KATHY: Tobin, you’re a musician.
TOBIN: Ah...was. Am.
KATHY: You are! You’re a professional cellist.
TOBIN: Once upon a time I did play the cello.
KATHY: But I’m curious about other types of music. Like, growing up, what kind of pop music were you into?
TOBIN: Um...I do remember buying the Barenaked Ladies CD...
KATHY: Oh my god.
TOBIN: And going crazy over it. And having a legitimate conversation with my dad where I was like, “Dad, listen to these lyrics. They are amazing...what an amazing band. Like, listen to these lyrics, Dad.” My poor father just had to be like...idiot child.
VOX: From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy!
VOX: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
KATHY: Tobin, I want to take you back to a time in my life when you did not exist yet in my world.
TOBIN: Hmm. I don’t. What. Does not compute.
KATHY: You and I did not meet until 2013.
TOBIN: You mean your life began in 2013.
KATHY: Alright okay, I had a different life before 2013.
TOBIN: Fair, fair.
KATHY: So this is the year 2010. It’s fall. In Boston. It was cold. Probably snowing. And I’d just moved there for law school. I had no friends yet. My entire family was on the west coast. And...it was a lot going on.
TOBIN: Lotta stuff going on, yeah.
KATHY: And then I went through a terrible breakup with my very first girlfriend.
TOBIN: Oh, I’m sorry.
KATHY: And, you know, it just felt like I was being pulled in a million directions. I was just always so anxious, unfocused, and worried all the time. And then in like the midst of the brutal Boston winter
KATHY: I discovered this singer-songwriter based in Nashville.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - WISH YOU WELL
I want to wish you well.
KATHY: Her name is Katie Herzig.
TOBIN: Oh you have talked about Katie before. You have that t shirt with her face on it.
KATHY: It is my favorite thing in the world and I love it.
TOBIN: You do wear it a lot. For someone who wears usually just plain, black t-shirts, the Katie shirt really stands out in your wardrobe.
KATHY: In that it is grey.
KATHY: Right. Let’s plunge back into the brutal Boston winter, 2010.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - WISH YOU WELL
I want to wish you well.
KATHY: There I was, heartbroken, far away from the people who could comfort me, barely keeping it together… and then I hear Katie’s music. And it was like this person reached out of my headphones, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “relax…”
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - DAISIES AND PEWS
KATHY: Her songs felt like someone was wrapping me up in a blanket and keeping me warm. And as I listened, everything sort of slowed down for me. It’s like I could breathe more deeply. I don’t know how else to describe it...but I think this is the feeling people get when they go to church.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - DAISIES AND PEWS (cont)
Soon we’ll be sitting at the bottom
Making sense of all we’ve forgotten
My faith lies somewhere between daisies and pews
Making sense of all the good news
KATHY: And I’m not the only one who loves her, Tobin. Grey’s Anatomy...
TOBIN: Oh god, I’ve been tricked! This is a pivot. This is a Grey’s Anatomy story, isn’t it?
KATHY: look, I cannot help if the things I love intersect.
[CLIP] KATIE HERZIG - HOLDING US BACK
MEREDITH: I learned to read in the OR gallery. I played in the morgue. I colored with crayons on old ER charts.
TOBIN: God they love a voice over on that show.
KATHY: They’re so good at them. Okay so, as much as I loved her music, there was something about it that also really puzzled me. It seems like in a lot of her songs, Katie’s searching for something or yearning for something or like just on the edge of some big transition. And what that was wasn’t clear. When you look at her lyrics closely…they’re really open-ended. Like here’s an example, there’s this song, I would say one my favorite of hers, called “Closest I Get.”
KATHY: So the first line of the lyrics go What if I wait and you don't show, if I left you half just to keep me whole. What does that mean?
TOBIN: I don’t know.
KATHY: Is it for a suitor? Is it for a family member? The last line of that verse is, What if the closest I get to the moment is now?
TOBIN: Oh my god. You can’t hear that and not think this person is going through something.
KATHY: To me at the time, I thought about me and my mom and like, what if the closest we ever got to understanding each other was now, and now is horrible?
KATHY: So what was Katie going through? Was it ALSO horrible? Was she okay? The more I thought about it, the more concerned I got. I remember searching online to see if she wrote about what she was going through, but there was nothing there but music and more vague song lyrics so I didn’t have much to work with.
KATHY: Fast forward to a couple months ago, when I see something on her Instagram…
KATHY: And I thought it could be the answer…
KATHY: But I really felt like I needed to talk with her about it, really hear it from her.
TOBIN: Omg did you call her up on the phone?
KATHY: Even better, I went down to Nashville.
TOBIN: Of course you did.
KATHY: And I’ll tell you about it… [pause] but first we have to take a short break.
TOBIN: While we’ve got you here, we just want to remind you all, our dear listeners, about the project we started called “I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You…”
KATHY: Tobin, do you have something you’ve been meaning to tell me?
TOBIN: Yea, so you know how sometimes you’ll invite me out to a run or something and i’ll be like “oh..ok.. I’m all busy that day.” I actually hate running.
KATHY: I hate running too!
TOBIN: Then why do you invite me all the time?
KATHY: Because it seems like a healthy thing to do!
TOBIN: Oh my god, can we never run again?
KATHY: Yeah ok, the official stance of the Nancy Podcast is that we hate running.
KATHY: So, listeners, do you have something you’ve been meaning to tell or ask someone, but you haven’t gotten around to it? Because We’d love to hear what that is.
TOBIN: Go to nancypodcast.org/tell to share your story with us.
KATHY: Go ahead, start a conversation.
KATHY: So I flew down to Nashville, Tennessee to meet Katie Herzig.
KATHY: Katie lives at the top of a very steep driveway. And when I say steep, I mean like basically 45 degree angle with multiple turns.
[CAR DOOR OPENS]
KATHY: But once you reach the top, you see a gorgeous house that looks like it’s tucked into the side of a hill.
[FRONT DOOR OPENS]
KATIE: You made it up the driveway.
KATHY: I did!
KATIE: Great to meet you!
KATHY: This is surreal for me.
KATHY: This is so insane.
KATHY: This is me trying not to freak out, because I’m talking to Katie Herzig. Katie’s slender, with the same shoulder length hair that I’ve seen on her album covers. And she’s got these big eyes that makes me feel like she can see into my soul or something. Or maybe that’s just my nervousness talking. ANYWAY, Katie shows me around to the back of her house, and from this vantage point, it looks like we’re standing in a giant treehouse overlooking a valley.
KATHY: Oh my god.
KATHY: And after I’m done making a fool of myself gasping at everything inside and outside of the house, we sit down in her studio.
KATHY: So I'm somebody that like, has a really tough time interpreting lyrics. I just want to know exactly what the person wants to tell me in their song.
KATHY: And you're very frustrating because your lyrics are so open to interpretation.
KATIE: [LAUGHING] Yes. That is part of my scheme.
KATIE: I like that. I like leaving it. I mean I slip in some specifics here and there, but I love that about music. I, I'm a fan of music that I can latch my own story onto. And I mean to me these songs are a combination of things that are very specific to me and things that I just like,"I don't know what I'm saying but it feels right to say.”
KATHY: I totally get that, but also, I need to know what that one song meant. The one I mentioned earlier...Closest I Get.
KATIE: The verses took a long time to write. The first verse is about a different person than the last verse.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - CLOSEST I GET
KATIE: The first verse of that song is basically about a guy I had a crush on who kind of had a crush on me and we were kind of waiting to see what happened.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - CLOSEST I GET (cont)
What if I wait and you don't show / If I left you half just to keep me whole / What if I held my breath so long / Would you notice the silence had lasted so long / What if the closest I get to the moment is now?
KATIE: And then, the second verse is kind of a reflection of my life with relationships. My history.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - CLOSEST I GET (cont)
I have seen love come and go / I watched it pass with my heart held close
There's no easy way to know / If I'm looking back or if I'm getting close / What if the closest I get to the moment is now?
KATIE: And then the third verse is kind of like this introduction of um—you said the words we knocked on wood and I'm still here waiting to see what could be—And that's about Butterfly.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - CLOSEST I GET (cont)
Love it has no guarantees / Which muse will lay its hands on me / We said the words we knocked on wood / And I'm still here waiting to see what could be / What if the closest I get to the moment is now?
KATHY: The Butterfly she’s talking and singing about is Butterfly Boucher. She’s another singer-songwriter based in Nashville.
KATHY: How did you two meet?
KATIE: We really started to connect and become friends when we did "Ten Out of Tenn" which was a tour together...ten artists from Tennessee.
KATIE: Butterfly was somebody who I was just drawn to and I, we just wanted to hang out all the time. So when we started working together and met we were, you know, friends.
KATIE: Well, basically what happened is we had seen Girl With the Dragon Tattoo together and then the sequel or something was coming out. I was touring with Brandi Carlile. She was in Australia touring with Sarah McLaughlin. And so she said Sarah had asked her to go see Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in Australia and I said, "I want to go see it" and she's like, "Well, wait for me to go see it because I told Sarah no.”
KATHY: She told Sarah McLachlan no?
KATIE: [LAUGHS] She told Sarah McLachlan, "No, I'm not going to go see this with you,” in her email she's like, "Because I don't have a big crush on Sarah." And I was totally surprised. I was like...I had a lot of feelings.
KATHY: What were those feelings?
KATIE: Well first I felt for her that she was so vulnerable as to tell me that and I was grateful that she did. But from the beginning, I was like, "I...I'm just not into women. So I it's not gonna happen." And she was like, "That's just too bad."
KATIE: And, you know, I had, I grew up only dating guys, I felt quite straight. And that's kind of my identity. That's what I knew of myself. And so, when she came back to Nashville -she told me, "I'm, I'm over it. Don't worry about it. We're gonna be fine. We're gonna be friends. It's not going to change things. Forget about it. I just wanted to tell you I wanted to be honest." And I could have left it at that. But I was like, "But why do I feel so sad?" [LAUGHS]
KATHY: Wait, what was that?
KATIE: Part of that sadness to me could have been, the sadness that I'd lose being close to her, and she would one day be close to somebody else. Or maybe the sadness was suddenly I had this thing that was kind of a secret. And I've never had a secret because, and the reason it kind of was because I was like, "Well it's not going to happen so let's just not bother [LAUGHING] telling people." And, it’s just not, having a secret in life, or having like to withhold parts of yourself is just, it eats away at your freedom. And I hated that feeling so much.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - LIE OR LIE AWAKE
I didn’t have a question / Not a question in my mind
Now all I have are questions / They’re all that I can find
Why oh why must the fire die oh die just I don’t have to lie oh lie or lie awake
KATIE: I've been close to friends who have struggled with their sexuality and had to, you know, eventually figure out who they want to be. Like who they want to be publicly and with their family. And I've witnessed that as something that is like a relief for them when they’ve come out and said, "I'm gay" or, "I, this is who I am." I've witnessed it to be such a beautiful freeing thing. And I guess the experience that I have was more of like, I thought I knew who I was and then it was like a drastic shift where I had just a lot of confusion and angst about not knowing how to define who I was. Literally like, having to mourn and let go of my straight life. And that...that to me is like a real thing. It's like letting go of who you just spent 33 years knowing yourself to be. And then finally I just let go, I was like, "You like this person. Let go of that part of you for a while. You don't have to define or commit anything and just let your guard down."
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - WE BELONG
You belong to my heart
Before you came, just an ache in my chest, the blue in my veins
KATIE: And it turned into this surprisingly beautiful thing that I didn't think I was capable of experiencing with a woman.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - WE BELONG (cont)
KATIE: And when we first held each other I was like, "Oh my god. Humans need to be close to other humans." It was like, it was so profound. And I love this human. The term like soulmate and like love of my life just kept like, coming back into my mind like, "This person, I love this person and I want to be near this person," and then all that other stuff of like, "But I'm still attracted to men." And, but I thought, "This is what I know of myself." And you know that kind of stuff is, you know, I mean I have a lot of therapy.
KATIE: I think because of what I went through, I have a large sensitivity towards those people saying like, "That person's gay and they don't know it" kind of thing, like, or, you know, I just feel like, I didn't know it like I didn't know I had this capability to love a woman in me and be with a woman. And there's nothing, you know, there's, there's something good I like to and want to like, honor about a person's experience and ability to just move through life without having to be pegged to something before they experience it. And not having to put too much emphasis on a definition of what that means.
KATHY: Yeah, did you feel a pressure to try to define who you were?
KATIE: For sure, yeah. I think we do that. And I think I was chasing an authenticity, I was chasing like, more than anything just wanting to be known. So for me to say I'm gay or I'm straight or I'm bi. Like, for me to say who I am in one word, it just felt hard to do. Because it's like, well the first 33 years of my life I felt straight then I guess I could say I'm bi, and then, I don’t know, it just feels like there's a fluidity that I think we don't traditionally leave a lot of room for, in how we define ourselves.
KATHY: And then, this past February, on Valentine’s Day, I saw that photo Katie posted on Instagram. She’s looking at the camera, and Butterfly Boucher is next to her. They’re both wearing sunglasses, and together they’re holding a poster with a giant heart on it. And surprise...it was clearly a photo of a couple in love. But Katie had never posted something like that before. And I wondered at the time...was this the mysterious person that she’d been singing about? Was this the source of the searching and yearning and hoping that had been in her music for the last 8 years?
KATIE: So Butterfly and I now, you know, have been together I guess seven or eight years now and we've built this life together. And we, in our community, with friends and family, we’re very much out and very much integrated our lives in a really nice, open, beautiful way, but we never announced it publicly. So she's, she has her own public thing and I have my own thing. And so on Valentine's Day I composed a message for a while. I was sitting in a bathroom for probably 45 minutes.
KATIE: Oh I overthink what I post online.
KATIE: And then eventually Butter was working upstairs and I just handed my phone to her, I was like, "What do you think of this?" And she just got a big smile on her face and was like, "I think you should do it.” And then, I had a moment where I was like, "You know if you, if I died today, I would definitely want everyone to know that I've been with you.”
KATIE: So she pushed post and then I like threw my phone across the room and vacuumed my bedroom. And my sister texted me and she was like, "I'm so proud of you." I just had so much relief!
KATHY: The caption to the photo read, “I am lucky in this life to have a love that walks beside me, supports me through all the good, all the grief, all the dream chasing, all the music making, all of the never-had-my-mind-made-up bulsh... with patience and grace and humor and love... I guess I’ll finally say it here, after all these years.... I love you @butterflyboucher .... thank you for being my person.”
KATHY: So I’ve got a few questions for Butterfly, do you think she…
KATIE: Yes. Do you want me to go find her?
BUTTERFLY: Hi, I’ve got my sexy voice on today.
KATHY: Butterfly’s thin with a swoop of black hair and thick rimmed glasses.
KATIE: She’s a badass. She’s an artist, producer, bass player, songwriter, she does it all.
KATHY: Did you, Butterfly, did you go through the same journey that Katie did? Emotional journey?
BUTTERFLY: I think mine was different because I feel like I might have gone through the emotional journey she did earlier in an earlier relationship when I was 17, and it was top secret, and it was with my best friend, a girl. I knew going into this relationship with her that I couldn’t be in a relationship that was a secret. I could not do that again.
KATHY: You are also a musician.
KATHY: Were there dueling songs?
BUTTERFLY: [LAUGHS] I have written nearly no songs about our relationships, which I don’t know if that’s really unhealthy or if it was my way of...umm…I feel like at the beginning I had to be really, really patient in this relationship. And I feel like if I had written songs during that time, it would’ve just been like...
KATIE: Make your fucking mind up!
BUTTERFLY: [LAUGHS] Yeah! I think I would’ve been really jaded and I didn’t want to give out that.
KATHY: Well when you said you were patient at the beginning, what was that like?
BUTTERFLY: It was hard and in some ways patience I do think um, there’s a little bit of numbing or suppressing of feelings that goes along with being patient, you know? Or self control. I knew that she needed that space and the time. I was like, I have to be...I’m being so patient, but I knew what I was in for and I decided it was absolutely worth it. That was the gift that I needed to give her. I needed to be patient. Now, at the like, the 7 year mark, I’m like, no more patience!
BUTTERFLY: We’re gonna change this up. There’s no more patience now!
KATHY: Worth it.
BUTTERFLY: Worth it!
BUTTERFLY & KATIE: #worthit.
KATHY: Before I leave Katie, I have to ask her about one more of my favorite songs, a song called Frequencies.
KATIE: Oh lord, I love that song. That's one of my favorites that I've written. I mean it's just about being vulnerable. It's a song about acknowledging my sensitivities and the, the last verse relates to Butterfly.
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - FREQUENCIES
You got ahold of me before I got to be the kind of person I dreamed I’d be
The kind of person that would never ever hide away
When there’s so much to say about the things that matter
KATIE: She, I, know...all my years of therapy all my like, songs I had to write about her, like, I wasn't fully formed human being yet. I'm still not a fully formed human being. I'm still figuring it out.
KATHY: Who is a fully formed human being?
KATIE: I don't know.
KATIE: Nobody. [LAUGHS]
[SONG] KATIE HERZIG - FREQUENCIES (cont)
Til heaven has spoken.
Til heaven has...
TOBIN: You know what, Kathy, I am proud of you for going to Nashville to talk to Katie.
KATHY: I wasn’t nervous at all. I’m lying, I was so nervous.
TOBIN: [LAUGHS] Well, good for you.
KATHY: Thank you.
TOBIN: And listeners, remember, if you’ve got something you’ve been meaning to tell someone, or ask someone, but just haven’t gotten to it, go to nancypodcast.org/tell to share with us what it is.
KATHY: nancypodcast.org/tell. Do it.
TOBIN: Alright, credits! Our producer…
KATHY: Matt Collette!
KATHY: Jenny Lawton!
TOBIN: Sound Designer…
KATHY: Jeremy Bloom!
TOBIN: Executive Producer…
KATHY: Paula Szuchman!
TOBIN: Special thanks this week to Melissa Lent!
KATHY: I’m Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: I’m Tobin Low.
KATHY: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.