Caitlin Kraus in her bedroom. (WOUB/Drake Withers)

Caitlin Kraus: a Twofold Journey

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“In one way or another I’m always doing music,” laughed Caitlin Kraus as we sat discussing her journey as a local musician and graduate student.

We talked for over an hour, exploring topics from music therapy, to songwriting, to animals, nature, and spirituality. Her bedroom was warmly lit and lined with records, books, and hand crafted art from friends and places she’s visited. Most of the art was canine-themed, and in the corner of her room lay two friendly Beagles.

“I hope they don’t bother you” she said, smiling over at the dogs. She was welcoming, and apologetic, trying to make me feel as comfortable as possible. Throughout the interview she would even ask me questions about myself. It felt natural and easy, like two old friends getting together to catch up.

Caitlin was born and raised in Columbus, OH, and began playing music from a young age. It started informally; when she was in second grade the neighbor across the street was moving out and getting rid of an old piano. Her father took it, and she began taking lessons from her church’s choir director.

“I never saw myself being a musician one day,” she said.

There was no prominent history of musicianship within her family, and her parents never forced music upon her. It simply became something of an interest to her as a child.

When she was in 7th grade, she began playing guitar and started writing her own songs. After that, music became a regular and important aspect in Caitlin’s life.

In high school she played more acoustically and began learning Beatles and Wilco songs, while continuing to grow in her own writing style and voice.

Caitlin Kraus. (WOUB/Drake Withers)
Caitlin Kraus. (WOUB/Drake Withers)

It was also during this time that she discovered the career path of music therapy, and came to Ohio University in 2006 to explore the study in her undergrad. She graduated in 2010 and moved to Austin, TX, to work as a Board Certified Music Therapist. She spent five years there before moving back to Athens to begin graduate school in 2016. She is currently working in a three-year program to obtain a master’s degree in Music Therapy and counseling.

She explained that she’s in an age of two intersecting but separate paths: her own playing and songwriting, and her studies as a music therapy graduate student.

“Music therapy is definitely my career passion, but that being said I also don’t ever want to stop making my own music,” said Caitlin. “I don’t even think I could. Even if I stopped playing out as much I would probably still write songs just for myself.”

Her musicianship has expanded greatly throughout the years. In her undergrad she became more comfortable playing out at coffee shops and open mic nights, and after she moved to Austin she started playing electric guitar and collaborating with other artists.

She continues to play solo shows, but has also been collaborating regularly with percussionist Tessa Evanovsky.

Among the places she’s played recently include Jackie O’s taproom, Casa Nueva, Donkey Coffee, and Little Fish Brewery.

Though she’s been juggling between class and an internship, Caitlin has still been playing frequently and hopes to record new music soon.

In the meantime, she’s been challenging herself by learning old time guitar and exploring new themes within her writing.

She explained that recently she’s been expanding upon the idea of “overcoming obstacles or growth in general, of kind of giving into something that’s greater than yourself…just the idea that there’s something bigger than you but that one way or another you’re going to make it through, or grow in the process.”

Her songs tend to explore heavy themes, yet remain hopeful and introspective.

Among her many musical influences include The Beatles, Billie Holiday, Carol King, Karen Dalton, and her all-time favorite, Neil Young.

She even has a tattoo with the lyrics “Don’t let it bring you down/it’s only castles burning” taken from the album After the Goldrush, the first Young album she ever heard.

But beyond music, Caitlin finds solace in books, nature and animals.

“I feel most spiritual around the things that feel freeing and natural,” she told me as we talked of her love for such things.

Though I had just met her, she told me of her interests with genuine passion and detail. 
She smiled as she described how empowering it is to work in music therapy and help others through what she loves most, and she spoke with modesty and care when talking of her own self.

Her introverted and kind spirit came to light as she spoke, and her message was nothing short of genuine.

“I’m not aiming to make a bunch of money off of my music or become famous per say,” she said. “I just want to be able to balance both things.”

(WOUB/Drake Withers)
(WOUB/Drake Withers)