Kacy & Clayton Discuss Economy in Songwriting and Lessons Learned from Wilco for 'The Siren's Song'

Kacy & Clayton Discuss Economy in Songwriting and Lessons Learned from Wilco for 'The Siren's Song'
Photo: Dane Roy
It feels easy to liken Kacy & Clayton's third record The Siren's Song to a collection of short stories. Steeped in folk and country traditions, each song is a tale of adventure, love and loss with a clear beginning, middle, and end. So it's surprising when Anderson admits that the roll of storyteller isn't one that's really crossed her mind.
 
"I like songs with a lot of content. That's important to me," Kacy Anderson tells Exclaim! "I want it to be as direct and obvious as possible when I'm writing a song. Maybe that's a strange itch to have when you're writing, but I just want things to be plain."
 
"I think it's the country influence as well," Clayton Linthicum says about their storytelling style. "Songwriters like Tom T. Hall, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson are all experts at delivering this huge amount of content and imagery within three verses, four max. It's all such an art, saying the perfect thing to get the idea across and maybe a lot of other genres don't have that same kind of economic approach."
 
After opening for Wilco last September in San Francisco, Anderson and Linthicum kept in touch with frontman Jeff Tweedy, who later invited them to Wilco's studio, the Loft, in Chicago and offered to produce their new album — an offer they readily accepted. Since the release of their sophomore album Strange Country in 2015, the pair have been touring as a four-piece band: Linthicum on electric guitar, Anderson on acoustic, plus a bassist and drummer. Recorded live off the floor, The Siren's Song replicates this electric setting and captures the confidence that has grown from touring as a full band.
 
"We've always tried to do as much live as possible," Linthicum says. "But we've always recorded in environments where it was always very easy to sit with the engineer and fix a mistake — the people at the Loft were very much against that. There was a very urgent sense of live performance that we've never really done on albums."
 
"I feel like when we're a duo, there are all these sensitivities that need to be met for me to be ready and comfortable to perform for an audience," Anderson adds. "But with a band, I'm just like, whatever. We got our rhythm dads with us and regardless, we're going to play music together as a unit and that's what's exciting for me because I've never really done that — play in a band. I feel like I'm living a teenage dream, and before I felt like I was 70 years old. It's awesome!"
 
Three records in, Anderson and Linthicum continue to develop their sound and grow as songwriters. The pair go back and forth on what they've learned so far and Anderson admits, "I try every day to get better [at songwriting] but I feel like I don't," but then laughs and says she's having a bad week.
 
"It seems like it's a long time in between good ideas," Linthicum adds. "I think that when you think about it every day, of course it seems like it's a long time because you're constantly thinking about it. But when you step back and realize that every year or two we're able to put out an album, that's pretty good."
 
The Siren's Song is out now on Dine Alone/Big White Cloud Records.