Katie Crutchfield and Jess Williamson are proud of where they came from as Plains.
Both singer-songwriters grew up in the South and began their careers with indie-rock. Their project together looks at a wide range of country influences and gives them a chance to talk about their pasts.
Katie Crutchfield and Jess Williamson have been musicians for a long time, but they only met five years ago.
Both of them grew up in the South, where country music was always around (Crutchfield, who records as Waxahatchee, in Alabama; Williamson in Texas). As they came of age in the late ’90s, mainstream country radio’s strong, but short-lived, support of strong female artists had a big impact on them: Williamson looked over the Chicks’ record liner notes, and Crutchfield sang along to Shania Twain, Martina McBride, and Trisha Yearwood songs in the back of her parents’ car.
Later, they rebelled by listening to punk and indie-rock, as many teenagers do. But as they got older and more experienced as artists, they both went back to their country roots and tried to figure out why they felt so conflicted about their Southern roots. They found kindred spirits in older people like the outlaw songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Lucinda Williams, who were also very independent.
Crutchfield and Williamson finally met in 2017 at a restaurant in Austin, where Crutchfield’s musician boyfriend, Kevin Morby, set them up. They became fast friends. “I just knew right away that this person was for me,” Crutchfield said on a video call from a room full of instruments in her Kansas City, Kansas, home.
On the call from Marfa, Texas, Williamson, who was wearing a floral-print dress and a silver crescent-moon necklace, recalled another long period of bonding time in Los Angeles just before the pandemic: “We’d be at parties, and it would just be me and Katie in the corner talking,” she said.
In the spring of 2020, both Waxahatchee and Williamson released their best albums to date: “St. Cloud” by Waxahatchee and “Sorceress” by Williamson. However, neither band knew when they would be able to go on tour. During long phone calls and walks in the early months of the pandemic, they talked about how frustrated they were and what they wanted to do creatively. One day, Crutchfield said out loud, “This is making me want to start a band.” Plains was made just like that.
For Williamson, Plains’ first album, “I Walked With You a Ways,” which came out on October 14, was a continuation of the style of her previous solo album. “‘Sorceress’ was the most I’d ever focused on country sounds, and I felt like I had unfinished business,” she said, describing the project as a way to “channel these influences that we love,” like Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris’s records as Trio.