"My new song, ‘Feel Alive,’ is about being in this difficult time and speaking to the hope that it will get better," says Nashville-based, California-raised singer-songwriter Katie Herzig. "As I sing the lyrics, it feels like I wrote them for this particular political moment."
Writing songs about relationships, loss and authenticity, Herzig wouldn’t call herself a political artist. Still, she says it’s impossible to separate politics from her music.
“Whether it’s climate change or standing up for people who are being compartmentalized, I respond to the world as an artist and speak to the issues I care about,” she says.
Herzig’s latest album, Moment of Bliss, came out in March. It had been four years since the musician, whose songs “Holding Us Back” and “Crazy” have appeared in popular television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Big Little Lies, released a new body of work.
In the intervening years, Herzig co-produced singer Ingrid Michaelson’s hit song, “Girls Chase Boys,” which was hailed as a beacon of pro-LGBTQ pop when it climbed the Billboard Hot 100 in 2014. She also continued her TV soundtrack work: in 2016, she wrote the song “Morse Code” for the Netflix show Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
“Being an artist, my most blissful times are in the creation and production process," she says. "Having worked on my album for so long, it’s a relief to finally put the new music out there."
Influenced by artists like Coldplay, Bon Iver and Peter Gabriel, Moment of Bliss layers Herzig's angelic vocals with piano, guitar and synthesizers; its mellow pop crosses genres, combining an acoustic, folky sound with sleek electronic production. In preparation for her summer tour, Herzig released an EP in June, Delicate, which features acoustic reinterpretations of some of her most popular songs, including “Lost and Found” and “Wish You Well."
Now touring in support of her two new projects, Herzig performs in San Francisco on Saturday, Aug. 18, at The Independent. She says playing in the Bay Area is particularly significant to her as an LGBTQ musician.
“Every time I tour, I return to San Francisco," she says. “Because of my history touring and playing in San Francisco with artists who’ve been open about their identities, like Brandi Carlile and Missy Higgins, it’s significant to revisit a city that promotes LGBTQ equality because it’s part of my journey now, too.”
While her work has long broached queer themes, Herzig came out only recently by going public with her relationship with Australian singer-songwriter Butterfly Boucher.
“Over the past year, deciding to publicly announce who I’m with, I’ve learned that I’m doing it at a time when I have less to lose than those who’ve come before me," she says. "I know that not everybody has that experience."
Since becoming open with her identity, Herzig’s been surprised to learn how speaking out has supported and encouraged her fans. “We underestimate the power of saying our truths, even when it’s complicated and can’t be explained in one sound bite or sentence,” she says.
In light of the Trump administration's rollbacks of many Obama-era protections of LGBTQ rights, Herzig's songs, which champion speaking out and taking pride in one's authentic self, have taken on new meaning. “On tour, we’re performing old songs like ‘Proud’ and ‘Make a Noise,’ and there are times when I have to hold it together because I feel the impact of the lyrics and how they speak to what we’re going through in this country," she continues. "I can’t recall a time when I’ve been playing shows where I’m saying something that has such relevance collectively. It’s a very powerful thing."
Katie Herzig performs at The Independent on Aug. 18. Details here.