Songwriter Kat Wodtke leads Andrew Koenig and Nick Lang (Ryan Necci & the Buffalo Gospel), along with Samual Odin (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), on a haunting journey of wide-open spaces and tight spots, each song blistering with heart and grit. 

With a penchant for the theatrical, Wodtke’s songs weave tall and not-so-tall tales of mountain manhunts, doomed honeymoons, stalled engines, and gravel roads into an experience as captivating as the landscapes she’s traveled. Her longtime love affair with classic country, folk, Americana, R&B, and punk music braids each into Long Mama’s singular sound. The band has shared stages with Amy LaVere & Will Sexton, Dead Horses, The High Hawks, Erik Koskinen, Her Crooked Heart, Jack Klatt, and Ben Dickey, among others. 

Wodtke grew up in the Milwaukee area, raised by two radical, musician-turned-teacher parents. Often left to wander through the stacks of People’s Books as a kid, she discovered a love of reading – devouring everything from Carson McCullers and Ralph Ellison to Sam Shepard and Tu Fu. In the basements and attics of Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, a gangly teenaged Wodtke was captivated by scrappy DIY bands that defied categorization and carved their own paths. Wodtke eventually moved to Minneapolis where she waited tables and immersed herself in the mercurial Twin Cities music scene. She traveled to Alaska for seasonal jobs, living in a small, secluded cabin. All the while, Wodtke observed and wrote, studying the curious characters who always seemed to hang their hats in her unsettled heart, whether they paid rent there or not.

With years of drifting in her rearview mirror, Wodtke made her way back home to Riverwest. After the death of a close friend in 2018, she struggled to make music. It took time – and a heap of patience and tenderness from friends and family – for her to pick up a guitar again. When she finally did, music became a raft – or maybe more like a submarine – through the strange wilderness of heartache and grief, loneliness and love, risk and abandon. With a growing collection of original songs and buoyed confidence, Wodtke coined the name Long Mama (after a prickly, shade-loving cactus) and teamed up with guitarist Andrew Koenig and drummer Nick Lang, a pair whose live chemistry adds glint and shadow to Wodtke’s musical landscapes. Upright bass ace Samual Odin came aboard soon after, along with regular collaborator Eva Nimmer, whose backing vocals blend so elegantly with Wodtke’s that one could mistake them for blood harmonies. 

Poor Pretender, Long Mama’s debut LP out October 28, was engineered by Erik Koskinen and recorded live over a long, snowy weekend in small-town Minnesota. The album showcases the band’s particular ability to conjure the beautiful in the broken, the silver in the ore. Shimmering below the surface of each song is Wodtke’s lived insight into our human faults and fissures: the moments in life when we can slip and lose our footing…or claw our way out, better people on the other side of the canyon.

Photo: Greg Jacobson / Photo Editor: Gabriella Cisneros