May 28, 2014

Interview: Katie Herzig Confronts Grief, Finds Solace with Latest LP, 'Walk Through Walls'

If there is a through line to the music of Katie Herzig, it’s how she conceives new sonic contexts for deeply perceptive, often fundamental emotions. Musically speaking her latest LP, Walk Through Walls, is stirring in its imaginative embrace of synthetic and organic elements. “For me it’s always just a journey of exploration,” says Herzig. “For this one, I wrote more on bass and keys, with drums, grooves, and stuff like that leading the way.” 

Emotionally speaking, the album achieves a subtler, more solemn distinction than her previous works, having been at least partly inspired by the death of Herzig’s mother in late 2011 to cancer. Its overall mood is not one of sorrow, though, as Herzig translates the universality of such loss into moments that are both profound and uplifting.

Can your own music help you through especially rough times? Can it provide solace to you?

Yeah, absolutely. Anything that’s an outward expression of what’s going on inside of you, in a way that kind of communicates those things, I think has a way of bringing comfort and reflection and healing to a certain degree; and just helping us [with] processing stuff and getting it out in a way that can feel like it transcends tangible things sometimes. And so it feels significant and it feels moving. Yeah, my music is probably one of my most unfiltered expressions of myself. I’ve experienced that on this tour, too, having this record not be the lightest of records that I’ve done and having people connect with some of that too and it helping them. That’s when you realize how when that stuff is created from that place it can work in that way for other people. 

When you’re writing with an especially heavy heart it must take a lot of discipline not to let the grief or the stress of that experience overwhelm your creative spirit.

For me it was like this physical thing for a while. I would try to write music [and] it was just like this immediate wall, this emotion that I couldn’t get around in order to do the job of singing and writing. So it is having to work through those things in order to make it work. And once you’re in the process of writing a song it’s a combination of it being an emotional outlet, but it’s also a craft that you’ve been working on for a long time. In the beginning you’re just kind of chasing what feels good and moves you.

The last two songs on the album are particularly striking. “Forgiveness” sounds like a primal release—sort of like how John Lennon sang “Mother,” just exorcising his deepest emotions out of his body—while “Proud” sounds like the resolution to that release; it’s almost like an elegy.

That’s interesting because “Forgiveness” was the first song I wrote for the record. … I always feel like that song’s an emotional purging, the journey of that. And then “Proud” is one of the last songs I wrote for the record a year and a half later. So yeah, that does kind of bookend the journey of it all, those two songs. It is nice to hear that it feels like there is some resolution. 

At the root of it all, what drives your creative curiosity? What keeps you wanting not just to be a singer or songwriter, but also to try new sonic avenues or new ways of expressing what you’re writing about? What keeps you going? 

That’s a really good question. Maybe it’s a combination of things but the most obvious to me is that when I’m in the moment—in those moments of creating, essentially making something out of nothing, when I get to be a part of that in the moments where it’s coming together in a satisfactory way—it’s hard to think of what feels better than that for me. I love those moments when I’m onto something and I’m liking it and I’m expressing myself and it moves me. So those are the moments that I come back to and chase especially when I come across other art that moves me too. It just turns that thing on in me that’s like, “I want to be a part of that.” 

Walk Through Walls is available now on +180 Records. For more information on Katie Herzig, please visit her official website.