Concert preview: Singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield finds her voice with Waxahatchee

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From the September 26, 2013 edition

On American Weekend, Katie Crutchfield’s bruising 2012 debut as Waxahatchee, the singer/songwriter turned out an array of songs about relationships in various states of decay, accompanied by little more than acoustic guitar and the ghosts of failed romance.

“I’ll fish for compliments/and drink until I’m happy,” she sang on the harrowing “Grass Stain.” “And I’ll wonder what you’re doing but I won’t call.”

When it came time to record her sophomore album, however, Crutchfield, who joins Screaming Females for a concert at Ace of Cups on Thursday, Sept. 26, said she no longer felt burdened by heartache, and she was hesitant to revisit a subject that was no longer a dominant part of her life.

“I wrote for years about relationships and heartbreak … but that’s not a part of my life that is difficult right now,” she said. “I can see myself doing this for a long time, and … I feel like if I don’t challenge myself it’s going to get boring because I’m going to have said the same thing over and over.”

So while Crutchfield’s sophomore album, the excellent Cerulean Salt, is similarly downcast (“I like the way my voice sounds when it’s sad,” the singer said matter-of-factly), it draws its inspirations from a variety of sources. “Dixie Cups and Jars,” for one, was written after she attended the wedding of a childhood friend and realized how distant their relationship had grown over the years.

“You grow up and you look at that person and you have nothing in common anymore to the point you can hardly carry on a conversation,” she said. “I think that’s sort of interesting, and that’s sort of what I was exploring: the different paths we take.”

For an artist so willing to explore these winding byways, Crutchfield has always had a very single-minded approach to her own career, saying, “The only thing I’ve ever done or wanted to do is make music.”

She started her first band, The Ackleys, with her twin sister Allison at 14, and has spent the past decade performing in various groups (most notably P.S. Eliot) and solo. It wasn’t until she started recording as Waxahatchee that she really felt she found herself as an artist.

“I wrote [American Weekend] and it felt like I struck a chord with myself,” said Crutchfield, who plans to begin work on the third Waxahatchee album at home in Philadelphia later this year. “I found this voice that I liked, and I thought it was maybe coming from this place with a lot of clarity and focus. It was like, ‘I think this is how I should approach things.’”