On a late Sunday afternoon in May, the Crutchfield twins, Katie and Allison, performed in an intimate, mostly-full room at Milk Studios as part of Vulture Fest for an audience filled with familiar faces (including recent tour mate Kevin Morby) and fans. This wasn’t like any other show they’ve recently played.
Rather than a traditional performance, the sisters used the set to share stories about their experiences when they were starting out musically as The Ackleys in Birmingham, Alabama and beyond. The girls played songs that encompassed their careers, and bands who inspired them along the way, including a fantastic cover of Sleater-Kinney, who Katie’s band, Waxahatchee, opened for in the past. At times, it felt like they’d forgotten there was an audience watching their interactions. The conversations felt intimate, like the audience was privy to a conversation they would’ve naturally shared with their friends. It was the perfect framework for Katie Crutchfield’s new Waxahatchee album, Out In The Storm, because that’s how this record feels, too.
The album is her most personal yet since her early work, sharing her journey in overcoming an unhealthy relationship and its consequential breakup. Although it focuses on that narrative, it’s not a breakup album; it’s an album about growth, empowerment, and finding your voice. Its first track, “Never Been Wrong,” calls out her former partner on his troublesome behavior, while in gorgeous acoustic track “Sparks Fly,” she recognizes her newfound confidence after breaking things off. Unlike debut album American Weekend and sophomore album Cerulean Salt, which shine with their solemn, acoustic songs, Out in the Storm thrives in its continuous shift from guitar-heavy tracks to softer ones, representing all the emotions that come with the process of her experiences.
The album encompasses all the best aspects of her previous work, from Ivy Tripp’s pop-ish sound, to her early work’s autobiographical tone that weaves each song as a story. When discussing the new album onstage, Katie shared that it was recorded live in a studio, shifting from her previous recordings taking place in her various homes over the years. For this album, she had John Agnello produce it, who has worked with iconic bands such as Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. It was her first time working with someone who she didn’t know well. As she opened up about the making of the album, she told Allison the impact that she had on it, even though her musical contribution to the album was minimal.
“You made yourself available, which is important because it was like a scary, sort of new experience for me,” said Katie. “I was working with John who I didn’t know that well so I felt overwhelmed and I was full of ideas. One day, I’d be really, really certain about something and the next day I’d be spiraling about it so I feel like even though you didn’t play that much on it, you were still a big part of it. I needed you to be there for me.”
Out In The Storm doesn’t just symbolize personal growth. It’s an album that shows Katie Crutchfield has come a long way since she set out to write her first solo album as Waxahatchee. With a Lenny tour that was recently cancelled due to Lena Dunham’s health issues and continuously touring with musical heroes, from Jenny Lewis to The New Pornographers, Waxahatchee’s popularity keeps growing. Even with a more polished sound, Katie stays true to her DIY roots and evokes the essence that put her on the radar at the beginning of her career.
Katie and I chatted over the phone about the new album, self-care, touring, and more. Read our conversation below.