Inner turmoil slowly gives way to inner strength as Katelyn Tarver dwells in (and grows from) the throes of life on debut album ‘Subject to Change’, a radiantly raw and beautifully reflective album of acceptance navigating change, triumph, loss, resilience, and more.
for fans of Loviet, HAIM, Bluebiird, Arlo Parks
Stream: “Hurt Like That” – Katelyn Tarver
I can’t wait for a year from now, when all the little things I learned to love, I’ll learn to live without…
There’s a moment in Katelyn Tarver’s debut album, somewhere around the painfully poignant “Year from Now” and the stinging, yet ultimately refreshing resolve of “Out of Excuses,” where all the puzzle pieces start coming together: “A broken heart makes you do crazy shit, and I’ve done my fair share of it,” she sings on the latter as the heavy, weighted atmosphere around her lightens and brightens. “It’s been brutal, but I’ve grown a bit. Wouldn’t give up anything I’ve learned; that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, but it’s sweeter ’cause I know I’ve earned it.” Inner turmoil slowly gives way to inner strength (and hopefully some inner peace) as Tarver dwells in and grows from the throes of life on Subject to Change, a radiantly raw and beautifully reflective album navigating change, triumph, loss, resilience, and more. It’s a record of acceptance, and the long, harrowing journey we take to get there; a cathartic outpouring from the depths of the soul, documenting life’s turbulence in brutally honest real time.
Can you teach me
How to smooth over the edges
and make it all clean and nice
I’m not trying to say that
I’m just the victim and didn’t get
caught in the part I played
It’s a heavy weight
But I’ve been taking what went wrong
and owning all the truth
And I was wrong for thinking you would too
– “Out of Excuses,” Katelyn Tarver
Released November 12, 2021, Subject to Change is a vulnerable and visceral collection. Katelyn Tarver’s long-awaited debut album finds the artist reeling through times of hardship and transition, losing her footing only to (most times) find it again somewhere new.
While perhaps most recognizable for her recurring role portraying Jo Taylor on the Nickelodeon television series Big Time Rush, Tarver has emerged over the past decade as a tremendously talented indie/alt-pop singer and songwriter, with her own unique perspective and spellbinding allure. Following a slew of independent EPs and dozens of singles released over the past ten-plus years, Tarver’s first full-length album affirms what millions of fans have long appreciated in her art. A dynamic, accessible, and cinematic record dwelling in the depths of self-reflection and wonder, turbulence and inner turmoil, Subject to Change reminds all who listen that life is a roller-coaster, and it’s okay to not always be okay: The album’s first three singles “Shit Happens,” “All Our Friends Are Splitting Up,” and “Nicer” speak, with a poetic vulnerability and candid honesty, to the fact that our lives are not the rose-colored filters we see so often portrayed around us and on social media; that human existence is emotionally complex and radically nuanced, with highs and lows happening at every moment.
The Los Angeles-via-Georgia artist describes her album as coming out of a particularly difficult period of upheaval and imbalance in her life – calling it “challenging, healing, cathartic, [and] stretching me way out of my comfort zone.” As such, Subject to Change is not only a buoy and anchor, but also a real-time record of life in motion. Cohesive yet diverse, bright and uplifting yet dark and unfiltered, and utterly enchanting from start to finish, it is an enviable debut through and through.
“Subject to Change is all about my path to acceptance,” Tarver tells Atwood Magazine. “Acceptance of things in my past that I realized I had a lot of grief over. Things about my present that were unraveling. Fear around my future and this nagging sense of uncertainty at how my life was unfolding…. All my usual coping mechanisms stopped working. So this record is me voicing some of that process of diving in to my inner world.”
“I’m a nostalgic person,” she adds. “Sentimental for moments that happened yesterday. Always walking around with a little bit of an ache at how beautiful, fragile, and fleeting life can be. I’m often looking for the one big thing I can count on, build my life around. Something that will quiet the waters when they rage. These songs are my realization that that’s not how life works. Life is big. And wild. And unpredictable. For all the stories of triumph and resilience, there are just as many stories of failure and getting lost. The addict relapses. The happy couple gets divorced. The one you’ve put on a pedestal lets you down. Finding the love of your life doesn’t solve your problems. You know the expression, the only way out is through? These songs are me making my way through: Giving myself permission to not have the answers. Letting myself feel it all. The pain, the joy, the confusion, the bittersweet in-between… I learned that uncertainty can be an open door. And that change is a constant invitation I want to learn to accept.”
I used to be nicer
I was the girl who’d do anything
To make everyone like her
That shit makes you tired
I used to say sorry
It wasn’t worth all the arguing
I’d let somebody rob me
And then I’d buy ‘em a coffee
In premiering Subject to Change‘s third single “Nicer” earlier this year, Atwood Magazine praised Tarver for spellbinding on a song that glows bright as a beautiful and boldly unapologetic assertion of the self: “A heartfelt, invigorating indie pop anthem of renewal and personal growth… ‘Nicer’ offers a raw moment of vulnerability as Tarver delves into the woman she once was and the woman she’s become.”
“My vision was just wanting it to feel honest,” Tarver explains. “Even if that meant saying stuff that felt really heavy or potentially embarrassing. I knew that if I was having some of these fears or emotions, there must be a lot of other people that are too. And wouldn’t it be nice to give people an opportunity to feel seen. It didn’t really change throughout the process of recording, if anything it just got more solidified.”
“I think I’ve always been drawn to complicated emotions,” she adds. “Contradictory feelings. Grey areas. How complex every single person is. So, this album feels like a good example of songs that are exploring those ideas, which is exciting to me, because it feels like the first time I’m getting to show that part of myself in a more obvious way.”
The album’s title evokes the emotional volatility, complexity, and nuance of its songs and subject matter. “I like how that phrase (“Subject to Change”) captures the feeling of something not being in its final state; of it feeling like a work in progress. That’s very much how I felt making the album, and what a lot of these songs are born from, so I wanted the title to reflect that.”
Subject to Change‘s songs are not necessarily for the faint of heart, but its deeply human narratives and rich, evocative music make it an endlessly enriching journey: One that intrinsically gives back tenfold to those who listen.
From the ethereal beat and buoyant melodies of opener “Back to You” to the glistening acoustics and intense intimacy of sentimental closer “When I Leave Home,” Subject to Change offers both a meaningful and memorable experience. Highlights like the upbeat and dynamic “Hurt LIke That” or the bright, exceptionally bittersweet “Year From Now” sit comfortably against emotive, lush ballads and power-ballads like the aforementioned “Nicer” and “Out of Excuses,” the deeply fragile “At the Same Time,” “All Our Friends Are Splitting Up,” “Shit Happens,” and beyond.
I love you and I hate you
I need you till I don’t
I fix you and I break you
I will and I won’t
Just when I barely got my grip I start to lose
Just when I think we won’t make it out we always do
Every promise, every word to get here
Every bit of truth in every lie
Get a little closer, baby it’ll never come easy
So many things can be true at the same time
– “At the Same Time,” Katelyn Tarver
“I love them all for different reasons,” Tarver says on the subject of her own favorites, “but some personal highlights for me are definitely “Shit Happens” and “Glad I Got You.” “Shit Happens” is a song I feel like I’ve been trying to write for years. And then “Glad I Got You” is the first song I’ve written completely by myself, so it’s special to have it be on this album.”
It’s nice to see the sun again
It’s nice to know you’re here
Come lay down beside me
Turn on something we can fall asleep to
Put down your phone
And turn off the light
They say life is short
But it’s pretty long too
Glad I got you
I’ve been wrong before
But I’ve been right too
Just glad I got you
Glad I got you
I’ll probably say I’m sorry
A couple of million more times
I hope you get everything you’ve ever wanted
And when you don’t, I’ll remind where you started
– “Glad I Got You,” Katelyn Tarver
As a lyrically forward artist, Tarver cites several lyrics that stand out amongst these eleven substance-packed tracks. “I have a lot of favorite lyrics! I love the line in the chorus of “All Our Friends Are Splitting Up” that says, “Is this just how it goes? You fall in fast and it falls apart so slow…” I love the second verse of “Shit Happens” when it says, “Don’t tell me there’s a reason, that somebody lost their dad.” There’s a lyric in “Downhill From Here” that says, “It’s not all black and white wish somebody woulda told me…” I think that just captured the disillusionment I felt exactly how I hoped it would. I also like the line in “Glad I Got You” that says, “Come lay down beside me, turn on something we can fall asleep to – put down your phone and turn off the light.” Nothing profound, but I wanted to capture that ordinary snapshot of daily life, watching TV at the end of the day with your person, and the appreciation for little moments like that in life.”
The fact that Katelyn Tarver was able to build so much into, and take so much out of Subject to Change is a feat in and of itself; that we can also reap its reward is a gift that promises to keep on giving well beyond 2021.
Whether you’re reeling through a recent breakup or processing a divorce, mourning a loss, or learning to cope with physical (or emotional) distance, this album offers sanctuary and hope, empathy and understanding. It’s a wondrous vessel for connection dealing with some of life’s most tenuous, yet often inevitable circumstances. Whatever it is we’re dealing with, it’s just good to know we’re not alone.
“I hope people can find themselves in these songs. I hope it can maybe articulate something they’ve felt in a way that can help them process a feeling or make sense of a situation. I hope they like it! Making this album was vulnerable, scary, creatively stretching, but ultimately really empowering. I’m trying to hold on to that pride and sense of accomplishment and just let myself be excited that I did it. No matter the outcome. I just love music and getting to make it and put it out and have literally anyone care is very cool.
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Katelyn Tarver’s Subject to Change EP with Atwood Magazine as XXXXX goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her debut album!
Stream: ‘Subject to Change’ – Katelyn Tarver
:: Inside Subject to Change ::
Back to You
I put this song first because I feel like it encapsulates a lot of what these songs are exploring, and it helps set the tone for the rest of the album. It’s disorienting to go through periods of transition in life. Saturn Return, coming-of-age, growing up… we try to find labels that help give these phases of life some framework. But the truth is, change and uncertainty can expose a lot of fear and grief that we’ve been sweeping under the rug. At some point in life, all the tools we’ve collected along the way to cope and make us feel safe, no longer work like they used to. For me, this song is admitting that I felt lost and uncertain and scared to death of what that meant for my life and my future. It felt like everything I was sure of was getting placed on the chopping block and I didn’t know what was going to survive… but I knew deep down that if I could hold on and face it, I’d find my way back to myself.
The opening line of this song is a direct quote from my mom when she scolded me for honking at a car who cut me off. “Katelyn, you used to be nicer!”. She said it jokingly and probably doesn’t even remember, but it stuck with me, so of course I found a way to put it in a song. Sorry mom! I had been listening to a lot of BENEE, and was sick of writing sad ballads, so we started with some drums and the guitar lead line and what you hear on the album isn’t much different from what it sounded like the day we wrote it.
Downhill From Here
Right after we wrote this song, I decided I wanted to make an album. It felt like I was finally being honest and saying things in a song I normally reserve for my close friends after a few drinks. I remember playing the demo on the drive home and just crying. I was worried when I was writing it, feeling like I should try and put a positive spin on it somewhere because I was scared of it being too depressing. But I just couldn’t find one. This song to me is the embodiment of what going through a rough patch feels like. I wrote it from a really scared, vulnerable place, and there’s an anger and a hopelessness in it that I don’t often feel like I can really let out. I was really inspired listening to artist-writers like Phoebe Bridgers & Sasha Sloan – they seemed to not be worried about tying a neat bow around the message of their songs. Letting it be a snapshot in time of a feeling. I really tried to do that with this song, and I think it unlocked something in me that made room for a lot of the other songs on the album.
All Our Friends Are Splitting Up
It seems like there’s a period in life where it feels like everyone you know is getting married, and then there’s a period in life where it feels like everyone you know is getting divorced. No one ever intends to end up in the latter category. It’s no joke to commit yourself to another person and stick with them as you’re both still becoming who you are. This song is a look at the complexities of a long term relationship. The fear that can creep up when you feel disconnected, and the realization that if you don’t pay attention, it’s very easy to become one of those couples that grow apart and lose touch… no matter how “strong” you might be. You can’t predict what problems you’re going to run into when you decide to spend your life with someone. All you can do is promise to stay and fight for each other when those problems feel really big.
It’s always rubbed me the wrong way when people try to be comforting by assigning a “deeper meaning” to a really shitty circumstance. Life is full of hardship ranging from lighter hearted accidents to unthinkable tragedies. How can any of us truly make sense of it? I don’t know why bad things happen to good people or why good things happen to bad people or why getting the thing you so desperately want doesn’t feel like you thought it would. Life rarely makes sense and it isn’t always fair. There’s not always a silver lining or lesson to be learned… sometimes it’s just hard and it sucks and you wish it were different. I think there’s freedom in admitting that, and I hope this song can be cathartic for you if you’re sick of hearing that “everything happens for a reason.”
Year From Now
This song is about eagerly wanting it to be the future, in hopes that by then you won’t feel as sad as you do in this current moment. You can read the self help book, block their account, talk shit about them with your friends… but most times, all you can really do is wait for time to take away the sting.
Out of Excuses
I don’t know if there is a phrase in life more easier said than done than “letting go.” What does it mean to let go? Can you ever really let go of someone? Especially when you feel like you were left with more questions than answers… this song is about making peace with a tough situation and vowing to move forward, taking the lessons you’ve learned with you.
Hurt Like That
There are few things in life as painful as a breakup. It’s so isolating and confusing and awful. In those low moments, it seems like the only thing that might bring you some relief is if the person who hurt you is hurting as much as you are. This song is wishing pain on the person that broke your heart… because if they aren’t hurt, then did it even matter?
At The Same Time
Most of the time I feel like I am made of contradictions. One minute feeling secure and confident and self-assured, and the next doubtful, angry, and critical. In love and committed, then selfish and wandering. Madi Diaz has been a writer and artist I’ve admired for over a decade… she was a part of the soundtrack to my early days in LA, so to get to write this song with her was really special. She started playing the guitar and rattling off melodies that instantly broke my heart in the best way. There is such a big part of me that craves security, certainty, and safety. But life is too grey for that. No one is just one thing. No situation is just one sided. So many things can be true at the same time.
Glad I Got You
Sometimes I trip out on the fact that most of our life is made up of moments we won’t remember. The day-to-day routine, the mundane… it can all just sort of blur together. Sometimes you need something to shake you up a bit, and remind you what a miracle it is that you get to share life’s big and small moments with someone who gets you. This is the first song I’ve released that I’ve written completely alone. I wanted to channel how I felt when I listened to Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves. Who I’ve loved for forever. There’s an ease and a simplicity and a feeling it evokes that makes you want to go grab the person you love and hold them. Not so much a big, grand gesture and declaration of love, but more of a grounded, deep appreciation of knowing someone and being known by them.
When I Leave Home
I grew up listening to John Mayer, and his songwriting still inspires me so much. Stop This Train always brings me to my knees, and I had been trying to write a song for a while that could accurately capture the love I have for my family and my upbringing and where I’m from. I moved to LA from Georgia when I was 19. It’s been over ten years now, and I still get choked up when my parents drop me off at the airport. I think I always will. This song is an ode to home and family and the gratitude I feel for mine. And in case this song wasn’t sentimental enough, that is my actual family singing with me in the outro. I know, I know!!! Way too much, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make it as sentimental as possible. I really love ending the album with this song. A reminder that even if you don’t feel as connected to your family of origin, whatever or whoever you consider “home” will have your back when life’s changes and uncertainties feel like they’re going to swallow you up.
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? © Ethan Gulley
:: Stream Katelyn Tarver ::