Since singer-songwriter Katie Herzig is a bonafide O.G. NoiseTrade favorite, we always get a little extra excited whenever we hear she’s got a new album in the works. Her sixth album, Moment of Bliss, will be coming out March 2, so we jumped at the chance to talk with her for our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One. During our discussion, Herzig gives us an incredible peek behind the curtain at the themes and inspirations present within Moment of Bliss (and its accompanying singles), her creative collaboration with co-producer Cason Cooley, and much more!
NoiseTrade: With the release date of your brand new album Moment of Bliss on the horizon (out March 2), give us a little behind-the-scenes insight into what sort of themes and inspirations (both musically and lyrically) you’re working with in your new collection of songs.
Katie Herzig: I told people all through the making of this project when they asked what it sounded like, that it sounded like me. I just really indulged in the things that grab me and I love and let it happen that way. So people who know my music I don’t think will be surprised, they’ll just hear a natural continued evolution from the places I’ve gone, both production and lyric wise. I tend to return to themes in my music that dance between the realm of love and relationships to bigger picture state of the world kinda topics, I have issues heavy on my heart, like climate change for example, that keeps making it’s way into my music. And I have a fascination with the afterlife that I have worked through having lost my mom and, you know, facing the temporary nature of this life. There is a spiritual seeking piece to it as well. Always has been.
I decided to call the album Moment of Bliss because that song on the album tapped into something I’ve been pursuing in my own life and a theme I noticed coming up on the album. “Moment of Bliss” was written as a reaction to the addictions we’re having to our devices and to new information coming at us all the time, literally holding it in our hands all day long. I’ve really found that to be difficult through the last few years of my own life so the song was just challenging myself to interrupt the cycle of living from distraction to distraction. Mindfulness and meditation have been great practices to help me connect to the present moment and get in my own body. There truly is bliss in the quiet attentive engaged moments that we can’t find in the frenzy of constant distraction. But I’m on the journey of it, just like everyone else. It’s not easy.
NoiseTrade: You’ve previewed your new album a bit by releasing some of its singles throughout last year and also here on NoiseTrade. What are some of the stories behind “ Strangers,” “Feel Alive,” “I Want To Make You Proud,” and “Me Without You”?
Herzig: “Feel Alive” I wrote for a friend of mine who had lost her mom, just like I had a couple years earlier. It was a song that wanted to communicate that there truly is life on the other side of that kind of loss. But I just wanted to acknowledge how I’d been there and knew how disorienting and devastating it felt. But really as it turns out the song is just about encouraging someone going through something difficult. This will get easier one way or another. There is an ebb and flow in this life.
“I Want to Make You Proud” I wrote with Cason Cooley, my co-producer, we wrote looking at our tendency as a society to build up and tear down walls. How we keep having to relearn the same lessons over and over as individuals and collectively. And the question became, where do we stand in the middle of all that change, in the shifting sands. It kind of came down to the fact that we make our own reality, we have these lives we’re given, each with our own unique set of circumstances. I just kept coming back to the line “I want to make you proud” and it felt like the right way to make sense of how to choose to live this life. I think that means different things to different people, I have my own idea of who I want to make proud, including and most importantly myself.
NoiseTrade: Since Moment of Bliss is your sixth album, what sort of artistic evolution and personal growth do you hear on the new album in relation to some of your earlier releases like Watch Them Fall and Weightless?
Herzig: I hear a lot of the same instincts I have now in my earlier music. I think the differences come from the evolving list of musical influences I’ve had along the way. I feel like when I started making music I mostly had access to acoustic instruments borrowed from friends and I was mostly listening to singer-songwriters, ones that dug into production, and along the way I found access to libraries of sounds to incorporate into those musical landscapes. I found artists like Vampire Weekend and Coldplay and Radiohead and Peter Gabriel that felt influential. And I love pop music. But essentially I’m still that person making music in her bedroom. It’s just not my actual bedroom. I’ve always been super hands on and indulgent in production. I think I also have seasons where I explore using my voice in different ways, a couple songs on this album are sung in fairly high registers for me, I’ve found myself really leaning into that on recent stuff. Before I was a songwriter, I sang in choirs and took classical voice lessons and was a first soprano. I relish those higher ranges and in pop world that works itself out in layered breathy ways.
NoiseTrade: Being that that is the third time you’ve co-produced one of your albums with Cason Cooley, can you tell us a little bit about the creative relationship you two share and what it means to have a co-producer and collaborator that you trust enough to work with on a continual basis?
Herzig: I will never forget when my friend Allen Heinberg told me I must work with Cason Cooley. And soon after, I ran into Cason at Mercy Lounge in Nashville at a show and we decided to try recording some songs together at his house. That was over ten years ago. At that point I was pretty much producing myself, so I was nervous to bring someone into the process again. We did half the songs together on my album Apple Tree and eventually would co-produce three more of my albums together, including this one. We have also co-produced projects with Ingrid Michaelson. We just balance each other out nicely, I think. We tend to fall in love with similar music, but we also bring different strengths to the songs. I trust him because we have been through so much together over the years, touring and in the studio and we’re closer for it. I mean I can’t count how may time’s we’ve had to work through what felt like an impasse on things like which snare sound is better or what reverb to put on a shaker or something! It’s nuts the things we have to figure out and agree on together. But ultimately Cason is just a really hard worker and someone who is willing to be present and exploratory every step of the way through writing and recording a project, no matter who he’s working with.
NoiseTrade: Finally, you’ve had in impressive amount of your songs licensed for use in television, film, and commercials. As an artist, what’s it like to hear your songs matched up with visuals and a story that aren’t your own? Do you have any favorite examples of times that you thought your songs were paired well (and any were they weren’t)?
Herzig: Yes, I have been super fortunate along the way to have the opportunities I’ve had with licensing. I think the ones that stick out most are when the song just really supports the moment it’s used for. The most surreal are when they are on shows you watch already and then your song starts playing. I think the first time I had a song on Grey’s Anatomy, I was both ecstatic and a part of my perception of the show shifted a bit, like wait a minute this show is fake! “Lost and Found” has been in a handful of movie trailers that use the song so well. I have such an emotional response to that when it happens. Feelings of gratitude, knowing that when I wrote that song I had no idea what it would become such a powerful song. I also wrote a song “We Belong” with RAC that has been used for a Born in China movie trailer and in a Girls episode, both among my favorites. I can’t really think of any that I didn’t like. I guess the very first placement I got as a solo artist was a song playing in the background of a coffee shop in an episode of Smallville and I told everyone about it in advance and then when it aired, I realized maybe I shouldn’t have told everyone because you couldn’t really hear it. So that taught me pretty quickly not to assume anything when it comes to placements!