Alt-Country Ally Thinks It’s High Time for Queer Representation
By Dale Henry Geist, Editor
I’m a fan of Lilly Hiatt, so it was a thrill when she started following Country Queer on Twitter some months ago. Lilly’s music continues the tradition of roots-rockin’ songwriters like Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, and Rosanne Cash. After the lockdown started, I was looking for a reason to keep doing this work, and took a flyer in reaching out to Lilly to see if she’d be open to an interview. All I had the energy for was an email exchange, but she was happy to oblige. Lilly’s been nothing but a gem, and her new record, “Walking Proof,” rocks like mad.
DHG: Your album, “Walking Proof,” has been out for just over a month now. It’s your fourth album, so you’ve been through this before. What has surprised you the most about how this one has been received?
LH: Something that I find promising is that people seem to be listening to the whole record. In previous recordings, I feel like tracks 9 -12 hardly ever got heard. I purposefully spaced “Walking Proof” out in a way so some of the strongest songs are near the end, with the faith in listeners to take the whole journey with me. So far, they are!
DHG: The first paragraph of your bio on your website describes the conditions that gave birth to “Walking Proof”: “stripped of the daily rituals and direction of life on the road, she found herself alone with her thoughts.” And…here you are. Here we all are. Have you been able to transmute these conditions into art, or is it too soon?
LH: I’ll be honest with you: I have been all over the place. One day I’m thinking, “Time to make a new album!” The next I think, “You need to play guitar for 3 hours until you learn this riff like the back of your hand.” Then the next, I’m trying to detach a little from it all and allow myself to just feel bummed for a second and grow from that. That being said, a few songs have been written. I do write pretty much daily in some form for my mental health, and have a bank of unrecorded songs that I’d love to do something with at some point. So, there is plenty to create. The focus is just hard to come by for me right now. I am also stuck in “Walking Proof” mode, because, well, we are promoting it as best as we can right now. I haven’t really had the chance to explore any of those songs yet with my band.
DHG: You don’t have to do an interview with us – we’re small potatoes. Yet you’ve been in our corner for awhile, and we know you’ve got your share of queer fans, including a lot of our readers. What do you think that connection is about?
LH: Your voice is vital. I know there are hardships that the queer community has faced that I will never understand the extent of, but I am an ally! And it is important that light is continuously shed on these discriminations. I love learning about people’s experiences and working to mend hateful and close minded situations. I grew up with queer family and friends, and have always felt kindred. Those who pave the way for others to embrace their sexuality have my admiration and support. I adore the mutual understanding with queer friends and fans that love is love.
DHG: I know you know Mary Gauthier and Aaron Lee Tasjan, and I’d guess you’re pals with other LGBTQ artists as well. Do you think there’s anything that LGBTQ+ folks uniquely bring to the country/Americana party?
LH: YES!!! To hear Brittany Howard sing about loving a woman on the radio absolutely delights me. After years and years of being inundated with the myopic idea of alcohol, trucks, and blonde heterosexuality being the key to a good life in the south, how refreshing to hear some reality. Hit me with the real stuff. People need that. Katie Pruitt is making a splash, and I love it! She has been candid, too, about the difficulties she faced with her family when coming out (I have chill bumps writing this), and will undoubtedly inspire young people to speak their truth. These women say, “You are not alone.” And we all need that.
Alex Caress of Little Bandit always impresses me with his originality and humor. His Twitter alone brings to light so many issues that are problematic and oppressive towards queer people (as well as other communities), while allowing me to question how I can help the progression of acceptance and inclusivity. His music is forthright and poetic – some of the most romantic notions I have heard have come from Alex in this band.
DHG: Thanks so much for your time, Lilly. Any parting thoughts?
LH: Thank you! Keep up the good work and funny tweets, and stay gold!
Find “Walking Proof” on your favorite streaming service, or pick up a copy at newwestrecords.com.