“I knew the story I had to tell, I knew who I was. It wasn’t so scary anymore.” Caggie Dunlop certainly isn’t scared. She’s back in London to release some long-awaited new music, available on iTunes and Spotify. “The music is something that I’ve been doing on and off for years — when I went to LA, I thought I was going to be doing more acting, but then I fell quite heavily into music,” she tells What We Seee. “I found that away from London, in a new place, that I could be myself, focus on my art. At the beginning I didn’t know what I wanted to say, I didn’t really feel like I had a story — but being away from home, a pattern of writing emerged.”
After years of traveling the world and becoming a household name among young people in London, Dunlop found that freeing herself of her ties let her find a whole new voice. “I’m very nostalgic — I found that the music has a sweet melancholy — it’s really a form of storytelling for me.” But songwriting was only part of it. Despite years of writing and creating music, dipping in and out of poetry and other private expressions, there was a fear that loomed large in Dunlop’s mind.
“I had a fear about performing — but I always had this longing for songwriting. For many years I told myself that I don’t think I can really make music because I can’t perform — but the songwriting is something that became absolutely addicting to me. I couldn’t stop myself. When I gained my confidence in that, I gained my confidence in performing.” And, as she said, she’s not scared anymore.
But this assured and quiet confidence has been hard-won. Discovering and affirming her sense of self has been a meandering path at times — and involved a lot of hard work. “I’ve always rebelled against authority. It’s not that I haven’t known who I am — but it’s more like I’ve known who I’m not,” Dunlop laughs. “If people tried to push me, I reacted quite strongly, but I didn’t know where I wanted to go — I had no idea.”
Shed That Skin
This lack of surety in her younger years is part of what led Dunlop to her memorable debut into the public eye — as one of the original cast members of Made in Chelsea. “When I was young I always felt like a bit of an outsider, writing poetry or in my diary. I was sociable but always slightly on the periphery. I used to look at these girls and think that they didn’t have any problems, that they never felt alone, that they never felt isolated — I was really obsessing over these girls that I would see. Made in Chelsea was in some ways a manifestation of that. I was performing this one-dimensional person, it was all watered-down.” And it wasn’t her. Or at least, it wasn’t all her.
One of the difficulties of transitioning away from her Made in Chelsea persona was also embracing it. “It’s been something that I think about a lot — I obsess over perception, really,” Dunlop says, bouncing between moments of wit and introspection. “I was known for something, but it was in the framework of something that was created around me. I found that with the industries that I was trying to go into, people couldn’t see beyond the costume — that was very limiting. That’s part of the reason I’ve traveled a lot, to shed that skin.”
With an acute sense of authenticity, she’s not ashamed to admit that she was, in part, how she came across on Made in Chelsea. But only in part. And yet when she moved away from the show, she was constantly pushed to dispose of that image altogether, to pretend that it wasn’t her at all. But Dunlop wasn’t ready to trade in her integrity for the sake of a knee-jerk, faux rebellion.
How Much I Want This
“When I wanted to explore music further, people told me, ‘You can do this but you need to completely depart from this, reinvent yourself, change your name, cut your hair’,” Dunlop explains. “They were pushing me to make music that didn’t sound anything like me. That really didn’t do anything for my self-confidence, because it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough just as me. Which is why it’s important coming back to London — because I am enough and I will do it. I was me on that show, I made a decision when I was younger, I wanted to do that — and when I realized it wasn’t for me, then I left. It just wasn’t what I was destined to be doing. But in a weird way, I feel like that hurdle that I had to get over gave me a discipline that I didn’t have before — it made me realize how much I want this and what I’m willing to do for it.”
And that’s what this release is all about. You can feel the subtle determination radiating off of Dunlop. She’s finally made the music she wants to make and she’s ready to release it her way. “Realizing that I have enough — that we all have enough — has been difficult, but so rewarding,” she says. “Nobody knows us better than we can.”
Part Of The Same Animal
And this sense of self-reliance is why a London release makes so much sense for Dunlop’s next move. “I was going to release it in LA — but I felt drawn to come back to London and release it. Rather than being anywhere, this was about coming to your hometown and being who you want to be. I’ve done it on my own and the release date is the 4th of July,” she laughs again at the American nod. “Well, it’s about independence.”
Returning to her hometown is even more important in light of the music she’s written — achingly personal, confessional, and introspective. “It emerged from the breakdown of one particular relationship — one that ignited a need for cathartic expression. It was that kind of heartbreak when you really don’t think you’ll ever be the same. I started writing the project about that — and that became my muse going forward. I drew on that and on different experiences, different poetry — sometimes I would go into the studio with a poem and start from that.” And the result is a poignant, affecting look at some of the world’s most universal experiences — love, loss, and discovering yourself.
“I reflect a lot on the past — sometimes to my own demise. I wear these rose-tinted glasses, glamorizing things and thinking that they were amazing when they really weren’t,” she explains. So she’s come back to London, stronger, more grounded — but with that same sweetness — to reveal the work she’s given so much to.
Though she’s focused on releasing music at the moment, she’s still got acting projects in the works. “I don’t want to deny that part of myself — they’re not mutually exclusive, it all feeds the same animal.” And it’s clear that, for Dunlop, that creative animal is the center of her being. She makes time to stay grounded, but making music is engrained in her everyday experience. “I’m enjoying a lot more spiritual practices at the moment — that’s a way of unwinding and finding the balance and separating myself from my ego,” she explains. “But songwriting comes whenever it comes. I just barely even see it as work — it’s a vocation, I suppose, but it feels very much like a calling. The problem is that I would do it until the day I die, if I was ever successful or not. It’s just built into who I am.”
Following a passion for passion’s sake is a long way from Made in Chelsea, but Dunlop has more than enough talent, insight, and drive to back it up — and now, she’s starting to realize that.