01 May Katie Boeck Talks Motherhood, Shares the Inspiration for Her New Record ‘Calico’
By Marisa Torrieri Bloom
At first listen, singer-songwriter Katie Boeck’s breathy vocals harken back to late-90s Sarah McLachlan, gently gliding atop acoustic instrumentation, warming the senses like a good a cup of coffee. It’s only when one truly pays attention to the lyrics, perhaps the time around, that they discover her songwriting is not only nuanced and unexpected, but also deeply emotional.
Katie’s newly released Calico, which dropped on Friday (4/28/23), is for lovers of ‘90s coffeehouse rock and soulful country. It’s a stunning, cathartic work of art that emerged at the tail end of a challenging stretch of time that saw the passing of her beloved father, pregnancy, marriage, a pandemic, and separation from her spouse.
“At that point it felt like I had so much to process — grief, motherhood, isolation, divorce — it was overwhelming, and I was really frustrated by how unexpressed I felt as an artist,” Boeck tells Rockmommy.
But amid life’s difficulties, Katie connected with a new producer, and is now looking forward to a string of local shows in her Nashville home. We recently caught up with Katie to talk more about that.
Rockmommy: Hi Katie! For those who don’t know you, how would you describe your sound?
Katie Boeck: I feel like the best way to describe it is alt-folk — it’s acoustic-based music with traditional song structures but has more complex chords and layered harmonies. There’s some solid pop hooks in there too.
Rockmommy: Your new record is so lovely, and the lyrics resonate with me so much, reflecting on the choices I’ve made, and how that’s shaped my trajectory for better or worse. Can you tell us about this record, and when you started writing for it?
Katie Boeck: The past 8 years of my life were an incredibly challenging time for me, and while I was always writing, I didn’t have the resources, wherewithal or structure to record or release anything. Basically a series of life events kind of had me down for the count for a little while.
I was in a Broadway show in New York and then my dad suddenly passed away in the middle of that, which was life altering for me. After the show, I got pregnant, moved to Nashville, got married, had my son, moved back to New York, separated from my son’s father, then the pandemic happened and I was a newly single mom so I moved back to Nashville to try and start my life over.
At that point it felt like I had so much to process — grief, motherhood, isolation, divorce — it was overwhelming and I was really frustrated by how unexpressed I felt as an artist. I knew I needed to find a producer who could help me sort through all my experiences and put them into song. I had been introduced to Dustin Ransom through a mutual friend, so at the beginning of 2022, I started workshopping a few ideas with him and over the course of that year we wrote and recorded everything as we went along.
Rockmommy: How did the songs come out? Did you write them in bits and pieces, over a year? Or did they pour out of you all at once?
Katie Boeck: “Over Again” was the first song I wrote for the record, and it did sort of pour out of me. The first lines are “all the pieces of myself that I’ve withheld inside some secret sky/ all the feelings I forgot I felt are melting in the morning light”. I’d been in survival mode and those words felt like me coming back into myself to forgive myself, have grace for the messiness of life, and give myself permission to create again. I’d been investing in a life coach so a lot of the songs were written while I was having these personal revelations about myself and the way I was showing up in life. Some of the songs flowed, while others were a bit more painstaking. But, if you listen to the record start to finish, you can sort of hear the journey that I go on from naivete and illusion to self-love and sovereignty.
Rockmommy: If there’s a central theme, or guiding principle behind this record, what is it?
Katie Boeck: A lot of it is about learning how to be with yourself and let go of unhealthy attachments. I’m a deep feeler with a lot of love to give, but I’d gotten myself into a really unfortunate place giving that love away to relationships that didn’t value me, and it was because I hadn’t learned to value myself. The record is ultimately about recognizing my inherent wholeness, releasing the need for reciprocity, and owning all the parts of who I am as a woman.
Rockmommy: You’ve had so many musical adventures over the last decade! And now you’re a mom! How has motherhood changed your artistry?
Katie Boeck: Being an artist and a mother is an incredibly challenging but rewarding balancing act. It requires immense efficiency, tenacity, and humility. Our children help keep us present and in touch with our playfulness which is great for creativity. As a mom your time is valuable and so I’ve learned how to say no to things that aren’t aligned with what I want to be doing, and express my needs more clearly when it comes to compensation or accommodating childcare.
It’s a complete paradigm shift. As far as my art and career goes, I have to be realistic about what I can accomplish in 24 hours a day. I want to be present for my son during these years and I don’t want to miss his childhood because I’m stressing out about getting older or not “making it” in the ways I once imagined I would. My definition of success has changed but I honestly like myself more as a mother. I’m not just satisfying my own desires anymore — I’m providing for him while showing him what it looks like to follow your dreams. Having children brings a lot more meaning and purpose to the whole adventure.
Rockmommy: On that note, Nashville is hard for any artist, in terms of how competitive it is. What’s the secret for finding your network of supportive friends and other musicians? How do you balance that with the demands of parenting?
Katie Boeck: For me it’s become more about depth than breadth. I don’t have the freedom to go out every night and build a huge network in the music community here. I have to maintain a healthy structure for my son. But the connections I have made are really strong and meaningful and so I choose to pour into those.
I know that if I need something, whether it’s last-minute help with my son, recommendations for musicians, or an intro to a venue owner — I can ask and they’ll step up to support me. I make an effort to not think of my son as a hindrance or to present parenthood in that way. I’m passionate about creating a mother-centered society where it’s not frowned upon to bring your kids along.
Community is so vital to child-rearing. But it can be hard to build, so we have to be bold in creating it for ourselves, which means telling the truth about the realities of our lives. We’re doing important work as mothers. We don’t have to marginalize ourselves, we can normalize the joys and challenges of mothering in all our interactions.
Rockmommy: Any plans for touring this spring and summer?
Katie Boeck: I’m doing two record release shows, one in Nashville May 5th at The Bowery Vault and one May 12th at The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles. I’ll likely play a show at The Bluebird Cafe at some point this summer or fall, and I’m reviving my Joni Mitchell tribute for a show at The Franklin Theater on August 18th. There will definitely be more dates added for the rest of this year and next.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.