Interview Waxahatchee: ‘Hopefully Other People Can Relate’

It’s blue skies ahead for Katie Crutchfield. Words: Jake May.

To most of the UK the music of recent Wichita-signing Waxahatchee will be entirely brand new – the forthcoming ‘Cerulean Salt’ record the introduction to her world of angsty, folk-ish songs about love, loss, and nostalgia. For Katie Crutchfield, the 24-year-old Alabaman behind the project, music is something she’s been making for ten years already – with ‘Cerulean Salt’ merely the latest in a long series of releases with a number of different bands and under various guises, and her second as Waxahatchee. As impressive as her previous output is, the new Waxahatchee album certainly feels like a coming of age.

“In the past I was a little impulsive and hasty,” Katie explains over the phone from her bedroom in Philadelphia. ”Sort of like, ‘Oh, I have this idea, let’s make this record right now!’ The first [Waxahatchee] record [‘American Weekend’] was just kind of like a lightning strike. [‘Cerulean Salt’] was more drawn out and more contrived. Like, this is how we want it to sound and we’re going to take our time.”

‘American Weekend’, released in 2012 through Don Giovanni Records in the US, was entirely written and self-recorded in a week. It’s an incredible album made up of punk-influenced acoustic folk; Katie sharing tales of heartbreak and love-loss in a delicate, intimate and beautiful setting. Initially ‘Cerulean Salt’ was recorded in a similar acoustic and lo-fi vein before Katie decided to scrap the recordings and start over. “The songs just didn’t transfer,” she reasons.

So, with the help of her boyfriend Keith, Katie re-recorded the entire album with her friend and housemate Kyle Gilbride (she lives in a house of eight people, all “musicians and songwriters”). It’s an instrumentally-fuller record with a much cleaner sound. “I feel really proud of it,” she says. “I hope that that speaks to the future of my song-writing. I’m going to take my time and make a quality record.”

It’s a technique that pays off. The increasingly patient recording method hears a more considered, more consistent, more accomplished sound, yet loses none of the intimacy or beauty which made her debut so special. No surprise, then, that her music has spread like wildfire over the US and Europe, pricking up the ears of Wichita in the process. And even more impressively: it’s largely down to word of mouth.

“My US ‘PR guy’ is my friend at this point,” Katie explains. “I would never sign some crazy record deal or go with some crazy PR company or anything like that. I never wanted to gain popularity for anything other than people liking my music that I made, that I wrote, that I recorded, and that came directly from me. I’m not one of those people that would compromise or do anything that would make me feel stupid or silly in order to get something somewhere.”

In terms of creative inspiration, Katie tends to draw from personal experiences. Her lyrics are autobiographical, affecting, and powerful. “I feel like when you write about something that’s completely across the board – like about getting your heart broken – you say that in a couple of different ways and then that’s it,” she says. “It’s not real enough to me. I feel like if I can write something that’s real for me, hopefully other people can relate.”

Katie finds she needs quite particular circumstances to be able to get in this lyrically creative place. “There isn’t enough privacy in big cities,” she says of her time spent living in New York. “You can always feel a person in the next room or in the next apartment or outside your window. There’s always somebody. And I kind of need a sharp focus in order to write for Waxahatchee a lot of the time, so I have to be completely by myself. More often than not I am not in the mind-set to write like that. I just have to listen to my brain. I haven’t even written any new songs for Waxahatchee [since ‘Cerulean Salt’] but I’m confident that moment will come, when I’m ready,” she says.

Critical acclaim, worldwide attention, and a forthcoming release on one of the UK’s most respected independent labels understandably might leave Katie at a loss for some of the sadness that has inspired a lot of her past recordings. And these aren’t the only reasons Katie has to be pleased with how Waxahatchee is going right now. In June she’s set to tour Europe with Tegan And Sara, stopping off in London for a sold out headline date at the Shacklewell Arms.

“It’s very strange, especially considering I have never gone further than Canada,” Katie muses. “It’s really exciting. I’ve never been [to the UK] before so it’s pretty crazy. In America, whether I like it or not, I sort of know what’s going on. Touring here all the time is fun but it can get kinda old and monotonous. But over there I don’t know at all. When I get there I’m not going to know how the shows are gonna go or anything like that. It’s basically taking something that I loved to do but that has sort of started to get old and making it new again. So I’m really excited.”

Touring with Tegan And Sara undoubtedly won’t be the only time Katie gets to experience performing in front of thousands of adoring fans in cities she’s never visited. With a voice and a talent for songwriting like hers, she has the potential to become a genuine great – be it with Waxahatchee or whatever ridiculously good venture she comes up with next.

Waxahatchee’s new album ‘Cerulean Salt’ will be released on 1st July via Wichita.

Taken from the June 2013 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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