As established a singer/songwriter as Katie Herzig is, it’s surprising to learn that this Tennessee resident just played her first Bonnaroo Festival. After all, she’s a part of a thriving local Nashville singer/songwriter scene, which makes her the ideal candidate to play the event.
However, it comes as a little less surprising once you talk to Herzig. She just doesn’t come off as one of those driven, type-A personalities out to be successful at any cost. Instead, she is much more likely to let her muse lead her wherever it likes.
When Stereo Subversion caught up with Herzig, she was just beginning to create her first new music since 2011’s The Waking Sleep. Even so, she’s not certain these new songs will eventually grow into an album. Obviously, her muse has not spoken decisively.
Stereo Subversion: I heard you just played Bonnaroo, and because you’re a Tennessee artist, that must have been like a hometown gig. How was that experience?
Katie Herzig: It was awesome! I mean, as hometown as it was, it was the first time I’ve ever done it. So, it was a whole new experience. Honestly, as a huge music fan, I kind of shied away from the mass, how huge it was and just getting kind overwhelmed by it. I’d never experienced it, so going in as an artist was a nice way to get my feet wet. So we ended up playing Friday, and then we ended just seeing a bunch of music after that. So I think the best part of it all was just getting to see so much great music. I think I left that weekend feeling so inspired.
SSv: What would you say were the top three shows you saw there?
Katie: Well, I saw four, I guess, and I loved them all. I had never seen Feist before. I’d never seen St. Vincent and I’d never seen Radiohead. I saw those three in one day and went back for Bon Iver, who I’m a big fan of. So, yeah, it was those guys, which kind of provided elements of such different kinds of music that moves me.
SSv: Are you embarrassed to admit you’d never seen Radiohead before?
Katie: Not at all! Honestly, there’s only a handful of big bands that I’ve seen, and that was one I’ve always wanted to see. And also, I’d never been in a crowd of that many people.
SSv: We have Coachella out here, which is an amazing experience.
Katie: I actually watched Coachella from my bed. I was streaming it online. It sounded so good and it had the energy, but you also got to be in the comfort of your home. But being out there amidst that many people, and that energy and the sound, was so good. When you’re about to play a festival, you’re more focused on how it’s going to go for you and your set and all that. But I was, like, ‘Oh yeah, this is probably the best part of it all is getting to see all these people.’
SSv: Did you meet any other artists?
Katie: Yeah, some random ones. None of the ones that I saw play. But yeah, I met a few.
SSv: I think Bonnaroo is good for Tennessee, which is certainly known for its country music and its blues music, to have big sort of eclectic rock-pop festival. I think it’s good to let people know that there’s more than cowboys and blues guys, right?
Katie: Totally. Yeah, I think the more time people spend in Nashville, the more they realize all those kinds of music are here, and more and more so as time goes by. It’s kind of becoming kind of…it’s the third option of the three kind of music cities and business hubs, and this one happens to be little smaller. It’s cheaper. It’s kind of has its own vibe going on. Yeah, I think Bonnaroo’s a great reminder that Nashville’s so much more than the country we know.
SSv: You have bluegrass roots, so what inspired you to expand beyond the bluegrass realm?
Katie: Well, bluegrass was sort of by association because I was in a band in college that had one member that just loved bluegrass and loved Celtic music. And then another member was all about the rock. And then me, who was kind of leaning folkie at the time.
So, basically, we incorporated all those things into our music. We started out as a really random band and then it fused together as our tastes started to link in with each others’ we made a lot more cohesive music. When I started that band, I didn’t really have any idea who I would become as an artist or what I wanted to become as an artist. I just wanted to play music for my friends and they happened to like that kind of music.
SSv: You’re listed as a banjo player, so I wonder how much you pick up the banjo these days.
Katie: I think I’ve picked it up to play and record on probably two songs in my life.
SSv: That’s all it takes, though, right?
Katie: Yeah, that’s the thing it’s, like, all my albums, starting with Weightless. Weightless, Apple Tree, and The Waking Sleep have originated with me creating these with instruments I’ve had around me. With Weightless, I would just borrow as many instruments as I could from my friends and just have them sitting around me. So the banjo was one of those, so it just made its way…it was never really traditional banjo playing at all. It was just me making the sounds I want out of it.
SSv: Weightless was released in 2011. I have to imagine you have newer music than that that you’re working on, right?
Katie: As of the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to work on new music. But yeah, since the record came out in September of 2011, I’ve been mostly on the road and promoting that record. It still feels like a new record to me, honestly. It didn’t have a mass release. It’s one of those things where I spent a year making this record, and it hasn’t even been a year since it came out, so it still feels pretty darn new.
I’m off the road for most of the summer, except for these festivals, so I’m just now starting to see what kind of music I would make. I was telling a friend today that I couldn’t imagine diving into a new album for a long time, but now it feels like I’m open to making new stuff and it feels good.
SSv: If you were to summarize what kind of an album it’s going to be at this point, what would you say, stylistically?
Katie: I don’t know. I feel like it’s probably too soon to tell. I don’t know. I think it has a bit more maturity because I’ve been through a lot this last year. I’ve just been through a ton of personal stuff in life and loses and those kinds of things and that’s really coming out and it feels darker, but also a little bit sexier or something. There’s something about it that’s bolder to me.
SSv: Have you written a number of songs for it?
Katie: No, just a handful. And I don’t even know if this is for a record it, honestly. It’s just seeing what comes out. I’m still very much in the wake of The Waking Sleep.
SSv: Are you working with a producer or are you producing yourself?
Katie: My friend Cason [Cooley] who produced The Waking Sleep… I mean, honestly, I’m not recording an official album yet. We’re just getting together and seeing what’s coming out. And I’m working with him at this point, too, for that. You work so hard on these 11 songs to get them to where you want to be. Those are kind of your world for a while. You tour them, and knowing what comes after that is very kind of a daunting thing. But it’s also kind of fun. You just have to wait for your next phase of life to see.