Country singer Kaitlin Butts returns to Gypsy Café and a new album

Gleaming beneath a blood red moon and a crimson neon sign, the classic Ford Thunderbird convertible parked on the cover of Kaitlin’s Butts‘ The long-awaited new album is loaded with subtle cinematic cues.

“I like to tie ‘Thelma & Louise’ to some of the things I do…because it’s one of my favorite movies,” Butts said.

“Towards the end, spoiler alert, they drive off the precipice in their car, and even with Thelma and Louise, you might ask, ‘What else could she have done?’ They really didn’t no other choice when they were.

“So, I wanted to slip that in just for my own good. With these songs…I feel like I see myself in every single one of them.”

Ostensibly titled “What Else Can She Do”, The Tulsa native’s long-awaited second album hits the country music scene on April 15, and she’ll return to her home country for performances later this month.

“I feel like I’m between Christmas and New Years. I’m in this weird zone…where I don’t really know what to do with myself, because I’ve done the work… but I’m so excited,” Butts said by phone from her home in Nashville, Tennessee, days before the album was released.

Oklahoma native tells women’s stories on new album

“What Else Can She Do” isn’t a long album, but it’s a bumpy ride through bumpy stories about angry, scared, or struggling women.

“It’s only seven songs, but I wrote five of them in a very specific time frame, where my life was sort of in shambles. It was all chaotic, and I just felt terrible, honestly. So, I had this framework of songs that I wanted to release as a project, and I didn’t want to disrupt it. … I could have put ‘How Lucky Am I’ or ‘Marfa Lights’ on this album, but it didn’t really didn’t tell the story I wanted,” Butts said, referencing a pair of his more perkier recent standalone singles.

“Then in 2020 I wrote ‘What Else Can She Do’, and I realized, as it was done, that each of those songs really asks that question. … A lot of they have to do with leaving a not-so – a great situation, where these women end up with these choices because of their situation.Sometimes they make good decisions, sometimes they don’t…but most of the time it’s hard to blame them.”

With its signature twang and old-school country sound, Butts’ second collection winds through a dark yet colorful soundscape that matches well with Pecos McCool’s striking cover.

“Some of them are autobiographical…but with others they were stories of people around me. are things that we haven’t talked about,” Butts said.

“I think everything we want to be seen is seen, and I really want, through these songs, for people to know that they’re not alone if they’ve felt these situations.”

Tulsa native Kaitlin Butts releases her new album "What else can she do" April 15.  Photo by Mackenzie Ryan

Tulsan finds its way into the Nashville music scene

A 2011 graduate of Tulsa Union High School, Butts went to college at the University of Central Oklahoma Academy of Contemporary Music in Bricktown. In 2019, she moved to Nashville to further her music career, but returned to her mother’s home in Ardmore when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

“In February 2021 we came back here, and after 48 hours of living here in Nashville, I recorded this project and also released a single, ‘How Lucky Am I.’ So, I had a busy first week coming here, but it was very Nashville of me to do all of that from the start,” Butts said.

She recorded her second album at Sound Emporium studios in Nashville, writing the first single, “Blood”, with Angaleena Presley of the hit trio Pistol Annies.

“I was just terrified to walk into her house and sit on her couch, just trying to look smart. But she made me feel so comfortable and at home. We immediately started talking about our family dynamic, or as my therapist likes to call it, generational trauma,” Butts said. “I really opened up to her…and we came to the conclusion that sometimes we reject certain behaviors from our family members that we wouldn’t accept from our friends.”

Tulsa native Kaitlin Butts releases her new album "What else can she do" April 15.  Photo by Mackenzie Ryan

Singer-songwriter settles down with fellow musician Cleto Cordero

Although the songs on “What Else Can She Do” came out of a dark time for Butts, his life is now much more like his love ballad “How Lucky Am I.” She got married Cleto Cordero, frontman of country band Flatland Cavalryin October 2020 in a Cowgirl Chic Ceremony at Junk Gypsy’s Wander Inn in Round Top, Texas.

The pair met while making music: Cordero heard Butts’ song “Gal Like Me” on a Texas radio station and invited her to sing with him on the Flatland Cavalry ballad “A Life Where We Work Out”. So far, the married life of the musicians is going well.

“Our life has always been a long distance, going our own way and then occasionally meeting or even just passing each other on the road. It’s really nice when we collaborate sometimes, but it’s also nice that we both have our own direction too,” Butts said. ”

“It’s definitely wild, but we’re just used to it. It probably seems chaotic and abnormal, but it feels normal to us. We like to write with each other once in a while. But whenever we’re home, I like to say we also have ‘normal person days’… and go to Ikea or something.”

Growing musician returns to his home country for Gypsy Cafe

‘What Else Can She Do’ debuts seven years later Butts’ debut album, “Same Hell, Different Devil” from 2015.

“All these songs I wrote when I was 18 – 18 to 20 – and I’m 28 now, about to be 29,” she said. “I think everything has completely changed and grown.”

After a stopover in Oklahoma City on April 21 at new Beer City Music Hall, where she will open Ian Munsick, Butts will make a fitting return to Stillwater on April 27 for the Bob Childers Gypsy Cafewhich will return as an in-person event after going virtual in the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Billed as Oklahoma’s largest local songwriter festival, the event raises money for the Nonprofit Red Dirt Relief Fund.

“We consider her a friend of the festival and a friend of the Red Dirt Relief Fund. I first met her when she was maybe 19 or 20. She was still a student at [email protected] the first time I “she came to play at the Gypsy Café. She just walked in…with her guitar and sat right next to Rick Reiley and started playing his music. She wasn’t afraid of anything,” recalls Katie Dale, executive director of the Red Dirt Relief Fund.

“It’s really great that she continues to make this festival a priority and that she continues to say yes. I hope she does this forever because, in addition to being so talented, she is just brilliant .”

With an open invitation like that, “What Else Can She Do” but back to his home country and the Gypsy Café.

“My first Gypsy Café, I didn’t even know what I was walking towards. … I try to observe and get to know everyone who sits in this circle, and they welcomed me with open arms. That night where I was there, I met Mike McClure in the hotel lobby where everyone was exchanging songs. … A few days later he was posting on Facebook that he was spending time in the studio, and I contacted him about it. And we did “Same Hell, Different Devil”. From there, I was sending stuff to Texas radio, and that’s how I met my husband,” Butts said.

“I’m really tracing everything that happened to the Gypsy cafe. … I love everyone, and it’s really cool to come back and hopefully show them that I’ve improved.”

KAITLIN BUTTS IN CONCERT

Overture for Ian Munsick

When: 8 p.m. on April 21.

Or: Beer City Music Hall, 1141 NW 2.

Information and tickets: https://beercitymusichall.com.

Bob Childers Gypsy Cafe

When: 4 p.m. on April 27.

Or: Grand Casino Stage at Eskimo Joe’s, 501 W. Elm St.; Oklahoma Film + Music Office Stage at Newbar, 115 S. Knoblock St.; and George’s Stables, 502 W. Elm St., Stillwater.

Information and tickets: https://www.reddirtrelieffund.org/gypsycafe.

Toya J. Bell