Caroline Romano is a self-professed people watcher. “I do a lot of people watching. I’m a big observer,” she expresses. “Something that I don’t know that everyone else would notice, I like to write it down. Observing life, everyone has a different lens through which they look at it. If I journal my own experience there’s something unique to learn in that.”
Growing up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi as a quiet, shy student who had difficulty connecting with her peers, Romano found sanctuary in her journal where she’d share her innermost thoughts and feelings. When she started putting these emotions to music, it became clear that she was a natural born songwriter. Her parents gifted the aspiring artist a trip to Nashville for her thirteenth birthday, and like a scene out of a movie, she booked a coveted slot at the famous Bluebird Cafe. “I fell in love with performing and I felt very called to do this with my life,” Romano recalls to Audiofemme of the pivotal trip.
Her parents’ decision to allow her to leave school and pursue music certainly paid off, Romano finding herself inside the Top 15 on the Billboard Dance chart in 2020 with “I Still Remember (ft. R3HAB),” the video alone amassing over one million views. Her subtle writing draws the listener in with its tender renderings of everyday nuance, and she’s steadily released a string of alt-pop gems over the last year – most recently “Oddities and Prodigies” (with b-side “Lonely Interlude”), “The Hypothetical” and “PDA of the Mainstream.” She is actively working on new music, with plans to release an album in early 2022.
But for now, she returns with “Ireland in 2009,” premiering exclusively on Audiofemme. This time, the observant creator drew inspiration for the fanciful track from 2009 indie film Cherrybomb, starring Romano’s favorite actor Robert Sheehan, and Harry Potter star Rupert Grint. Filmed in Belfast, the movie follows the two on a journey of debauchery as they try to catch the attention of the same girl. Romano felt compelled to write a song around the theme of tragic teenage romance, a la Romeo & Juliet “if they hung out in parking lots and smoked cigarettes all the time,” she says.
Though Romano was just eight years old when Cherrybomb was released, it informed her perspective on romance, alongside other movies she watched at that age, like Notting Hill, Letters to Juliet, and The Notebook. “I wanted to write about the kind of love that doesn’t get written about in story books: the things that dissipate over time and probably only two people will ever even remember,” she explains of the song’s inspiration, noting that the setting of Cherrybomb “gave me everything I needed.” “I wanted to get in on that action of oversimplified, high school storytelling in a way that I missed out on because I was so young during that time, but it’s what I grew up watching and thinking about when I thought of romance.”
Romano sets the scene of an ill-fated teen romance that will ultimately end in demise, yet is still filled with wonder and intrigue for the two main characters. She accomplishes this through lyrics that capture the messy, yet free-spirited nature of young love, like “Look at you asleep on the floor/By the mattress in the middle of the door/I just woke up from an all night war/In my school clothes from the day before.”
“When you’re young, everything is so dramatic and the end of the world and everything has so much meaning, but it’s all these small little things. I thought about how I could make these two characters and their lives in this desolate place in rainy Ireland sound deep and dramatic,” the Nashville-based pop artist explains. “This is messy, but it works, and it’s not going to end well, but it’s pretty to them.” The image-driven lyrics capture an imperfect love story that looks beautiful to the people inside of it. It’s a story steeped in youth, particularly as Romano chants, “Broken glass and empty bottles/Our 21st century fossils/Shattered dreams instead of dollars.”
“I think there’s a lot of expectation with every kid – you grow up with dreams and you think at that age that you’re going to be something really big, but at that time, everything is so small, and all you have are these literal fragments of dreams you’re trying to piece together to make life happen,” she analyzes. “When you look back sometimes on that, I think that whether you were successful, whether you had money in the future or not, those times of poverty and recklessness was the best it ever gets.”
Romano adds a personal element to the song with the line “for a quiet girl you’re awfully loud,” an observation a friend made about her. Romano recalls her friend telling her, “You don’t say a lot, but when you say something, it means a lot and it has depth,” validating the shy girl who also harbors a powerful voice that commands attention.
“I’ve always really cherished it and I wanted to put that in the song somehow,” she says of that compliment. “I think a lot of the times it is the quiet ones that say the most. I felt very seen. I felt that people do recognize that I’m quiet and reserved and shy, but maybe I do have something worth saying after all.”
“Ireland in 2009” also reflects Romano’s unique desire to live out experiences she’ll never have, crafting a narrative she can only live vicariously through her characters. “I’m someone who definitely has a fear of missing out on experiences and missing parts of the world because I realize that my world is so small and there’s so many people I’ll never love or know, and that scares me,” she confesses. “I find comfort in other people’s stories, or at least imagining other people’s stories. I think everyone feels that way, so writing about it definitely helps and gives me a taste of it.”
As someone who walks through the world with eyes wide open, Romano hopes that the song transports the listener to their own version of “Ireland in 2009.” “I find very ugly things beautiful a lot of the time, or very sad things beautiful. I write about love in its purest form,” she professes. “I hope that they see an ultra-specific place… that they’ve known in their own life. I hope they imagine certain people living that out. I hope it reminds someone of a past love that was similar in some way. I hope it brings them somewhere I was trying to create for that song.”