Although it may seem like Katherine Homes has just arrived on the local music scene, in a way she’s been here for years.
Formerly one half of the folk duo Boxcar Daisies, Homes toured for a short time in the late 2000s, eventually opening for the likes of Nathaniel Rateliff, Trampled By Turtles, and Elephant Revival. But she found that life on the road didn’t really suit her at the time. “We did a low-budget album and pitched it around the area,” Homes says. “We immediately had calls to go on tour and open for some really great bands while they were still up and coming. But we couldn’t keep going on that schedule. We weren’t up for hitting the road for long stretches, and I wasn’t confident enough yet as a musician to try it solo. I’m a twin, so there was an element of me thinking, ‘I can’t do this by myself.’”
Homes abandoned performing for almost eight years while she worked primarily for environmentally focused nonprofits, but she never stopped writing songs or playing them for friends. “During my time away [from performing] it was clawing at me, like ‘You need to do this,’” Homes says. “I have a great community of girlfriends who were encouraging me to just record my songs and get them out there. It started to feel selfish because I love new music and would be so bummed if someone whose music could change the world wasn’t letting others hear it. I don’t know if my music will do that, but I had to honor that piece of sharing.”
She decided to launch a Kickstarter funding campaign for a new album, and the result is Speak (also available on Homes’ website and streaming on Spotify). The eight-song collection, released last month, was produced by Jamie Mefford, who’s also worked with Rateliff and Gregory Alan Isakov.
The tunes on the record range from songs Homes wrote up to 15 years ago to ones she penned just a few days before going into the studio. The album has a unique quality of sounding like the instrumentation was laid down in a cozy but resonant space, while Homes’ flawless soprano wafts above it all as if from the floor of a vast Colorado canyon. “We were going for a rolling, full sound without being overpowering,” Homes says. “I’ve heard comparisons to Emmylou Harris or Gillian Welch, but there are a lot of other layers in there.”
Homes is also honoring her commitment to environmentalism via some creative selling methods. Listeners who purchase a hard copy of Speak won’t get an actual CD but a SeedCD—a download card printed on recycled paper and including a picture of Homes and the track list—which they then can plant and water to grow wildflowers from the seeds embedded in the card. (Homes also donates a portion of her sales proceeds to the environmental group One Percent for the Planet.) “If I were touring I would never feel OK handing out plastic CDs at shows,” says Homes, who in addition to the traditional avenues is exploring how to get her songs into environmentally focused films and documentaries. “Years ago there was no way around that, but we figured out how to do it this way.”
Although Homes, now in her mid-30s, feels prepared for any touring demands that might come her way and is actively seeking such gigs, she’s also spreading the word about Speak via private, home-based shows such as the record-release performance she recently did at a friend’s barn. “There’s sort of an underground scene around hosting these things. My music is mellow, and the best way to put it out there is in a small, intentional space,” Homes says. “I would love to open for certain bands, but I’ve found that doing it in front of 80 people creates a nice vibe. It’s low-key and amazing for the music because it’s a perfect type of intimacy. As you get older you become more aware of who you are, and I’ve decided I just needed to put this out there this way and see what it becomes.”
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.