There’s a delicate way that Katie Pruitt discusses topics that are important to her, whether it’s her sexuality, the movements she’s passionate about or the music she writes with a balance of integrity and compassion.
With a voice as piercing as her pen, Pruitt chats with Sounds Like Nashville for our Female Friday series about how moving to Nashville to attend Belmont University offered her a sense of freedom as a gay woman in the south, the vulnerability she felt writing about her “Georgia” hometown for her debut album Expectations and more.
What inspired you to move to Nashville?
I came here originally for school, which was nice to have that two year buffer period because this is a hard town to move to blindly. The first year I was involved in Belmont stuff, but then the next year I wanted to actually go out in Nashville and see what’s going on there. The musicianship and the love for crafting a song, I really fell in love with that aspect of Nashville where people just take songs, it’s like the most important thing in their life. It’s all about chasing that song and expressing yourself in that artistic way that you at the end of the day can look at and be proud of. I just love that because that was a similar feeling that I had. Every time I got a song I was just like “this is one more thing I can use to express myself to people and feel at least a little bit more understood.”
You mentioned that coming to Nashville opened your eyes to the world. How did it help you see the world from a different perspective?
A couple of years after I moved here, gay marriage was legalized nationally and that was a big thing. So I think it was the timing and the trajectory of certain movements as well in history. There’s a lot of diversity, unique artistic people [at Belmont] that sort of break gender norms and I met a bunch of people like that and I was like ‘wow, this is cool.’
I really think it was mostly, for me, it was leaving my home. In college I moved an hour or two hours away from where I grew up, so many of my friends and people I knew in high school were still around me all the time, so I still felt I’d never left being in high school. I felt I couldn’t really grow as an individual or be free to be someone else or even just be free to embrace a different part of myself. When you come out, you don’t become someone else, you just embrace something that you’ve been hiding, so leaving gave me the freedom to admit things that have been on my chest for so long. Then people immediately accepting those things that had known me for only a few weeks or months and they’re like, ‘yeah, that’s no big deal.’ It’s just way less of a weight. It was sort of shedding this reputation people might have thought of me at home.
Is there a song on Expectations that you felt most vulnerable writing?
“Georgia” was probably the one that I felt the most vulnerable because that was tough. I love my parents, they’re great people. They just struggled with this, and now we’re in a great place, so I’m not going to ignore that fact. But everything that they had learned and taught their whole lives, this felt like it was challenging all those things, so it was pretty hard for them to come to terms with that, and I kind of struggled because I was like “why can’t you just see me as your daughter.” Like I said when you come out, you don’t change, you’re not becoming a new person, you’re just coming into a little bit more of who you want to be. This is a part of that, your sexuality is a part of that. I think they also were worried that the world wouldn’t accept me, I was trying to say “the world is changing.”
This was definitely vulnerable because I actually didn’t know if I even wanted to put it on the record, but I went home and the timing of this worked great because I feel if it were a couple of years ago, I don’t know how receptive they would have been. But they’ve done a lot of work on their side and I’ve done a lot of work on my side to be patient. The timing of me telling them about this song and this record coming out actually has put us in a place of better understanding each other and honestly a deeper love.
What are the causes most important to you?
I definitely think the LGBTQ movement is important, especially in the south, which is why I chose as a southerner to be inherently vocal, not subtle, about these issues. Luckily, I think we’re in a way better place than I felt like I was in high school and growing up. I feel our society has definitely moved forward in that way. But I think the south and more rural areas probably still struggle with that and kids and people probably still struggle with being closeted and not feeling they can really embrace that side of themselves, which is just so sad. I don’t really know what I would do if I had to hide that my entire life and not even just the south in America, but there’s a lot of parts of the world that are still behind us and these movements. So I definitely want to speak openly about that for those people so that they can hear it and not feel like they’re alone.
Mental health is a big one too. I think that as well is changing and becoming more of a movement and something that people prioritize now. I think it’s important to give your mind just as much respect and care as you would give your body. If you’re an athlete, it’s important to take care of your mental state of being and not feel overworked or overstressed, that ends up really having an impact.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned in Nashville?
My friend who played bass for me in college in a band told me something one time and I don’t even think he knew it would stick with me as long as it did, but he told me “be a good person first and a good musician second.” I thought that was the most important advice that I’ve ever gotten because at the end of the day, you want to look back on who you are and be proud of that, not just how good of a musician, how much you can shred guitar, that doesn’t characterize you as a person, you’re just good at something. That spoke to me.