Catie Curtis is an artist I’ve kept my eye (and ears) on for maybe 15 years now as she has been tossed from one label to the next. I took an early interest because she was out before it was the cool thing to be, never shying away from the truth in her life or her work. As a live performer, her charm and wit are center stage. (I actually thinks that’s where she shines brightest, although I do enjoy her CDs, too.) Her new release, Sweet Life, reflects this particular moment in time in which she/we are living in all of its struggles and beauties. I’ll let her tell you more.


I saw you play in Northampton in late 2006 and, I have to say, I got worried — you had fallen prey to the whole sappy mom thing. All of your stories were about your kids. They have definitely crept into your songwriting, as well, but luckily with sweetness rather than sap. Tell me about the lens you see through now, the kid-colored glasses, as it were.

It’s funny, when you mention being gay to a straight audience once during a show, it’s all they hear. Apparently the same thing can happen when mentioning kids — all people see up there is a lesbian mom. It’s true, my partner and I adopted two girls who are now 4 and 6, and they are the quirky little people I love, who are wild and passionate and who teach me so much on a daily basis. If I’ve gone in for a new lens, it’s about a desire to be less fearful in the face of the crazy stuff going on in the world, you know, to be more resilient when life seems to be out of control. The tunes on Sweet Life are about asking how can we remain hopeful and powerful when so much looks so bleak in our world — politics, the environment, the future. It’s really about trying to make change. We can’t just sit on the sidelines, being soccer moms — we have to get in there and make something real with our passions, our communities and all the things we love.
You’re adding that onto a perspective that was already more complicated than most, being an artist who writes openly about your gayness. How does it feel to reflect the progress of society in your life and work?
It’s that double identity of being at once cutting-edge (out lesbian, boldly crossing the frontier into the historical first of gay marriage and legalized adoption) and also being an artist, being able to tell my story through my music. In “The Princess and the Mermaid,” my partner Liz and I are driving in our car, looking at our sleeping kids in the rear view, and despite all the stress and chaos of the day, we realize that if we hang together as a family we’ll be okay. In that intimate moment, I don’t feel like a soldier in a culture war, but I know the story I am telling also reflects how much life has changed for gay people in the last few years, and I am really grateful for that progress. I hope my music can keep pushing things along, pushing toward real equality in all our lives.
And, in contrast, you’ve said that you might not be writing positive portraits if the world was actually happy, happy, joy, joy right now. So you’re adding the levity to a grave situation for us?
I write what I need to hear. We’re inundated by bad news on the war, the economy and the environment. What else can you add to that negative spiral? On Sweet Life, I’m working with metaphors that hopefully spark the imagination about what is possible: Taking risks (jumping off a bridge in “Are You Ready to Fly”), believing growth is possible (the song about the desert and the Joshua Tree called “Everything Waiting to Grow”). And the song “Happy,” which is really about allowing yourself moments of levity in the face of lots of loss — not like be happy all the time — but give in to happy when it comes to you.
How is the creative marriage with Nashville going for you? Having bounced around more than most artists I know, do you think you’ve finally found a home?
Sweet Life
is the first CD that I recorded in Nashville, and I loved working there. I got to record with George Marinelli on guitar (who tours with Bonnie Raitt), Alison Prestwood on bass (She’s played with Shawn Colvin and Rodney Crowell.)… every single musician who came into that studio was fabulous and inspired. The way they played on the song “Lovely,” which is a honky tonk meets Cole Porter tune, really blew me away. As far as Nashville being a permanent creative home, I’m a Gemini, so I love change. You never know what I’ll do next.
You just gave 10 guitars away to some kids. I may very well owe my life to my first music teacher, so that was a cool thing you did. Tell me about the whole thing.
When I was 15, a woman in my hometown gave me a guitar, and it changed my life. Recently, I told some friends I wished I could do the same thing for a kid, and it occurred to me that maybe I could. I started asking around and I found some amazing support, people who have made contributions to fund Aspire to Inspire which currently is a partnership with the ASCAP Foundation. The first giveaway was on the night of my CD release, 9/9/08 — we had a reception at the Fresh Air Fund in New York City where I got to award 15 guitars to kids who had shown passion and promise in music. Now I also have the Aspire to Inspire online endowment at, which is a branch of the Heiffer Foundation. There is a link from my website for more info.
You going to be on tour soon?
Yes, I’m at the beginning of the Sweet Life tour. Tour dates are at, and on MySpace and Facebook, as well. I’d love to see you out there on the road!