When Katie Armiger sings, she captivates her listeners, beckoning them to follow her on a remarkable musical journey. Her voice possesses that signature country cry, able to harmoniously pluck heart strings and empty out those emotional wells of deap-seated pain. On her current single "Safe," a blazing ballad co-written with Mallary Hope, the powerhouse digs into her adept songwriting to create a vivid story, unabashedly claiming her spot as the next woman of country.
But her songwriting hasn't always been so pointed. "I started in this industry when I was so young. I signed onto my label now when I was 15. There’s such a difference in perspective and life experiences," she shares with NashvilleGab, exclusively, of her own songwriting journey. "There are things you just don’t understand."
She continues, "I think it has been a natural evolution. You’re constantly growing and evolving as a person in any stage of your life. So, it’s [all about] growing up and being on your own and meeting people and knowing who you are and what you stand for. Things that complete you as a person translate into your songwriting."
"I actually feel my songwriting has gotten simpler, if that makes sense, a better simple," she says. "I used to think, ‘well, I’ve got to be super in my head with it all.’ It was kind of confusing, and you’d have to talk to me to understand half of it. It was poetry. Now, I try to write things that you can actually understand what’s going on in my brain."
"Safe" is a perfect example of that simple way of thinking. It's her voice that tells a complete picture. "I love the message behind it," she explains of why she chose to record and release the song to radio. "It’s just a simple, beautiful song. Sometimes, those are the best ones. Those are my personal favorite."
Working with Hope for the first-time in a professional setting, Armiger describes the session: "We were working and writing songs, but it was just like hanging out with a best friend — talking about it and gossipping and that’s what we ended up writing down."
The ride (so far) was been a roller coaster-like experience, at least for this particular chapter. "It’s been pretty crazy. It’s funny for me, because I try to keep up will all the social media stuff. I’m like, ‘oh, man.’ I can totally see how many people are listening to it, which is awesome."
For the song, Armiger has parterned with Project Feel Safe to spread awareness about fire safety in the home. She explains, "When we decided that ‘Safe’ was going to be the single, we really looked at the message behind the song, which is all about being loved and protected. We wanted to do something to give back to people that make us feel that way. I have first responders in my own family, and so that was my first choice. So, we started touring fire stations across America in November to meet the firemen and women and their families and bring them lunch and sing a few songs and just say thank you. That’s all that they want."
In the song's video, Armiger plays the leading lady and ends up falling in love with a fire fighter (portrayed by Hart Of Dixie star Travis Van Winkle), who later sacrifices his life for a child's. On the video treatment, she says she "had a good idea of what I wanted, but it would not have been anything close to what it is without Justin Baldoni, the director. From my thoughts to what he made of it, it’s just incredible. What came out of his brain…I can’t describe it," she praises, humbly.
"What a lot of people don’t know: The Long Beach Fire Department donated their facilities, their trucks and their men," she reveals. "Other than Travis, they are all real fire fighters. That was real fire. It was a real training drill. There was really a child in the burning building. There were all of these things, and so you felt exactly what it would be like to be in an outsider and watching a scene like that. It was terrifying."
At the video’s end, the viewer is led to believe that Winkle's character didn’t make it out alive. Armiger recounts what it was like to act in that final moment: "It was tough. I’ve done music videos before, but I would say this video feels more like a mini-movie. It was quite a bit harder than I thought it would be. I feel like I went in thinking, ‘acting won’t be terribly hard.’ No, it is quite a bit of work. It’s not as simple as smiling or making a sad face. It’s really believing in what you are putting out there. It was really hard work."
Having first responders in her own family, Armiger can certainly relate to what happens in the video. "I’ve known people who have been in fires, too," she confesses. "Personally, I have not been in a fire. I’ve heard families’ stories. I think if you talk to anybody, they’ve all somehow been affected by something like that or they’ve known first responders or somebody who has done something like that in their life that they want to thank."
With country music being as diverse as ever, the singer says she's not opposed to the hip-hop and rap trends currently at radio. "I’ve heard some that I haven’t necessarily enjoyed," she asserts. "Then, I’ve heard ones that I love. For instance, Old Dominion has an XM song out right now. It’s called ‘Dirt On A Road,’ and there’s this rapping part in it. I love that song."
At that moment, when asked about what songs and albums she's currently loveing, Armiger takes a moment to flip through her phone. A second later, she comes back with: "I love the new Charlie Worsham. I think it’s really great. I do love Little Big Town's. I always listen to that one. It’s one of my favorites. I do really love the Cassadee Pope record, too."
Of course, it's not only her voice that sets her apart, her red hair is also a major point of conversation. "You’re not supposed to ask a lady that," she laughs, after I ask her about those outrageous locks. "I have always been one [to dye my hair]. I love playing around with hair color and style. I feel like, ‘hey, if it’s what you wanna do, then do it. Go for it!’ You can always cut it off or change the color. Just play around with it while you have it. No one’s born with this color," she giggles.
She quickly adds, "I’ve been purple. It’s been black. It’s been blondish. It’s been brown. It’s actually been red before this. It’s been everything. I did blue-black once, but it was a little too harsh for my whiteness. I kind of looked like Elvira."
Don't forget to grab a copy of "Safe" on iTunes now!
Photos courtesy of Katie Armiger on Facebook