Then again, every North Texas show before that had that same, special quality.
The singer-songwriter, whose real name is Katie Crutchfield, made many Dallas stops in the years she spent soldiering through the unforgiving trenches of the touring circuit. When she was in punk bands such as P.S. Eliot and Fake Problems, she played DIY venues such as the now-defunct 1919 Hemphill in Fort Worth. When Crutchfield recorded Waxahatchee’s 2012 debut album American Weekend following the dissolution of P.S. Eliot, she embarked on the first tour for the project, which made a stop at the also defunct J&J’s Pizza in Denton.
Since then, Waxahatchee went on to open Dallas shows for bands such as Superchunk and the New Pornographers and headline gigs in rooms such as Club Dada and Sons of Hermann Hall.
Each of these shows was special because, much like her earlier records such as 2013’s Cerulean Salt, they were momentary snapshots of an artist with profoundly steep creative and personal arcs.
“I certainly don’t want to besmirch any of those albums,” she says over the phone from Wilcox, Arizona, where she is en route from Tucson to Austin. “I know people love them. There are things about all of my records that I still love and stand by, but it’s just like anything else. It’s like seeing a photo of yourself from, like, 15 years ago and feeling embarrassed about your outfit or something. That’s kind of how I feel about my old records.”
But at the same time, taking a retrospective look at these records makes Crutchfield luxuriate in the progress she's made since their creation.
“My quality of life has improved so much, and a lot of it is just from learning how to take better care of myself,” she says.
One of the most significant milestones in Crutchfield's life came in 2018 when she made the leap to sobriety (a moment she documents in her song “Oxbow”). While she has said in previous interviews that the impetus for this decision wasn’t particularly extraordinary, the circumstances leading up to it are a central theme in her latest LP, 2020’s Saint Cloud.
While Crutchfield’s previous albums were by no means rudimentary in expression or sound, Saint Cloud comes from a more thematically and sonically mature place than its predecessor, 2017’s Out in the Storm. For one, the former record seems to come from a version of Katie Crutchfield who has made peace with tumultuous life chapters chronicled in previous releases, such as substance abuse and the throes and eventual conclusion of a toxic relationship.
But also, Saint Cloud sees Crutchfield becoming more in touch with her Southern roots.
A native Alabaman, Crutchfield grew up primarily on country music. While she never hated country music or was ashamed of her Southern upbringing, she gravitated toward punk and indie music during her adolescence and remained largely affixed to these subcultures through most of her 20s.
Listening to Lucinda Williams’ album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road caused Crutchfield to rediscover her love for country music and, along with it, her Southern identity.
“I’ve loved Lucinda for a while, but I didn’t get fully in until 2016 or 2017, so that moment of really feeling impacted by her albums, it changed my whole life," she says. "I wouldn’t have made Saint Cloud if I [didn’t] have her as this beacon example. Her albums recontextualized country music for me in a way that was super important.”
Crutchfield also cited Townes Van Zandt’s music as instrumental in this creative transition. Also instrumental (quite literally) in the molding of Saint Cloud’s sound was Detroit band Bonny Doon, which Crutchfield commissioned to be Waxahatchee’s backing band.
When the project was on tour in 2018, Crutchfield had only written one song for Saint Cloud, one of the album’s singles, “Can’t Do Much.”
“I feel like lately, playing in these big theaters and hearing people sing along through masks to all these songs that I made that are my favorite songs I ever made, I just keep pinching myself. I can’t believe that this is my life.” –Wahahatchee
“The way they interpreted all my old songs really, to me, was the first impactful moment [that made me think] ‘Oh, this is the sound. This is the sound I want for the next record,’” she recalls.
In reflecting on her reconciliation with her Southern roots, Crutchfield made special mention of how Texas has been a highly anticipated destination for her ongoing tour.
“We’ve been looking forward to these so much because Texas is so important in this record,” she says, adding that the album was recorded at Sonic Ranch in the El Paso County town of Tornillo, while its cover was shot in a ranch outside of Austin.
The Granada Theater is an ideal tour stop for Crutchfield. She's been looking forward to headlining in a theater after years of paying dues in smaller rooms.
“[Because of sobriety], something about doing a tour in bars and clubs just felt sort of not exactly the best landing into touring again," she says. "I kind of like being in a big, inspiring space. I think it makes us more excited, I think it makes people kind of have expectations for what the show’s going to be.
“I feel like lately, playing in these big theaters and hearing people sing along through masks to all these songs that I made that are my favorite songs I ever made, I just keep pinching myself. I can’t believe that this is my life.”