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Heart in Your Mouth

Katie Herzig may be nervous, but she isn’t scared

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Some children are natural performers, craving the limelight from an early age. Katie Herzig wasn’t like that.

“I was naturally excited about the idea of being in the spotlight.

I was just always plagued by the nerves surrounding it,” she says. The Nashville-based songwriter spent time as a backup vocalist and drummer for the band Newcomers Home. She gradually became comfortable with the spotlight, which led her to take on duties as a lead singer and eventually forge a path of her own.

“My entire career has been a slow, natural progression into bigger places and more daring situations,” she says.

Herzig writes songs that are sugary, childlike nursery rhymes for the adult alternative set. Like a shy kid finally poking her head out from behind her mother’s skirt, Herzig’s development is both sweet and somewhat sad: You’re happy that she’s worked up the courage to put herself out there, but you can’t help but wonder why it took so long.

On her latest release, Apple Tree, a track called “Forevermore” incorporates the old singsong “Say-Say Oh Playmate” to charming effect.

Herzig’s voice is breathy and light, evoking a playground of innocence and imagination. To be fair, it’s a cover of a grade school rhyme done by a 29-year-old, but Herzig makes it ingenuous without being cloying. And that’s exactly what she intends: “When I first started writing songs, I felt like they needed to have a complete beginning, middle and end. Generally, they needed to have a happy ending,” she says. “Then I started writing songs that didn’t necessarily have answers. Or questions.”

Herzig says she’s more interested in the rhythm and the sounds of words than their meaning, making kindergarten sing-alongs perfect touchstones.

“I tend to avoid lyricism that’s tricky or contrived. I want it to sound like you could speak the words and not feel foolish or over the top,” Herzig says. The result is simple yet unassuming and unadorned.

“Everyone relates to music so differently,” she says. “As a listener, I’m less motivated by lyrics than how the song makes you feel. I’ve become guided by what feels good.”

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