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Waxahatchee renounced the 'tortured artist' trope on her latest album

No one wakes up one morning and suddenly has it all together. Even if it looks that way, building strength and figuring things out is a process — a lifelong process, that never truly ends.

Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee, knows this. Her breakout album, Saint Cloud, came out in 2020, and it saw Crutchfield getting sober and figuring out this new person she was becoming and this new life she was living.

On her new album, you hear an artist who is continuing to find their footing. Tigers Blood is Crutchfield sounding confident; she's still vulnerable, but — and this is key when you're trying to figure things out — she also sounds resilient.

"I'm trying to see if I really prioritize my mental health, if I really try and take care of myself, if I really try and, like, actually seek some kind of happiness and peace, can I still find the thing, the songwriting voice," Crutchfield says. "Can I still chase after that?"

In this session, Crutchfield joins us for a conversation about Tigers Blood, which was recorded at Sonic Ranch, in Texas, with producer Brad Cook and guitarist MJ Lenderman. Plus, Waxahatchee performs live for World Cafe.

Interview Highlights

On her creative partnership with producer Brad Cook

"He's really become, like, one of my best friends. I really think, at this point, Brad and I have built out a little bit of, like, a life philosophy together in how we approach music and songwriting and all of it.

"So I would say, a lot of the time when Brad and I start working on a record — and this happened with both of the records I made with him, and even the Plains record — for the first six months or so, it's 99% talking. We're just, like, kind of deepening our friendship, and we're talking about things that are exciting to us and trying to, just, very slowly — while not looking directly at it — sort of build out an aesthetic together, kind of like build a little bit of a world. Then we just start bringing more people into the world."

Molly Matalon / Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist

On working with MJ Lenderman

"The thing about him is he has such a quiet confidence, and he is just so, so undeniably talented. He's so musically talented. He has so much style that's just his, so it's, like, a potent spice in the mix. We just couldn't get enough of it when we were making the record.

"It's really cool to see somebody — he's 10 years younger than me — like, at a point in his career, where everyone's so excited about what he's doing and he's so focused on all the right things and has amazing people around him and is just truly like a great person and a great friend."

On writing love songs like "Right Back To It"

"I think that I have a comfort zone with songwriting, and it is sort of anything that evokes sadness or, you know, that type of sad, heartache song.

"I've always struggled to write things that are a little more, like, earnest. Even angry songs are kind of hard for me. Love songs certainly are ... I think I've reached this point in my own life where I've been in the same relationship for a long time and I've achieved this sort of depth to the love that I am currently in, and I think that it's helped me feel inspired to write about it in a deeper way. So I really tried, across this emotional spectrum on this record, to challenge my comfort zone a little bit."

On being inspired by SZA

"Vocal rhythm is something that I'm thinking about a lot when I'm writing, and the more records I make, the more I'm trying to challenge myself. A big influence on Saint Cloud was SZA and her album CTRL.

"How she plays with rhythm and how her vocal melodies move, I think it's just really cool and inspiring. I think there's a little bit of that here, too. I'm trying to make everything fit in a certain way. It's probably chaos, but to me, it's very organized. The amount of syllables and how it all moves together really matters to me."

On touring with Tim Heidecker

"Obviously, I'm such a fan. I was, like, such a big fan of Tim & Eric — it's really instrumental to, like, my sense of humor in a lot of ways, and I really, really love his music.

"He and Kevin [Morby] are friends, and he sent Kevin, like, an early copy of his last record. I remember Kevin put it on and I didn't even know who it was. I was just, like, freaking out about it. Like, 'What is this?!' ... He's just such a really great songwriter, and there's humor in i,t but it's also so earnest. He's surrounded himself with amazing musicians, and I'm very excited to do that show."

Waxahatchee performing live for <em>World Cafe </em>at WXPN's studio in Philadelphia.
Paige Walter / WXPN
Waxahatchee performing live for World Cafe at WXPN's studio in Philadelphia.

On the "tortured artist" trope

"That sort of thing that a lot of us try to embody — I certainly have many times in my life — I just don't think that that's sustainable. There's so many examples of amazing musicians that I look up to leading really sad, hard, difficult lives, trying to chase after this darkness.

"I'm trying to see if I really prioritize my mental health, if I really try and take care of myself, if I really try and, like, actually seek some kind of happiness and peace, can I still find the thing — the songwriting voice. Can I still chase after that? So that's what I did with this record, and I'm going to continue to try to keep doing. We'll see. It's an experiment."

This episode of World Cafe was produced and edited by Miguel Perez. Our senior producer is Kimberly Junod and our engineer is Chris Williams. Our programming and booking coordinator is Chelsea Johnson and our line producer is Will Loftus.

Copyright 2024 XPN

Raina Douris
Raina Douris, an award-winning radio personality from Toronto, Ontario, comes to World Cafe from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), where she was host and writer for the daily live, national morning program Mornings on CBC Music. She was also involved with Canada's highest music honors: hosting the Polaris Music Prize Gala from 2017 to 2019, as well as serving on the jury for both that award and the Juno Awards. Douris has also served as guest host and interviewer for various CBC Music and CBC Radio programs, and red carpet host and interviewer for the Juno Awards and Canadian Country Music Association Awards, as well as a panelist for such renowned CBC programs as Metro Morning, q and CBC News.
Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.