This week on The Songwriter Series, we’re delighted to have Colorado-born, Nashville based Katie Herzig.
Her transformation from backing vocalist/drummer for Newcomers Home to charismatic solo performer has made her fairly impossible to ignore over the last few years.
Herzig’s songs are some of the most provocative ballads you’re likely to hear – they’re frank, but also defiantly emotional. The records are never self-pitying, but they never apologise for sadness either.
The National frontman Matt Berninger recently told Rolling Stone, “Now more than ever before, it feels like there’s a real fear of being emotional in songs… Music seems so desperate to be cool. There’s something really brave about songwriters who open up and say sentimental things.”
That kind of bravery is where Katie Herzig records set up shop.
At what point did you know that you wanted to be a songwriter professionally? Was there something that made you realise it was the best thing for you?
“The funny thing is that I never remember deciding to do it. I just tried it and loved it, and kept on doing it over and over again, until one day it’s just what you do for a living!”
Is there a song on your setlist that you look forward to playing a little bit more than the others?
“Yes, but that song evolves. I love playing newer ones but there are definitely ones that always make me happy to play. Sumatra and Make A Noise have always felt great to play.”
Can you think of a gig, or a moment during a performance, when you realised you were doing something bigger than you had been before?
“I know that has happened several times along the way. I have had a very gradual, natural, steady growth in my career, so sometimes it’s hard to see it.
But in those moments where you are living out a situation that, even a couple years ago, you would have dreamed of, it’s a really nice feeling – one that helps you appreciate it, because so often the moments are just one to the next.”
Is there a songwriter who you love, that you wish more people had heard of?
“Matthew Perryman Jones. He’s one of my favorites.”
Is there a song that you wish you’d written?
“‘I can’t make you love me if you don’t….’ that song. [by Bonnie Raitt]
Or July Flame By Laura Viers, or Only the Young by Brandon Flowers.”
What do you hope people take from a Katie Herzig record?
“It strikes me that every person experiences music differently, subjectively.
I know that my favorite records somehow start to define a season or life or an experience or just an emotion I keep wanting to return to.
Or a comfort… It can be so many things. I suppose I just hope that my music would open up those pathways to heightened life experiences for others.
Lyrics they can relate to, melodies and production they want to hear and feel over and over again.”
Please describe what it is that you experience when you’re on stage.
“The combination of the sound I am hearing, how I am feeling and connecting with my band, and how the audience is responding and giving back, are all huge influences on what I experience.
When one of those things is off, it’s quite hard to be in it and enjoy it fully. When they all are on, there is nothing like it. It feels like such an incredible gift to be on stage playing music.
Every once in a while, if I am playing a show that is bigger than what I am used to, I get my old stage fright coming back a bit – which is basically the over analysis of how I am feeling at the moment, which is not very fun. But usually that dissolves as the show goes on.”
Your music has been featured so widely in film and television. What has been your favourite scene that features a Katie Herzig song, and why?
“Wow, I really have no idea. I have had some powerful Grey’s Anatomy ones, and a couple movie trailers that stick out to me. But usually what makes it great is how good of a match it is to the scene.
Sometimes it’s not quite right but you’re still happy to have it used, and once in awhile it becomes magnificent when all the elements align!”
Check back this Friday, as Katie makes her contribution to The Songwriter Playlists.
Last week on The Songwriter Series: David Ramirez.