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Katy Guillen and the Drive deliver thoughtful, focused album with 'Another One Gained'

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Courtesy photo
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Musician Katy Guillen released the album Another One Gained earlier this year. She says it's the most fully-realized record she's recorded so far.

Katy Guillen and The Drive will perform at Wave on Sunday, Dec. 18.

The Kansas City-based duo (guitarist/vocalist Guillen and longtime collaborator Stephanie Williams on drums) released the emotive album "Another One Gained" earlier in 2022, a record that demonstrates a turn in the pair's direction as they live behind the former guise Katy Guillen and The Girls.

The 10-song collection explores close relationships as they begin, end and transform, leaving the listener to experience both the exhilaration of a hopeful future and the poignant punch of a future that is no more across material such as "Harsh Realization," "Bottom of Your Belly" and "Because It's Blue."

Throughout it all, Guillen delivers her most emotionally charged and convincing vocal performances to date amid material that reflects the continued potency of the songs she and Williams create together.

Guillen recently spoke with KMUW about the album and about life as a touring musician in 2022.

Interview Highlights

Tell me a little bit about the writing and recording of your latest album, "Another One Gained."

I started writing a lot of the songs around 2018. They all came together over a period of three years. We started recording demos and really putting them together during the pandemic. We weren't playing shows so we used a lot of that time for writing and the creative side of things. We ended up doing lots of demos at home during that time. We ended up doing a lot of pre-production with Kevin [Ratterman (My Morning Jacket, Heartless Bastards)] before we went out and actually recorded the album in his studio. We made a plan ahead of time, via Zoom and phone calls. We exchanged a lot of ideas about sound and production for the songs. Then we recorded it in April 2021.

It was our transition album; our album to celebrate our new identity as a band. Steph and I collaborated very much on arrangements and a lot of the production ideas. It felt like a long process but it actually came together fairly quickly.

You referred to it as a transitional album. There was a transition of lineup but there's also a transition of sound and style as well.

The sound and the songs are definitely part of the transition. Steph and I have played together for a very long time, and we wanted a fresh start. We decided to pivot and write a whole new catalogue of songs. That meant a new sound and exploring songwriting more deeply. That's been a big part of what we've been doing these last couple of years: finding and exploring a new identity as a band. It's really freeing to be able to do that. This album feels like the most complete piece of work that we've put out. It's been nice to push the boundaries and see what else we can do musically.

Tell me a little bit about your singing on this album. There's a different art to singing in the studio than on stage. On stage you might be competing with loud guitars and drums and, in the studio, there's room for a more intimate approach.

The place where you record actually has a lot to do with the vocals and how they turn out. That has a lot to do with the performance. Fortunately, we felt not only very comfortable but there was a really positive energy vibe in the studio where we recorded. It felt very, very comfortable and Kevin was a really great engineer and a wonderful guide through it all.

Tracking the vocals, you have to tap into a little bit of emotion—or you have to try to anyway—[that you were experiencing] when you were first writing the song. This album was pretty personal and had lots of emotion in it so I had to revisit some memories and feelings [surrounding] the time when I actually wrote the songs. I think that's probably the most important thing to do when you're tracking vocals because you're recording something that's permanent. It puts a different experience and expectation on what you're doing in the studio because that is what will live forever.

At a show … one of the things I love about shows and the difference between live and studio [is that] live is so raw and fleeting and it will never happen again. Every show is so special and unique to itself. In the studio, it's an experience that you'll end up sharing with everyone forever. It can be emotionally exhausting sometimes to record things, especially if you want emotion to come across in the recordings. I think that's one of the hardest things to capture. I think we're able to do that pretty well. You have to open yourself up and just let it all come out.

I couldn't tell when I listened to the album whether it was about the start of a relationship, the end of a relationship or about the way that relationships transform. Sometimes you think you've come to the end of something but it's a new beginning in a way because you're dealing with the memories you have of the person or you learn how to interact with them in a different way.

It's about all of those things, actually. The album itself is about doors closing and new ones opening and understanding how really significant, long-term relationships change our lives. How we deal with the end of those or how we deal with them changing. How we deal with ourselves through those times. Or how I dealt with those things anyway. You sort of hit all of it. It's encompassing the beginning, the end and the change that happens within a person through those relationships. That's a huge theme of the album. It's about those relationships and it's about pulling as much positive [energy] and [finding as much] silver lining as possible from what can feel and seem negative in the moment and just trying to do everything you can to try and see the good things and take those and move forward as positively as possible for yourself and for the people that are surrounding you. And the people that you've been in those relationships with.

The album is very much about relationships and not just romantic ones. It's about the relationship with the audience and relationships with peers and some friendships. Also about some romantic relationships. It's more than anything, about how you change from the beginning to the end of them.

Every musician I've spoken to this year has talked about how touring in 2022 is more difficult than it was in 2019.

2022 has been the hardest year we've ever seen on the road. It all has to do with being post-pandemic and a lot of things changed during the pandemic for the music industry and for the live music industry. We've seen that, and we've felt it. I know so many other bands have. We have so many friends that have been out on the road and have been out doing it. I'm not going to lie, it's been kind of hard. Kind of rough. But we have no other choice than to push ahead, keep trying, keep playing shows. Keep making music and hope that it continues to change and hopefully gets better. I think that it will but it's just … there's no telling what it will look like a year from now. What's become more difficult to deal with is that it just feels more unstable and uncertain than it did before. It's already a tricky path to follow to begin with. We're just doing our best to find our way through that.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.