Photo: Mat Dunlap / New West Records

Kacy & Clayton Capture Loneliness, Desolation on “High Holiday” (premiere + interview)

"High Holiday" is the new song culled from Kacy & Clayton's upcoming Jeff Tweedy-produced LP on New West. Clayton Linthicum chats about the writing and recording process and life on his country's Great Plains.

Canadian duo Kacy & Clayton will issue their latest album, Carrying On, 4 October via New West Records. Recorded at the Loft, Wilco’s Chicago recording and rehearsal space, the 10-song disc is produced by Jeff Tweedy with engineering from Tom Schick.

Consisting of second cousins Clayton Linthicum and Kacy Anderson, the pair have created a seamless fusion of psychedelic music and country on this latest offering. Perhaps growing up in the tiny town of Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan influenced their direction and their originality, perhaps it was a quirk of fate itself.

Speaking from his Saskatchewan home, Linthicum discussed the origins of this new record, including the song “High Holiday”, for which there is a brand-new video. “I had the melody for quite a while,” he recalls. “It was inspired by the time we’ve spent away from home for the last couple of years. We were trying to go for a Bobbie Gentry feel on that. We had a string arranger lined up, but we liked the way it turned out without the string arrangement,” he notes.

But the pair did add another flourish to the tune. “We got Charlie McCoy, the Nashville session legend, to play bass harmonica on it,” recalls Linthicum. “I’d heard he was still doing sessions and got excited. One of my favorite things he’s ever done was on Tom T. Hall’s In Search of a Song. He emailed his parts, sent a bunch of stuff. It was cool to hear the different things he’d done. We chose the bass part.”

The new video, created by Mike Trask, spotlights the tune’s quietly cinematic nature, its sense of longing and loneliness. Linthicum’s lived-in vocal lines are devastating in their understatement, the tune’s spare, haunting guitar lines as captivating as they are eerie. This is the music of lost highways, the strange, spooky places we encounter in the dead of night when the last radio station is just out of range, and our destination seems nothing more than a mirage.

Kacy & Clayton will tour the U.S. with Ray LaMontagne this fall. (See dates below.)

Read more of Linthicum’s conversation with PopMatters below.

How did you prepare for going into the studio this time?

We had a tour booked last November for Canada, and we decided that would be the tour where we played only our new songs. We booked the studio on the last day of that tour.

What did you learn from playing the songs live during that tour? I would imagine you figure things out such as “Hey, the crowd goes nuts during this chorus, they don’t seem to respond well to that long outro.”

We figured out which tempos and feels worked and which didn’t. Certain parts generally excited people, and then there were lulls. We tried to address the lulls if they got too lully. [Laughs.] It’s a pretty exciting way to develop the material.

How did Jeff Tweedy come into your lives?

He produced our last record, The Siren’s Song. That was the result of us having opened for Wilco in San Francisco. They did a five-night run of shows and had a different opener every night. Jeff came to our dressing room and started joking around with us; that helped to break the ice. Tom Schick, the engineer at Wilco’s The Loft, deserves a lot of credit as well. Jeff isn’t too heavy-handed, but he listens so closely. There are things he hears in takes that most people would miss. He’s super-aware, and his nature is such that you just want to play well for him.

Did you find that there were a lot of thematic connections among the songs?

There are a lot of birds mentioned. That was a coincidence. There’s a lot of geography. We tried to keep all the songs set in places we knew. We wanted to give a perspective of Western Canada and the Northern Great Plains. I think that’s one thing we really strive for in our lyrics, holding on to the local and regional sense.

How do you see the Great Plains of Canada as being different than Vancouver or Montreal?

This region is very dear to my heart. The landscape is obviously different. You can see a lot of the sky. It’s not obscured by any big mountains. The occupations are different. Most people make their living on a farm or a ranch. The city populations reflect the rural populations: Everyone in the city has a close connection to the rural.

To me, there’s a quality to your songs that’s a little eerie at times, almost like Lee Hazlewood.

Ooh. That’s cool. I like Lee Hazlewood. I don’t think about him usually when people ask what music has inspired us. But I think he’s a good person to point to because he’s got that cinematic cosmic country thing. Him and Bobbie Gentry. The instrumentation is similar to a lot of the country records of that time, but it’s also got some unusual compositional elements that country music didn’t really have.


August 16th & 17th – Grand Manan, NB – Summer’s End Folk Festival ^
September 6th, 7th, 8th – Sisters, OR – Sisters Folk Festival ^
September 11th – Toronto, ON – The Dakota Tavern
September 14th – Nashville, TN The High Watt Americanafest
September 15th – Charleston, WV Mountain Stage
September 17th – Newport, KY – Southgate Revival House
September 18th – Louisville, KY Odeon
September 19th – Knoxville, TN The Blue Plate Special (WDVX)
September 19th – Knoxville, TN – The Open Chord
September 21st – Franklin, TN – Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival
October 10th – Brooklyn, NY – Union Pool
October 11th – Providence, RI – Providence Performing Arts Center *
October 12th – Boston, MA – The Wang Theatre *
October 13th – Philadelphia, PA – Metropolitan Opera House *
October 15th – North Bethesda, MD – Music Center at Strathmore *
October 16th – Baltimore, MD – Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric *
October 18th – Charlotte, NC – Ovens Auditorium *
October 19th – Atlanta, GA – Fox Theatre *
October 20th – Asheville, NC – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium *
October 22nd – Akron, OH – Akron Civic Theatre *
October 23rd – Detroit, MI – Fox Theatre *
October 25th – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theatre *
October 26th – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theatre *
October 27th – Indianapolis, IN – The Murat Theatre at Old National Centre *
October 29th – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium *
October 30th – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium *
November 1st – Houston, TX – Jones Hall *
November 2nd – Austin, TX – ACL Live at the Moody Theatre *
November 3rd – Dallas, TX – Music Hall at Fair Park *
November 5th – Kansas City, MO – Uptown Theater *
November 6th – Kansas City, MO – Uptown Theater *
November 9th – Denver, CO – Paramount Theatre *
November 10th – Denver, CO – Paramount Theatre *
November 12th – Salt Lake City, UT – Delta Hall at Eccles Theater *
November 14th – Spokane, WA – Fox Theatre Spokane *
November 15th – Portland, OR – Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall *
November 16th – Seattle, WA – The Moore Theatre *
November 17th – Seattle, WA – The Moore Theatre *
November 19th – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater *
November 22nd – Los Angeles, CA – Orpheum Theatre *
November 23rd – Los Angeles, CA – Orpheum Theatre *

^ Duo Performances
* with Ray LaMontagne