Many artists wait a lifetime to have a year like Kaitlin Butts had in 2022.
Millions of streams only scratch the surface of Butts’ year, which also included album and EP releases, hit songs at Texas radio, a Texas Country Music Award nomination, maybe best of all, her Grand Ole Opry debut.
As 2022 comes to a close, though, Butts shows no signs of slowing down, as she’s set to make her Billy Bob’s main stage debut in a few weeks’ time, and in 2023, she’ll be hitting the road with Morgan Wade for her No Signs of Slowing Down tour, where she’ll be bringing her brand of truthtelling country music to audiences all over the country.
We chatted with Butts all about her successful 2022, including her newest single, “jackson,” her tear-in-your-beer acoustic EP, her Opry experience and more!
Pro Country: Your new album, what else can she do, comes more than seven years since the release of your debut album, Same Hell, Different Devil. As release day was approaching, how much were you looking forward to presenting a collection of songs after that kind of layoff?
Kaitlin Butts: I have been really busy in between. I had a publishing deal in between my last record and this one, and I released a few singles in between. I was writing a whole bunch, and I was getting ready to release the songs I wanted to release and I was going to do it the right way. I got some traction going, and then 2020 happened, so that put an end to pretty much everything I had going. I had planned to release in 2020, so we waited a year for things to get back into gear, got in the studio in 2021 and then released this year!
PC: what else can she do is an album full of songs written from the perspective of characters and telling their stories. How much did you enjoy the process of putting yourself in the positions of each of the characters that make up the album and creating the album that way?
KB: A lot of those shoes were actually mine and painting it like it was a character. The only one that really isn’t about me is “bored if I don’t.” I had read a screenplay that Mike McClure had sent me and he asked me to take some inspiration from that and write a song about it. That’s what came out of it, and that’s the only one that isn’t really from my point of view.
“blood” is about my family and “it won’t always be this way” is about my mom leaving my dad and trying to get her daughter out of a bad situation. “she’s using” is about someone very close to me. So while the album may come off as character-based, it’s mostly about me.
PC: You released “blood” as the lead single from what else can she do, and since its release, it has become one of your most-streamed songs on Spotify. How encouraging was it for you to tangibly see the reception “blood” received as the lead single from a new album project?
KB: It was great! Originally, when Angaleena Presley and I wrote that song, we more or less felt alone in that situation, because the toxicity of having family members that aren’t great for us can be a touchy subject. As I started playing it more and more in public, there has been a lot of great feedback, and it tells me that our situation isn’t unique. Everyone deals with levels of toxicity within their family on so many different levels. They could be minor where it’s just light comments and backhanded compliments to things like actual physical and verbal abuse that may get swept under the rug just because they’re family. It feels good to know that we’re not alone in feeling that way.
PC: “jackson” is a song you solo wrote that is a steel-soaked heartbreaker with references to Johnny and June. Can you take us in the room and talk about how the song came together and what drew you to have it serve as the next single from the album?
KB: It started out as a hook that I had written down. My whole family and I had hopped in a van and went to Orange Beach, Alabama. We planned to stop halfway in Jackson, Mississippi. My Grandma was worried about my Grandpa’s legs hurting along the way, and she kept saying “I don’t think we’re gonna make it to Jackson. I don’t think we’ll make it that far.” I wrote that down in my notes, which is where I start most of my songs. It was Johnny Cash’s birthday, and I was thinking about June Carter Cash and what it must have been like to be in love with someone like Johnny, who I’m sure acted up a time or two [laughs]. I don’t think that’s uncommon, I’m sure everyone has been in a relationship with someone where you don’t know if you’re going to make it to the finish line and have the love that Johnny and June had for each other. I watched I Walk the Line about 18 times trying to finish it [laughs]. I brought it to my mom, because I felt like it was missing something. She wrote the bridge within 10 minutes and it felt perfect.
PC: You close what else can she do with a cover of “in the pines.” What was it about “in the pines” that you felt fit on what else can she do and made it serve as the right album closer?
KB: I think he is starting to see things from a female perspective. I kill him in the end, and that’s kind of how I wanted to end it [laughs].
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from what else can she do after listening all the way through?
KB: I hope they know that they’re not alone in abusive situations or dealing with addictions, family trauma or seeking a better life for themselves. I hope they don’t feel alone and know that someone out there is going through the same thing. Somehow, my mom and I made it out, and they will too.
PC: You just released Sad Yeehaw Sessions, an acoustic EP full of sad songs. What went into the decision to close your year with the EP and how important has it been for you in the last few years to stay active with releasing music?
KB: My friend, Kurt Ozan, who plays pedal steel and is an auxiliary play for Luke Combs, lives a couple blocks from us, and we befriended him through my husband’s management company. He’s also a photographer and videographer, so he invited us over to play some songs one day and record them. There’s not much of a plan to what I do, I’m more or less flying by the seat of my pants, and in the end, it kind of looks like we planned it all [laughs]. It was really just me getting together with friends and hitting the record button and seeing what we got out of it. If it was great, we’d release it, if it wasn’t, we had a good night drinking White Claws and playing music. I may have had a break with releasing music, but I wanted people to know that I was working hard and I’m going to continue to push music out from here on.
PC: “Whiskey Lullaby” is a legendary song and has been performing well for you on streaming platforms. What is it about the song that you love and drew you to include it on the Sad Yeehaw Sessions?
KB: That’s such an iconic 2000s song that I think everyone remembers. When I was thinking about songs I’ve always wanted to sing with someone, especially my husband, that’s one that I think really pulls on the heartstrings and is just a phenomenal song. I realized that there aren’t a whole lot of people who’ve released it themselves since Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss. I felt like it was the perfect time to do it, and it fit really well on the album. We had all these sad songs, and I said “we’ve been doing all this sad yeehaw stuff, let’s call it the Sad Yeehaw Sessions.” It seems all planned out, but it wasn’t [laughs].
PC: You were nominated for Female Artist of the Year at the Texas Country Music Awards a few weeks ago. How encouraging are nominations like that that come from within the industry and to be nominated amongst some of the great Texas female country artists?
KB: It feels great! I’m honored to be nominated for anything, especially alongside my best girlfriends and having the opportunity to go out and have a great night with everyone.
PC: You recently made your Grand Ole Opry debut. Can you take us through the emotions that came with the news that you would be making your debut and what the moment of walking into the circle and playing on that stage meant to you?
KB: I got an email asking if we wanted to be a part of it, and my manager called and asked me if I’d seen it. I was at the grocery store, and I just about fell over, dying over it [laughs]. Stepping into the circle is such a legendary thing because all of my heroes have stepped there before, and it was just an incredible honor. To do it and not fall on my face or embarrass myself is an even grander achievement [laughs].
PC: You ended up getting three standing ovations during your performance. Where does your whole Opry experience rank amongst your career achievements so far?
KB: That’s pretty far up there. Just getting to play the Opry is one thing, but getting people on their feet singing songs about the truth is all you ever want as a songwriter. For people to hear what you’re saying, understand it and love it, there’s nothing better. It was a huge honor.
PC: You’re set to join Morgan Wade’s No Signs of Slowing Down tour next year. How much are you looking forward to hitting the road with Morgan and bringing your music all over the country?
KB: I’m looking forward to it a lot! I’m a big fan of Morgan and I’m really excited for it.
PC: Along with hitting the road, what are your plans for the rest of 2022 and going into 2023?
KB: I have my main stage debut at Billy Bob’s on December 9th! I’m gonna gorge myself into some Thanksgiving food, go to Disney World, go on a cruise and take some time with my family.
*Kaitlin’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*