For Kelsey Kopecky and the Kopecky Family Band, secrets are unacceptable. And it's a rule that Kopecky makes sure everyone knows.
"If I have a long-term boyfriend, one of our agreements is, 'Listen, part of you agreeing to be my partner is that a lot of my process is processing this in this part of my heart, and that might get ugly sometimes,'" the Kopecky Family singer says. "'I will be publicly releasing songs that talk about our dirty laundry. If that's cool with you, then we can continue with this.'"
And when it comes to the content that makes it onto the band's records, you never have to wonder what Kopecky is singing about or if she is holding anything back. "I can't filter things," she laughs. "I feel like a filter puts all these layers that hinder what music really is, and what it's meant to be. Someone might say, 'Whoa, that song made that person sound like the enemy,' but from my perspective, this is how I'm choosing to process [a situation]. That's your unique opportunity as the writer — you get to speak your opinion."
The Nashville-based indie rock band, which formed in 2007 and has released three EPs and a full-length album since then — 2013's Kids Raising Kids — and because of the outfits hectic touring schedule, Kopecky and her bandmates can't afford to be picky about when and where they practice.
"Last year we were on the road for about 10 months, so we had to throw away the book as far as how we create," Kopecky says. "We just let the creativity be the process and tried to get another 10 minutes in soundcheck if need be. So people in the venue and other bands are hanging out and listening to us going, 'Wait, wait. What about this melody?!' I think that's freed us up to be not so secretive or so tense about when creativity strikes."
Creatively, the band tries its hand at a handful of styles on Kids. "Wandering Eyes" is an indie rock gem filled with groovy hooks and choruses, and "My Way" has an echoing, '70s-era pop vibe. The band's biggest single so far, the infectious "Heartbeat," is a retro-rock crowd-pleaser that will have you dancing in the streets. But the classic folk track "Change" is the album's deepest moment, as it looks at love and relationships from three very personal perspectives.
"'Change' is like a diary entry. It's exactly from my perspective," says Kopecky. "There's not a lot left up to interpretation. Every verse tells a different piece of what my understanding of love is from the people who are the most important to me. The first one is my mom telling me when she knew she and my dad were over. The next verse is my sister telling me that she is ecstatic about her husband and believes it will be forever. And the last verse is my dad telling me, 'If I could go back, I'd change things and not want to get a divorce.'"
Kopecky does not pretend that laying such deeply personal stories out for all to hear is an easy thing, because it definitely is not. But it's necessary. Not only does this allow her to create unique, authentic moments in the band's songs that are personally fulfilling, but she also believes this honesty resonates with fans.
"There are a lot of people that are affected by the truth of life," Kopecky says with a sober laugh, "and it's hard. But being honest like that is therapeutic for me. And in that vulnerability I feel very connected to the audience. I feel like laying my heart out is one of the most beautiful offerings I can give for others, because everybody has their own story too, so maybe we can feel more unified if they know I don't have my stuff together either."
And with that sort of honesty where anything goes, lyrically, it comes as no surprise that anything goes, musically, for the band too. At the start of the group's career, its EPs were lush, atmospheric indie rock records; but as time has gone on, the Kopecky and company have embraced the idea of going wherever their creative impulses take them. That can be a difficult decision for some bands to make, fearing fan backlash, but the singer-songwriter welcomes the challenge.
"Sometimes you hear fans say, 'The first record was like this, but the new one's like this, and I don't like it. They went in the wrong direction,'" Kopecky says. "And for me, as a music listener, I guess I have a different understanding because I'm like, 'Man, this whole thing is an experiment. Everything is completely flexible and moving — not static.'"
Kopecky is in awe of music and the power it possesses, which is a big reason why she gets a thrill out of creating songs that will eventually be shared with the world. She cannot always predict how a certain track will go over with listeners, but that's a secondary concern compared with the greater experience of simply letting the music do whatever it needs to do.
"Music kind of stops us in our tracks and lets us almost be childlike again where we can just be OK with what's happening and be present," she says. "It brings us back to the present moment of 'Whoa! What is this song doing?'"