Interview: Katie Grace Helow on her album “Past Lives”

Katie Grace Helow is a fearless singer-songwriter and Jacksonville native with a recently-released sophomore album, Past Lives. With a second album under her belt, the fiery artist brings a unique blend of dark folk and alternative country rock to the world.

Past Lives is a raw album, exploring the vulnerable corners of Helow’s mind while still leaving the listener with a sense of mystery regarding the events that inspired the songs. Helow is clear that Past Lives is not intended to lead you into experiencing the album a certain way. Instead, her songs lead you through a lyrical journey of confronting your own emotions and truths.

“It should feel like a personal journey of sorts, but for each person that will be different.” Helow says. ““I’m writing my own stories. I composed the album based on my experiences and the ebb and flow of my emotions throughout my experiences. I tried to put them in order of that process for me.”

Past Lives causes the listener to look deep within themselves. Her acoustic guitar’s notes strike the melancholy notes in your heart, and makes your mind wander to its darkest places.

This is because darkness is what makes Helow write.

“When I’m feeling really dark or lost or confused or selfish or any of those kinds of feelings, that’s when I write,” she said.

Listeners can expect to hear Helow’s powerful vocals accompanied by Zach Lever’s harmonies and additional guitar. This partnership, along with her aggressive guitar and unfiltered storytelling, will suck you in and spit you out.

Photo by Kelly Martucci
Photo by Kelly Martucci

All of Helow’s songs have hard-hitting lyrics, but one that really caught our attention was “Live Wire.” It will cause a different reaction for every listener. To us, it feels nostalgic, like a vague, cathartic harmony that takes you to depths of Helow’s heart.

For Helow, the songwriting process is a journey in itself. The music always comes first, with Helow singing nonsense until she finds the melody. Once she has the melody, the songs manifest themselves into lyrics.

“I find personally that that’s the way to have the most organic sounding lyrics. It also helps me find out what the song is about. I feel like I don’t decide; I feel like I find out,” Helow said.

One of her biggest inspirations is Ani DiFranco, who is a very politically charged musician. DiFranco has a persona that says, “I may be small but I have a lot to say,” which as a concept is what really energizes Helow.

She also cites Junip, who she opened for in 2010 at SunRay, which was then called 5 Points Theatre. She said a big influence for her first album is José Gonzalez.

If you’d like to see her live, which we highly recommend after seeing her at Natural Life Music Festival, catch her at Porch Fest in November. Buy a digital copy of Past Lives here and a vinyl here. She’s ready to be heard.