Like I’m a Rose: Waxahatchee’s Natural Songwriting Evolution
Photo by Jesse Riggins
By Kelly Dearmore
If we put aside love and death, nature provides the most fertile ground for musicians. For example, “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and “Mountain Song” by Jane’s Addiction all let the natural world do the heavy lifting. For Waxahatchee, the dramatic elements of the world around her are prime ingredients in her own creations.
Album titles like Out in the Storm and Ivy Tripp - the latter’s cover finds Katie Crutchfield in a leaf-covered patch of woods - establish her as a daughter of Mother Nature. Her debut, 2012’s American Weekend, took shape while Crutchfield was stuck in a northern Alabama snowstorm. Even the name Waxahatchee flowed to the singer from a creek near her childhood home. Nature’s influence over songwriting is as expansive as its reign over the earth. These songs display how beautifully Waxahatchee bends it in her music’s favor.
Not only is Cerulean Salt one of the greatest indie records of the 2010s, but true to its sleeve, Waxahatchee’s sophomore effort also educates the listener on condensation patterns. Water travels upwards in this chorus-less ballad, from the river in the first verse to the tops of the trees in the second and the sky in the third. H2O is a fluid metaphor here, as Katie employs striking natural imagery in an empathetic letter to a love that’s dried up.
In this melodic stomper from 2015’s Ivy Tripp, Crutchfield plants her foot on the ground with a defiantly fuzzy tone. Slinging lyrical mud at someone whose presence is no longer appreciated, she contrasts the earthen soil and her adversary’s “filthy hands” with her own “hedonistic sugar white beach,” threatening to take a gift from this particular person and “throw it off the nearest cliff.”
"Slow You Down"
From 2018’s Great Thunder EP (hey, more nature!), this delicately-layered number doesn’t overstay its welcome. Clocking in at less than two minutes, “Slow You Down” is all about those fleeting little moments of tranquility that come and go so quickly. “We will chase the dimmest light of day / I'll slow you down with the sunset,” Crutchfield promises as an acoustic guitar gives way to gently swelling strings, organ and, eventually, a striking electric solo.
The lilac is Katie’s favorite flower, so it’s no surprise she feels that as this purple plant goes, so too does life. “The lilacs drank the water / And the lilacs die / Marking in the slow, slow, slow passing of time,” she matter-of-factly explains in this twangy ode to death and revival, possibly the poppiest Waxahatchee tune yet. The singer decorates her piano at her Kansas home with these scented purple flowers, which she grows in the front yard.
In her boldest vocal performance on Saint Cloud, if not her entire career, Crutchfield fills “Fire” with nature’s destructive power. “It's not as if we cry a river, call it rain / West Memphis is on fire in the light of day,” Katie reasons, putting her voice out front in an unadorned way that feels organic, and well, natural. “It’s meant to be a personal pep talk,” she said in a press release for her latest LP. “If I can love myself unconditionally, then I can move through the world a little easier.”
Bandbox is excited to offer Saint Cloud on translucent blue/red vinyl! This exclusive pressing is limited to 1,000 copies and comes with a 16-page, full-color Waxahatchee zine featuring Katie's guide to Saint Cloud, rare photos and more.