With her tour stopping at Fountain Street Church on Saturday, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield opens up to Local Spins writer Enrique Olmos about her sobriety, cooking, astrology and songwriting.
TICKET CONTEST: Waxahatchee plays Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids on Saturday. Today’s the last day readers can enter a Local Spins ticket giveaway contest for two front-row seats to the show. Details here.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
It’s Valentine’s Day and Katie Crutchfield answers the phone from the confines of her cluttered tour bus in Cleveland.
Waxahatchee – Crutchfield’s critically acclaimed musical moniker – rolled into town through a “snowy, Midwestern” cityscape earlier that morning.
Her band recently began its national tour in support of the 2021 album “Saint Cloud.” They make a stop at Grand Rapids at the cavernous Fountain Street Church on Saturday with Madi Diaz. Doors for the Audiotree Presents show open at 7 p.m. with music starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 in advance online here and $30 the day of the show.
Waxahatchee has catapulted into the spotlight the past few years, garnering features in publications like Rolling Stone and The Guardian, making late-night TV appearances and performing a number of sold-out shows around the country. Waxahatchee will open for the Los Angeles rock band Haim this summer.
“It’s definitely a strange, sort of surreal experience — to have released an album two years ago and recorded it almost three years ago, but to still be on the initial run of shows, playing the songs,” Crutchfield says.
“The life of the album has extended beyond what is typical. And that’s been so deeply cool for me. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to making exactly what I wanted to make. It feels like a personal breakthrough. Having this be the record that people are really responding to is very validating.”
The current wintry landscape of the Lake Erie coast is a far cry from what Crutchfield was accustomed to, growing up in the South.
Originally from Birmingham, Ala., Crutchfield was raised on country music and sweltering summers. In her teenage years, she pivoted to punk music and political advocacy. A “rebellious attitude” fueled her and her friends’ “typical teenage antics,” which included exploring Birmingham’s many vacant buildings and using recreational drugs and alcohol.
THE JOURNEY TOWARD SOBRIETY FOR ‘A TORTURED, SUBSTANCE-ADDICTED ARTIST’
Crutchfield has been sober for four years, and speaks often about it in interviews. While on tour in Europe in 2018, a string of “really bad nights” prompted her to begin her journey into sobriety.
“It was years and years of thinking that I had a problem and kind of going in different phases of how it affected my life. Then trying to get sober but being in constant negotiation with myself about whether or not it was a problem,” Crutchfield says.
“It was mostly about how much brain space it took up. It was about this sort of obsession with drinking and all that. For many years, I kind of intuitively knew deep down that I should get sober and always sort of saw myself as somebody who would eventually get sober.
“And it just clicked . . . finally. After having tried many times. I haven’t touched a substance since.”
Crutchfield would go on to write her fifth studio album, “Saint Cloud,” released last year on Merge Records.
“I was definitely a person who subscribed to the idea of being a tortured, substance-addicted artist. Those are my heroes. That’s everybody that ever made anything that I cared about. I was attached to the idea,” Crutchfield says.
“It took me about a year between getting sober and seriously starting to write anything again. I had to do a bit of work to detach from that identity.”
Crutchfield describes a “no-man’s land” between records during her early sobriety. But then the creative “floodgates” opened. Crutchfield resumed songwriting, and collaborated with members of the Detroit band Bonny Doon, who also act as Waxahatchee’s backing band.
Crutchfield wrote “Saint Cloud” in a matter of three months. Produced by Brad Cook, the record was tracked at the West Texas studio, Sonic Ranch, in July 2019. (Scroll down for the “Fire” video from “Saint Cloud.”)
The album pays tribute to Crutchfield’s country upbringing by way of roots-driven instrumentation. offering a collection of beautifully arresting songs that Pitchfork calls “a modern classic of folk and Americana.” It’s a “soul-baring” record that provides the listener ample room to breathe, both lyrically and instrumentally.
WRITING AND COOKING AT HOME WITH SINGER-SONGWRITER KEVIN MORBY
With our interview taking place on Valentine’s Day, I ask Crutchfield what life is like with her partner, artist and songwriter Kevin Morby. The pair live in the suburbs of Kansas City, though much of their time is occupied on the road.
Days off are spent simply and at home, writing music or cooking, along with a healthy portion of kicking it on the couch “doing nothing.”
“There’s really no one else who quite clicks with my whole vibe more than Kevin. We have so many parallels. The lifestyle of a musician is so specific. If we didn’t do the same thing, I don’t think we would have quite the same understanding. So that part is really special,” Crutchfield says.
“We’ve been together for such a long time now that we’ve kind of entered into a phase of being able to work around each other. And when I say work, I mean write songs. I’ve never been able to do that in such close proximity to another person.”
One activity Crutchfield has embraced during the pandemic: cooking.
She mentions that she comes from a family of excellent cooks, but has always been “lovingly laughed at” for not having a knack for it herself. In their kitchen, Crutchfield and Morby cook health-conscious meals: chicken, fish, roasted vegetables. They also enjoy tackling challenging recipes.
Crutchfield has a momentary flashback involving a tussle with a temperamental cherry pie.
“Oh my gosh! I made a pie from scratch. And it was such an insane mess. It actually turned out great. But it was one of those things where every step of the way, I was like ‘This is not happening. There’s no way this is actually going to happen.’ And then somehow I pulled it off,” she says. “I think it was a cherry pie, and it had this intricate lattice work on top. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve made.”
On the eve of a full moon, we conversationally venture into another one of Crutchfield’s interests: the nebulus topic of astrology, which she’s long been fascinated by.
“I’m a Capricorn, famously. It’s a well-established fact. I love astrology. It’s something that helps me contextualize group dynamics. When I’m on tour with nine other people, that’s the first thing we all want to know. In this crew, there’s a bunch of earth signs, we’ve got a handful of water signs, some air and fire signs,” Crutchfield says.
“It’s helpful in knowing yourself. But the framework is more about a forecast. You know, I had an astrology reading like six months before I made ‘Saint Cloud.’ It said something to the effect that there’s going to be this week in July that is going to be one of the most creatively fruitful moments in my life. Then I recorded the album.”
VIDEO: Waxahatchee, “Fire”
VIDEO: Waxahatchee Live on KEXP
Copyright 2022, Spins on Music LLC