Kacy & Clayton Discuss Jeff Tweedy, Repping Canada and New Album, 'Carrying On'

Kacy & Clayton Discuss Jeff Tweedy, Repping Canada and New Album, 'Carrying On'
Photo: Mat Dunlap
On October 4, Kacy & Clayton will release Carrying On, the fifth album in nine years from the prolific Saskatchewan folk duo comprising singer/songwriter/guitarist Kacy Anderson and singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Clayton Linthicum. It's also their second album, following 2017's The Siren's Song, to be produced by Wilco main man Jeff Tweedy, a connection that's certainly increased the pair's profile internationally.
 
"He was more straightforward with us and open and sharing about his ideas on this album," says Clayton over pints in a Toronto interview with Exclaim!.
 
"Jeff is so hyper-focused, and he notices so much," adds Kacy. "We played a song twice, and he'll go, 'Why don't you sing "and" instead of "but" in the third verse?' With him, it's efficient rock'n'roll — "Let's get through this with two or three takes.' That's something we bond on, as we don't want to be doing these songs too many times. The thrill goes, and he's all about the thrill."
 
"There are so many impressive qualities to him," says Clayton, and that's one of the biggest ones, that he's very quick with an intense focus."
 
Kacy observes that "in making the last record, Jeff loved parts that I despised, but I accepted it and now I like them because it's like… a characteristic. I think that's something he's good at, wanting our records to sound like our own records. That used to piss me off, as we wanted to sound like a Willie Nelson record and he wants it to sound like a Kacy & Clayton album!"
 
Before entering Tweedy's Chicago studio (and Wilco rehearsal space) The Loft, Kacy & Clayton road-tested all the new material, as Clayton explains.
 
"We played all ten songs exclusively, for ten nights in a row, when we were on a Canadian tour with our band — a great way to whittle down your time in the studio is to rehearse onstage. We had one day off after the tour prior to recording, and we lost a day as we were stranded in Minneapolis with a winter storm. We only had six days to begin with, so after losing some time on an already tough schedule, it was good we had rehearsed."
 
To date, it seems Kacy & Clayton have been better received in the U.S., UK and Europe than at home.
 
"It does seem that in Canada people don't accept you until you are accepted elsewhere," opines Kacy.
 
"I'm not sure of that," counters Clayton. "As a band we have worked harder touring in the U.S. and Europe. We only really tour in Western Canada. We hardly ever come east, and almost never to Montreal or the Maritimes. We just try to get as many people to come out as possible."
 
The duo's acceptance by folk music lovers in the UK is especially gratifying.
 
"We are obsessed with traditional English folk music," says Clayton. "To go to the different regions that are mentioned in old folk songs is really exciting to us. That gives me a huge thrill every time we go over there."
 
The duo remain proud of their Saskatchewan roots and the willingness of the province to support its artists.
 
"We couldn't do this without that," notes Kacy. "You can't move three hours away for a music career, you have to drive 25 hours. There are really great funding bodies that help bands get out and tour."
 
"I almost feel more excited to be an ambassador of Saskatchewan, and Canada," Clayton adds, "than a musician in some ways. Maybe I should have gotten into the diplomatic corps — though perhaps I couldn't handle that level of stress!"
 
One track on Carrying On pays homage to "The South Saskatchewan River," and Clayton explains that, "the watersheds and the geography of the area we are from is a big part of our inspirations. Gordon Lightfoot, Ian Tyson, Stompin' Tom, and Corb Lund are big leaders with that, making Canadian places as romantic as American places."
 
On their recent Toronto visit, Kacy & Clayton were able to reconnect with Kiwi roots troubadour Marlon Williams. He was in for TIFF for an Australian movie he acted in, and there's talk of a possible recording collaboration between Kacy and Williams.
 
Anderson also recently produced an album for Saskatoon singer/songwriter Ellen Froese, who will support Kacy & Clayton on Western Canadian shows in December.
 
First, though, the duo will open for Ray LaMontagne on an extensive U.S. theatre tour that includes such famed venues as Nashville's Ryman Auditorium and Los Angeles' Orpheum Theatre.
 
"I've been to The Ryman to see a show, and that was amazing," says Clayton, while Kacy laughingly recalls that she "went to the gift shop, but all I got was a regular water bottle."
 
She already has a strategy for connecting wth LaMontagne, she admits.
 
"I know he has French-Canadian roots, so we'll be like, 'Hey, thanks for the catering… where do your ancestors come from?'"
 
Carrying On is out October 4 courtesy of New West Records.