NoiseTrade One-on-One

Interview with Kate Tucker

Following her creatively ambitious The Shape The Color The Feel album, tour, anddocumentary, Kate Tucker is back with a brand new “fun and light” record called Practical Sadness that was recorded in just two days! We dove in to Practical Sadness with Tucker for our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One to discuss her newest collection of songs, her connections to Velvet Underground, what the unique recording experience was like for her, and more!

NoiseTrade: Your new album Practical Sadness has been called “a record of the processes of grief and renewal” but also “a fun and light record.” What inspired this direction and how do you balance those processes in your new songs?

Kate Tucker: Life inspires direction, literally as breath enters and leaves the body. I was writing for a new record and was about to go in the studio when my mom died in a car accident. She was young and it seemed so impossible. My brain could not compute the loss and I was inexperienced in grieving. I sat down with Kenny Childers – who wrote much of Practical Sadness with me – shortly afterward and, though I wasn’t sure I’d ever write another song, a song came. In my inability, at the time, to plan for the future, Kenny suggested we set a date and record whatever I felt like recording and that would be my new record. So in that way, it was light and easy and the most fun I’d had in a while cause it brought me back to songs I’d written before my mom died and then also to ones that were part of the healing. Music can hold darkness and light in one single note and that’s a song and dance we all know.

NT: Which Practical Sadness song came easiest or quickest? Which one was the most difficult to feel “finished”? Do you have a favorite one yet?

Tucker: “Blue” came to me all in one piece. It’s the only one I wrote alone on this record and writing alone can either be incredibly exhilarating or extremely arduous depending on how much self-doubt you allow. Co-writing is wonderful for second-guessers. “Blue,” like a few others I’ve written in the quiet of my own heart, came from somewhere deeper than memory so it was all there once I unearthed it. The most difficult to feel finished was “In Your Arms” cause I felt like it needed something less conventional to be true to the chaos of the story that inspired it. We worked it out very last minute in the studio, imagining the devastating denouement of the Tulsa race riot and the two lovers who may have started it all.

NT: I read that there’s a bit of Velvet Underground/Lou Reed influence surrounding the writing and recording of your new album. What were some of those specific connections and how has Reed/VU impacted your songwriting overall?

Tucker: Someone set me up to write with Kenny Childers a couple years back and on that first session, we bonded over our love for Velvet Underground and so we decided to pretend we were writing the next VU record. We ended up with two songs that day, “Anybody’s Business” and “Devil Think Twice.” Those songs both tell a bit of a story, but in the loosest of ways, dolling out details like acid drops to send you on your own little journey. That’s very Lou Reed to me and I think that’s what I love the most about him, the unassuming throwaway lines that are actually full of something lovely and dark and endlessly revealing.

NT: You’ve described the recording process for Practical Sadness as recording 10 songs in two days in a basement somewhere in the middle of nowhere with some kind folks you had never met. How was the overall experience for you and would you ever record another album in the exact same down and dirty way?

Tucker: I have done the opposite of what most artists do. I spent tons of money and time in the best of studios for my first two records and stuck to a pretty high standard of production all the way through to this one. This is where I got practical and let the songs and the spirit do the heavy lifting. Maybe it’s not so bizarre a path. When you feel confident enough in what you’re doing, you need less support to get it done. You just need good honest people who wanna play good honest music and then someone to hit record. I got really lucky on this one. I’d definitely do it again. And again. Fast and fun. What’s not to love about that?

NT: To close things out, in your PledgeMusic video you mention your “Chelsea Hotel ghost story” in reference to finishing up the last pieces of your album. For those unaware of your experience at the infamous Chelsea, can you spin the yarn one more time?

Tucker: I’m afraid it’s too long a story, but you can hear all about it in the documentary for The Shape The Color The Feel which is about to finally be released. Suffice it to say, the ghost of music came to visit with a bloody vengeance and left me with nothing but songs.

When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t remembering you well in the Chelsea Hotel, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack