Over the past three years, Katie Toupin has largely been absent from the world of music after departing the only band and outlet for her music that she’s ever known, Houndmouth.
As it turns out, Toupin’s time away from the spotlight was entirely self-imposed. Her decision wasn’t just rooted in her desire to find herself musically again. Instead, it was a deliberate attempt by the singer-songwriter to ground herself as she attempted to figure out who she was and, perhaps even more on point, who she wanted to become.
Toupin recently sat down with Live For Live Music to discuss her personal and professional vision quest, why she traded in the perceived stability of Louisville for the chaos of Los Angeles, what its been like for her to take on the daunting task of transitioning to life as a solo artist, and things Magnetic Moves, Toupin’s debut LP that was just released on June 14th.
By the time Katie Toupin had reached her mid-twenties, she had already achieved a dream the vast majority of musicians will never see come to fruition: success.
Rising to stardom alongside Louisville, Kentucky darlings Houndmouth, Toupin toured the world and played countless sold-out shows to tens of thousands of fans while also receiving the kind of positive press and reinforcement many of us could only hope to have lavished upon us one day.
From an outside perspective, Toupin had seemingly reached a comfortable level of success. However, if you were paying close enough attention as her tenure with Houndmouth was winding to a close, it was becoming somewhat obvious that something indeed may be rotten in Denmark.
Toupin’s body language onstage suggested she was becoming disenfranchised with being in the band. Perhaps even more telling was the fact that the other members of Houndmouth also seemed to be marginalizing her role within the group altogether. Thus, it didn’t come as a complete surprise in the spring of 2016 when it was announced that Toupin and Houndmouth had decided to part ways.
What followed for Toupin was three years of soul searching that began with her putting Louisville, Kentucky in her rearview mirror to migrate out west.
“In Louisville, it was just really hard for me because everyone there knew me and already had this preconceived notion of who I was,” she explains. “But at that moment in time, I really didn’t know who I was or what I even wanted to do because all of my adult life I had been in Houndmouth. So when I left Houndmouth it felt as though my whole identity was gone.”
Toupin decided to try to realize her new dream in, of all places, a city notorious for crushing dreams, Los Angeles, California.
“With all the touring Houndmouth had done and my being away from home all the time, I had actually developed a group of friends in Los Angeles,” Katie says. “So it just seemed like maybe that’s where I should go.”
“It was very difficult at first because most of the people around me at the time weren’t actually helping me. They all just kind of had this vibe of well, hopefully she does something.”
After a few months of feeling out Los Angeles, Toupin began to make strides towards re-engaging with the world of music. “I ended up finding a group of friends that would go rehearse and work out songs with me, but I still wasn’t sure about what kind of music I actually wanted to make,” Toupin explains. “So I just wrote and wrote and wrote for like three years and even tried different producers. It was this very tedious process of trying to prove myself all over again.”
“It was necessary though because all the people I knew back home would just seem to agree with me just because they knew me. In L.A., no one really knew me. They just knew my songs, which made things easier.”
Toupin’s transition to Los Angeles was also about placing herself in a stable environment for seemingly the first time in her adult life. “Of course,” she says, “I did what many people do in those situations, I immediately got into a new relationship. It was very healing in a lot of ways and for the first time in my life I was actually leading a very normal existence. I got sober and it sort of felt like in a lot of ways, just being an adult. I felt like I was also reconnecting with the kid in me before I ever even joined Houndmouth.”
Eventually, Toupin found the inner strength and personal desire to make music again professionally. Thus, in the spring of 2018, she reintroduced herself and her music to the planet again via Moroccan Ballroom, the EP she unexpectedly ended up releasing.
When listening to Moroccan Ballroom, the sonic palette of the record in some ways still mirrors that of her previous band. It was as if Toupin was using the EP to bleed out the last remnants of Houndmouth as she worked toward finding what would eventually become her own musical identity.
“At that time, there were a lot of voices still in my head regarding what my songs should sound like. So I guess I still had a lot of baggage from Houndmouth to work out. I think the Moroccan Ballroom songs are very good and very well-written. I’m also happy with how everything came out because it was intended to just be one live video. However, after those sessions ended I decided I wanted to put more of it out there, to if anything, remind people that I still existed.”
“It was a necessary step for me for a lot of reasons,” says Toupin. “Musically it was a little step away from Houndmouth, but I was also still trying to find my own stories and my own balance.”
“On top of that I didn’t have a team helping me with any of it, so I just put it out myself and I did this very grass roots things. It was this huge learning process that I know I needed.”
Following the release of Moroccan Ballroom, Toupin decided to head back out on the road again via an intimate tour where she actually played in fans’ homes. The unconventional musical sojourn afforded Toupin the opportunity to reconnect with her fan base.
“I knew I could keep a small audience’s attention myself. I also felt like that type of tour would allow me to go and reconnect with my fans again,” she confesses. “I also wanted to be in a different setting and connect with people on a very personal level. It was very special and I will never forget those people that hosted me.”
Her tour last fall also ended up having an added benefit, as it directly led to Toupin recording her debut LP, Magnetic Moves, which was just released on June 14th.
“I had a day off in Austin during that tour, I wanted to go record something and so I was pointed in the direction of the Finishing School. That’s where I ended up producing my first song, ‘The Hills are Calling’. Afterwards, I thought to myself, this is how I’m going make my first record and these are the people I’m going to make it with.”
The songs featured on Magnetic Moves are emotionally driven pieces that echo vulnerability, heartbreak, and uncertainty while simultaneously breathing life into themes such as redemption and hope.
The record seems to reflect the trials and tribulations Toupin was going through while she was in the very midst of recording the album. “I was in a relationship at the time that ended up being very difficult,” Katie confides. “He and I were both going through a lot of changes which created a lot of turmoil between us. To no surprise that ended up giving me a lot of material for the record.”
“There was kind of this morbid part of me that was so happy I was in such a dark place while I was making the album. I remember driving to the studio crying but then when I’d get there I’d find myself smiling and thinking to myself, I’m in the perfect place to record this sad song today.”
While writing Magnetic Moves, Toupin was literally starting from scratch. For the first time in her career, the only voice in the room in terms of what she should do or even how she should sound was her own.
“You know when you hear those stories about people who’ve been in prison for a long time and then they get out and commit crimes to go back because they don’t know how to live outside of those walls, that was kind of how I felt,” says Toupin.
“I thought it was great being free but I didn’t even know what I liked without those other voices and opinions. That’s why it took so long. I find it extremely liberating now and it’s wonderful, but at first, I had a lot of doubt running through my head. It was definitely a long process in terms of my getting rid of all of those roadblocks.”
Toupin has once again traded in the confines of her more stable day-to-day life for life on the road. Her current tour is playing to the kind of intimate venues that allow her to whimsically experiment with the songs off Magnetic Moves while also providing her with the opportunity to engage with fans both old and new.
Toupin is not all that concerned with the size of the venues she’s playing to on this initial run of dates. Instead, she seems to be laser -ocused on providing audiences with a personal experience they can walk away from feeling extremely positive about.
As Katie explains, “I’m having to completely start over and I think that’s a very important part of the natural process. It doesn’t matter to me what size venue I’m playing, so long as I have the attention of the people that are there and we’re all feeling the same vibe. If I’m doing that, then I’m really doing what I was put on this earth to do.”
“As far as success goes, that’s all neither here nor there for me at this point in my life. Sure I’m hoping that this record blows up and that I can have a very long career but as far as my ego goes, it’s all the same to me.”
Magnetic Moves comes across as an effulgent evolutionary step for Toupin. The album is ripe with catchy hooks and the type of resplendent songwriting that should easily turn on just about any listener.
Toupin has a few dates remaining on the current leg of her tour before she winds things down with a stop at The Basement East in Nashville on June 29th. The songstress also has a slew of additional headlining, as well as a number of tour support slots, scheduled for later this year that she plans on announcing soon.
In the meantime, snag yourself a copy of Magnetic Moves and take your hearts, minds and souls on a magical musical journey you’ll find yourself easily getting lost in forever and a day.
For more information about Katie Toupin’s new album, Magnetic Moves, or her upcoming tour dates, head to her website here.
Katie Toupin – Magnetic Moves – Full Album
Below, you can peruse a gallery of recent live photos of Katie Toupin courtesy of Robert Forte.