Colorado native and Nashville resident Katie Herzig comes to Birmingham on the heels of Walk Through Walls, an impressive effort that sees the singer-songwriter stretch her boundaries to include electronic experimentation. It’s a beautiful marriage.
She spoke to Weld about the evolution of that sound and an impressive resume, which includes popping up as the soundtrack to several television shows and co-producing Ingrid Michaelson’s current hit “Girls Chase Boys.”
Weld: You’ve evolved a lot since Weightless, which was almost a more stripped, acoustic record, and you are experimenting a lot with synthesizers and electronic sounds on Walk Through Walls. How did that evolution happen?
Katie Herzig: It was a pretty natural evolution for me, coming from a fairly acoustic beginning and being influenced by a lot of different bands and having access to different sounds. As an artist, you’re always looking for what inspires you and production has always been a large part of what I do. Creating things from instruments other than an acoustic guitar was always something I wanted to do while maintaining some sense of an organic feel. It never was an intentional thing to get less acoustic; it just kind of naturally happened over the years. I still get a lot of joy out of singing the songs that are more acoustic based, too.
Weld: What were you listening to that inspired that new sound?
KH: Radiohead. There’s a band called Niki and the Dove from Sweden that me and my producer really love. Some of my faves are Bon Iver and Coldplay and Brandon Flowers [The Killers]. A lot of that stuff I listen has that more produced sound.
Weld: It’s almost become a bit of a trend. I recently spoke to Andrew Belle and he has done something similar. Does that evolution feel necessary to distinguish yourself from a giant crop of “singer-songwriters” or is it just organic?
KH: A lot of solo artists start out with what they know. Unless you’re highly influenced by electronic music, I’ve found that people like Andrew and I have been really influenced by people that aren’t really “singer-songwriters,” even though we’re kind of in that realm. We’ve kind of inspired each other in lots of ways; I know my last album inspired him in a lot of ways, and his last album has inspired me. It’s kind of like there aren’t really a lot of rules left these days, having the access to what we do as musicians. Some stick to their roots and really love acoustic and can be fulfilled by that for years and years. And some of us like to explore. And I liken he and I in the ways that we love to explore and the way we love music and the way we’re drawn to those sounds when you’ve lived in an acoustic world for a while.
Weld: You’ve done a lot of producing yourself. Did you create all of these sounds yourself, or were you surrounded by other musicians?
KH: I had a heavy hand in creating a lot of the sounds, but I did it hand-in-hand with my producer Cason. A lot of the songs I start on my own and then just kind of build from there.
Weld: Was there a time that you thought you’d use the journalism degree, or was music always the aim?
KH: No, I did. There’s always been so many things in life that I thought I could do and that I had a passion for, but music is always this thing that I kept coming back to and kept coming back to me. People would respond to it and encourage me. Journalism, I found that I was drawn to documentary filmmaking and I never got to do much with that. I also loved creative writing. It was a really great thing for me to study, though, because I think it helped me in a lot of ways with a lot of — it helped me to think in ways of being concise and resourceful.
Weld: Licensing has been important to you and while I ask a lot of people about its effect on their career, I want to ask you how it takes off — it never seems like it happens once, it always seems like you end up with a song in 10 or 20 shows.
KH: A lot of my songs that have had the success in shows over and over again — with the exception of maybe “Lost and Found,” which was an album song — a lot of those songs came from, the ones that are used over and over again, are songs that I wrote specifically for assignments or placement. I think the reason is that they have this very user-friendly quality to them where they can be used for different reasons across the board. Every once in a while, a song like “Lost and Found” or “Best Day of Your Life” just happen to work. They’re something I created for myself and then they’re used for stuff.
Weld: So you’re sometimes approached and asked to write something specifically for television?
KH: Yes. My song “Hanging On” came from being asked to write for a scene in the first Sex in the City movie, to replace a Fergie song, which is so completely outside — at that time, I was only doing acoustic-based music, so that kind of led me into sampling and stuff like that. This song “Best Day of Your Life” is when I was trying to write for several scenes in the Ramona and Beezus movie and there are others that are for commercials. So when I get those assignments, I love them, because it’s a breath of fresh air to make music for something specific. I think it resonates because I try to create something that I think is cool, but most artists I know that are given an opportunity to write music for those things love that outlet in addition to being able to write from their heart and speak to their own lives.
Weld: You co-produced “Girls Chase Boys” for Ingrid Michaelson. Which side of the board challenges you the most?
KH: I don’t know that I’ve done enough production — other than my own stuff, she’s probably one of three artists that I have done production with. It’s still pretty new for me, so I’ve found it to be a challenge because it really is a combination of — there’s a reason she asked me for my input and to work with her, so I want to follow my instincts, but at the same time when you are creating for somebody else, you have to be candid about it because it has to resonate with her. My producer Cason, who I co-produced it with, is really good at that. So I learned a lot from him about bringing out the best in an artist. But having the perspective of being an artist, I think I can understand what that’s like on their end. But every artist is so different; some have a really strong vision, and others just want to make sure their voice sounds good. I still have a lot to learn in that realm and I’m excited to do more of that down the road.
Weld: Who are the top five American rock bands of all time?
KH: Wow, you should really ask my band this one. American. Who do I love from America?
Does everybody just fire off an answer?
Weld: It always takes time.
KH: [Laughs] I really like the Killers, so I can say that. They’re not from Britain [Laughs]. Do you know the band Civil Twilight? I think they’re amazing, and I think they should be huge.
I’ll say Bruce Springsteen. I saw him once and it was amazing. Great energy; great songs.
I love so many British people, I’m realizing!
It can be a solo artist? Because Michael Jackson is pretty awesome. Paul Simon?
Weld: That’s five!
KH: That’s five? Wow. That was, like, the hardest question I’ve had all day.
Katie Herzig will perform at the WorkPlay Theatre on Thursday, April 24. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., while the show begins at 8 p.m. Birmingham’s own War Jacket will open, and tickets are $12 in advance and $15 day of the show.