Katie Pruitt doesn’t need anyone to pray for them

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      There’s been a shift in Katie Pruitt.

      “Entering my thirties, I’ve had to really re-evaluate and come to terms with a lot of changes—with things that are mostly out of my control,” Pruitt says on the phone from the road. In their search for inner peace, they’ve been recentering themself, “running to nature, and learning the power of meditation and cold plunges.”

      When they answer the phone, the Nashville-based Americana artist is in Colorado Springs on their first headline tour since 2021, heading west before they turn north to play three BC dates next week.

      They stayed a couple of extra days in Texas to be in the solar eclipse’s path of totality. It felt kismet: a literal sign from the universe that things were going their way.

      “It sounds very stereotypical,” they reflect, “but it’s crazy how much delving into those practices has helped me with peace within myself, and make peace with the things that have happened in my life.”

      That shift is also apparent in the visual language of their records. Expectations—sun-dappled, folksy, songbird—released in 2020 and features a gothic arch reminiscent of a stained-glass window. Pruitt themself, eyes faintly cast upwards, looks to be the perfect picture of devotion—even though coming out sent shockwaves through the community of their Catholic upbringing. A rainbow above their head shines like a halo.

      In comparison, the cover of Mantras (released on April 5 of this year) is filled with celestial symbolism. If Expectations was about trying to figure out how religion and queerness could co-exist, then Mantras is about abandoning that framework altogether in search of new kinds of meaning.

      “I used to be sort of hesitant, because I’m like, ‘I can’t be summed up by a horoscope!’” Pruitt says. “Then I read mine and it summed me up—I’m a full-blown Pisces no matter how hard I try not to be.”

      Roman numerals, upside-down text, and the visual symmetry of the record’s cover evoke tarot cards; phases of the moon and galactic backdrops nod to the cosmic rather than the heavenly. They’re not exactly a full-blown astrology gay, but rather are open to whatever appeals to them at any given time.

      “I have felt a shift from being a kid that grew up very Christian and very Catholic to the person that’s very spiritually curious now, in contrast,” Pruitt reflects. “Dabbling with whatever resonates with me at the moment. I take it all with a grain of salt, but I do find that imagery and the idea of it all is fascinating in and of itself.”

      Produced by Colin Pastore and Jake Finch (known for their work with fellow singer-songwriters Lucy Dacus and Olivia Barton), Mantras leans rougher and rockier than Pruitt’s debut. There are shades of Lydia Loveless or Julien Baker: indie rock sensibilities alongside sweetly-soaring ballads.

      The opening track, “All My Friends”, buzzes with bass and indie swagger as they rib their peers for finding “some kind of saviour to say you’re so unique/A new mantra every other week.” It segues right into “White Lies, White Jesus And You”, a searing denouncement of religious hypocrisy that starts out with reverent keys and transitions into devilish reverb.

      “‘White Lies, White Jesus and You’ is in itself a protest song,” they explain. “It’s protesting the way that religion and politics are weaponized against trans people, and queer people, and women, and the autonomy over their bodies.”

      Growing up in Georgia and living in Tennessee, the complexities of being queer and yet proudly Southern are never far from their mind. That’s exacerbated by the current contentious state of politics, which sees the loudest voices rallying around hateful rhetoric to create moral panics that scapegoat from the real issues at hand.

      “In places like Austin and Dallas, I’ve found there are people that really resonate with what I’m trying to say, and I appreciate that because I’m intentionally trying to be specific,” they muse. “I don’t always feel super safe, saying the things that I say on stage in the US, but I kind of can’t help but say it.”

      Although country music has a reputation for leaning rightward, that’s not true for Americana. Folk music has a history of telling inconvenient truths. Pruitt used to be more anxious about identifying with the genre, until one of their core influences—the great Brandy Carlile—set them straight.

      “I said, ‘I kind of want to make a record that isn’t Americana.’ And she was like, ‘Americana is more of a mindset than it is a sonic backdrop. It’s a community,’” Pruitt recalls. “I think telling the truth in songs—political and social commentary—is inherently where I want to go as a writer.”

      Combining emotional storytelling with clear-eyed incisiveness, Pruitt’s music leaves its mark. They might not have fit in growing up in a cookie-cutter Catholic school, but on stage with a guitar, it’s clear they’ve found their home.

      Katie Pruitt

      April 19, 6pm

      Where: Hollywood Theatre

      Admission: $38.68, available here