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Caitlin Cary juggles stints in Whiskeytown, Tres Chicas and now, a solo act, with great success.

Balancing Act

For someone who "accidentally wound up in this profession," Caitlin Cary certainly has it going on these days. Now touring to support her solo EP "Waltzie" with her band The Come Ons (she visits Alley Katz and Plan 9 Records Sept. 6) she's also a member of the up-and-coming, three-part harmony group Tres Chicas. That's in addition to her critical role in hard-rocking Whiskeytown. But somehow the 31-year-old singer sounds unfazed.

"It's kind of a balancing act," she says simply. This musical merry-go-round was never in the plans until a few short years ago. Caitlin grew up in Ohio playing violin but it was never central in her life. She joined a "joke band" in college and pulled the instrument out for the group's country music covers but never considered herself a great player.

In 1994, Cary moved to Raleigh, N.C., to pursue a master's degree in creative writing at North Carolina State University. During her third semester, a stranger named Ryan Adams called her "out of the blue." He was forming a band and wanted to know if Cary would play violin. She still sounds surprised when she recalls the Whiskeytown invitation.

"Honest to God, I can't remember telling anyone I played," she says.

But playing and singing with Adams was "really exciting immediately." During the next few years, the group found considerable success with audiences and critics alike, both in the United States and abroad.

Whiskeytown endured its share of "innumerable struggles" through the years, and Cary is the only member besides Adams to survive the fray. Again, she's not sure why. "I've tried to get fired over and over again," she says with a laugh. "I guess I don't put up with any sh— so I don't get much."

With Whiskeytown on hiatus for the past year and a half, Cary found herself jamming with friends and writing the occasional song. The jamming evolved into the Tres Chicas band, and the songs became the warm and comfortable "Waltzie." Cutting her own tunes on her own five-song EP and heading up a band makes the Whiskeytown adventure "much more bearable," she says. She adds that songs for a new full-length CD to follow "Waltzie" are already in the can.

"[The solo CD] had always been a dream of mine," she says. "I guess I had to muster up the courage and confidence."

Cary sings her waltz tunes with a supple alto that's more folk than hard rock. But if she admits her solo sound is gentler than that of her other two bands, she adds there's definitely "some kick" in her live show. Though her songs may be thoughtful, Cary is not the downer type. "It's just that something about music and sadness go together," she says.

After she gets married in October, Cary and the band will take the "Waltzie" tour to the United Kingdom. She's also shopping Tres Chicas demos to labels and hoping Whiskeytown's new CD will hit stores in early 2001. She'll deal with band conflicts as they arise.

"All three things seem worthwhile," she explains. "So maybe each can have one-third of me. Or maybe one-fourth. I'll keep a fourth for myself."

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