When Cady Groves was four years old, she woke up on Christmas morning to discover a blue drum set draped with candy canes sitting by the tree. “My step-dad got it for me,” she says. “He was a drummer in a band and had this really cool mullet and used to cut off all the sleeves on his shirts, which not only started my fascination with bands, mullets, and people who don’t wear sleeves, but he also taught me how to play. From that minute on, I wanted to be a badass musician. I remember being five years old and asking my mom for leather pants.”
She never did get the leathers, but the love of music instilled in her from a young age set Groves on a trajectory that has landed the singer and songwriter a deal with RCA Records, which will release her major-label debut album later this year. Since moving to Los Angeles, the Oklahoma native has been feverishly writing songs, which she has recorded over the past year with a variety of producers, including Kristian London, Busbee, Sean Douglas, Jim Irvine and Julian Emery, and newcomers Ryan and Nolan. The album is shaping up to be a stellar collection of irresistible pop tunes that showcase this spirited 21-year-old’s knack for writing instantly hummable melodies and brutally honest lyrics, as well as her appealingly idiosyncratic voice. The songs — which largely chronicle Groves’ struggle to pick herself up and dust herself off after a break-up with a deceitful ex — brim with her wry wit and spiky personality.
“No other girl could sing these songs, because they’re my life experiences,” Groves says. “That’s what I wanted. The album reeks of heartache; it’s about a girl just trying to figure out life.”
Groves grew up in a family of seven kids in Marlow, Oklahoma — a tiny town just over seven square miles near the Southern border of the state. In addition to giving her a drum kit, Groves’ step-dad introduced her to Styx and Lynyrd Skynyrd, while her mom favored Phil Collins and Amy Grant. Then one day in 1995, Groves’ mom took four-year-old Cady to Wal-Mart to pick up the new album by Alanis Morissette. “I remember she put Jagged Little Pill on in our 15-passenger van and I thought, ‘Yeah, this is it.’ It felt like something I could actually do. So I would belt out Alanis songs in the van. That was when I started singing.”
Groves got her first CD player at seven, an event she says marked the end of her social life. “I just sat in my room all the time because I didn’t want anyone to hear me belting out these huge Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey songs, so I would go in my closet and sing at the top of my lungs and try to match every vocal run and note they were hitting. I’d put a pillow over my face if I thought I was getting too loud.” As a teenager she worked as a waitress and delivered pizzas (an experience she credits with overcoming shyness), graduated from high school at 16, and entered culinary school, which is when she began dating someone who would change the course of her life.
“My boyfriend at the time was a musician and was amazing at writing lyrics,” Groves says. “He made me realize that I could actually do it. He also got me to sing with him and was the first person to tell me my voice was good.” The couple began recording songs together in their apartment, but the relationship ended badly, and Groves kicked him out. “I said, ‘Thank you for making music a reality and letting me see I could actually do this. I’m going to do music without you,’” Groves recalls. “He’s still working at Starbucks six years later.”
Groves began to post songs she had written and humorous videos on her MySpace page and spent 16 hours a day replying personally to every single person who commented on them, earning her thousands of loyal fans who told her how much they felt she spoke for them. “I was getting messages from people telling me they started crying when they heard ‘Refrain,’ which was about my ex and the first song I ever posted,” she says. “It’s just an F.U. song to the guy that ruined me.” She channeled her heartbreak into two self-released EP’s: A Month of Sundays, which came out in October 2009, followed by The Life of a Pirate in March 2010. Soon Groves was earning comparisons to Kelly Clarkson, Miranda Lambert, and Never Shout Never for her raw, confessional acoustic tunes. “It’s funny because I never set out to be an acoustic artist,” Groves says. “I love acoustic-based music, but I only did that because I couldn’t afford a full band. I’ve always wanted to make a huge pop album.”
Now she’s getting her chance thanks to RCA Records, which Groves signed with in May 2010. Immediately after, she set off on the Bamboozle Road Show, touring with All Time Low, Good Charlotte, and a host of others, building a strong fan base who engage with her via her lively Twitter feed. When Groves played several new tunes on the road in April 2011, fans immediately began posting videos of her performances on YouTube, pleading with her to release new songs such as “This Little Girl,” “Revenge,” and “So-Called Love.”
“I’ve spent 12 hours a day writing and recording for months and months, so it’s really amazing to test the songs out in front of an audience,” Groves says of her live show. “My message to fans is that you’re never alone. I’m here to speak for all the kids who are stuck right now. You can hear in my songs how confused I am sometimes, so if it takes me being completely transparent to make other people realize that they’re not the only ones who feel alone, I’m totally down for that.”