In Conversation: Waxahatchee
The week before last Katie Crutchfield released ‘Saint Cloud’, her fifth album as Waxahatchee, which has quickly become the most acclaimed record of her career thus far. Rather than being able to go out on the road and celebrate these songs with her fans, she, like the rest of us, is stuck inside.
Crutchfield has been far from defeated by this though, as she and partner, musician Kevin Morby, have been making efforts to remain peaceful, creative and connecting with fans through weekly Instagram Live Streams – “it’s a good vibe,” as she describes it.
Clash decided to catch up with Crutchfield while she remains grounded at home, to find out more about how she’s taken the overwhelmingly positive reaction to ‘Saint Cloud’, how she and Morby are staying sane during this time, and how much fun they’re having playing covers and chatting to fans on Instagram.
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We are now living in a post-‘Saint Cloud’ world, and I wanted to know how you're feeling about the reaction to it?
Feeling good! I tried to not get too deep into the reaction; I'm reading some stuff, but I'm staying out of it for the most part. I don't really like to internalise any of it, but at the same time it's been really cool. It feels like people really like it. I feel like I made some bold choices, I took some risks creatively on it, and it felt very correct to me at the time, so to have that confirmed by way of praise is pretty cool and validating.
But it's funny, usually at this phase of putting out a record I'm so busy getting ready for tour that I don't really even have a chance to slow down and feel the reaction and so, obviously, this has been a very unique experience. I have to take in everyone else's reaction as a way of feeling like I did anything differently, or I did anything at all.
So it's been interesting, but yeah I'm grateful that people dig it.
Yeah, that must be pretty disorienting, not being able to go on tour, is it frustrating as well?
Yeah of course. The day that I had the hard conversations with my manager and booking agent where they were like, ‘yeah, this is not gonna happen’, that day was really upsetting. I almost took it a little personally, and was a little bit in denial. And then 24 hours later it was super clear to me this is just gonna affect every single person every single part of life. It just is what it is. It's bigger than everybody.
So since then I think I've had a good attitude about it. I felt happy to be of service right now; people need music more than ever. I mean, I really was excited to go play these songs. My band is so special for this touring cycle and we had already rehearsed. The vibe was so good, the excitement was so palpable, and we were ready to go and put on an amazing show.
But I have faith we'll get out there eventually; the band's not going anywhere, it'll all happen, but I'm bummed to have to put it on hold, I was really ready to go do that.
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Do you have any sense of whether the cleaner sound of ‘Saint Cloud’ and the positive reviews have helped you reach a new audience?
It feels like it! I have an indie audience and I was hoping that this record would sort of reach people who dig Americana music and more that stuff. So I feel like it is reaching those people and that feels cool.
I think that the fact that it's cleaner and it's a little bit more focused on my voice, it wasn't a conscious choice but in listening to it listening back to it, I did have the thought that this could be a little bit more accessible to a larger audience. So if that is what's happening, that's great. It's a little hard for me to know, since I am usually going on the road and that's how you can feel the good energy coming off the audience and I haven't really had the chance to do that.
One of the things that really come shining out of ‘Saint Cloud’, from the cover and the lyricism, is how much you love being out on the road and in nature and stuff. So are you missing that ability to be out there in the wilderness right now?
A little. It's funny, I've strangely been appreciating the time so much. We travel so much [as musicians] and are out in the world so much. There's a restlessness to my spirit, and I think that being forced to stay in one place weirdly just felt like maybe that's exactly what I needed. So yeah, I do miss it, but I also have faith that I'll get back to that. So, for now, it’s nice to just stay home.
At least you and Kevin [Morby] are making lemonade out of lemons by doing the weekly live streams. Are you going to keep it up?
We do it on Thursdays and last night was our third. We were both worried people were gonna get sick of it, but then last night so much fun and people just seem into it – and we're so into it. It's really fun for us, it gives us something to work on and look forward to, so I think we'll keep going. So next Thursday, we'll be back.
Amazing. That's a great thing to channel your creativity into. But are you using this time to write anything new at all? Or are you done with that part of the cycle at the moment?
Well I was done, but I have a lot of new ideas and I've been slowly starting to conceptualise what my next record will look like – but in the earliest phases of that. I kept telling myself that after I get all this ‘Saint Cloud’ touring out of the way I'll be ready to sit back with that, and now I have nothing but time! I haven't really [started writing] just because there's been a lot of work to do around ‘Saint Cloud’, but I feel like in the next couple of months if that starts to flow a little then that's where my focus will go, because I have time right now.
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Do you think that this whole quarantine situation is gonna make its way into your lyrics? Would you expect other people to write songs about it?
It's a joke with all my musician friends that 2021 is going to be the year of a million press releases about like ‘so and so was in quarantine’ and ‘this person was in quarantine’ – it's gonna become a whole sub-genre. But I'm gonna try to avoid it, I think. I'm sure it'll make its way in somehow, but I think that so many people are probably going to find inspiration in that, and I like to be an outsider.
Your cover of Caroline Polachek’s ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ caused a little stir online this week, what made you choose that song?
I just like it. I always like to do covers of songs that seem really far away from what I'm doing. That's just my whole life; ever since started playing music that I've found a lot of pleasure in that, especially just simplifying songs that sound complicated. There's so many secondary melodies on that song, there's so many cool synth lines and all that stuff.
I thought ‘what if I just stripped this song down to its core and its essence, and try to really put my current spin on it?’ And it was just fun, I kept catching myself listening to it over and over again, just in my life and loving singing along to it; the melody was exciting to me as a singer.
Going back to your weekly livestreams, how was the one to celebrate the release of ‘Saint Cloud’?
Kevin was all excited last week because he's like, ‘it'll be the eve of your record, we'll do our livestream and there will be all this excitement and you can play some songs from it, we can really dedicate the whole live to your record.’ And I thought that's so fun, that'll be a record release night thing to do. As a musician, you celebrate on the night before – that’s a thing that I've always done on the eve of a new album. So that was really cool.
Yesterday was obviously Kevin's birthday, and I am also stuck in my house with my partner and it's her birthday on Monday. How do you make the birthday special for your person in these circumstances?
I planned ahead. When I went grocery shopping, the first time, I bought everything I needed to make a birthday cake. I bought candles and all the ingredients. It was the least I can do is make him a cake.
I also noticed ‘Oh my God, your birthday is exactly on the day of our livestreams!’ It was very Kismet. We were always gonna have a little birthday party for him. He went on a nice long run and then I made him a birthday cake and we ate a bunch of pizza and we just had a nice time, so it was easy.
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A lot of people wonder if you guys will ever record something together?
Yeah, we record stuff together a lot just for fun. We have projects that we've been sitting on for like a year that we have talked about. Maybe we'll get back into that if we're just here doing nothing. Since we got together we've both had so many different obligations; he had ‘Oh My God’ and right as he was getting ready to tour that is when I was getting really serious about recording ‘Saint Cloud’. There's just been record after record, but yeah one of these days we'll do it.
With the live streams you're building up quite a catalogue of covers together.
Oh yeah, that's the whole thing! We spend our weeks being like ‘what are we going to cover?’ Typically, we talk about it all week but we don't actually practice it until the day of, so Thursdays are kind of stressful for us – but fun! I've discovered a lot of different new covers that I'm like, ‘I'm gonna record that’. I covered Emmylou Harris's ‘Where Will I Be?’ last night and I was like, ‘Damn, let's record that!’ There's moments like that where we're finding we're taking a lot of a lot of joy and singing songs that we like.
The cover of ‘We Could Be Looking For The Same Thing’ by Silver Jews is my favourite so far. How do you decide which songs to cover?
We have a tradition of every week doing a Lucinda Williams song and a David Berman song, so there will always be a Silver Jews songs on every live that we do. Kevin loves that song; we went through a phase where we were listening to that song over and over again, and yesterday when we were singing it together he just started crying. He was very emotional yesterday, on his birthday, and that song felt so right. It's such a sweet love song, it was the perfect song for us to do yesterday.
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Anyone who follows you on Instagram knows that you're a big reader. What's been your best read of quarantine so far?
Plays have been fun for me to read because I always liked diving into classic theatre stuff. You can read a play in a couple hours, so I really like that. I read the play Crimes Of The Heart by Beth Henley; it's about a family with three sisters and I'm in a family of three sisters so that I really liked, it's brilliant. I've never seen the movie, but I'm gonna try and watch it while in quarantine. I think that's my favourite thing I've read.
I've also been reading a lot of Pema Chödrön; she's a Buddhist nun and she's written a lot of books, just about her teachings. That stuff is really good to read right now because it's spiritual and it just eases my mind. Any time I'm going through a hard time personally, or we collectively as humans, I try to go back to her books because they put my mind at ease.
Were there any particular books or things that you read it inspired ‘Saint Cloud’ in any way?
I've taken inspiration from poets and writers a lot over the years on my records, but I feel like this one was less so than other records. But musically there were three huge influences that I talked about a lot; Lucinda Williams being one, Fiona Apple being another, and SZA being the third. Those three women and songwriters were heavy in my mind as I was making the record.
How excited are you for the new Fiona Apple record?
Oh god, I can't believe it! There's a new Lucinda record as well that I've heard and it's fucking incredible – and if we get a new SZA record in 2020 it will be the ultimate. If I get a record from all three of those people this year, I will be the luckiest person on earth.
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'Saint Cloud' is out now.
Words: Rob Hakimian
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