Nashville singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt may not have much in this world, she readily admits. But she’s got the most valuable commodity of all: elbow room. As a spinoff from the Socratic theory that “The unexamined life is not worth living,” this tattooed daughter of legendary tunesmith John Hiatt firmly believes that having the time and space for daily reflection is a luxury she can afford.
“And I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in my life in order to preserve that place for myself, but it’s been worth it,” she says. So the apartment she’s shared for years with her faithful black cat Poppy may be dinky. “But I have this space that’s just mine. And sometimes it gets lonely, but it also allows me the room to breathe and to write the way that I want to.”
That’s where Hiatt, 35, retreated to pen her last breakup-themed Trinity Lane confessional in 2017, which earned her an Americana Music Association Emerging Act of the Year nomination. And it’s where she pieced together Walking Proof, its more whimsical, diary-detailed followup for New West that boasts studies of her sister Georgia Rae (the vibrato-twangy “Rae”), Nashville (a chugging “Some Kind of Drug,” with dad himself on backing vocals), the potentially-destructive power of the touring life (the toe-tapping title track), and the pursuit of stardom, in general (via the rock anthem “Never Play Guitar”). Produced by ex-Cage the Elephant guitarist Lincoln Parish, the confident set sparkles with other well-wishers including Amanda Shires, Luke Schneider, and Aaron Lee Tasjan.
The phrase “Walking Proof” occurred to Hiatt at the end of her exhausting “Trinity Lane” juggernaut. “It just rolled off my tongue and made sense,” she recalls. “I was going home and flying out of Idaho at 2:00 in the morning, and I just thought, ‘Man, I’ve really been around doing this thing for a hot second here, and I feel really good like I’ve got this. And I was also thinking about my friend’s daughter, who is a tiny person in this world, and what all is ahead of her and how exciting that is.”
When she arrived home in the dead of winter, she adds, “I had a lot on my mind and a lot to write about, and winter is a great time to go into my own worlds and spin a narrative off of what I’ve been experiencing.”
The older Hiatt is quite proud of his offspring’s DIY work ethic. “She’s doing great, and she’s done this all on her own,” he recently marveled. Although her “Slug Line”/“Bring the Family”-renowned father was only in the studio with her for a one-day session, she still felt a tad intimidated. “And as with anybody I admire, working with them you’re like, ‘I sure hope this goes well,’” she says. “But it did, and it always does.”
Ultimately, Hiatt will trust an animal over a human being any day of the week. “So my cat means everything to me,” she says. “She’s 13, but she’s still young and playful, so I feel like she’s going to make it into her 20s.” And when the songs don’t come, do they curl up watching Netflix together? She laughs. “Not always. But yeah, sometimes!”