Heartbreak and French Fries with Kelly Zutrau of Wet: An Interview

Author: Cameron Payne

Picture this: it’s 2013, I’m on my way to school and my high school boyfriend and I had just broken up for the first time. I was young, inexperienced, and had no idea how to describe what felt like devastating, life ruining heartbreak. I turned up the radio to drown out the sound of my dad asking how I was “holding up” and “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” by Wet was playing. Right away something about the song resonated with me; it somehow understood and articulated exactly how I was feeling in that moment in a way I hadn’t learned yet, it heard me in the exact way I needed. I went home that day and listened to every song off Don’t You and from that day forward it has been the anthem for my heart; every time its broken, bent, or bruised, Wet’s soft melodies and genius lyrical prowess have been there with me.

Fast forward 5 years later-I’m a sophomore in college, Head Arts Reporter for Seattle University’s student run radio station and an email slips into my inbox asking if I’d be interested in interviewing Kelly Zutrau of Wet. After absolutely LOSING IT, I set up a date and time and before I knew it I was on the phone with the heartbreak queen herself just a week before I’d be seeing the iconic duo live at the Neptune. So without further ado, a chat with Kelly Zutrau about heartbreak, womanhood, and their new album.

CAMERON PAYNE: What’s it like putting songs out into the world that are so deeply personal and then performing those same songs?

KELLY ZUTRAU: It’s extremely cathartic for me to be able to write when I’m going through a hard time. I know it sounds crazy but it just feels so natural to me and when I’m going through a hard time I really do just wanna sing about how I’m feeling. It’s very special to be able to have that as a way to get through something. Obviously there’s always some anxiety about putting it into the world because you don’t know how people are going to react and they aren’t just reacting to songs but they’re reacting to my transformative life experiences. Not everyone’s gunna like everything you do but the people that come to the shows are there because they connected with it and there’s nothing more powerful than performing “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” and seeing everyone singing the words along with me.

Photo by Cameron Payne

CP: Don’t You is one of my favorite albums because of how raw and honest it is so I’m curious about how close to home those songs are for you that are featured on the album?

KZ: Yeah for sure. All the things that I write from the EP to the first album to the new album coming out, like I said, are things I’ve went through that were too difficult for me to process so I turned it into writing or signing. Everything is extremely close to me. My songs, they’re snapshots of the most difficult moments of my life

CP: Which song of yours means the most to you and why?

KZ: Oh thats hard! Theres a new song on the new album called “Out of Tune” and its not a single or anything but it’s one of those songs where I remember exactly how I felt when I wrote it and how intense that time was for me. I was going through a breakup and lots of loss on a lot of different levels in my life. On top of that, “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” of course because our fans are so connected to it and it’s one of the first songs I ever wrote.

CP: What is your musical and personal relationship like with Joe?

KZ: Joe truly brings so much to the songs. He’s my favorite producer and he’s the person that I work the best with, better than anyone. The way he produces and plays his instruments really does something magical to the songs that I write, it brings a whole new depth to them and adds dimensions that I can’t even picture until it’s all done.

CP: Those that really connect with your music are often those that are going through heartbreak or loss, what would be your advice to them?

KZ: I would say, try to find a way to express the pain and turn it into something tangible because if you let it sit it it will just manifest and that becomes extremely toxic. If you can find a way to put it into something that you can see or hear and it doesn’t have to be music or art but even just a conversation. Getting it out of your head and into the world is an important part of grief and healing. Over everything though, time. You have to remember to just give yourself the time and eventually you’ll feel okay again.

CP: Im curious what has been your most memorable experience as a musician and performer?

KZ: The last couple tours we’ve done have been sold out and I never could have expected that. I never expected to hear people singing along to my songs and it just means so much to me that other people are getting something out of the work I’m doing because I don’t think it would be worthwhile if it was just for me.

CP: With the #MeToo movement heavily dominating media right now I’m curious about your experience as a woman in the music industry and your take on the movement.

KZ: I think its a really important thing for it to be something thats part of the common vocabulary right now. People are being called out and behavior that’s been thought of as regular for a long time for people in power is being brought to light and the fact that it’s not being tolerated is very monumental. I feel like I’ve definitely seen the changes for myself in spaces that are generally dominated by men, just like that fear of them being perceived differently or doing something that could fall into the MeToo category and I think its scary in some ways and unfortunate that its gotten to this point. I don’t want men to feel bad all the time but I think its also a good reminder of how women feel all the time. Its very common in many women day to day lives. As for me, I don’t think it’s any one persons fault and it’s definitely a cultural problem that’s bigger than music, it’s literally everything. I have to say what I think 10x louder to be heard than Joe does or other men that I work with and I really used to just give up but for this album it was really important for it to be something I loved and being empowered and having control was something I prioritized. It was a really intense process making this album because I had to keep fighting for what I wanted and it was definitely exhausting but so worth it.

CP: Lastly, if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?

KZ: French Fries. Definitely French fries. You an eat them with anything. They’re amazing, you can’t go wrong.

Photo by Cameron Payne

Wet’s performance was just as spellbinding as I expected. They performed classics like “You’re The Best” and “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” but also played singles off their new album such as “Lately” and “Softens” as well as never before heard songs. Kelly interacted with the audience and seemed genuinely so excited to be there with us. It felt like an old friend was performing for a hundred of her closest friends in someones really nice basement. It was intimate and raw and everyone there was singing to every word. It’s the type of concert experience that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

After the show Kelly, Joe and their incredible opener inc. no world hung out by the merch table to meet fans and sign shirts. I met Kelly Zutrau in person, she recognized me, took a picture with me and it might have been one of the best nights of my life.

So in conclusion, if you’re a really big fan of  a band or an artist, put their songs on those sappy playlists that you made your ex-boyfriend for years and eventually the universe will catch on and the chance to interview them will fall in your lap. Good luck my friends, I’m rooting for you.

CAMERON PAYNE | so surreal life is crazy | KXSU Head Arts Reporter

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