An Interview with Singer-Songwriter, Katie Herzig, On Her Past, Present and Future Career in The Music Biz!
Posted On 21 Nov 2014
Tag: Barry Dean, Bonnaroo, Brandi Carlile, Cason Cooley, Disney, Drug, Forgiveness, Frequencies, Girls Chase Boys, Grey's Anatomy, Hologram, I Will Follow, Ingird Michaelson, James Blake, Joel Kling, Katie Herzig, Lights Out, Look At You Now, Lost And Found, My Darling, Newcomers Home, Niki and the Dove, One Tree Hill, Peter Gabriel, Pretty Little Liars, RAC, Radiohead, Sara Bareilles, Saving Mr. Banks, Say It Out Loud, Summer, Summerfest, The Fray, The Waking Sleep, Thick as Thieves, Trent Dabbs, Two Hearts Are Better Than One, Walk Through Walls, We Belong, Weightless, Wonderful Unknown, Your Side
Katie Herzig has spent years playing festivals such as Bonnaroo and Summerfest and touring as a headliner and as support for Brandi Carlile, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, The Fray, and as a member of 10 out of Tenn. She has had her music licensed for innumerable film, TV and commercial uses. Including over 10 songs on Grey’s Anatomy and most recently her song “Lost and Found” was featured in the trailer for Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks and in a commercial for Carnival Cruises.
Herzig can be heard on RAC’s new EP with their song collaboration “We Belong”. She also co-produced songs on Ingrid Michaelson’s Lights Out album, including her first single “Girls Chase Boys.”
Learn more about Katie and her latest release, Walk Through Walls, in the following interview:
Can you remember the moment that you decided you wanted to be a performer?
I think it was when I was actually years into doing it. I never set out to do what I do, I just kept loving it and doing it. Then there was a moment when I realized that’s how I was making a living and it was a pretty crazy thing to realize. There were a lot of things I think I would have loved doing with my life, I think I just realized it’s less to do with what you think of or dream of, and more to do with what you just do…. over and over again, and that can always shift as time goes by. One thing leading to another.
I read that you had major stage fright with your college band, Newcomers Home. How did you overcome that?
I think my stage fright ultimately set in in the 6th grade so I had already spent years knowing that I had both a love and fear of performing because I had performed a lot in school growing up. But in the band think I dealt with it by biting off what I felt I could chew at the time, playing really small rooms and gradually growing. Hiding behind my band or some percussion placed on stage between me and the audience, and gradually it all was stripped away and I was playing bigger venues. The key with stage fright is just forgetting to be nervous, and get into the performance. It’s when you dwell on the feeling, that you give it room to grow, and let it get to you. I don’t think I have overcome it completely, as it still can pop up when I play shows that are bigger or different than what I’m used to. But I’ve survived enough to know I can power through each time, if that nervousness pops up.
What did you take away from being in that band?
So many things, but in general just a sense of empowerment. We were always independent. Writing and performing music and putting it out ourselves…putting in the work, I learned how to do that and how not to wait around for someone to give permission to do so or wait to get signed or something. I also learned about collaboration and compromise. A band is only as happy and as productive as each member lets it be. So much lies on seeing things eye to eye. Which definitely made me appreciate going solo after the fact, that I could be and do what I wanted to be and do. I did miss the community and team-work feel of being in a band though. I’m very thankful to that band and season of life for giving me a place to learn and grow as a very young artist for a lot of years.
Katie Herzig’s “Lost and Found” Video:
You have had a ton of your songs in TV shows, like Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill and more. What do you think it is about your music that really speaks to the themes of these shows? Which of these are you most proud of?
Yes, I’m very fortunate to work with really great people who know and pitch my music constantly. But I also have the benefit of seeing which of my songs have been placed the most and really it is something to do with the way a song makes you feel and how lyrically it fits into a scene. The songs that have had the most success have been either really fun and feel good and not taking itself too seriously, or the ones that are deep and moving and lyrically not too specific, leaving them open for interpretation, which really is kinda how I write for the most part anyhow. One of my most used songs is “Lost and Found,” which I do feel proud of. It’s a song that’s very personal to me but thematically feels like it’s universal and musically feels epic, so it’s worked well in things like trailers that are creating those same feelings.
After you released Weightless, you moved to Nashville. Why did you make that move? How has being there affected your music and your career essentially?
I had lived in Nashville for 6 months with my band, while we were writing and recording for our last record. And by then I had already taken several trips there to write and was really in love with it. It was an exciting place to me. I wrote Weightless in the season of the band breaking up and going through one of my own. And it was the first time I recorded and produced an album all on my own. I felt this sense of independence and freedom and empowerment and moving to Nashville to pursue my solo career with that album in hand felt like a very natural progression. There are so many ways living in Nashville has influenced my career. It’s nurturing and collaborative and filled with people I love and respect musically. It creates a feeling of community which is nice to have as a solo artist.
In your career, you have toured with some incredible musicians like Brandi Carlile, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, The Fray and more. Who has really stood out from the rest?
We spent the most time touring with Brandi and her band so probably those months spent with them made the most impact. I learned a lot from Brandi as a performer, she inspired me, I was very intrigued by the connection she had with her audience. And she and her band became great friends along the way, and I must say her fans, which have become several of my fans along the way are really really great and really loyal. And the same can be also said for Ingrid, who I have done much less shows with, but her connection with her audience is again, really enchanting.
Speaking of Ingrid Michaelson, you co-produced her hit, “Girls Chase Boys”. Tell me how that came about?
Well it really just came down to the fact she was a fan of my last record The Waking Sleep. I would randomly get texts from her saying how much she loved it or moments she was having with it, it was such a wonderful sweet thing to hear from her. She was actually working down the hall from us in NYC for the last three days of mixing that record, randomly. But when she was starting to write for and think about her next record, she asked if I’d like to write and if Cason Cooley (my co-producer on my last few albums) and I could try producing some tracks. She was really into the idea of collaborating with a lot of people and that was new for her so we were one of I think four different teams she worked with. We had worked on “Wonderful Unknown” and “My Darling” and thought that was it, but then several weeks later they asked if we’d like to produce “Girls Chase Boys” which she’d written with Trent Dabbs and Barry Dean. It was one of the songs they were considering to be a single so we were excited for the chance. It actually came together very quickly, as her time in Nashville was really limited so we kind of pumped it out in a couple days with her a couple days working on the track on our own.
How do you think you have grown since you started making music? Would you agree that you have evolved from a folk singer to an electro-pop maven?
I definitely started in a very acoustic landscape. I mean I remember when my band first started using an electric guitar and it was such a big deal! But yeah the shift for me was just starting to write less songs on acoustic guitar and move more to piano, keys, bass, and beats to invite me into a song. But when I first started writing I didn’t have a studio at my fingertips, and now I do. I actually do miss writing on guitar at the moment, just finishing a song before you start to record it. But my writing has been so hand in hand with production on my last couple records that it’s tough not to think in that way.
How is your creative process different now that you’re working in a more electronic realm? How does a song come together for you?
A song can start with anything inspiring. In the past it may have been a guitar chord or a few words that I had in my head that just felt so good to sing, all those things. One of my favorite songs on my new record, “Frequencies” started with this delayed and muted snare sample that I found, I was so enamored with it I found a kick to go with it and then played a really great bass line and soon I was sitting in a really great space to write a song in. So that’s just an example of how I can enter into a song. Whatever way it is, it just has to be so undeniable and inspiring that you want to live in it, each thing you add, a melody a lyric, it just has to keep inviting you in.
Earlier this spring, you released your latest album Walk Through Walls. What are your favorite tracks on this collection? Is there is a cohesive theme to it?
Some of my favorites are “Your Side”, “Frequencies”, “Summer”, “Forgiveness”, “Say it Out Loud”, “Walk Through Walls”, “Thick as Thieves” and “Drug”…. I guess if I name any more I’ll just name all of them. The themes fall into one of three categories for me, which were highly front of mind in the season I wrote this record in. One was the loss of my mom. That was the weighty thing that kind of lead me into this season and a big part of what I needed to process. The second would be love. Relationship matters of the heart. The third would be a theme that keeps sneaking into my art and it relates to my growing awareness and concern for the choices we make in relation to the planet and more importantly ourselves, the one we’re leaving behind for future generations.
Katie Herzig’s “Drug” Video:
I just watched your fun video for “Drug”. How involved were you with the creative process for it?
I had the general idea that I wanted to do a video with my band and I wanted it to be fun because my last few videos were pretty serious. I thought “Drug” could be the song, so I came up with the idea of a gym class having to dance in unlikely pairings. And that’s about as far as I got before I asked my old friend from high school Joel Kling who is a writer/director and who I’d wanted to make a video with for a long time, to help me see it through. He’s the one who really dug into the details and helped pull it off with flying colors. He did such a great job I felt like I had barely anything I needed to take care of or worry about, other than learning some dance moves and having fun.
More times than not, influences tend to bleed through. What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
The short list that may have seeped into the latest record are probably Radiohead, Coldplay, Niki and the Dove, James Blake, Brandon Flowers, Peter Gabriel… those come to mind.
Thus far, what’s a favorite memory or something quirky that’s taken place with the band (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
Years ago, one of the last shows we played with Brandi Carlile and band her crew pranked us and put tape all over the stage so when we walked out to perform we could barely lift our feet from the ground or pick up something that wasn’t covered in tape. It was hilarious actually and made for quite a fun set amidst the challenge.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like people to take away from listening to your music?
Music can be quite a powerful thing, it can accompany entire seasons of life or enhance or inspire lots of different experiences or emotions. For me, as a listener that is where I become really aware of it’s magic. I think of the music that has been a part of my life and can’t imagine my life without it. So when someone tells me that something I created has become that for them, it’s such a wild feeling. It makes me realize that is the beauty and honor of being an artist. So really I’m always just hoping that it moves, inspires, enhances their life in some way. For some people that may be just passing moments of background music and for some it may be pouring over lyrics and listening over and over because it’s something they relate to.
You are a Pisces. Would you agree with what your horoscope says about you?
Yes, I relate to it a lot.