Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield: At Home Wherever She Goes
Waxahatchee front woman Katie Crutchfield is a homebody...sort of.
Geographically speaking, she's relatively nomadic. Born and bred in Alabama, Crutchfield was raised as Southern as they come. Three years ago, however, she left Alabama at age 22 and headed east to Philadelphia, where her band Waxahatchee's notable folk-meets-pop-punk album Cerulean Salt was recorded. Then shortly after the album's 2013 release, she and boyfriend/bandmate Keith Spencer relocated to New York, where they now reside.
At her core, however, Crutchfield is a homebody, in both the personal and professional senses of the word. Maintaining a home base, despite some geographic shuffling, is vital to a person like her. In fact, her career depends on it.
Like her friend and former roommate, Radiator Hospital leader Sam Cook-Parrott, Crutchfield opts exclusively for the intimacy of home recording; her first album, American Weekend, was recorded in Crutchfield's own bedroom, while Cerulean Salt was recorded in the basement of her former Philadelphia home.
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While both albums were home-recorded, Crutchfield insists they differ immensely.
"American Weekend was an entirely solo endeavor," she says during a recent phone call. "I did everything myself. Cerulean Salt was a collaborative effort, as I bounced many of its ideas off others."
The "others" Crutchfield refers to are her musician-friends who all frequently live, write, perform and record together. Among them is Cook-Parrott, as well as homespun mastermind producer Kyle Gilbride, whose production skills both Waxahatchee and Radiator Hospital swear by. In this clique's case, collaborators double as best friends.
"I can't see myself straying from this tight-knit community of musicians," Crutchfield notes. "I have some really talented friends whose opinions I respect -- these are the people I want to continue inviting into my creative process."
A large part of that creative process is the group's insistence on home recording, a talking point that also ruled our recent interview Wednesday with Cook-Parrott.
"[Professional] studios are sterile," Crutchfield explains. "Having a time limit and a set schedule impairs the whole process. I prefer to work with people who I'm comfortable with, and who I can speak the truth to without feeling intimidated or embarrassed."
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Crutchfield's past mistakes have urged her to self-steer when it comes to recording, she admits.
"I've made some regrettable decisions in the past about recording, engineering, producing...I've been in the thick of recording and realized, 'Oh, shit, this is not what I wanted at all,'" she recalls. "So, I feel like if my approach isn't broke, then I'm not gonna fix it."
In fact, Crutchfield has already started writing songs for Cerulean's follow-up.
"I have a good chunk of songs finished," she reveals. "Cerulean came out last year, but I finished recording it almost two years ago, so naturally I'm ready to move on from it."
Waxahatchee played Houston just two months ago, opening for Superchunk. Crutchfield, however, promises Friday's show will be different than their Fitzgerald's set.
"In addition to playing some new material, we change up our songs on tour, which breaks up the monotony of playing the same songs over and over," she says. "It also adds an element of surprise for the audience."
Crutchfield is eager to revisit the South while on tour.
"I love the South," she beams. "I love the warmth and friendliness there."
Waxahatchee tapped into their close-knit clique for tour support; Radiator Hospital will open for the band at Mango's Friday night.
"Sam is like a brother to me," Crutchfield says of the Radiator Hospital singer. "He's a huge talent."
Considering Cook-Parrott sings on Cerulean track "Peace and Quiet," we recommend an onstage collaboration.
"That's actually a great idea," Crutchfield agrees.
With her boyfriend in the band, and her "like family" best friend in tow on tour, Crutchfield has concocted a functional equation for never being homesick. If home is where the heart is, as the saying goes, Waxahatchee's "heart" is as pervasive as its leader.
Waxahatchee, Radiator Hospital and Spare Bones play Friday night at Mango's, 403 Westheimer. Doors open at 8 p.m.; all ages.
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