Discovery: Waxahatchee

Published March 6, 2013

ABOVE: KATIE CRUTCHFIELD, AKA WAXAHATCHEE

Katie Crutchfield grew up in the Birmingham, Alabama underground punk scene. Still only 23, Crutchfield started playing local shows with her identical twin sister, Allison, when she was 15. The sisters were in two bands together, first The Ackleys and then P.S. Eliot. In 2011, they went their separate (musical) ways. Katie re-emerged as Waxahatchee and released her first solo record, American Weekend, last year—a gritty, raw record of break-up songs.

After recording American Weekend alone, Katie collaborated with other family members and friends for her second album, Cerulean Salt. On this sophomore album, she truly comes into her own. Cerulean Salt is a coming-of-age story; her lyrics are pure, honest and unfiltered throughout the album, which might just make her the female version of Elliott Smith.

We spoke with Katie Crutchfield while she was on the road about “Dixie Cups and Jars,” being a part of the underground punk scene, and growing up in Waxahatchee.

AGE: 23

HOMETOWN: Birmingham, Alabama.

THE BRINK OF PUNK: I guess I’ve always been interested in music. I had made a couple of friends who were into some underground music, and then it snowballed. When you’re in that place in middle school, you don’t have a ton of your own interests yet, then it just kind of happened. I just discovered random, underground feminist bands. I thought, “Oh, that’s so cool.” I got into Rilo Kiley and this and that. Getting interested in that kind of music is what sparked that. Then when I was 13, I started playing guitar. My sister, Allison, and I didn’t have a ton of friends, so we would spend all of our time working on our band. She started playing drums, and we practiced every day in our basement. That went on for a year or two. Then we played a show at this place called Cave 9; it was a punk venue. That was how we figured it out. We started getting into weird bands, then that led to more weird bands and then we started our weird band. It’s kind of like a Gilman Street-esque DIY all-ages space that was in downtown Birmingham, Alabama where we’re from.

WHAT’S A WAXAHATCHEE: It comes from a place in Alabama where my parents have a house: it’s a creek. It’s part of a lake. I grew up there. It’s kind of a vacation spot that we always went to, so I spent a lot of time there in my life.

ON PRODUCING CERULEAN SALT:  The first one, I wrote and recorded all at the same time. It was the first time I made a record that was going to be an actual record that I did completely by myself. I wrote everything and I recorded everything. It was me. It was really bare bones. This record I had a lot of help. My boyfriend, Spencer, who plays in my band, and I, arranged them together. I wrote all the songs, but we arranged them together. He helped me flesh them all out. My roommate Kyle recorded it. It was more of a group effort. It was more bouncing ideas off of each other with my songs.

FROM DEMOS TO ALBUMS: The process is usually making demos that are the skeletal versions of songs that ended up being the songs that are on my record. I’ve been trying to learn that a little bit, because I’ve been writing songs for a long time. It gets kind of boring and gets kind of hard. I’ve been trying to mix it up and play different instruments and trying to collaborate, which is fun. As far as inspiration goes, it can be anything.

EMOTIONAL STATES: The first record comes from this place of emotional desperation. The second record comes from an observation of being at a certain place in your life, realizing that your childhood is over and realizing where your life is going to go. It’s more of an observation of a certain point in your life. It’s raw, and sad. Both records are sad. The first record is broader than the second.

CHANGING HER OWN LIFE: I’ve been doing this so much for the last six months to a year.  It’s given me this insight about myself and what I love about playing music. I don’t care that much about who I play with. That’s not to say I don’t respect other musicians obviously. I have the people that really inspire me. I love Cat Power, but I don’t think that if I play a show with Cat Power that it’s going to change my life. At the end of a day, a show is a show and the audience is the audience. I don’t think it’s going to make a difference either way.

TOUR STORIES: I almost got into a car accident once. That was pretty terrible. You never know what’s going to happen on tour. What happens on tour stays on tour.

THE SONGS CLOSEST TO HER HEART: No one has ever asked me that before. Lyrically, my favorite song is “Dixie Cups and Jars.” It tells a story that’s loosely based on a true story. I’ve written a lot of songs, and it’s like I’m at the right place and the right time emotionally. I feel like I really expressed what I meant to express. Sometimes, I feel like I personally nailed it. I said everything I meant to say exactly how I wanted to. That’s what that song is for me. It’s like a lightning bolt. It doesn’t happen often.

THE STORY BEHIND “DIXIE CUPS AND JARS”: I can’t. It’s real personal. I can’t tell it. It’s kind of all there if you listen.

CERULEAN SALT IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, VISIT HER FACEBOOK PAGE.