An interview with Catie Curtis

on

Catie Curtis‘ career as a

signed musician started in 1996 and has been going on strong ever

since. There is no doubt in my mind that she was able to reach folk

rock icon status thanks to her songs’ ability to take you back to

specific memories regardless of if you’ve heard the song she’s singing

before. She writes from the soul and is somehow able to tap into the

universal human experience.

Earlier this year, Curtis released her 11th album, Stretch Limousine on Fire, and it

is a powerful reminder of how and why she’s been able to maintain such

a strong career. We got to speak with the refreshingly down-to-earth

musician about her music, gay parenting, officiating weddings and being

asked to perform at the White House for the second time during Obama’s presidency.

AfterEllen.com: First of all, congrats on

the release of your 11th album!


Catie Curtis: Thank you!

AE: So many artists barely make it

past their second album and are able to continuously release fresh

music, much less make it to icon status.


CC: Well thank you! You know, I

subscribe to that theory that half of success is just showing up. And

I’ve been showing up for a long time. [Laughs] You can’t help but learn.

AE: Well and the audience keeps

showing up for you, too, so it’s not just a one way street there! So as

an artist with a long career do you ever look back and say, “This is my

eleventh album. Wow, how the hell did I do that?”


CC: Um, not really. (The

albums) mark chapters in my life so I don’t look back and just see this

huge stack of music and feel like, “Oh, so much done!” I feel like

every record is a haircut or a girlfriend or some place I lived or a

phase I was in where I was traveling or living or what I was in to. Or,

“Oh that was my religious phase.” [Laughs] It’s not that you can tell

on the record necessarily — and I think since record number three, I’ve

been with the woman who I’m now married to. So there hasn’t been much

from the drama department.

AE: [Laughing] Well that’s good!

Always a plus!


CC: Now I just need to find

other things to write about — that was difficult at first!

AE: I can kind of understand that.

Even as just a writer, I find that my best writing has come when drama

was happening or some kind of painful event.


CC: Yeah you need a little of

that. You know, even just having periods of having separation from your

loved ones or the people in your life, just being alone in the world

sometimes. Just touring or for whatever reason it’s just important to

have some of that time to come back to yourself.

AE: Well that makes a lot of sense, actually. As someone who just listens or just shows up to a concert  you don’t necessarily think about some of the pain that’s involved in

being away from your family or just your normal lifestyle  and maybe

that alone will give the edge that the artist might need.


CC: Yeah, I think so. You never

really get too comfortable with your life because you’re always saying

goodbye and going somewhere new. As much as touring can be a challenge

for me and my family, in some ways I think it gives all of us a bigger

appreciation for each other.

And also independence. You know for our

children — my wife and I have two kids — we both travel. She doesn’t

travel quite as much as I do but they really understand that they’re

safe and they’re happy with me and the same goes for her. The two of

them bring each other a lot of comfort, too. I think it’s good for them

to be able to trust these transitions and trust we’ll come back.

AE: I find it really interesting that

you’ve gone from your last album’s title, Sweet Life, which paints a

picture like Bob Ross paints happy trees, to a darker album title whose

name makes me think of how great things go up in flames. I know the

album deals with loss and not everything going the way you planned, but

what happened? It seems like a pretty big leap.


CC: [Laughing] Yeah … well when

I wrote Sweet Life, I believe in trying to be hopeful, which isn’t the

same as being optimistic. Hope is incredibly important to me so I find

hopeful things to write about and try to show appreciation for life.

But I’m also a realist and I know that as hopeful as you can be it

doesn’t mean the outcome is going to be good. And I think in this world

there are lots of reasons to be concerned and we can’t protect

ourselves with money and individuals can’t protect themselves with a

limousine.

It’s just the nature of life is transitions and endings as

well as beginnings. I like to bring that out because I think with Sweet

Life
people interpreted that as being kind of “Pollyanna-ish.” And it’s

not — look, I wrote a lot of it during the Bush administration and there

were all of these troubling events going on but I look at my kids and

think, this is a really sweet life. And I wanted to appreciate the

things that are beautiful. I think that the song “Stretch Limousine on

Fire” and a lot of the other songs on this record are, in my mind

consistent with my philosophy, but also look at the more ironic side to

my writing.

AE: I mean, definitely. The song order

in fact is even like that. You go from “I Do,” which is so sweet and

maybe not saying that everything is perfect, but for the most part it

really is.


CC: Yeah, that’s the most

bubbly sweet song I’ve written in years. Kind of like, “I believe in

our future together wholeheartedly,” and then it goes into “Wedding

Band” which about breaking up. “When I met you I was really wounded and

maybe that’s why we got together.” And it’s like, “Oh gee it’s a good

thing because you’re amazing. But, really, it could’ve been anybody!”

[Laughs]

AE: Ha, well I can relate to that!

CC: Yeah

—  I’ve done it many

times. So you have to have this kind of irony when you talk about

weddings because people go into it believing they’re going to be

together forever and so commonly that’s just not what happens. And in

the meantime you have the majority of gays and lesbians not even being

allowed to get married. So I feel like there’s a lot of energy around

getting married surrounding me right now.

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