words: Lauren Rearick
Katie Crutchfield a.k.a Waxahatchee wants to lead fans back to where it all began.
On June 21 she’ll take to the stage of Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom, just days after the release of Early Recordings—a cassette reissue of material from the band’s bedroom inception.
Once meant for friends and family, Early Recordings is now a public piece of Waxahatchee history.
Listeners and critics clamored for last year’s Ivy Tripp, but Crutchfield has different plans for future recordings. It’s in the ideas and sounds of Early Recordings, along with album American Weekend that she hopes to find the inspiration for what comes next.
The rise of Waxahatchee from DIY bedroom recordings to Merge signee has been gradual, slow and deliberate. Looking ahead means looking back, and turning to the “roots” of where it all began.
Speaking by phone during a nearly three-week nationwide tour, Crutchfield told us she was happy to be back on the road. This tour sees her sister Allison Crutchfield playing double duty, as the solo opening act and a member of Waxahatchee.
Growing up, Crutchfield was a frequent performer in her Alabama hometown’s DIY scene. Waxahatchee’s rise from basement shows to national headliner was admittedly slow, but she wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“I’m really grateful that it didn't happen overnight,” she said. “I’ve gained a much better perspective on touring since things happened slowly. I learned enough and became very comfortable with the process of touring.”
Along with learning more about that process, her frequent participation in the DIY scene engrained in her a sense of gratitude for those that support and book in the DIY sphere.
“The thing about DIY booking is the promoter was doing shows because they loved the music,” she said. “It’s a very thankless job and I have a lot of respect for the people who do it. It’s a lot of hard work, where you’re lucky to make any money, but you’re doing something good for the scene community.”
For each of her live performances, Crutchfield wholly gives of her feelings and herself to the audience. It’s in those moments she brings the intimacy and magic of her recorded material to life for an audience.
Those familiar with the work of Waxahatchee know how sincere and deeply moving her music is. Whether it’s reflecting on a toxic relationship, battling against a period of depression or wandering through aimless periods of adulthood, her words resonate instantly, burrowing deep into your heart.
Despite the oft-emotionally charged material, the process of songwriting and performing is a therapeutic endeavor for Crutchfield.
“I’ve been writing songs for such a long time that it feels good to pour my full attention into it,” she said. “I’m able to plug into this place and focus, and it feels good to spend your time working on it. When I’m writing I’m combing through things that I can’t give up or I can’t get past.”
When it comes to combating those same feelings on stage, Crutchfield says she is so focused on being present in the moment, and so used to the frequency of performing tracks live, that the emotional weight of those previously tumultuous moments isn’t a factor.
“Songwriting is a way to process,” she said. “Those feelings I had when I wrote aren’t something that lasts, whatever this song is about used to be a huge thing, but I tour so much and sing so much, that I’m focusing on the performance.”
And when the stage lights have dimmed and Crutchfield returns back home, it’ll be back to the songwriting, and contemplating what comes next. The songwriter describes Ivy Tripp as an enormous record with a big feel to it, adding the next addition to her catalog likely won’t be the same.
“I want to scale back and focus on creative atonement,” she said. “I want to go back to a sound that’s like when I first started. When I think about going back, I want to reissue communication to newer fans that this is where the roots of the project is. I did this really big, crazy record, but this is what I’m about and this is where I came from.”