After two records fronting the groove-and-R&B-oriented Copper & Congress, Katie Haverly set her sights on a new sound that would fit an intensely personal set of new songs.
"I really wanted to develop my own project that I could be in total creative control of and make my own record top to bottom. I had a lot of stuff I wanted to get out and explore," Haverly says. "It's really about stepping into your power and not being afraid to be big and bold and bright and claim your creative voice. I wanted to share in an uninhibited way."
A peacock motif guides the album, from the cover painting of Haverly spreading her arm to reveal her own plume of feathers to the metaphor that runs in the background of the project.
"I went through a lot to find my creative voice, and this record is about transcending what others tell you you could be and the limitations I've experienced from a female perspective," she says.
The title of The Aviary refers directly to that notion of limitations. Though an aviary may be large and open enough to allow for flight, it nonetheless serves the fundamental function of enclosing its avian inhabitants.
"The aviary is all about this illusion of freedom and movement. The birds are in this beautiful space but are not in fact free. They're still limited and not able to transcend that," Haverly says.
The songs on The Aviary explore the relationship between personal identity and challenges, how confronting and overcoming impediments shape people and how to move beyond being externally defined or confined.
"The undercurrent of this record for me is figuring out how to truly be yourself, how to step into that genuine place of truth about who you are and not be apologetic about that in any way," Haverly says. "I feel like I've made exactly what I set out to make."
The Aviary finds much of its inspiration in the tradition of unapologetically honest female singer-songwriters, no matter the genre, including Joni Mitchell, Björk, Laura Marling, Janelle Monáe and some of the close friends active in the local music scene.
"Powerful female songwriters and musicians have really inspired me and motivated me to embody my own sound," she says. "There are lot more female-fronted bands in Tucson...coming to the forefront and it's exciting to see that transition."
The Aviary is Haverly's fourth solo album, but her first since 2008, her first since moving to Tucson and her first since writing, recording and performing with Copper & Congress. The album is informed by those experiences, but Haverly says The Aviary feels like she's stepping fully into her own artistic voice for the first time.
The first song Haverly wrote for the project began to reveal the direction she'd take, both in terms of theme and process. Written on the piano, "A Ghost Like Me" not only captured the raw and vulnerable tone she had in mind, but was the first fruit of a new writing discipline. Starting a new full-time job, Haverly had to carve out her writing time early, waking at 5:30 every day to slowly piece the songs together and the first good result helped to keep her focused.
"It's one of my favorite songs I've ever written," she says. "It came quickly and it felt like a good omen. I wanted to be totally in love with every song on the album."
Through a successful Kickstarter campaign, Haverly was able to raise enough of an album budget to record at the professional level she desired. Co-produced with Steven Lee Tracy at Saint Cecilia Studios, The Aviary features an array of talented Tucson musicians, hired to capture the sound Haverly had in her head.
Again, it was "A Ghost Like Me" that offered encouragement that the project's results were matching Haverly's creative vision.
"I hadn't had the experience of hearing beautiful strings on any of my songs before, so I was really moved in the studio," she says. "It has a special place in my heart."
The album release show on Dec. 12 will also be the unveiling of Haverly's new band The Aviary, featuring Julius Schlosburg on drums (also Haverly's bandmate in Copper & Congress), Derek Norman (bass), Mike Moynihan (sax), Ben Nisbet (violin, keys and electric guitar) and Katherine Byrnes (vocals).
Prior to the release show, Haverly and The Aviary will perform Monday, Dec. 7 on KXCI Locals Only. There, she will debut new material in the form of five songs written specifically for Kickstarter backers who pledged $500.
For the release show itself, Haverly is "encouraging elegant dress" for the audience, in part because she's hired a film crew to capture the event, so Kickstarter donors outside of Tucson can see video of the performance. Opening the show are Tom Walbank and Jillian and The Giants, chosen because Walbank and Jillian Bessett are both featured guests on The Aviary. Artist Carolyn Robles, who painted the cover, will be displaying paintings in a series inspired by the album.
In the end, Haverly says she's proud of the project, partly because it reflects her artistic vision and her confidence, but also because The Aviary is type of music that she's always been drawn to as a listener and fan.
"I pushed myself to be a bit more raw on this record because that's what I love listening to," Haverly says. "My goal was to try to take snippets of my life that had a sting or a strong lesson or a moment of awareness and create something someone else could identify with and feel less alone. I love listening to songs that feel familiar or magical in a way that gives you hope or a feeling of connectedness."