Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield Gets More Honest Than Ever Before
Katie Crutchfield has never shied away from intimate songs and sparse melodies. But with Out in the Storm, the Alabama indie-rock musician strayed from solely the acoustic side of things, crafting a true rock record. And while she has often performed solo as Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm saw her bringing in a live band to record.
While Crutchfield has written about love, heartbreak, and home in the past, Out in the Storm takes this honesty to another level than did any of her previous work. Prior to this album, Crutchfield wasn’t ready to talk about the tumultuous relationship she had been in for 10 years, but now she is. “There are songs that are really angry and frustrated, and there are songs that are written about a time before the breakup happened,” she explains. “But it’s all kind of about the same situation, just different phases of that.” Through harsh guitar riffs and gritty, self-reflective lyrics, Crutchfield shows there’s a breakthrough that can happen after a breakup.
We caught up with Crutchfield and talked about her dynamic new record, the heart of the Philly music scene, and the catharsis of her candor.
Out in the Storm seems like your most upbeat and also most rock-heavy record.
I think that both of those things are true. [It’s] upbeat as far as lyrics and content go, but it's definitely different from my other records. It’s more cohesive, and it’s definitely like a rock record.
How long did it take you to write it, and what inspired the album?
The first song, “Never Been Wrong,” and the last song, “Fade,” I wrote in a different time period, which was maybe six months before I actually sat down to write the rest of it. But that’s really just because I was busy. I had ideas for what I wanted to write about, and I had a lot going on in my life that inspired what the record went on to be. But the rest of if it, I didn’t write until I was off tour and had a moment to just sort of breathe. It took about six weeks or so to write the rest of the album. The record is sort of about the end of a relationship, and that’s something I feel like I’ve written about before, but when you get some space from something like that, something that you’re so immersed in, your perspective changes. And you can kinda see it for what it is, and your emotions are not running high like they are when you’re in it. It’s about the end of the relationship, looking at yourself and what you feel in that moment in your life. It’s very self-reflective.
Why do you think this relationship has had such an impact on your music?
It’s hard to say. Everybody has those relationships, and there’s no real rhyme or reason to it necessarily. It’s just about personalities and dynamics that they make a big impact on your life. I wouldn’t say that it’s specific to my music. I think it’s more that music is specific to my life than the other way around. It just speaks to the impact of the relationship, so that’s why I wrote about it. But I often write about all my [close] relationships.
How has the Philly music scene impacted this record? Are there any artists who inspired you while making Out in the Storm?
The scene there is so special, it’s just like really vibrant. I think people want to pigeonhole it; like there’s something happening in Philly right now, and it’s a moment, but I think it’s always been cool there, and there’s always been great music there. It’s always been really conducive to that as a city. It just accommodates music and artists in a really special way.
I’m not sure there’s one specific Philly band inspired me. I have a lot of great friends who are brilliant musicians, and a lot of them are in my band, like my sister and Ashley Arnwine, my amazing drummer. I think the thing about this record is that I recorded it with my live band, which is something I’ve never done. Katherine Simonetti, my longtime friend and bass player, played bass on the record, Ashley played drums, and my sister played a lot of stuff on it. This was recorded in Philadelphia. It was really inspired by the players who were all Philadelphia people.
How did you come up with the title?
The title is in the song “Sober.” I really wanted to call the record after a lyric. That’s a very natural thing, to title a record after a lyric. I was really trying to search for the right one, and “out in the storm” just felt so right. There’s kind of something chaotic about the record. It’s a lot of emotions; it’s a lot of things sort of hitting you quickly and sort of packed into 30 minutes. So, it kind of has that stormy feeling anyway. I just like the title because I think being “out in the storm” implies that it’s a moment—that it’s not going to last forever, and there’s hope in that. To me, that encapsulates the record. It’s a moment of chaos and of frustration and sadness and all these different emotionally overwrought sort of things, but then it implies that that’s not going to last forever.
How do you feel like you’ve grown since Waxahatchee started?
So much! It feels completely different, just like anybody feels like from the point where they’re 21 until they’re 28. I have a steady job now, and I have more responsibilities and bigger life things that are happening. When I was 21, it was like, “Oh, this person isn’t texting me, this makes me want to write a melancholy song.” Now it feels like my priorities have shifted and my perspective has shifted just in a natural way.
What were you listening to when you made this record?
I always feel like I always have a great answer to that. When I was making Ivy Tripp, I had a laundry list of really specific things I was listening to. I feel like with this one, I was really trying to let my bandmates sort of help me shape the songs into what they were going to be. In the past, I would, like, hear this organ sound on this song and I would be like, “That’s what I want,” and write it all down. I feel like with this record I didn’t have that at all. I just wanted to take the songs into the band. The demos will be on a different version of the LP, so people will hear the demos. The demo versions of the songs and the album versions aren’t that different. The [demos] sound like smaller, skeletal versions of what the songs became. So I really feel like I was letting everything happen naturally. I wasn’t trying to go back to my Rolodex of my favorite sounds. Before I go make a record, I always go back and listen to [Liz Phair’s] Exile in Guyville, because I just love that record and the way it flows. But other than that, I really wanted my bandmates' styles to kind of come through. I thought that if we could really build something together, then, when we played them live, they would be so powerful. So that was kind of a big thing.
When you were saying that you were singing about a breakup, is that what the whole album is about or just specific songs?
The whole record is about the same relationship. It’s just short of snapshots of different phases. There are songs that are really angry and frustrated, and there are songs that are written about a time before the breakup happened. There are songs that are written after.
I gathered from listening to the record that it ended up being a toxic relationship, how did that end up playing out through the songs?
Yeah, totally, and I’m glad that you pick up on that. I kind of got through it by writing about it. Hopefully, other people who have been through [an experience] like that can relate to it. For me, finding an album that is about something that I would probably really relate to is so cool. It’s very just rooted in my own experiences. My last record, I feel like a lot of the songs were about that same relationship. It was cloaked in a lot of metaphors, and I was not quite ready to talk about it head-on yet. I definitely feel like writing about it helped me process all of it, which is pretty powerful and good, which is why I started writing songs.
Does the person you’re writing about know you’re writing about them or can they just figure it out?
I don’t know. I don’t speak to them anymore. I would guess that this person would assume that this would happen.
So you and Allison performed at Vulture Fest, would we see a P.S Elliot reunion in the future again?
Maybe not. Just because we’re both so busy. Allison and I always have 100 plans. We thought about starting a new band together, and she's working on another solo record. We kind of have this unspoken thing as soon as one of our record cycles comes to an end, the other picks back up. We kind of always go in waves like that. I’m sure as things start cooling off for Waxahatchee next year, she’ll start working on another solo record, and then I probably won’t be too far behind her with another Waxahatchee record. We did the P.S Elliot reunion, and we really don’t need to do it again.
You and Allison both have solo careers now. Do you guys ever get competitive about anything or are you guys just always super supportive of each other?
I think it depends on which one of us you ask. I say that we’re not competitive. I don’t feel competitive, but we have our moments of weakness. For the most part, I think that we’re really supportive of each other. I feel like when good things happen to her, it’s good for me too and vice versa. I want her to do well, and I want her to get to do everything that she wants to do. I think we’re really supportive, and we really depend on each other just for validation. We started making music when we were so young, and we did that together, so I think we’ll forever sort of lean on each other in a creative capacity.
What does a future record look like for you? Would it kind of fall in line with this or more like Ivy Tripp?
It’s hard to think about it. I actually didn’t make this record that long ago. It was only January when I finished it. I’m still so caught up in the wake of making this record and thinking about and being creatively fulfilled by that. I’d really like to make a lot of different kind of records over the years, so it’s really hard to say. Right now, I’m feeling like it’d be so great to make a super-quiet solo record, and I’m sure I’ll do that someday. After all the touring with this, I feel like I’m gonna need a long break.
That’s totally fair. Did you struggle to write any of the songs on this record emotionally?
No, it was the opposite. It was kind of like I needed to do it. I felt like it was just time. Like I said with Ivy Tripp, I feel like I did struggle to write a lot of those songs because I was trying to find ways to say what I felt and cut to the proximity of the subject matter: the person who I was writing about. They were too close at that point, and I just couldn’t quite say what I needed to say. After having a lot of changes happen and gaining a lot of perspective, I was just ready to say everything with this record. It was very cathartic, actually. I kind of needed to put the last nail in the coffin and walk away from it, which is what I feel like this record represents for me.
Out in the Storm is available now.