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Katie and the Honky Tonks take major steps forward with release of new EP

A color image of Katie and the Honky Tonks at a bar. Katie is facing the camera, while the others are looking over the bar.
Devin Ferguson
Courtesy of the artist
Classic country band Katie and the Honky Tonks, a project of Katie Sires, have just released a four-song EP, representing a giant leap in Sires' development as a singer-songwriter-guitarist.

Two-Steppin’ in the Shower, the four-song EP from Cedar Falls classic country band Katie and the Honky Tonks, represents at least two giant leaps in the development of singer-songwriter-guitarist Katie Sires.

First, Sires had never recorded in a proper studio before the sessions for the EP. And second, she’d never released any of her original music, though she’s been writing songs for 15 years.

In an interview, Sires said she'd never felt comfortable releasing any of her original music for public consumption — until now.

“I am my own worst critic,” Sires said. “I’m extremely hard on myself, and I have never felt comfortable putting just my raw emotions for everyone to hear. I honestly never thought my songs would be good enough that people would want to listen to them.”

The March 1 release of the EP marked a turning point for the band, which traditionally has filled its sets with tastefully chosen country and Americana covers. The EP’s four original tracks celebrate classic honky tonk and lean heavily on twanging Telecaster and lap steel guitar. But those elements are just window dressing for Sires’ plaintive vocals and lovelorn lyrics, which recall the vintage country sounds of Kitty Wells and Loretta Lynn.

The band fully embraces the classic honky tonk moniker, right down to the Western attire they wear on stage, Sires said.

“We want people to do a double-take when they first hear the songs come on,” she said. “We’re from Iowa, but we want people to be like, ‘Whoa, is this band from Nashville or Austin?’”

Now, the EP sounds more like something that came from the Nashville of 1964, not the Nashville of 2024. And Sires acknowledges the classic sound doesn’t always fit comfortably alongside the music that dominates modern country radio and county fairs.

“That’s a thing that we kind of struggled with since day one,” she said. “We’ve always joked that the worst thing about being in a country band is telling people you’re in a country band because what plays on the radio has such a different sound now.”

Sires grew up in Gladbrook but moved to Cedar Falls in 2014 when she began dating her future husband, Luke, the band’s drummer. Luke worshiped country great Dwight Yoakam, and Katie explored Yoakam’s web of influence. She discovered like-minded artists, such as Margo Price and Nikki Lane, keeping the honky tonk flame alive, and she dove headfirst into the alternate universe of independent country music.

Katie and the Honky Tonks formed in 2019, but the pandemic stymied the band’s launch. They landed a gig in April 2021 with the “Local Legends” concert series at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls, which turned out to be a watershed moment, introducing them to a sizable audience for the first time. That gig helped them attract more opportunities, including a spot on the 2021 Big Country Bash in Saint Charles and a tour with Emily Nenni.

The band went through a lineup change in recent months, which gave them an opportunity to work on the original songs and hit the studio.

The EP was recorded live to two-inch tape, with minimal overdubs, over two days at Catamount Recordings in Cedar Falls. Travis Huisman engineered, mixed and mastered the project. It was Sires’ first experience in a recording studio, which caused her some anxiety, but she said Huisman helped her to feel comfortable enough behind the microphone to deliver quality vocal performances.

Two of the songs on the EP, the title track and “Boo Hoo,” are new compositions. The other two, “No Clue” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” go back a few years, though Sires said the band reworked them to fit the honky tonk aesthetic. In addition to Katie and Luke Sires, the band includes Brian McCarty on bass and Bryan Hendrickson on guitar. Roger Miller provided additional guitar and pedal steel for the EP, and Danny Mitchell added Hammond B3 organ.

The EP's release likely points to a future in which Katie and the Honky Tonks tips the scales more toward original music than covers, Sires said.

“It’s so cool that people will take time out of their day to listen to us because we’re just four dorks from Cedar Falls,” Sires said. “We hope everyone likes it.”

The EP launched on major streaming platforms on March 1, and CDs are available to order through the band’s Bandcamp page.

Katie and the Honk Tonks will perform a special candlelight concert at Three Pines Farm in Cedar Falls on April 14. Tickets for the event went on sale Friday through the Gallagher Bluedorn.

Fred Love is a contributing writer covering music for Iowa Public Radio. Love is a father, husband, communications professional and passionate music fan. He lives in Ames where he participates in the local music scene and is a co-producer of the Maximum Ames Music Festival. He blogs at