Seattle singer/songwriter Kaylee Elizabeth is releasing her debut album Playing With Fire this Friday, June 11 (pre-order). It was produced by Andy D. Park (Death Cab For Cutie, Pedro The Lion, etc) and features contributions from Jessica Dobson (Deep Sea Diver, Beck, The Shins), Sean Lane (Pedro the Lion, Perfume Genius), Michael Porter, and Zander Hawley.
"The saying ‘playing with fire’ encapsulates the tension that this album holds for me," Kaylee said. "It also explores the fleeting and temporal nature of things and how realizing that delicacy gives perspective. This album shares my doubts, prayers, and gratitude of the last handful of years."
Ahead of the album's release, we're premiering a live acoustic video for the recently-released single "Next Step," which she recorded at The Fremont Abbey in her hometown. "While there is this breezy, head nodding quality to the song, lyrically it’s anything but easy going," Kaylee said. "‘Next Step’ is about making the next small and faithful step. It’s about acknowledging that so many things are outside of our control, but not letting fear dictate our decisions. A lot of the time fear can be an indicator of the exact thing that we should be leaning into."
The studio version of the single is folky, rustic, and gorgeous song, and the stripped-back live video is even more hair-raising. Check it out below.
We also asked Kaylee over email about some of the music that influenced this album, and she wrote an essay that dives into the various ones. It reads:
There were a lot of influences that I brought into the writing and making of ‘Playing With Fire’, but equal influence was brought in by my producer, Andy Park. Early on in our conversation about working together we both made playlists of production and writing influences and ideas. From that point I think we both realized that there was a good amount of overlap, but also difference, as we began to envision where the songs could go. At this point I had a good majority of the album written, but it was all just voice and acoustic guitar and open to many directions.
Early on in my writing of these songs I got into a rhythm of warming up with songs like ‘Once’ by Laura Marling, ‘Where Will I Be’ by Emmylou Harris, and ‘Downpour’ by Brandi Carlile. It’s interesting to reflect back on how special these songs are to me now as they were almost a daily ritual for over a year. I think the guitar in the song ‘Once' really made me think of fingerpicking and chord voicing in a different way. It was a starting point for some of the picking patterns on songs such as ‘Reasons’ and ‘Passing Through’. Downpour was a song that made me think about more traditional song forms and leant itself to the writing of ‘Part of You’. There were a couple of songs on the album that were more groove centric in their writing and I pulled from bands such as Dawes and Lake Street Dive for some of that influence. The culmination of ’Someting’s Gotta Break’ and ’Next Step’ live in that world.
Vocally, I’ve always been drawn to female vocalists such as Lisa Hannigan, Brandi Carlile, Gillian Welch, Samantha Crain, Feist and Lori McKenna. I think it’s mostly a tonal quality in any voice that first draws me into an artist and then the delivery and content of the writing that brings it home. There can be so much control and confidence in an understated way that is immensely powerful and I think that Gillian Welch is one of the best examples of that. This album is my rendition at harnessing that control and delivery in my own way.
When it came to Andy’s contribution he was bringing into the mix artists like Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Adrienne Lenker, and Frightened Rabbit. Some of whom I knew and loved and some that I hadn’t listened to much before. It was growing to expand into some of the more cinematic and aggressive moments on the album and see the way that Andy harnessed and directed that. He was really attuned to keeping momentum in the session, but not rushing things. I think of the bridge of ’Something’s Gotta Break’ and the song ’Spring' as standout moments for that high energy and more intensity than I was particularly comfortable with right away. The diversity of those songs with songs such as ‘Passing Through’ I think give the album a wide breath of feel and Andy really helped explore and lean into those moments. It makes me hope that this album has an arc and elements that a lot of folks will enjoy.
Here's the new live video for "Next Step," as well as the studio version and the two previous singles: