve had good girl friends, but I’ve never had this big and strong of a group of girl friends in my life – everyone is so nice!” she says. “We talk all the time, we hang out and cook and have wine nights together, and everyone is so supportive. It’s so genuine and kind, and I love being a part of it.”
“I’m so thankful for Todd Cassetty and Helena, they run the whole show, and they’re so awesome! They keep coming up with new ideas, and they’re so supportive,” she says. Gilligan adds that it’s incredibly inspiring to see all of the young girls that come to visit Nashville and attend the Song Suffragettes show, because she was once one of them with their big Nashville dreams – adding that she always encourages them to pursue music and follow their hearts to Nashville if that’s where they want to be.
Gilligan says that she is ready for the next phase in her career. “I have so many songs that I’ve recorded over the last year!” she exclaims. She hopes to build herself up as an artist and continue to work with her publisher who she feels truly supports her vision, adding that she definitely hopes to release a full record in the near future – but for now, she is taking it day by day and not rushing into anything.
Stream Chloe Gilligan’s new EP Come Down – available on all platforms now!