Katie Pruitt Finds Her True Identity With ‘Expectations’

Playing Nashville
Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Katie Pruitt’s Expectations is a declaration of self-acceptance.

“I’ve never really been a subtle writer,” Pruitt admits in a phone interview with Audiofemme. “I’m pretty damn straightforward.”

Pruitt proves this statement across her 10-track debut album that takes the listener into her innermost thoughts and personal revelations. She recounts personal experiences spanning the past four years – particularly moving away from her conservative North Atlanta suburb to attend Belmont University in Nashville, owning her sexuality and embracing her true identity in the process. “It was a pretty personal record,” she admits. “I knew I wanted to use these songs to tell my stories as accurately as I could.”

Pruitt uses this poignant body of work to share her journey to self-acceptance, beginning with “Wishful Thinking,” which confronts the false narrative that true love is as picture-perfect as we see in the movies; rather, it is embracing ones flaws is a true expression of love. She tackles mental health struggles in “My Mind’s a Ship (That’s Going Down),” which sees her surfacing from a state of depression, depicted through a mundane daily routine she’s longing to escape from. “For me, the answer to that was gratitude for things I already had instead of looking for things that I wish I had.” she explains. “I feel I keep having that revelation over and over again.”

But she ventures to a truly personal space with “Normal.” With a softly strumming guitar, Pruitt takes us inside the halls of her Catholic school where she said seven hail Mary’s for copping an attitude while feeling “scared as hell” because she knew she was different from her classmates. “I feel like a lot of times, I just did what I was told up until leaving Georgia. There wasn’t really much diversity, so I didn’t really have many examples of what living an individualistic life looks like,” she explains, conscious to add that she was raised by a community of “good people.” “I feel I looked around and everyone was wearing the same clothes brands and saying the same things and acting the same way, and it just started to seem pretty robotic. I started to really reject it the older I got.”

Using college as an escape, Belmont became a sanctuary for the young star, surrounded by creative, artistic people who broke gender norms and immediately welcomed into the LGBTQ community, a sense of belonging she didn’t always receive in her hometown. She captures this suffocating feeling in the stirring “Georgia,” which she cites as the most vulnerable song she wrote for the album. The stunning piano ballad takes a stark look at how Pruitt predicted her community and parents would react when coming out to them, envisioning her mother shouting at the top of her lungs and her father screaming with rage that he didn’t want a daughter whose soul wasn’t saved. “He thought if I told the world/They would not see me as the same girl/ They’d say I don’t belong/That’s where he’s wrong,” she sings with a voice that could shatter one’s heart like glass in the gentlest way.

But in spite of their initial opposition, Pruitt’s parents came to terms with her sexuality – in large part thanks to “Georgia,” which she almost didn’t include on the record. After having a conversation with her parents about the content of the song, they embraced the its message, knowing it could help others. “I love my parents. They’re great people – they just struggled with this, and now we’re in a great place. The thing about the song and this story is that it’s not unique to me, and there’s people that this could help.” Priutt says. “[My mom said] ‘If you really think there’s people that this could help, I agree with you that it’s important to share.’ Honestly that was like the biggest gift. Talking about the hard stuff has gotten us to a better place ultimately.”

Pruitt’s most awe-inspiring revelation shines in “Loving Her,” a heartfelt tribute to her girlfriend, Sam. Here, she fearlessly stands up for their love in the face of adversity, opening with a striking line that sees her giving up her spot in heaven if it means she can openly love another woman. “You see I used to be ashamed / To write a song that said her name / ‘Cause I was too afraid / Of what they all might say / But if loving her is wrong / And it’s not right to write this song / Then I’m still not gonna stop,” she sings delicately, but with confidence.

“Loving Her” serves as the crown jewel of self-acceptance on Expectations, a project that begins with self-questioning and doubt and comes full circle with the anthem she calls a “big realization.” “[It’s] not only a personal revelation, but a religious revelation,” she proclaims. “If there is a God, he’s not worried about if I’m gay or not. So that first line isn’t supposed to be knocking religion – I just don’t buy that God thinks like that, and I don’t think you should either. That’s breaking all these conventions that I’ve grown up being told and this is my new religion. This is what I believe now.”

With these heartfelt affirmations, Pruitt finds true self-worth, now living freely in her identity, a powerful evolution that she pours into her compelling debut record. “Through accepting myself, I can make room for actually loving someone for real,” she observes. “Nina Simone said it’s important to make art that reflects the times. [I do it] in a very small way, but it pushes society forward.”

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