The new single from Katie Jo is a sonic throwback: classic country with a classic country vocal. Sounding both new and familiar at once, ‘How Soon’ is immediately absorbing. The strong and restless rhythm mirrors the song’s theme of fickle love, fading feelings and moving on. Though it’s upbeat, the focus on the sort of love that is bound to fail has that stark bitterness found in much of the best country and Americana. Here, the twist is that it’s written from the point of view of the woman left behind rather than the rambling man. The inversion of this country cliché gives the song a freshness. The accompanying video, featuring footage taken by Jo while travelling by rail across the American west, works well with that railroad train beat. The Los Angeles-via-Wichita singer-songwriter delivers this timeless song with such confidence that comparisons with Luther Perkins and early Cash are justified.
Look out for the debut album, ‘Pawn Shop Queen’, which is due to drop on 9th April. It promises to bring more of Katie Jo’s rich voice and storytelling authenticity. With individuality and rawness, Jo covers a range of challenging material, including depression, abortion and infertility. The themes reflect a difficult period in her life, in which there was a break-up on top of a medically-necessary abortion. Song-writing helped her get through. She explains something of the trauma that was channelled into these songs: “When I was 26, I was diagnosed with a condition called a bicornuate uterus, which means my uterus didn’t form properly. My doctor told me out of the blue, and it was a shock. At the time, a lot of my friends were starting to think about having kids, and I’d always assumed I’d go down that path, too. Then I got this news, but the doctor didn’t really give me a lot of information, just kind of brushed it aside and was very dismissive of my questions about how it would impact my life. When you’re a young woman, just a woman in general, a lot of times when you try to get medical advice, you’re either dismissed or people don’t explain all the things that can go wrong.”
Against the odds and despite the unravelling of her long-term relationship, Katie Jo did become pregnant. She continues: “I knew I didn’t want to be pregnant. I already knew something was wrong with me, and I just did not want to go through that experience. I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I knew I couldn’t go back to the same doctor, so I called Planned Parenthood, and I asked, what does it mean to terminate a pregnancy? What does that look like? It was a very hard phone call to make.” The abortion was complicated due to her medical condition and emergency surgery was necessary as the pregnancy could have led to her death. All of this, she experienced alone. “It was a very traumatic, life-altering thing to go through alone. For five or six years, I just kept it to myself and fell into deep depression. All of my friends were starting to get married and have kids while I was forced down this alternate path I didn’t quite understand. It really destroyed my emotional fortitude.”
That she transforms such uncomfortable themes into such lovely and engaging music is a triumph. The record is one to look out for. In the meantime, check out our video premiere of ‘How Soon’.