“Sedimentary, Nervous, & Open”: Artist-to-Watch Katy Kirby Stuns with Debut Album ‘Cool Dry Place’

Katy Kirby © Jackie Lee Young
Katy Kirby © Jackie Lee Young
The kind of raw whisper that feels like a roar, ‘Cool Dry Place’ proves a gorgeous debut album that puts Nashville-based singer/songwriter Katy Kirby on the map for good.
Stream: “Cool Dry Place” – Katy Kirby




An intimate and tender rush of indie folk, rock, and pop, Katy Kirby’s debut album is as exhilarating as it is sweetly moving: The thrilling introduction to a singer/songwriter full of endearing light and endless possibility. The kind of raw whisper that feels like a roar, Cool Dry Place proves a gorgeous debut album that puts Katy Kirby on the map for good.

Cool Dry Place - Katy Kirby
Cool Dry Place – Katy Kirby
just another episode of tenderness
in a long, long string of similar events
like a chain I wear around my neck
that’s the only part I want, you said
can I come over? is it too late?
would you keep me, keep me in a cool dry place?
if my head on your shoulder
is not too much weight,
would you keep me, keep me in a cool dry place?

In hailing Katy Kirby as one of Atwood Magazine’s 2021 Artists to Watch, writer Lowndes Commander praised the artist as a long-time master of intricate songwriting: “Ranging from endearingly earnest to satirical and sweet, Kirby’s folk/rock songs categorize small moments with an open-minded and delicate attentiveness… [her songs] combine layers of soft guitar and twisting melodies in their own ways, each extending a warm invitation to listen close and get lost in the moment.”

Released February 19, 2021 via Keeled Scales, Cool Dry Place makes good on the promise of its teaser singles “Traffic!,” “Cool Dry Place,” “Portals,” and “Juniper” – deliver in its quick 28-minute run a dazzling wash of deeply engaging melodies and provocative lyrics that keep us coming back again and again.



Katy Kirby © Jackie Lee Young
Katy Kirby © Jackie Lee Young

“I started demoing this record around late 2018 in west Nashville,” Kirby tells Atwood Magazine. “All the songs were initially pieced together with (co-producer) Logan Chung — mostly over this one week he was moving out of his house. It all kind of got derailed or delayed for about a year after that, for a million different reasons, but I eventually recruited Alberto Sewald (co-producer, engineer) and we tracked the core band parts in August of 2019 at a home studio some friends of ours lived in (RIP, it’s condos now) and finished tracking over Thanksgiving at my family’s home outside of Austin.”

“I think the biggest thing that changed would be the extent to which I thought I had to do everything myself—I imagined that the record would wind up sounding pretty organic and straightforward, because that’s all I was capable of producing at the time, or hearing for those songs. Over the course of recording I had to let go of some of those conceptions and rely more on the people around me to actually bring those songs to a place where they felt right—and other people’s instincts (and just like, actual skill) made them way richer and more interesting than I could have ever done alone.”

She adds, “It’s exciting to have something that I’m fairly proud of out in the world – most of the songs on this record are 2-3 years old and feel very “lived in” to me by now – it’s a weird contrast between that and the “debut” feeling, if that makes sense.”

I followed you into traffic
I never thought about asking
what we were going to do
when we got where we wanted to get to
I’m slipping into an accent
it’s almost more than a habit
what are we going to do
when I can’t talk, can’t talk straight at you
I remember everything you said,
all about how it is just the way that it is
but I think that want you really meant to say is
baby, I don’t know if I can stop this
oh, I can’t stop this
high times, that’s right, red-white, black and blue
nobody has it better than you
winning in a landslide, a high tide, running out of room
nobody got there faster than you
nobody has it better than you, better than you, better than you
– “Traffic!” Katy Kirby




However old its songs may feel to their creator, Cool Dry Place is an assertive and definitive introduction to Katy Kirby’s multifaceted artistry and a strikingly fresh folk/rock-adjacent album for 2021.

It’s one that encompasses alternative, folk, rock, and pop, mixing these styles and myriad more influences into a blender as Kirby soars high with guitar-driven overdrive and low with muted, subtle acoustic and electric nuance. “I’d describe it as…alt…something?….literary?….literary sounds pretentious as hell…” she smiles, happy to leave genres on the cutting room floor. “alt-pop-singer-songwriter-rock? One of my favorite aspects, of this record at least, is the way that the guitar parts interlock – most of the songs are based on some off-axis fingerpicking part I came up with while I was writing, and Logan and  Hunt Pennington (who wrote a lot of parts as the guitar guy in my band, and plays most of the lead parts on the record) came up with brilliant stuff to weave into it, and made me sound like a way better guitar player than actually I am.”

I guess it captures, or reflects, or something, an interest in melodies that just sound good and pretty with some tentative swipes at like, actual art? I hope that someone out there finds the songs chewy and fun to pick apart, or think about occasionally.

I lost my best friend
I never had him
he’s disappearing off a ledge
I guess he left the way he came in
made out of peppermint
all white and red pins
pins and needles on my tongue
it’s not exactly what I wanted
I’m holding you on my tongue
– “Peppermint,” Katy Kirby
Katy Kirby © Jackie Lee Young
Katy Kirby © Jackie Lee Young



I’m an alternate universe in Target lingerie
you’re a country song in three-four time,
I can see through time in on a clear day
tastes like black grape and chlorine,
and something else that I can’t name
maybe I could describe it,
unless you make me I won’t say
if we peel apart,
will we be stronger than we were before
we had formed ourselves together
in a temporary whole?
and if we reunite, will we still know
the things that we had learned before?
we’re not boxes, doors, or borders
we were portals
– “Portals,” Katy Kirby

From bubbling pop songs like the buoyant, tongue-in-cheek “Traffic!” to smoldering heart-on-sleeve love(-ish) songs like “Fireman,” to driving indie folk upheavals like the delicately emotive “Cool Dry Place” and the sweetly Beatles/Father John Misty-esque “Peppermint,” Cool Dry Place embraces the a colorful swathe of life’s highs and lows, joys and pains.

The album title itself comes from the song of the same name: “It was the title of the song I felt proudest of, so it was in the running for a while, but ultimately I think I texted a bunch of people to take a poll and that one won? It felt like a reasonably memorable phrase that had a sort of weird gentleness embedded in it,” Kirby recalls.

She notes a particular fondness for that song’s second verse, citing it as some of her proudest lyrics on the entire album:

and with all my extra rods and cones I see,
that the rhythm’s more important than the melody
ten segments in an orange –
only so many ways
that you can pull apart someone

“Traffic!” is another personal highlight: “I defended a few choices on ‘Traffic!’ that didn’t really make sense to anyone else at the time. That was a difficult song to nail down, and we honestly spent 25% of our time trying to figure out what to do with it, so the fact that it feels relatively coherent on the record is satisfying.”



Katy Kirby © Jackie Lee Young
Katy Kirby © Jackie Lee Young

Whatever part of Kirby’s debut we find ourselves attracted to the most, perhaps the best part of Cool Dry Place is that it doesn’t fit into any one box. Soft ballads and ragged anthems, slow burns and fast-hitters coalesce – often right next to one another – with seamless ease as Kirby transitions fluidly through topics of privilege, romance, religion, connection, and one’s very existence. Her lyrics open a world of existential wonder as dazzling harmonies and melodies fluctuate, ebbing and flowing in waves of moving self-expression.

I heard there was a secret chord
that David played, that David played
I heard there was a secret chord
I heard there was a secret war
the give and take, the give and take
I heard there was a secret war on the news
I’ve got you called up
and you’re curling in
do you ever worry
that they understand
our secret language, secret language, secret language?
our secret language, secret language, secret language?
I heard that you had given up
you had enough, you had enough
I heard that you had given up
have you given up?
I heard you were the chosen one
they burnt you up, you’d had enough
I heard you were the chosen one
– “Secret Language,” Katy Kirby

“It’d be an honor to know this record was someone’s go-to for a brief period of time, and that it preserves that era in their memory whenever they listen back years later,” Kirby shares. “Also, I hope someone makes out while listening to it. Creating it felt like I was constantly doing everything wrong, but slowly, painstakingly learning how to make a record. Putting it out feels like a bunch of mistakes and wild guesses somehow cohered into a few songs that feel, bizarrely, almost in dialogue with each other.”

Ultimately, she got it right – nine times over, in fact.

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Katy Kirby’s Cool Dry Place EP with Atwood Magazine as the singer/songwriter goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her debut album!

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:: stream/purchase Cool Dry Place here ::
Stream: ‘Cool Dry Place’ – Katy Kirby



:: Inside Cool Dry Place ::

Cool Dry Place - Katy Kirby

— —

Eyelids

I struggled with this song for almost 6 months, hoping that there was a longer version in there somewhere. I brought it to a friend for feedback and they gently suggested that maybe it was finished already. I’m glad I listened to them.

Juniper

I tried to write a song about different types of abandonment, I guess—I was thinking of motherhood specifically when I wrote it, but it probably applies to any caretaker, or anyone you’re expecting to provide you with something like guidance. Sometimes they just don’t have it in them.

Peppermint

I had a crush on three people at once. Which felt great, honestly—it was kinda lovely to have the temporary superpower of hyper-observing things that made those people so precious and perfect and all that. Seeing in that way for any extended period is/was overwhelming and left me feeling like I learned something afterward—not sure what I learned though.

Traffic!

Someone I cared for was reasonably depressed about some stuff that had happened to them, but had just gotten completely lost in that, to the extent that they weren’t able to acknowledge that they were generally living the dream. I wrote an annoyed verse about it and it turned into a self-loathing pop song, for I too am a huge whiner and should absolutely shut up.

Tap Twice

Have you ever known that you could love someone well if they were open to that, but the dynamic between you + a mutual, deeply-embedded fear of intimacy makes such a thing impossible? Me either!

Secret Language

This one is so old that I’m not totally sure when I wrote it, or what it’s about exactly anymore. God maybe? Mystery itself? Eye contact? That works—it’s a song about eye contact.

Portals

Sort of a pre-breakup song, but also hopeful-about-post-breakup. I felt grateful for the work that was put into that relationship, and grateful for where it had led me, even though it didn’t seem like we were going to be able to make it work for much longer.

Cool Dry Place

An elaborate attempt to give myself a break for being the needy little jerk I truly am.

Fireman

I was obsessed with the Frankie Cosmos song also titled Fireman, and had been thinking about it so much that the character in that song became pretty fleshed out in my head? It was weird but seemed like a good opportunity to whip out some particularly fun metaphors—wound up being about emotional unavailability, kinda.

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:: stream/purchase Cool Dry Place here ::

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Cool Dry Place - Katy Kirby

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📸 © Jackie Lee Young

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