Interview:

Fighting For Victory

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Katie Crutchfield on shaping raw introspection

in to her best record yet

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words by ben tipple

photography by jessica kourkounis

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“A fucked up relationship and an intense break-up…”

Katie Crutchfield offers casually, sipping on a beer in an east London pub to celebrate the release of her new record. She almost immediately backtracks. “I try not to harp on about it being a breakup record,” she insists.

Out In The Storm, the new record under her Waxahatchee guise, is far from it. The catalyst may have been the demise of a long-term partnership, yet above all else, her fourth studio album is one of self-reflection. The purpose is not to attack the former relationship. “It’s about the singular”, she explains. “What the person goes through.” As Crutchfield unfurls the record, it emerges as a raw and responsive reaction to one moment in time. “It’s the first time I’ve written a record where everything is about the same thing,” she reveals.

Each track on Out In The Storm demonstrates a different state of mind. As with any sense of loss, emotions change. Crutchfield sways from anger to remorse, from self-deprecation to liberation and from being exposed to feeling safe. “There are moments when I’m beaten down and just wanted to escape. There are moments where I’m over it and fine, moments when I’m in it and moments when I’m not. But it’s all about the same thing.”

The brutally honest song writing is a product of urgency. At various moments in our conversation Crutchfield reinforces her then-desperate need to write the record. It’s an instinct removed from what has come before. She looks back on prior material fondly, although seemingly with brand new eyes. Crutchfield has outgrown the initial intensions of Waxahatchee at the turn of this decade. This is her personal opus. “I really wrote Out In The Storm outside the context of Waxahatchee,” she admits. There was an urgency to writing it that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I wasn’t thinking about building on what I did last. More so, I just had to write this record.”

Her approach changed. Rather than working towards a formulated sound, Crutchfield let the sound come to her. She smiles as she admits she didn’t have a direction for the record until halfway through the recording process. The result is notably immediate. There’s no metaphor to hide behind, rather the record lays out her unpredictable emotions. “I just wrote the songs really fast,” she adds, explaining how she pulled the majority of the record together in just over six weeks. “They ended up being more cohesive than they normally are.”

The concept of the individual runs throughout the record. With the subject matter looking inward, Crutchfield called on her band and her new producer John Agnello to help the record take shape. Joined by her sister Allison, as well as Katie Harkin of Sky Larkin and Sleater-Kinney, Katherine Simonetti, and drummer Ashley Arnwine, Crutchfield remained firmly in the driving seat. “It was so different for me,” she says of working with her live band during the recording process, having previously been part of a now-defunct creative trio. “If anything, I felt more in control this time around.”

“I’d picked the players and felt like I was at the head of the table,” she continues without a hint of arrogance. Her respect for her collaborators is palpable. “To have all these super talented people at my disposal taking direction, but also contributing a lot, was an incredible experience. I had all of these brilliant minds working with me.”

Thought ultimately, Out In The Storm is Crutchfield’s tale to tell. “I think I nailed it,” she confidently proclaims of the record. “It’s how I feel.” It has also reaffirmed her already stellar song writing. “I felt like I was twenty again and music wasn’t my job. I felt like I had no responsibility to make the record.”

As with most songwriters, Crutchfield finds catharsis in her work. Out In The Storm has helped her process complex emotions stirred up by the breakdown of her prior relationship. She also finds pride in her new piece of work, perhaps above and beyond her earlier material. “It’s like reading your diaries,” she laughs speaking of debut American Weekend. “I’m thanking that it’s out there and documented, but some of the things I was writing about so melodramatically then, they feel so small now.”

Yet one thing that pulls all her records together, and that have helped establish her as a one of the best songwriters of our time, is her honest emotion. “The most satisfying thing for me about writing is to articulate a feeling as acutely as I can. When I do that, and reflect on that, that’s when I feel the most fulfilled creatively. In that way, I feel really good about the album.”

She’s also aware of how she represents herself on the record. In keeping with her insistence that it’s not a stereotypical break-up record, she attacks herself as much as she does her situation. “Sometimes I don’t look great, but I think that what I’m saying is very victorious. Sometimes it’s vulnerable and messy, but that’s real. In that way it feels like a personal victory. I also realise it might be hard to listen to. It’s really raw.”

It’s this unfiltered truth that Crutchfield hopes resonates with her audiences, both new and old. “People come up to me at shows a lot and tell me what my songs mean to them,” she beams. “That’s one of the things I’m so excited about with this record. I’ve written stuff that’s so introspective and points the blame inwards, but this one is also hopeful. I want people who are having a bad day or just feeling like somebody has fucked them over to listen to it and feel built up. That’s what I want the record to be.”

But it’s also something that is making her nervous. “It’s still so fresh,” she candidly admits. But through that, Out In The Storm represents the unofficial end of Waxahatchee, and the start of Katie Crutchfield.

‘Out In The Storm’ is out now, via Merge Records

You can buy it here

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Waxahatchee tour the UK this Autumn:

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