Lilly Hiatt: Fearless and Authentic on ‘Trinity Lane’

Sometimes you just need to turn off the world and be alone to reevaluate your life and find out who you really are. That’s exactly what Nashville singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt did and it birthed one of the most truth telling and emotional albums of her young career.

After leaving an ex, Hiatt relocated to an apartment in East Nashville, just off Trinity Lane. To ease her heartache, the singer called up old friend John Moreland and the duo went west to the coast.

“John and I went on tour together and it had already been planned, but happened to come at a perfect time for me, “Lilly Hiatt said from her Nashville home. “Road tripping would have been a good idea too, I just needed to get away. I was by myself in my car when we did that tour and followed John, who was in a truck. I’ve done a lot of touring by myself in that beat-up Honda Accord, we’ve shared a lot of miles, seen a lot of states together. I don’t mind it though, especially this time. It gave me a lot of time to think.”

But the funny thing was, when Hiatt returned home, her broken heart remained and her demons reared their ugly head.

To cope, Hiatt took to her guitar. She avoided the real world, sans a few close friends and family. The talented songwriter holed up in her new apartment and faced her issues head on. Anytime she wanted a drink she picked up her guitar; anytime she wanted to smoke, she picked up her guitar; anytime she thought she needed a man, she picked up her guitar.

“It takes what it takes,” Hiatt said of turning her life around. “A lot people go through worse than what I did with a broken relationship. I’ve been through a lot of breakups and I am getting better at it.

“We all have thorny qualities…Well, the thing is I quit drinking six years ago, so it’s not a new thing, but it’s something I realize is a symptom of issues which is kind of something I knew already. I learned if you take something bad away you have other coping mechanisms. I’ve quit weed several times and I started smoking weed several times again. I am not going to lie about that. We all have our crutches, and I’ve had a lot of them. When I kind of shutdown I put those aside and experienced what I experienced and tried to evolve, tried to grow as a person.”

It’s no secret, from the day she was born, Hiatt entered a family full of chaos. Her iconic father, singer-songwriter John Hiatt was struggling with the bottle and soon after Lilly was born he went into rehab and got cleaned up. Not long after that, Hiatt’s mother, who was separated from her husband, took her own life.

“It’s a struggle sometimes. I accepted a long time ago that alcohol doesn’t do right by me and I don’t do right by it. It’s a dangerous place where you know if it gets too bad you can say fuck it and never care anymore. I know the result and I don’t want to go back there. You have to be really devoted to be the best version of yourself.”

The isolation period gave Hiatt a dozen deeply personal, autobiographical songs for her brilliant new album ‘Trinity Lane’ (New West Records). However, it wasn’t just that one breakup which made this album happen, it was years of everyday life struggles and bad choices, Hiatt had accumulated.

The daughter of iconic singer/songwriter, it was natural that Hiatt picked up the guitar at age 12 and began writing songs. She put Music City in her rearview mirror to attend University of Denver where she earned her psychology major. While in college, the budding singer-songwriter formed her first band, Shake Go Home. After graduating college, Hiatt headed back home to Nashville and took the band with her. In Nashville, Shake Go Home recorded a couple of EPs, but it never really went anywhere.

Shortly thereafter, Hiatt went solo with her backing band the Dropped Ponies. Her debut ‘Let Down’ was released in 2012 and followed that with ‘Royal Blue’ in 2015, both were issued on Normaltown Records, a division of New West Records.

“I was proud of that band [Shake Go Home]. When we broke up, it was my doing. I was kind of running away from that type of music we were doing. But I listened to some of our recordings recently and it’s pretty cool, but it’s hard to listen to my voice. It was our time to go our separate ways though. They are still close friends and they all still play music for a living. If it weren’t for those guys…they took me under their wings. Especially Eric (Knutson, guitar). He guided me to open mics and meeting people.”

Hiatt showed tremendous talent and growth with both albums, earning her praise from the critics and love from her peers. ‘Trinity Lane’ shows Hiatt spreading her wings even further with her influences and love of 1990s alternative rock. Raised on the Pixies, Breeders, Dinosaur Jr., and Pearl Jam, Hiatt turns up her guitar to give it dirty feedback and the backbeat has a sense of earnestness to it.

“I love bands from the ’90s so much. I remember my brother gave me Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ cassette for Christmas one year, I was about six, and he said, ‘I think you’re ready for this.’ I remember thinking this must be very important, like gold or something and when I listened to Kurt Cobain’s voice, I knew what I wanted to do. But it’s more than that. I am a music nerd, the best kind of nerd to be. I think, loving Bowie or Prince or Pearl Jam, it’s my bread and butter. I could talk about Pearl Jam for hours. It’s to the point where my friends get sick of it. And I will correct someone who is wrong or if someone says something negative about those bands, we are going to have words.”

People might be surprised or just assume that since Hiatt is the daughter of a legendary singer/songwriter and lives in the Country Music Capitol she wouldn’t be into the 1990’s grunge scene, but one listen to the fuzzed-out guitars and screaming solos on ‘Trinity Lane,’ they’d understand her wide swath of influences.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love Loretta Lynn and Guy Clark, but there is so much more. I love rock bands like Cheap Trick and indie artists like Elliott Smith. I love Soul Asylum. Oh, my fucking god ‘Grave Dancers Union’ was the perfect album for me growing up. From top to bottom, that album is brilliant,” says Hiatt before singing the intro to “Black Gold.”

“What constitutes a musical library is important to me. My Dad never pushed me into a certain genre, my parents played Liz Phair in the car and my brother got my Dad to listen to Faith No More. My Dad liked the sound of that record so much, he used the same producer…I think that’s how the story goes.”

At its core, however, ‘Trinity Lane’ is an Americana record sure to turn heads and end up on many “best of” lists for 2017. Produced by Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope, the album features a whole new cast of characters for Hiatt giving her a sound an edge she’s never shown before.

“All the people I’ve played with in the past are great people and musicians. They also play with other musicians. Some of them found success and their careers took off and I am happy for them. So, I had to do another band and I really like what I have with this group of guys. They come from another angle and they understand what I want and we all worked together at whole foods together at one time. So, it was an easy-going vibe which enabled the players to let their guard down.”

One of those edgier songs, is the heartbreaking single “The Night David Bowie Died,” where Hiatt learns of the legendary singer’s death, but it’s too late to call anyone to talk about it. She lies alone in bed crying, thinking of Bowie and that dreaded broken relationship.

“It was a very natural thing that came out of my mouth. I hit record and sang and that’s what came out. I do a lot of that, but this song was special. I’d like to thank Bowie for helping me. It was a cosmic thing.”

In those times of isolation detoxing from wrong lovers, too many drinks, and a broken heart, Hiatt not only wrote a brilliant album, but she learned how to love herself, something she had been neglecting all these years.

“I am really proud of this record, I mean, it was hell going through those times, but it made for a damn fine record,” Hiatt says with a laugh. “Who knows what this record will mean to me in ten years. I don’t listen to myself all that much. You play the songs live, in the studio and rehearsal, and by the time all that is done, you don’t want to wide swath of influences.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love Loretta Lynn and Guy Clark, but there is so much more. I love rock bands like Cheap Trick and indie artists like Elliott Smith. I love Soul Asylum. Oh, my fucking god ‘Grave Dancers Union’ was the perfect album for me growing up. From top to bottom, that album is brilliant,” says Hiatt before singing the intro to “Black Gold.”

“What constitutes a musical library is important to me. My Dad never pushed me into a certain genre, my parents played Liz Phair in the car and my brother got my Dad to listen to Faith No More. My Dad liked the sound of that record so much, he used the same producer…I think that’s how the story goes.”

At its core, however, ‘Trinity Lane’ is an Americana record sure to turn heads and end up on many “best of” lists for 2017. Produced by Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope, the album features a whole new cast of characters for Hiatt giving her a sound an edge she’s never shown before.

“All the people I’ve played with in the past are great people and musicians. They also play with other musicians. Some of them found success and their careers took off and I am happy for them. So, I had to do another band and I really like what I have with this group of guys. They come from another angle and they understand what I want and we all worked together at whole foods together at one time. So, it was an easy-going vibe which enabled the players to let their guard down.”

One of those edgier songs, is the heartbreaking single “The Night David Bowie Died,” where Hiatt learns of the legendary singer’s death, but it’s too late to call anyone to talk about it. She lies alone in bed crying, thinking of Bowie and that dreaded broken relationship.

“It was a very natural thing that came out of my mouth. I hit record and sang and that’s what came out. I do a lot of that, but this song was special. I’d like to thank Bowie for helping me. It was a cosmic thing.”

In those times of isolation detoxing from wrong lovers, too many drinks, and a broken heart, Hiatt not only wrote a brilliant album, but she learned how to love herself, something she had been neglecting all these years.

“I am really proud of this record, I mean, it was hell going through those times, but it made for a damn fine record,” Hiatt says with a laugh. “Who knows what this record will mean to me in ten years. I don’t listen to myself all that much. You play the songs live, in the studio and rehearsal, and by the time all that is done, you don’t want to hear the songs again. These are snapshots in time and I just want each record to be different and better than the last one.”

BONUS ROUND

Innocent Words: What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about Lilly Hiatt?

Lilly Hiatt: Let’s see, ok here you go. I love peanut butter and butter on my toast. It sounds gross, but it’s really good. I’ve made it for my friends and they don’t like it, but I love it.

Innocent Words: What would be your dream car?

Lilly Hiatt: My dream car is a Corvette…a sleek midnight blue Corvette, maybe around 2006 I don’t know, something around that time. I saw one of those before and I loved those cars. They are sexy cars, they cut through the air.

Innocent Words: What’s your go to comfort food?

Lilly Hiatt: I love Indian food, it makes me feel warm and comfortable.

Innocent Words: What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Lilly Hiatt: People smacking their food gets me nuts. Chew with your mouth closed already.

Innocent Words: Who was your first crush?

Lilly Hiatt: Ralph Macchio! I remember my grandpa calling me out on it while I was watching “Karate Kid.” But come on. He was the hard luck kid battling for the girl over those rich kids in school.

TOUR DATES

AUG 28 MON Club Café Pittsburgh, PA
AUG 29 TUE Boot & Saddle Philadelphia, PA
AUG 30 WED Rockwood Music Hall New York, NY
SEP 1 FRI Rhythm & Roots Festival Charlestown, RI
SEP 2 SAT Billsville House Concerts Manchester, VT
SEP 3 SUN Atwood’s Tavern Cambridge, MA
SEP 5 TUE Jammin Java Vienna, VA
SEP 6 WED Club 603 Baltimore, MD
SEP 7 THU The Spot on Kirk Roanoke, VA
SEP 8 FRI Isis Restaurant and Music Hall Asheville, NC
SEP 9 SAT The Evening Muse Charlotte, NC
SEP 19 TUE The Foundry Athens, GA
SEP 21 THU The Atlanta Room at Smith’s Olde Bar Atlanta, GA
SEP 22 FRI 116 E Mobile Florence, AL
SEP 23 SAT The Nick Birmingham, AL
SEP 24 SUN Callaghan’s Irish Social Club Mobile, AL
SEP 26 TUE McGonigel’s Mucky Duck Houston, TX
SEP 27 WED Cactus Café Austin, TX
SEP 28 THU Prophet Bar Dallas, TX
SEP 29 FRI Southbound Bar and Grill Springfield, MO
OCT 1 SUN Duck Room at Blueberry Hill St Louis, MO
OCT 4 WED Beat Kitchen Chicago, IL
OCT 6 FRI The Southgate House Revival Newport, KY
OCT 7 SAT Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria Knoxville, TN
OCT 13 FRI The Englert Theatre with Old 97’s Iowa City, IA
OCT 14 SAT First Avenue with Old 97’s Minneapolis, MN
OCT 15 SUN The Aquarium with