By Arne Sjostedt
What do you do when you get what you want, but it almost breaks you? When picking up your guitar to sing another show is actually the only thing that makes you feel good again?
When she came out as a solo artist under the moniker of KIT, one fourth of folk/alt country super group All Our Exes Live in Texas Katie Wighton decided to make a statement about something close to her heart.
Now, she isn’t scared of men any more, more or less. Only she has had plenty of reason to be. It’s not just that she has been in the music industry for several years, where predatory males have long avoided formal scrutiny, as the balancing act of courtship and appropriate behaviour gets more and more blurred. She has also found herself in one or two scrapes with dodgy people that would leave anyone wary.
That’s right. There is a reason, perhaps, that I have imagined marketing a LED laden t-shirt or a COVID-19 like tracker that could be used to show people the potential availability of a fellow clubber.
No doubt that is a future in the making. And if it isn’t a Black Mirror episode, it could be.
But in the meantime, we have people like Wighton taking up the challenge to call poorly behaved men out on a few of their poorer traits.
But within all of this, this angelic vocalist has been there to answer the call to arms that has taken her and the rest of All Our Exes Live in Texas to the stage more times than her mum has watched Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Or somewhere in that vicinity. So much so that the band, who literally blew up over the past four or five years into an act that anyone one who was anyone knew about, are taking a much deserved breather from performing together.
Which is how Wighton’s KIT project came about.
“It’s so great. I’m having the best time. I’m really really loving making something completely different,” she says.
As for the Exes, “Everyone is doing their own solo stuff,” she says, “Which has been really good. We’re still really keen to make music again together, we’re just sort of not pushing it at the moment. We are just waiting until we’ve had our own time and we feel like we can do it for just the music’s sake.”
She is not dismissive of the wonderful opportunity the amazing four-part harmony, folk set up the Exes gave the world, which so many who saw them perform have cherished long since watching them leave the stage. Opportunity which saw the band tour internationally multiple times, win an ARIA and skip across continents like rocks darting across a pond.
Wighton is, however, a little worn out.
“It became such a big thing and it became more than just about the music. So we took a bit of a step back and we’re going to make music again. It’s nice to have a bit of a break from the touring and the hectic schedule we had for ourselves.”
Though the touring troubadour model for breaking bands is a long tried one, with the metamorphosis that has occurred inside the recording industry, where bands as popular as the Exes can find themselves without tour managers or the kind of support structures acts of yesteryear may have had around them, it is little wonder Wighton looks over her last few years with more than a little discomfort.
“It’s really hard to have a sustainable career when you don’t have any money,” Wighton says frankly. “Some times you look back on the time and think, ‘How did we get there? How did that happen?’ And I think a big thing is that the Australian music industry is not built around a sustainable blue print. Unless you get huge success on Triple J one of the only ways to make money and one of the only ways to make a name is to tour heaps. And go back to the places all the time. So we were trying to do lots of regional touring, we were trying to do lots of international touring, we were doing lots of international touring. We went back to America four times in one year.”
Driving at least three hours a day, at one point doing 26 shows in 35 days, Wighton would defy anyone to not need a break after such a punishing schedule. But as they say, success is a bitch and sometimes you just have to learn to ride it.
“It’s a very difficult life. That being said, it’s an incredible opportunity, and I would go through bouts of being so guilty that I would be having a hard time. Because people would kill for that experience and opportunity. So that feeling of wanting to be grateful for what you’ve been offered, and the support we got, we had so much support from the music industry.”
Saying it was the performances themselves that were the highlights of this heavy touring schedule, it is in the bright lights and fancy dressing rooms where Wighton feels like a star.
“People would come up and tell us these lovely stories about where they first heard our music. Having the opportunity to connect with people like that is just so beautiful. And that was totally what kept us going.”
Onto her latest incarnation as KIT, Wigthon has stepped out once again in style, and given us a luscious, driving chorus reminiscent of the best of Mia Dyson.
Teaming up with producers Dave Symes (Boy and Bear, Sarah Blasko, Missy Higgins), James Seymour (Merpire, Eaglemont) and Liz Drummond, for her first single Good Guy she has also made sure she has come out with a significant statement about her experiences as a woman.
“I’ve had terrible experiences after gigs, and of men being really inappropriate,” Wigthon explains, recounting a time she was trapped in an Uber.
"I was cowering against the window and was like, 'Please let me out of the car.' And he was like 'Ok, and stopped at the traffic lights in four lanes of traffic and was like, 'Get out.' And I was like ' I can't get out of here, my suitcase in in the boot.' And then he drove for another few kilometres and I was like 'Please let me out, please let me out.' And he wouldn't let me out of the car."
Eventually being let out at the end of a dark street in industrial Mascot, "My deep primal urges kicked in and I was like, survive, don't get killed, whatever you do don't get killed. Make yourself small, be silent," she recalls.
Though it is not just her experiences that Wighton used as inspiration.
For the track, which was co-written with Ali Barter, the songtress has a video of a supposed nice guy turning up to dates hiding a demonic side underneath his everyman-esq cap.
Saying men can't be the good guy if they act like the bad guy, “I had a chat with a friend and she was telling me about this thing that had happened. And out of context the guy wasn’t the worst person in the world at all. He just did the wrong thing. And no-one around him were like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if that the was cool. I feel that you shouldn’t have done that'.
“And then I listened to Angie McMahon sing I Am A Woman. And it’s this achingly angry song. She is really deeply furious but also heart broken at the same time. And I sort of took the heartbreak out of it.”
Wighton next describes a swag of behavioural traits that are common among women, which many men may not even be aware of. Like being frightened of our broad shoulders and scary voices. Or how women don't feel entitled to get angry, carry keys between their fingers or pretend to be on the telephone, out of fear of some unknown, though perhaps not always benign, masculine threat.
“I feel like we as women we are not really encouraged to get mad. That’s not a muscle that many of us have really exercised," she explains.
“Men have to listen to women and go, 'Oh shit, I didn’t know that we are scary.' It’s hard. I can’t image how difficult it would be to accept,” she hesitates. “It’s hard to stand up for yourselves sometimes if you feel unsafe. Which is where I feel it is important for men to step in in those moments. As much as woman can’t be silenced, and men can’t do the talking for us, they can say to friends, ‘Hey don’t do that, it’s not ok.’ You don’t have to respond with violence, but men are more likely to listen to other men.”
Though for Wighton, the response to toxic and hurtful masculine behaviour isn’t just about getting angry or seeking recompense.
“There has to be a consequence. And there doesn’t seem to be.
“There has got to be consequences, forgiveness, a change in behaviour and a change in expectation. That’s where I think progress happens. You don’t get progress from no-one apologising and someone staying angry forever,” she says.
Though she is also fast to acknowledge that not all of us with that Y chromosome are monsters, or unwilling to see things from the female’s perspective.
“I feel like as a side note there is a community of really incredible musicians and people in my life, and particularly at the moment. There are a lot of really positive things happening, and as much as there is this undercurrent of things we need to fix there are also some really beautiful things happening."
Check out KITs Facebook profile here to connect.