Music Video Premiere: Katie Burden’s “Don’t Ask”

by flaunt

Katie Burden’s music has a sound that is both geographically and temporally ambiguous. There’s an ‘unstuck-from-time’ quality to it that recalls the ghosts of music past—Jim Morrison, Siouxie Sioux—channeled through a powerful contemporary chanteuse, while structurally the songs often have a shambling, nomadic quality that reflects her own relatively unmoored existence. Having lived in Colorado, San Francisco, NYC, and (since 2012) Los Angeles, it seems it was the formative years she spent in the “hippie town” of Telluride that have had the most lasting influence on her outlook. She thanks the trademark down-to-earth Colorado spirit in which she was raised for her easy-going mindset towards life and towards music, which leaves her “open to having a song veer off its original course.”

This philosophy presented itself while she was recording her new single, “Don’t Ask.” Regarding the process she says, “When I wrote this song it was about an experience that was very private to me. I kept the lyrics vague because it was the only way I could feel comfortable presenting it to people at the time. Originally when I wrote it, I envisioned it as a bare bones, understated song but when we tracked it for the album it took on a new life that was very big and polished. It wasn't what I had planned but I like that about it. As far as the video is concerned I wanted to be able to totally lose myself and really get into the emotion of the song but I felt so self aware when I knew I was being filmed. I was hung up on the idea of having dancing in the video so Marta the director found this fantastic dancer who internalized the song and interpreted in such a beautiful way. That was really exciting to see.”

“Don’t Ask” has a wistful aura laced over with a commanding voice, singing lyrics that hint at currents of trouble beneath a pretty service. The video has a furtive noirish feel, showing Burden holed up in a dark hotel room, smoking nervously, peaking through drawn blinds for something coming. What is she hiding from? “I got to this point in life where I was completely miserable and alone and instead of confronting myself I spent all my energy making the people around me think that I was doing ok,” Burden says. “I was in a crisis and no one really knew because I was telling people what I thought they wanted to hear.”

But it’s not all resignation. Summing up the strength to be true to herself, she repeats with growing fortitude the refrain of the song: “I’m not for sale.” Burden explains: “Eventually I got to a point where I was in so much psychological pain that it just got to a tipping point and all of the sudden everything was out in the open. The gig was up; I wasn't trying to sell half-truths anymore and it was liberating.”

Written by Sid Feddema