Best Music 2020: Waxahatchee on 'Saint Cloud,' Sobriety, and More - Rolling Stone
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Waxahatchee on ‘Saint Cloud,’ Sobriety, and Hope for the Future

Katie Crutchfield discusses her creative breakthroughs and more in a Rolling Stone Year in Music conversation

Katie Crutchfield has been making music full of beautifully expressed emotional turbulence since her teens, picking up rave reviews and new fans with each release. Before recording Saint Cloud, her fifth album as Waxahatchee, the Alabama-raised musician made some big changes in her life, giving up drinking and moving to Kansas City, where she now lives with her partner, Kevin Morby. She also took a major leap forward in her songwriting, which rings out with a new clarity on Saint Cloud — an album with no skips, just 11 tender country-rock songs about the hard work it takes to build a happy life.

The result, released last spring, was one of 2020’s biggest critical successes, winning recognition including the Number Seven spot on Rolling Stone‘s list of the year’s best albums. “It’s certainly my favorite album that I’ve ever made,” says Crutchfield, 32. “I feel like it’s been this beacon of hope for me for the last year…I love all of the songs so much, and I still really cherish it.”

Crutchfield joined Rolling Stone for a wide-ranging video conversation as part of our Year in Music programming, presented by Yappa. She discusses the creative breakthroughs she made on Saint Cloud, how getting sober affected her art, and such other topics as:

Her mixed feelings about her early Waxahatchee releases.
Performing songs from 2012’s American Weekend and 2013’s Cerulean Salt can be “painful in a cringing way at moments, which I hate to say, because I know people love those records so much,” she says. “I don’t want to disparage any of my older work. It all served its purpose.”

What it was like to release a new album during a pandemic.
“It was never a question of do we release [Saint Cloud] or do we not,” she says. “I always wanted to put it out. The record is so dark, but it’s so hopeful at the same time. It’s talking about a lot of really heavy stuff with a lot of transparency, but the overall spirit of it is so warm and uplifting and hopeful that I feel like it hit people in a way that they maybe needed.”

Her favorite records from 2020.
Crutchfield’s picks include Jess Williamson’s Sorceress, Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, and her fellow Alabamian Flo Milli’s debut mixtape. “I would love to collaborate with Flo Milli,” she says. “Nothing would make me happier. Let’s speak it into the universe.”

waxahatchee saint cloud

Waxahatchee, ‘Saint Cloud’

Her plans for the future.
“I have so many things coming up, and none of them that I can talk about,” she says. “I’ve been working on so many songs, and so much music…. I’m a Capricorn. I’m such a planner and a hard worker, and I feel like I’ve planned out the next three years, because I can’t sit still. So yeah, there’s a lot of fun stuff coming up.”

Why she thinks her home state could go blue someday, as one of its neighbors just did.
Honestly, when Georgia went blue, I cried, I was so happy,” she says. “I love the South so deeply. It is so diverse and so colorful and beautiful, and there are so many amazing, brilliant, hard-working people in the South. So I definitely think that it’s possible in Alabama.”

This event was presented in partnership with Yappa, an audio and video commenting tool that allows members of the audience to share their voice and ask questions directly by submitting “Yaps,” short audio or video recordings. The most engaging yaps were aired during the event and responded to by Crutchfield herself. Yappa gives the public a new way to leave comments on websites and join the conversation; viewers for this event are encouraged to leave their audio and video comments using the Yappa widget at the bottom of this page.

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