Record of the Week: Waxahatchee’s ‘Tigers Blood’

Listen to the podcast of the interview here

In 2012 Katie Crutchfield took on the moniker of a creek by her house in central Alabama, the Waxahatchee creek, and released the album American Weekend. With this, she garnered a good amount of buzz in the blog era for being a a vividly personal storyteller in her early 20s.

“My life was so chaotic. As many people’s in their 20s are, you know? It was just chocked full of drama. Everything was so intense and melodramatic and every slight or heartbreak was intensely recorded on those records.”

Waxahatchee released two more records on the celebrated independent Merge label: Ivy Tripp in 2015 and Out in the Storm in 2017. Then in 2020, just before the world stopped, she released the album Saint Cloud. Its ease and beauty soundtracked many people’s pandemics and made Waxahatchee a much larger success. It was a record that sounded like an artist no longer trying, but finding their truest self.

“I’ve settled into a lot of things. Like, I’ve settled into a career, a relationship, I’ve settled into sobriety. How I approach writing is all a little more balanced and measured,” said Crutchfield. “A lot of the subjects I write about are subjects I’ve written about the entire time I’ve been writing songs, but I’m approaching them from a new vantage point. Which is something I hope to keep doing as I continue to age.”

She’s followed that with Tigers Blood, our Record of the Week on WNXP. Listen to the full interview and all our WNXP interviews on our podcast channel.

On working with MJ Lenderman

“He has a quiet confidence about him. When we brought him into the room the first time I could tell he was a little nervous and intimidated and wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the second he had a guitar in his hands he just slayed.”

On Tigers Blood, Katie Crutchfield worked with Brad Cook, the producer behind Bon Iver, Nathaniel Rateliff, The War On Drugs and many other WNXP favorites. She also brought a new member to the team, MJ Lenderman, known for his guitar work for the band Wednesday and his own solo project.

“I heard of MJ Lenderman at SXSW literally two years ago exactly and his voice was the thing I freaked out about. So I knew then and there that we should work together and I had a big curiosity as to what our voices would sound like together,” said Crutchfield.

“Brad kind of said this thing about Jake, he said, ‘Jake is a potent spice. If we put Jake on the record you are gonna taste it.’ There are so many lead guitar parts on the record where I would be sitting there, Jake would be in an office chair in the control room and Jake and Brad would look each other in the eyes and Jake would kind of take it somewhere crazy and we would all scream. You just never knew where he would take it and there are so many parts on the album that are truly life giving to me.”

On how her songwriting has changed through the years

“Songwriting…there is some magic to it. You kind of have to invite this very mysterious spirit into the room. And if you look too closely at it you will scare it away,” Crutchfield described. “It almost feels like you are holding your hand out trying to feed a wild animal. If you don’t make any sudden movements and you just let it come to you then you can have this magical moment but if you make a sudden movement you will scare it off. That’s how I feel when I’m staring at a blank page, trying to write a song.”

On “Bored

Crutchfield described the song “Bored” on Tigers Blood: “[It] is really about a platonic relationship gone south. It’s really a song about people pleasing and ignoring your own intuition in order to please someone outside of yourself. Then you just hit a boiling point and you just kind of have to explode a little bit.”

She also said, “I like to have a word every year. When I start the year I like to have a word. This year it’s ‘Joy.’ It’s trying to invite joy in because I knew I was going to be working very hard this year and I am going to try to enjoy myself when I can. So this year it is ‘joy’ and last year it was ‘truth.’ One of my wiser friends told me this thing last year that I carried with me all through last year which is, ‘There is always a polite way to tell the truth.’ So as a people pleaser I have really been trying to say ‘no’ on the outside when it’s a ‘no’ on the inside. It sounds silly but it really does take practice.”

On what she’s been listening to lately

“You know I am going to shout-out a Nashville artist,” Crutchfield said. “I have been obsessed with the Brennan Wedl singles that have been coming out. I do not personally know Brennan. I am a fan. Lindsey Jordan from Snail Mail showed me the song, ‘I Wanna Be Your TV’ maybe six months ago and I listened to it a million time and then ‘2 Dollar Pistol’ came out and I was like, ‘This song is so special.'”