East Nashville’s Lilly Hiatt premieres her introspective yet plucky fourth album Walking Proof with Paste’s readers today ahead of its wide release on March 27 via New West Records.
The 11-song album features Hiatt’s distinct genre-blending sound, drawing from country, rock and blues while maintaining something completely of its own. It comes after Hiatt’s third album, Trinity Lane, which found the singer-songwriter navigating a particularly tumultuous time in her life. Walking Proof, on the other hand, finds Hiatt’s main inspiration ingrained in trying to find her place in the world, with a tone that is mostly optimistic despite the chaos.
“The last two years of my life have been really good,” Hiatt tells Paste in an interview. She not only felt more in command of her craft than ever, but did the grueling work of channeling trauma into art, and was finally ready to look inward at herself instead of surveying her surroundings. “It was much easier to cut to the chase.”
Walking Proof was recorded by Cage the Elephant member Lincoln Parish in his East Nashville studio. When Hiatt originally walked into the recording session with 25 songs for the album, Parish helped her whittle the tracklist down to a tight 11.
“I felt like I had a comrade,” Hiatt said of recording Walking Proof with Parish. “Lincoln maintained an element of refinement while still keeping the rugged nature of the album.”
Lilly’s father, the renowned musician John Hiatt, also makes his first appearance in Lilly’s discography on Walking Proof, providing vocals on the song “Some Kind Of Drug.” Teaming up with her father wasn’t necessarily a grand gesture, but rather a serendipitous one.
“I remember being in the studio, saying ‘I really feel like I need a male voice on this song,’” said Hiatt. “And then I thought about my dad, and just realized: “He’s the right guy for the job!’”
Although Lilly Hiatt has a storied legacy behind her name, and some of what she reckons with is configuring where exactly her place is—in the music world, in her world at large—she recently has embraced the folk-driven sound of the U.S. and the excitement of experimenting.
“Genre feels constricting, but Americana doesn’t feel uncomfortable,” Hiatt says when asked about what genre categorization means to her. But she is steadfast in believing that rigidness in definition is antithetical to creativity. “Rules defeat the practice of making art. It’s an exciting time for the avant-garde.”
Earlier this month, Hiatt’s home city of Nashville was devastated by a tornado that destroyed concert halls and businesses alike, killing more than 20 people. Although the event left Nashville in peril, Hiatt made sure to recognize the strength that her hometown has exhibited.
“Nashville is in shock right now,” she said. “I think everybody’s done everything they can. As always, we move forward. I’m always impressed by this city.”
With the added stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on the music community via tour cancellations and mass layoffs, Hiatt just hopes her album can offer a few minutes of newfound optimism that everyone can use right now.
You can listen to Walking Proof exclusively through the embedded YouTube playlist below. Also check out Lilly playing “Imposter” at Paste Studio NYC back in 2017. You can pre-order Walking Proof, out officially this Friday, here.