An Interview with Katy Kirby

By Allison Lapinski

Katy Kirby’s highly anticipated debut album, Cool Dry Place will be available on Friday, February 19th via Keeled Scales Records. Originally from Texas, Kirby now resides in Nashville, where she wrote and recorded the majority of the album. 

Throughout the past few months, the singer-songwriter has released the singles “Tap Twice,” “Juniper,” and “Traffic!” Each release leaves us wanting to know more. Namely, Cool Dry Place seems like the type of album that begs to be listened to from front to back. With such a huge milestone of releasing this album ahead of her, we spoke with Kirby while she worked on co-producing a friend’s record in Alabama:

Your album, Cool Dry Place, comes out soon. Tell me, how do you feel knowing that it’s going to be out in the world soon?

Pretty good. Terrifying, but, I don’t know what will happen after that, so it’ll be weird. It feels like as long as this record has existed, it’s always been knocked out and it’s only been a thing that my friends listened to and they’re pretty sweet folks. So it is frightening.

What was your process of recording and writing this? Was it in 2020 or was it all previous to that?

Yeah, so it was actually 2019 entirely. The process of recording, it was just bringing it to friends that happened to be really great musicians. And I got sort of reunited with all of them in the process of making this new record for my friend Chilton Mayfield. I’ve gotten to see all of them again, because they’re also working on this one, and we were just tracking in there. I haven’t played with a band in a really long time. We recorded it in a couple of studios around town that are home studios, and then we went to my parents’ house in Austin, Texas for Thanksgiving of 2019 to track some final overdubs and stuff like that. All of the glass sounds and stuff that you hear on “Portals,” and a bunch of other fun instruments were mostly tracked there. 

Did you have a big aha moment or breakthrough moment while you were recording it? 

It did take a really long time for it to come for things to come together holistically. I think that there’s always those like little epiphany moments that feel so good. And that’s what makes recording so fun, but especially if the epiphany is based off of the limitation that you have. It took so much longer to come together than I ever thought it would. And it took longer to get to the real way that those songs are supposed to sound. For instance, “Fireman” is dramatically different from the first version we did have, which we sort of internally called the ‘back to school version.’ Because it sounded like a Kohl’s commercial and that’s kind of the only way to describe it.

It took a while, but I think something that felt like an aha moment, at least for “Fireman,” was listening to U.F.O.F. by Big Thief, which I think would have come out around the middle of us making this of us making Cool Dry Place. And the way that that album is put together feels very not over-thought. I think that the spiritual guidance of Big Thief, from afar, helped us kind of calm down and let things breathe a little more.

Would you say that these songs are more specific to your memories from Texas or more Nashville- driven? 

I would’ve written all of these songs in Nashville. I think I wrote Juniper in Texas incidentally, but I would’ve written all of them in Nashville to whatever extent they are. Just people kind of, um, they’re all people who live in Nashville. 

“Traffic!” Music Video

Many outlets have made observations about religion and your relationship with Christianity changing. Do you think moving to Nashville allowed distance for that relationship? 

I mean, yes, but, it’s not a very interesting story, I suppose it’s just sort of like garden variety. I went to college. And my parents’ faith and the community I was raised in is extraordinarily open and loving and warm and not afraid of questions within their spiritual practice or within their faith. So it wasn’t ever a dramatic departure because of that. Because it was always okay for me to have doubts and it was always okay for me to say that things didn’t quite make sense to me. Iit was sort of a gentle drift, as those doubts and those incompatibilities accumulated. 

I just find it relatable. We’re college station. I mean, we’re a Catholic school too, but I think a lot of people have those moments. But [questioning one’s faith] is just part of growing up.

That’s why it almost feels embarrassing to talk about, when people are like ‘tell us about that’. And I’m like, ‘I just went to college man.’ It happens to a lot of people. And I think that’s the only reason that I feel at all interested in talking about it.  Losing a God that you relate to in the way I did, is a particular type of devastating loss. It’s hard to articulate and it’s hard to comfort someone. I know people who have obviously been up to the same thing and are now living sort of a post-Christianity life. But it is a really particular type of despair for a little bit. It’s really hard to know how to mourn that sort of loss.

There’s so much to be mad about and there’s so much to be depressed about because now you have to be like, “Oh wait, do I believe in heaven anymore?” it’s not an uncommon transition, it’s just a really bizarre one and kind of rough sometimes. I guess someone had to write a breakup album about God. But that’s a weird way to characterize it and I don’t think that’s accurate. If someone else wants to they should really go for it.

How about the Audiotree session you did last year, what was that like for you?

 It was terrifying. I’ve honestly never been so nervous for any kind of gig in my entire life, but to be perfectly frank, I hadn’t played in front of people in a really long time and I hadn’t really even played those songs in a second. And I hadn’t even really been singing all that much, because I had just been running around doing the non-musical things for this album and I hadn’t had time. So I was so excited to do it and I’m glad I did, but I didn’t get to have a band with me at all. And I just had to borrow a friend’s guitar and sing and play by myself, which always feels so scary. 

Because it’s so quiet and I’m afraid I’m going to be boring. I’m afraid it’s going to come off as coffee shop music, which is my pet paranoia. That’s probably internalized misogyny to some extent, but anyway, it was really scary. I haven’t listened to them at all and I will never, but it seems like people like them. 

I am really excited about these miniature LPs and zines on your Bandcamp.  Why did you go with the minis on that? 

I was talking with Tony, who runs Keeled Scales, the label that I work with. I wanted to do a handful of songs that’s kind of done in the style of those YouTube videos that are like, “Golden” by Harry Styles, but it’s being played in another room and it’s raining. I thought that would be hilarious. I just wanted to put that on a download card so it kind of felt like a tiny LP. And then he was like, there’s someone who makes those, let me see if we can talk her into doing it. So that was just a delight and it just kind of fell in my lap, honestly. 

Keeled Scales has so many talented peers on the label. Is there anyone that you’re dying to work with or would like to collaborate on song with?

Also from Chicago is Tenci. I’ve met a few of them, as they’ve come through Nashville to play. And I think they seem like a really wonderful band. Buck Meek is a bit of a personal songwriting idol. So I don’t think I could get myself there yet. But I love the way he plays guitar and I love the way he writes songs. 

So recording this album right now in Alabama, are you seeing any similarities from when you were recording your album? 

Totally. I mean, recording albums is stressful. Even though it is a joy, we are able to be here for such a long time that it feels different. It’s not going to be recorded in chunks at all. We’re all here for about a month and we’re going to track all of it. It is my first time co-producing a record that’s not mine. So it does feel the same because it’s sort of the same cast of characters but it’s a bit different as well. 

You can preorder Cool Dry Place here, and listen to the full interview on Lakeshore Lady, Wednesday at 4:15 CT.

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