Fans who scanned this year's announcement of Daytime Emmy Award nominees didn't see The Young and the Restless actress Cait Fairbanks (Tessa Porter) on the list, but the talented performer actually was honored with a nomination -- albeit in a category not many actors find themselves in: Outstanding Original Song.
A singer/songwriter in real life, Fairbanks co-created the popular 2018 Y&R tune "How Could a Lie Feel so True," which is connected to her character's relationship with Mariah (Camryn Grimes). Fans may have missed the fact that she cowrote the song with the soap's music supervisor, RC Cates, because she is credited not as Cait Fairbanks but rather as Cait Baunoch, which is her birth name.
In celebration of her Emmy nomination, Soap Central spoke with Fairbanks about the rare opportunity of being a performer who's being honored for behind-the-scenes work. And after she dished on the magic of songwriting, she opened up about playing Y&R's sometimes-hard-to-love Tessa. Can the unpredictable character be trusted? Will she continue to spread her wings as a singer in Genoa City? And do Tessa and Mariah (a.k.a. Teriah) have staying power? Keep reading to find out.
Soap Central: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination for Outstanding Original Song!
Cait Fairbanks: Well, thank you so much!
Soap Central: How do you feel about getting a nomination in that category? That's pretty rare for performers to earn that particular honor.
Fairbanks: It feels great! I was so surprised because we wrote the song so long ago, and not that I forgot, but I was just like, "Oh, my God, that's right!" It was a pleasant surprise, and I really love that I'm nominated in this particular category, because I really feel like I got to be part of the creative team, which is my dream. So, it was really cool.
Soap Central: To be honest, I don't think many people realized that you were one of the writers, because it's not under Cait Fairbanks, but rather Cait Baunoch. Is there a reason you have decided to have your music credited under a different name than your acting?
Fairbanks: No, it's just I used that when I originally signed up for [the show], because it's my birth name. It's kind of like my secret identity name -- like Kim Possible!
Soap Central: It is pretty rare for actors to collaborate on behind-the-scenes work, so how is it that you got involved in writing "How Could a Lie Feel so True" for Y&R?
Fairbanks: Well, actually, when I first auditioned, I had to play the guitar and the piano during the screen test, and I played a song that I wrote, so they knew early on that I was also a songwriter. And I have always been pretty pushy, like, "I can write! I have songs! I have stuff!" [Laughs] So I kind of just ended up sneaking a few in along the way, and when this song came along, because of the storyline and because we were so involved, Mal [Young, our former executive producer] reached out to RC, and then RC reached out to me, knowing that I listen to a lot of pop music and I was obsessed with writing. So that's kind of how I got involved with this particular song.
Soap Central: It's super expensive for the shows to get the rights to mainstream songs, so having you as a songwriter is an asset, and using you in that way seems like a no-brainer! Does it look there will be more opportunities for you to step into that role for the show?
Fairbanks: Yes, and you know, I always kind of stick my nose in anytime I think I could write a song on the show, and if it involves the storyline, then it's even more exciting. Without giving too much away, yes, definitely -- I am always going to try to sneak my writing into the show. I love being able to put any creative stamp on it. It's just really fun for me.
Soap Central: How do you normally approach writing songs? Do you sit down and experiment, or is it more spontaneous or random inspiration, like when you're driving down the road or something?
Fairbanks: Honestly, it could be anything. And it's funny that you said driving, because I saw a couch on the street one day, and I thought, "Oh, I kind of feel like that couch sometimes," and it ended up being the first line for this song that I put out for this artists' project called Ginesse, the song called "Noise." The first line [came] when I was just literally driving around and saw this couch on the street.
Soap Central: That is hilarious. It's amazing that you were able to create something beautiful from something like that, just a random thrown-away couch on the side of the street.
Fairbanks: [Laughs] Well, thank you! For [our nominated song], we already had the basic storyline and some lyrics that played along, and we just kind of built from there. So, honestly, you just never know. In some sessions, I'll go, and we'll just have a guitar part, and then we write to the guitar part, and sometimes I'll come in like the controlling freak that I am and be like, "I have an idea! Let's try out the idea!" It kind of just depends.
Soap Central: Is there a space where you feel more creative when you're writing songs? Like, is there a place where you've noticed you come up with more ideas than anywhere else?
Fairbanks: I think it's more people than spaces. I have a few people that I really trust to write with, and they make me feel creative. But I do have a beautiful piano and a bunch of plants on top of my piano, and then I have some candles, and I have my window where I can look out over L.A. So, I definitely do have a creative space. The second I walk into my house, I'm like, "Oh, yeah, this is my house and my creative space." I'm a hermit; I'm like a bird, and I have my nest, my creative nest.
Soap Central: All musicians seem to have their place and their rituals. For example, I know that Britney Spears always has vanilla candles burning during her recording sessions.
Fairbanks: I love that. I'm going to steal that! I love that.
Soap Central: I'm a huge Britney fan, so forgive me for sneaking her into this!
Fairbanks: I love Britney, too. I'm a big fan. She's the freaking best.
Soap Central: Do you have a favorite genre of music or artists that really influence you?
Fairbanks: I'm kind of all over the map, but writers that influenced me growing were Elliott Smith and Regina Spektor. And nowadays, I'm obsessed with Frank Ocean. I love those kind of writers. I was also obsessed with John Mayer, because you know, it's John Mayer! [Laughs] How can you not love him? So as writers, those are the first people I think of. But I love hip-hop, as well. I love so many things! I'm so ADD when it comes to music.
Soap Central: I'm the same, but especially if you're a musician, it makes sense to know all kinds of different genres and artists so you can take pieces and parts of everything and create something new.
Fairbanks: Yes, exactly! I love hip-hop, but honestly, I don't know how to make hip-hop music. But I love the rhythm and the way people say things; it's really fascinating. And then with folk music, I love the way it sounds with the guitars and the simplicity. And then I love indie pop, because then there are backing vocals and everything is tuned and it's so weird, like, you never really know.
Soap Central: Well since you know so much about music and have such a wide affinity, don't be surprised when you meet my boss, Dan Kroll, who's the owner of Soap Central, at the Emmy Awards. He's also a huge music lover, and I'm fairly certain he'll have some fun shenanigans planned for you on the red carpet, like Name That Tune or something equally hilarious.
Fairbanks: Okay, I'll be ready. I dare him to find a song that I don't know -- unless he pulls something really obscure out of the hat, then I'm screwed! But for example, when I'm watching movies, I'll start hearing a song, and I'll say, "Oh, I love this song!" And my friends are like, "How do you know every song?" Well, I don't have anything else to do except work!
Soap Central: So, will you for sure be attending the Creative Arts Emmy Awards?
Fairbanks: Yes, I will!
Soap Central: Do you enjoy walking the red carpet? Is that a part of the acting business that you like to do?
Fairbanks: Yes and no. I love getting dressed up, and I like talking. I actually do like getting interviewed. But getting my picture taken makes me nervous. I'm always like, "Not the right side! Just the left side!" And I try to pull a Rhianna. It's that thing where people are like, "I have a favorite side," but it's a free-for-all once you get in there. But I love getting dressed up. It's really fun, and to me, it's another way to express myself, to get dressed up. It's like, "Oh, this is how I want to feel." And in interviewing, I like talking to people. I'm a chatterbox, so that's fun. But I get self-conscious when I'm walking and people start taking pictures. It's like, "Oh, no. Stand up straight. Stand up straight, girl!"
Soap Central: And make sure to always have a good look on your face! I would be horrible at that, because my "resting" face looks so mean, like I'm angry or something.
Fairbanks: Oh, me, too! And everyone is always like, "Smile, smile!" And I'm like, "Um, have you really ever seen me smile on my Instagram? I don't think so." I'm not a smiler. I'm more like, "Hi. I'm here. Don't make me smile!" [Laughs]
Soap Central: You mentioned that you like to go for a certain look that makes you feel a certain way. Do you do that with your music, too? Like, do you put on different clothes to feel inspired to perform or sing a different way, for example?
Fairbanks: Well, when I write, I'm usually in pajamas. [Laughs] But I have a few different personas that I put on, depending on what I'm writing for. Like, if I'm writing for Y&R, then I try to pull from things that I know about Tessa, and when I'm writing for Cait, then I write based off of a few specific points of view instead of trying to open the door. If I walk in too open-minded, then no idea can come out as specific as it needs to. So, instead of pulling a look together, I pull a persona out instead. But when I'm making music videos and stuff, then I'm really specific about what the look is and what the feel is. And I also have Tumblr pages for each song that I create visuals for, so that's also really helpful.
Soap Central: Tessa's musical talents kind of took a back seat for a while, but it seems like they're coming to the forefront again. How do you feel about being able to showcase your musical talents in a soap opera format?
Fairbanks: It's really fun, but it's also been really stressful, just because of the format. We only have so much time, but it always keeps me on my toes, which I actually really appreciate. I love to be challenged and I love to do things in the moment. Growing up in theater, it was always one take, one shot, good luck. So, I'm used to that world, and I love it. I get a high from it. And I'm very honored that people trust me in my writing, and the people that I work with that are so talented [trust me]. I feel very humbled to even have a chance to write and be given that trust, because it's a big deal. I feel very humbled.
Soap Central: It looks like you'll be getting the opportunity to share more scenes with Bryton James, just because Devon is the mastermind businessman behind all the music in Genoa City. What's it like working with him?
Fairbanks: Bryton is the best. He's just so sweet. I was speaking with Loren [Lott, Ana Hamilton] and we were saying that he is just the nicest person, so calm and sweet and grounded and funny. I could go on for literally days because he's the best. He's so easy to work with and always comes so prepared. He's great.
Soap Central: I love how Devon recently described Tessa as a wild card. I feel like fans agree with that as such an apt description of her. Do you agree that Tessa is a wild card?
Fairbanks: Oh, a hundred percent! I feel like Tessa has gotten a little bit of a bad rap, but my pull from it is just that Tessa is going to always survive. That's something I think most people can [relate to], and I think that's why a character like Tessa makes people uncomfortable. She's so much more human, because people do make mistakes, people do act selfishly, people do things that are right for them that aren't right for other people. And I think seeing that can make people uncomfortable. People don't like to watch themselves. They don't like it because it makes them feel exposed. You have someone who is quirky and sweet but also has a dark side and is a little unpredictable, and I think that's pretty real and can be kind of scary for people.
Soap Central: On the exterior, she does seem kind of sweet, like many of us probably do. But then you see something underneath, and it's like, "Oh, wait a minute."
Fairbanks: Yeah, but that sweetness and that side isn't any less real. I think some people see it as manipulative, but that's not true. I think people are multicolored; they can be sweet and genuine but also a little selfish and survivalist. You never know what you're going to get with people.
Soap Central: So, Tessa and Mariah, or Teriah as they are also known, have quite the fan following. What does that support mean to you?
Fairbanks: It's honestly one of the best parts of this job, if not the best, getting that support. I was terrified walking in for a lot of reasons, but mainly just because I had never been on a soap, I had never acted on a TV show, and I was nervous about that part of it because I'm super self-conscious and so insecure about certain things. I was like, "Am I going to be able to handle this?" But then I found out that there are a lot of people who have my back, so I don't necessarily have to worry about that stuff. So, it's been really great.
Soap Central: What do you love about Tessa and Mariah's connection and relationship?
Fairbanks: Camryn and I have taken a lot of time to really act off each other in our mannerisms, just like couples do. I get these GIFs of us talking to each other, and we'll be doing the same hand motions or be giving the same look, and I'm like, oh, my God, this is what happens when you hang out with each other all the time! [Laughs] I love that their friendship is also so strong, if that makes sense, because I think any good relationship stems from a friendship. And I think the fact that we have such a strong, fun time together on set also helps, and the relationship looks so much more real. And with Tessa and Mariah, I love how they always have each other's backs. I think that's really cool, even when one of us knows the other is maybe wrong, it's like, "Eh, f** it. I'm still gonna be loyal." [Laughs]
Soap Central: Mariah is a huge fan of Tessa and super supportive of her musical talents. Is Camryn Grimes anything like Mariah in terms of supporting your real-life music and being a fan of Cait the singer/songwriter?
Fairbanks: Oh, definitely! I showed her a music video that I'm shooting and putting out, and she was like, "Holy crap, that's amazing!" She was a little surprised, just because I had pulled it together, and I hadn't really told anyone I was making a music video. She was just surprised because she didn't know.
Soap Central: You've got talents in both acting and music. Is it ever difficult to decide which one gets your time and energy?
Fairbanks: Well one great thing about the format of this is that I do have time where I'll have a week [of no acting], and I can pull all of my music stuff together, so I really haven't had to spread myself too thin. I've been able to do both and give both 100 percent. So, I feel pretty lucky right now.
Soap Central: As your music career continues to grow, do you have a vision of what you would like it to look like in the future?
Fairbanks: Yes and no. I like to keep the door open, because any time I plan anything out or have expectations, it doesn't ever come out the way that I want it to. So, I'm kind of just trying to keep going and see what happens from that. As a little kid, I was like, "I want to do this, and I want to be on stage, and I want to be Britney Spears!" And then you see what really happens to people who make it that way, and it doesn't always seem appealing. So, for me, I just want to be making music, and I just want to be acting, and I'm going to do it in any way possible.
Soap Central: Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. As you said, when you become a raging success like Britney, for instance, everything about your life changes. And even on the acting side of it, being on a soap opera, you can still act and do what you love, but you're not mobbed by paparazzi, and you can still live a normal life.
Fairbanks: Yeah, you can go to the grocery store without makeup on and not worry about it -- that's my way!
What do you think about our interview with Cait Fairbanks? What are your thoughts about her Emmy nomination for Original Song? What do you hope for both Tessa and Teriah in the future? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.