Katie Pederson magically creates her own silver linings.
The Nashville pop singer-songwriter sprinkles hopeful words of wisdom and growth after recovering from heartbreak on her latest poignant, three-track EP, The Tracking Room Sessions, which dropped May 1 via all streaming platforms.
“I think at that time in my life I was going through a lot of that in different areas. A lot of times for me, breakup songs are so much more than that. I think there’s a lot of loss in different areas of my life, and that was just the best way that I could articulate it,” Pederson said.
Pederson beautifully articulates her personal reflections about love and loss throughout her fourth piano-centric release recorded at The Tracking Room in Nashville. Soulful, emotive vocals and hypnotic, uplifting piano chords immerse listeners in spirit-healing waters after experiencing the unexpected sting of rejection.
That first drop of relief arrives in “Quiet Waters,” which blends deep, sparse piano, delicate bass and sweeping drum brushes with Pederson’s melancholy, velvety vocals as she laments, “Take me back to that night/Manhattan and a glass of wine/When my hope was alive, you had that fire in your eyes/Ritter on the radio, singing I’m coming home/And the stars in the sky were aligned/All the things we didn’t know such a short time ago/All my days I thought you’d be mine.”
While initially ruminating in “Quiet Waters,” Pederson confidently embarks on a therapeutic journey throughout “Recover.” The self-assured track weaves soulful hums, rhythmic finger snaps, lingering piano, delicate synths and light bass as she emphatically declares, “I’m moving to Alaska/Lord knows I am never coming back,” and “There is no amount of red or white to calm this anxious mind.”
“‘Quiet Waters’ and ‘Recover’ were songs that I had written in June or July of last year, and I had written quite a few in that time period. Those two were the ones that stuck out to me the most,” said Pederson, who’s originally from Ann Arbor.
Perhaps Pederson’s most striking track includes a new soaring acoustic version of “The Landing” as vibrant, thoughtful piano entwines with sorrowful, optimistic vocals. Throughout her turbulent flight, Pederson tries to “soften the landing” as she sings, “Oh the road has been long and lonely/And one of my darkest nights/I swear you saved me/I was high as hope could’ve ever let me fly/And we were alone, you and I.”
Preparing for ‘The Landing’
Originally recorded as the title track for her 2018 EP, “The Landing” morphed into a breathtaking acoustic version after Pederson was named a finalist in the “Country” category for the Unsigned Only International Songwriting Competition. With 19,000 entries, Pederson placed in the top 2 percent of finalists and won a recording package at The Tracking Room last year.
“When we were recording that track in 2018, Jake Rye said, ‘You know, this is a hit country song,’ and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘I think it’s great. I think you should submit it in a couple of competitions to see what happens.’ It really was a total spur of the moment thing,” said Pederson, who worked with Rye on The Landing EP at Adrian’s Social Recording Company.
After winning, Pederson ventured to Music City last August and recorded three songs at The Tracking Room with engineer Matt Leigh. Those three songs consisted of initial vocal and piano tracks that planted the musical seeds for Pederson’s The Tracking Room Sessions EP.
“It was very cool to be able to get all three of those in an eight-hour time frame. Matt’s really great at what he does, so it didn’t feel like it was this rushed thing. I think we did maybe three takes of ‘The Landing,’ and that was really nice to do because it was just a live take, so I could knock it out in one fell swoop. And then for the other two, there were just so many background vocals, and I just wanted to make sure to get all of those in while I was there, too,” Pederson said.
Besides working with Leigh, Pederson also teamed up with Rye (bass) and Dalton Thomas (drums) to add an expansive sound to “Quiet Waters” and “Recover.” Those two tracks feature a seamless combination of soul-stirring music originating from southeast Michigan and Nashville.
From Ann Arbor to Nashville
While currently residing in Nashville, Pederson’s musical journey began in Ann Arbor. At age six, Pederson’s mother received a Steinway Baby Grand piano from her grandfather, and Pederson and her four younger siblings each learned how to play. Pederson was classically trained, but yearned to play pop songs by Elton John and Sara Bareilles instead of scales.
“That’s when I fell in love with the instrument. Just being able to put chords together and learn in this new way along with my classical training gave me a good foundation. I was in high school when I started listening to those artists. I remember trying to play Kelly Clarkson’s and Vanessa Carlton’s songs and learning those by ear,” said Pederson, who started writing songs in high school.
After high school, Pederson studied music education at Butler University in Indianapolis and continued writing music. By 2010, she started performing live and won a “Java Jams” series with pop singer-songwriter Lauren King while opening for “The Audition.”
Three years later, she released her passionate four-track debut EP, Happimess, after collaborating with Relient K’s drummer-vocalist Dave Douglas. Pederson’s brother John encouraged her to record a debut project while taking a “gap year” between college and graduate school.
“I had been writing these songs for a long time, but I wasn’t really planning on doing anything with them. John took to Twitter and started messaging all these people while I was finishing school, and he got in contact with Dave Douglas. John sent him a couple of my work tapes, and so Dave and I got to talking, and we set up some time for me to go and record these four songs,” she said.
In 2016, Pederson followed up with her reflective full-length debut, Loose Ends, which includes the mesmerizing piano and string ballad, “Runaway Train.” Mixed by Douglas and recorded with multiple musicians throughout the Midwest, the album’s 11 tracks were rerecorded after the initial files were corrupted.
“It became a good reflection point for me at that time, ‘Are these songs really this important for me to do it all over again?’ It was definitely a process that I wish I wouldn’t have had to go through and rerecord everything, but it ended up being this really beautiful release with a lot of friends and family who knew how hard I had worked on it,” Pederson said.
Two years later, Pederson worked with Rye on the hypnotic seven-track EP, The Landing, which features the award-winning studio version of the title track. During the recording, Rye encouraged Pederson to expand her sound beyond drums, bass, piano and guitar into more of a layered, cinematic feel.
“Those are all really like a snapshot into my life at the time, and writing for me is so strange. I’m not a consistent writer, but I’m always writing and putting something on paper coming up with new melodies and stuff,” she said.
“Those songs exploded at the same time, and it just felt like this wonderful gift of creative energy. I had initially intended it to be four songs, which is why it’s kind of an odd length. I kept writing, so we had to narrow it down, and I added the three extras.”
Since releasing three previous projects and her latest EP, Pederson has relocated to Nashville and performed at open mic nights at The Bluebird Café, Belcourt Taps and The Sutler Saloon. She’s also writing new material for another full-length album.
“When I moved here, I made a goal for myself to write as much as I can, so I can really hone in for my next project. I’m thinking about doing a concept album or choosing songs that stick out to me the most after a year’s time,” Pederson said.
“I want to pick the best writing at this stage of my life and release songs that are carefully selected, maybe more so than in past projects. I think it would be nice to be a little bit more intentional about each release.”