It's coming up on a year since Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee released Out in the Storm, a no-holds-barred breakup album in which she chronicles sleepless nights, momentary lapses in longing, and hard-to-swallow revelations.
"I had to go, I put it out just like a cigarette/ I'll never be the girl you love or trust or you respect," Crutchfield's biting clap-back on "Brass Beam," and the moment the songstress turns on her emotional heels. It isn't until the album's closer, "Fade," that Crutchfield convinces us that she has moved on, and in doing so grants us permission to do the same. "I kissed you goodbye," she sings, "And hid for the rest of your life."
When we catch up with Crutchfield, she is on day two of the stomach flu and two days away from a tour that goes well into the autumn months. With a new record on the horizon, the 29-year-old Alabama native is on the mend, and she discusses how she is able to write without limits and why her future's forecast is mostly sunny.
Metro Times: What did we catch you in the middle of today?
Katie Crutchfield: I've been throwing up every 30 minutes for a whole day. It's more of the weakness that is the most unsettling part of those sicknesses. I'm lucky. I'm getting ready to go on a tour and I've already done all of my pre-tour errands, so I'm just laying around.
MT: It's easy to forget that Out in the Storm is a breakup album because of the tempo. Was that juxtaposition planned or more of a natural pairing?
Crutchfield: That's sort of been my bread and butter from the beginning. That's something I've always been interested in playing with. With this record, I really wanted it to be a breakup record but hopeful — not something where you're really languishing or mourning the relationship.
MT: Is there a vetting process for your experiences to become songs? Out in the Storm is super personal and it reads as though you were working yourself through the situation. Are there some experiences that are off limits?
Crutchfield: Time will tell. So far nothing has been off limits. I've never really come across an experience that I was moved to write about and thought, "Oh, I better not because this is too personal." There are certain things that I've experienced that I haven't touched on that would probably make for relatable songs. Just being a person who likes a challenge and just wants to go deeper and deeper into my craft, I try to not let anything be off limits.
MT: Are there any consequences to that type of vulnerability when situations like the breakup album are about a specific person?
Crutchfield: In situations like Out in the Storm, this is a person I don't have in my life in any regular way anymore. I don't think I'm taking anybody to task, necessarily. It truly isn't hyperbolized. In that way, it's never been super weird. I surround myself with a lot of creative people and songwriters and there's an understanding that that is what we do. We take these experiences and turn them into art and people relate to them. Sometimes the nature of it is revealing.
MT: As far as writing something autobiographical, do you write things as they happen or is it more of a reflective, looking back process?
Crutchfield: If I write something right after it happens, it's a little too raw. When I was first starting to write for Out in the Storm, I kept having to take the temperature of where I was at with it. I didn't really start writing seriously until I felt like enough time had passed that it wasn't going to be super earnest or super over the top.
MT: Considering you write from a super personal point of view, have you developed any writing habits or rituals to aid in the process?
Crutchfield: I need to be alone. I need to have a lot of space. I actually had an appointment with a friend who does creative advising and I was going to talk with her about this and be like, "Hey, I really only write lyrics when I have a month of time with nothing on the books but I won't have that for the rest of year." The record I'm currently working on — because I'm always working on a record — everything's been coming in bits and pieces. I'll write a verse of a song that feels right but I won't be able to sit down and write an entire song and that's a new thing for me. Usually I'll take a day and I'll write the whole thing. I haven't really been able to find the time to do that.
MT: As writers, I feel like we find excuses to not write because of the time we feel we need to make it happen.
Crutchfield: Right? It's tricky. Fortunately, if I prioritize it and make the time, I usually can get the time. Lately, it's like I've been touring so much and it's been hard to stop.
MT: When you're dealing with such emotional subject matter that's directly related to something painful you've gone through, is the live performance cleansing or are you forced to relive certain feelings?
Crutchfield: I"m able to compartmentalize because I have to perform these songs every night. I'm able to just focus on the performance, focus on the audience, focus on my singing and what my body's doing, and staying present in that moment and not what I'm actually saying. It's easy to turn that part of your brain off. I've had moments where I'll be like, "Oh, I'll sing an old song that I haven't sung in a long time," and the lyrics will get to me a little bit.
MT: How does the rest of your year look?
Crutchfield: I'm going to be doing more of the same. For me, having such a crazy year last year has helped everything shift into perspective. Sometimes having really tough years, like everybody collectively did last year, it sets you up to be ready for anything, to not sweat the small stuff.
MT: Like the stomach flu before tour.
Crutchfield: [Laughs] That's true.
Waxhatchee will perform on Friday, April 20 at Saint Andrew's Hall at 6:30 p.m.; 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8961; saintandrewsdetroit.com; Tickets are $18.