With the release of her new album, Fall Into Me, it’s clear Katie Armiger has come of age. The album, a work of stunning maturity, also reflects the accomplished young star’s deepening confidence in her own abilities.
Armiger co-wrote every song on the 14-cut set not because she deliberately set out to do so, but because she had such a clear vision for the project that none of the many outside songs she considered seemed personal enough.
“I know it’s cliché to say, but it really is kind of a diary of my life in the last two years,” she says of the album.
Working once again with Grammy Award-winning producer Chad Carlson allowed Armiger to have quite a bit of control over the album’s direction, so she opted for a central theme: love in all its many forms. “The album is literally about falling in, falling out, and searching for that special something,” she says. “The songs take you on that journey.”
Armiger chose the title Fall Into Me, she says, because “whether or not you’re falling in love, or falling out of love, that sensation of falling is always involved.” Yet other than the defiant track “He’s Gonna Change,” the album’s songs tend to take a hopeful, optimistic tone about romance, and the prospect of finding it. It closes with the sweet ballad “Safe,” which perfectly captures the security of a love that feels just right.
Other standout tracks include “Playin’ With Fire,” about the heat and volatility of a less predictable romance; “Cardboard Boxes,” which cleverly uses moving cartons as a metaphor for both the beginning and end of a relationship; and the poignant, string-laden “Okay Alone,” an empowering song about slowly healing from a broken heart that fans who find themselves in a similar circumstance are likely to listen to on repeat. The album’s first single, the feisty top 40 hit “Better In A Black Dress,” also takes an empowering tone, and was the most successful of the 10 singles and videos she’s released in her career to date.
The material makes clear that Armiger is an adult. But like most former teen stars (she released her first album at age 15), she has had to struggle to show fans and the music industry that she’s grown up in the public eye. With this, her fourth album, she’s eager to reveal her true colors as an artist.
“I’ve always thought with my previous albums that I put myself out there and really opened up, and I don’t even think I knew what I was talking about until this album,” she says with a laugh.
Since the release of her previous album, Confessions of a Nice Girl, two and a half years ago, Armiger set out to take her time on this project. In the liner notes, she says “a lot of blood, sweat and tears” went into making it. But the process came with a lot of creative freedom as well.
“On this one, it was really great to just have that free rein to write what’s in my heart, what’s in my mind,” she adds. “Before, people said, ‘You can’t write about this topic or that topic because you’re too young.’”
While she branched out to work with several new co-writers on Fall Into Me—including internet phenom Megan Nicole, newly signed to Bad Boy/Interscope Records—for most of the songs Armiger chose to work with friends and trusted collaborators because of the intensely personal nature of the project
“Sometimes when you’re writing with new people, it’s hard to open yourself up until you’ve been writing with them for a certain amount of time,” she explains. “But when you schedule a writing session with someone that you’ve been friends with, that you know, it’s so much easier to just open up and let whatever you’re feeling out.”
It didn’t hurt that some of the friends she chose to collaborate with also happened to be among Nashville’s A-list songwriters. They include Blair Daly (Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw), Joe West (Julianne Hough, Toby Keith, Jimmy Wayne), Bruce Wallace (Dierks Bentley, Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry), Skidd Mills (Saving Abel, Sister Hazel) and MCA Nashville artist Mallary Hope, who also lends her background vocals to “Safe.”
Armiger and Carlson took a different tack on the production, choosing to create an album that’s a bit more stripped down than her previous efforts. “We really wanted there to be a lot of acoustic guitars, some really cool percussion moments, and we wanted to find that moment in each song where some instrument or some part could really shine through,” she says. “We also wanted the song content to speak for itself.”
Her previous collaboration with Carlson, Confessions of a Nice Girl, debuted at No. 6 on Amazon, No. 11 on iTunes, and No. 36 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, all thoroughly impressive statistics for an artist on an independent label. A single from that album, “Leaving Home,” has been used as the graduation song by more than 60 high schools nationwide since its release two years ago.
Growing up in Texas as one of six siblings, Armiger knew from a young age that she was destined to pursue a career in country music. After winning a talent contest at age 14, sponsored by a Houston radio station, she came to Nashville for the first time to record the demo sessions that were her prize. Those demos soon turned into a full album, which led to a recording deal with Cold River Records. By 16, she had an apartment in Nashville and was traveling back and forth from Texas regularly while being home schooled for her last two years of high school. A week after she turned 18, she made the move to Nashville more permanent.
She admits there have been some challenges that have gone along with starting a music career as a teen. “A lot of times when you’re young people don’t take you seriously, or they think you don’t know what you want,” the strong-willed star says. “You just have to prove them wrong. You have to keep making good music, keep releasing it and hope that you get the point across to them eventually that you’re not going away.”
Over the last six years, she’s been determinedly chipping away at the Nashville music system, making particular headway in the last two. She landed a coveted performance slot on the Grand Ole Opry, a gig she calls “such a dream come true.” (Armiger, in fact, named her dog “Opry” to mark the occasion). She also recently completed a 70-date college tour, which she amusingly titled the “Get Smart” tour. The GAC-sponsored run played to sold-out audiences nationwide, and was a tipping point for her career.
Touring hard has been a big part of her success to date. In 2012, Armiger and her band were typically on the road three weeks out of every month (with dog Opry in tow). Her extensive touring experience includes opening slots for some of country music’s biggest artists including Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, Darius Rucker, Josh Turner, Rodney Atkins and Kellie Pickler, among others.
Her success has also extended to the media, where she performed during a pivotal date on ABC’s hit show “Bachelor Pad.” Every video she has released in the last three years has been voted by fans onto GAC’s “Top 20 Countdown” including “Leaving Home,” which lodged itself in the countdown for an astonishing four-and-a-half months.
Fan votes also netted her the No. 1 spot in Country Weekly’s Hottest Bachelorette issue two years in a row, as well as the No. 3 slot in the magazine’s most beautiful women in country music list. Armiger jokes that those accolades bring with them their own set of pressures.
“I always feel honored,” she says, “but also a little bit anxious because I always want to try to live up to that and not go out of the house in my sweatpants with no makeup.”
Appearances aside, Armiger couldn’t be more proud of how Fall Into Me came together. She says of her considerable fan base, “I’m hoping that they can listen to the music and not only really get exactly where my head is, but can relate to it as well.”