Even though Caroline de Lone grew up in a musical family, her own path to the lighted stage was never a sure thing — it took a little push from Mom. The 23-year-old daughter of a Marin musical fixture, keyboardist Austin de Lone, recently released her first album, a CD entitled Fingerprints, featuring 11 original songs. She’s a familiar face in Mill Valley, where she’s grown up and lived for her entire life, and she’s frequently seen at her day job at Beth’s Community Kitchen downtown. She still lives at home, with Austin, her mother Lesley, and her younger brother, Richard. But every chance she gets, she’s out performing at whatever bars and clubs in the area will let her get up and sing.
1. You recently had a release party for your CD — how did that go? It was really fun. It was at the Sweetwater. I went thinking that there would not be that many people — I told some customers, friends, family and neighbors — but I got there, got up onstage and it was packed. Completely packed.
2. The CD case reads “All songs written by Caroline de Lone.” Did your dad help you out at all? I wrote the melodies, the lyrics and everything. I’d show those to him and he’d suggest a word here and a note there. But it’s 99.99 percent me.
3. How would you classify your music? Imagine if Colbie Caillat, Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones somehow created a musical baby. That would be me. So it’s like soul, rock and I guess a little pop, because what isn’t pop nowadays?
4. Your father is such a musical presence in Marin. He must have been some influence on you, yes? Oh, of course. I grew up listening to his music. Obviously, kids are going to rebel against what their parents want them to do. I’d go to the shows, and I knew all the musicians, but I wasn’t really into it. When I was in the third grade my mom suggested that I join the choir. So I did and I was, like, “Wait. This is so great. I can actually sing!” So as big an influence as my dad was, my mom kind of gave me the biggest push.
5. What’s the most challenging part of songwriting for you? The process of actually writing the song. Because, for me, it really is emotional. There are some songs on my CD that took me 10 minutes to write and they’re the most emotional ones. Every time I hear them I cry.
6. Those are the songs that just pour out of you? Um-hmm. I’ll write a melody and write words over it. I take my iPhone, the voice memo thing, and I’ll just press record. I’ll take the riff I just made up and improvise words sometimes. Or sometimes I’ll write words first. So it’s not like either part is challenging — it’s the emotion that’s the challenging part.
7. Fingerprints is your debut album — how long did it take to create? I’ve been working on this album since 2010. We took a couple of breaks, because I wanted the music to be a full story. There are some songs I wrote when I was 14 on there. Then there are songs I just wrote a couple of months ago.
8. It seems your life up until this point has been all about the music. Is there anything else you’ve ever considered doing? The only other thing I feel like I could ever do is teach disabled kids and be a special ed teacher, because of my brother, Richard. He’s very special needs. He just turned 17, he’s still in diapers and can’t have a conversation. He suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome.
9. Is any element of your music influenced by being around your brother, and learning how to accept his condition? Not any songs in particular, but I definitely think that having Richie around has made me become the kind of artist and person that I am. When I was 6 years old and my brother was born, the thing I turned to was music.
10. What are your favorite things about Marin County? I think the music scene is really cool. I grew up going to the Sweetwater. And the new Sweetwater is really great. I think how welcoming it is here. And also how beautiful it is. I think those things are the only reasons I’ve stayed here.