When songwriter Katie Bennett decided to retire Free Cake For Every Creature back in 2019, it was never intended to signal an ending. It was instead, she tells me during our recent phone conversation, a movie toward intention, a way to close the door on one part of her creative life in hopes of opening the nearest window. The years since that announcement, tumultuous ones to be sure, have seen Bennett explore the role music and creativity play in her life. She continued to make music but also scratched the itch to expand her writing, tackling longform nonfiction as well. This time also saw her leave Philly for a time, only to return with a deeper commitment toward art and the prominent role she wished it to have in her life.

The result is a new album with a brand new, if deceivingly simple, moniker; The Woman In The Moon, released under the name Katie Bejsiuk – a nod toward her family’s original Ukrainian surname. Coming out a few weeks back on Double Double Whammy Records, it’s a record that remains as sticky and sweet as the most accomplished songs of Bennett’s career. That being said, there’s a weathered, late-night quality here, a perspective that shifts subtly but meaningfully. Where Free Cake songs would grab moments and hold tight, Katie Bejsuik is now embracing the fleeting nature of everything while acknowledging and exploring the long, complicated impression those moments leave behind.

“The progression of the album is loosely linear,” says Bennett of The Woman In The Moon’s structure. “There’s birth, childhood years, teen years, then later me as an adult.” You can read the entirety of our conversation below and see her at The Woman In The Moon release show this Tuesday, July 19 at Johnny Brenda’s; more information can be found at the WXPN Concerts and Events page.


Katie Bejsuik - Feels Right

Sean Fennell: Can you tell me a little bit about the album title and what The Woman On The Moon means to you?

Katie Bejsiuk: That’s a good question. There’s a real answer that I have never really actually talked about before. A lot of what I was thinking about when I was making this record was following my own path in the world, not the prescribed path of adulthood but just navigating it in my own way and what that would mean to me. What that means to me now is having creativity and having art and music in my life. The title The Woman On The Moon is thinking about the moon as a direction I am heading in and being a point to follow, a kind of personal north star.

SF: Was finding your own way and resisting what you call the “prescribed path” something you had to work through when first starting out as a creative person?

KB: Definitely. I went to college and I think the expectation was that I would jump into a full-time job. I think that is the expectation for most people, especially in my family where I don’t really have any examples of creative people, so I didn’t have any guidance on what it could look like to be an artist. So I kind of had to figure it out on my own, which I think is the case for a lot of people. It meant looking to other artists to see how they do things and also just following instincts and what felt right for me. I found that, for  myself, playing in bands and doing creative things as much as possible feels really good to me. So I’ve tried to make that a really big part of my life. Not just this hobby but something really active, big, and important.

Free Cake for Every Creature - All You Gotta Be When You're 23 is Yourself - Live at WVAU

SF: When you decided to end Free Cake For Every Creature did you always intend to move onto other projects?

KB: I think in some way I just fell into that project. I just started making music, learning how to play guitar, and writing songs when that project started. I knew that I was really interested in what I was doing with making music. It was really fun but I didn’t necessarily intend for that moniker to grow with me and to become the band that it became, but it was really fun and exciting. I think the whole time I had this idea that I was still learning and practicing. I am also a writer. I started recently writing with more intention and publishing things here and there. I always wanted to do some writing as well. I think with this new project as Katie Bejsuik, it does feel like the intention is there and this is something that is considered and feels like a real expression of my artistic identity in the way that Free Cake For Every Creature didn’t always feel. Even though of course it was still me and I really am glad for that band and that experience.

SF: People probably always make too big of a deal about the move for an artist to go from a moniker or band name to something closer to their own name, as in your case, but is there any thought or worry that people will listen to the music now and assume that is 100% biographical since you’re going by Katie?

KB: I’m not really worried about that. In my writing, I write nonfiction, so I am okay with saying that, for the most part, what I am writing is always autobiographical. I don’t have any qualms about sharing that. But I think that in songwriting, in a way, it is different from writing a personal essay. There is space for mystery because lyrics can be a little more opaque, a little more poetic and you can lean on imagery more instead of telling someone explicitly about your life. So there can be some shades and shadows where you can couch some of the personal details. But, at the end of the day, I am not worried about people thinking it is autobiographical because it is.

SF: Considering you’ve taken on more nonfiction writing since the end of Free Cake For Every Creature, do you think that’s changed the way you write for this project, especially when delving into specifics?

KB: Yeah, definitely. A lot of the stuff I’ve written I haven’t even shown anyone but just the practice of writing personally, and the monthly newsletter I’ve been writing about my life, are both really helpful for my songwriting because I get to practice writing honestly about my experiences and what is going on in my life. I get to understand what subject matters are interesting to me. There are actually songs I’ve written, like “Onion Grass”, that I wrote an accompanying personal essay. I think I actually started with the essay for that one and then made it into a song as well. They are totally different and explore different facets of a similar experience but they definitely complement each other.

Katie Bejsuik - Onion Grass

SF: I’m curious how it works logistically when you get very specific in songs, like when you write about your sister and your relationship on this latest record. How do you go about sharing the songs you’ve written that might address them directly?

KB: This is similar to writing about people in longer essay form as well. It really depends. Every writer needs to come up with their own code about this. For me, I’ll speak on that song specifically. I’ve written various things about my sister before. You definitely want to give someone warning because it is surprising to see someone writing about you. I totally understand that. Before the album came out I told my sister, listen, I wrote this song and you are a part of it and it is partially about you but it is also about these bigger ideas of inheriting larger family dynamics. I told her, I want you to know that I wrote it with love and it is about you but also about how things happen between sisters and how it isn’t always gentle but it is the honest truth. She listened to it and she was really appreciative that I prefaced it with love. I didn’t write it to shit on her or anything. She really appreciated and understood that and I think that really helped.

SF: This is a solo record, of course, but I did notice you brought in a lot of collaborators. Can you tell me a little bit about the recording process?

KB: The recording process was a little convoluted, of my own design. At first I was thinking, okay I can do it with a band but I will write the songs, the chords and kind of the skeleton of it, and then I’ll just bring in the same three people and they will put their stuff on top of it. But then I realized that this was an opportunity for me to do something new and I had to really think about what I wanted to do differently. What I came up with was that I wanted it to be basically a little more chill. I wanted it to feel like something you could listen to at two in the morning alone rather than an upbeat poppy album. So I kind of just started recording it myself. I had recorded the last Free Cake album with my partner but it had been many years since I’d done that so I was kind of relearning how to use Logic and getting a new microphone, just slowly working my way into the recording process. A lot of the songs on the album are actually second or third or fourth drafts. As I was doing that, I realized my limitations as a musician. I know how to play basic guitar for my songs and a lot of the secondary keys or guitar are still me, but there is only so much I can do. So for some dynamics I brought in my friend Peter Gill on pedal steel and my friend Ian Wan who can play harp and Will Hendrickson on violin. So there are all these different dynamics on the record that I wouldn’t have been able to do myself.

Katie Bejsiuk’s album The Woman on The Moon is out now; she headlines Johnny Brenda’s on Tuesday, July 19th, tickets and more information on the concert can be found at WXPN’s Concerts and Events page.