“You look like my shrink,” says Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) smiling. I describe the picture: it is five in the afternoon, we are at her hotel in Madrid and she, dressed in a white bathrobe, has gotten into bed in her room. Covered up to the neck by the duvet, she looks at me lying on her side with her head resting on the pillow. I am sitting in a chair, with my notebook. The recorder rests on the table between the two of us. No, it is not the usual thing in interviews, far from it. But she does it as if it were the most natural thing in the world and you accept it as if it were.
After all, it’s Cat Power. Anyone who has spent enough time in this business has gotten a story about her. Or several. Sometimes funny. Others, not so much. She is 46 years old, has been recording albums for 20 years, has long since entered the category of undisputed artists, must have traveled the world several times, has had one of those lives full of supersonic ups and colossal lows, and today she behaves with the freshness of that eccentric aunt from period films who travels the world with two trunks, a hat and a lace parasol.
She is still obsessed with being “real”, one of the words she repeats the most. That means it speaks its mind (it may be scattered, but it’s consistent) and it does what it feels like. If he’s in bed, it’s because it’s nap time. “On this tour, we leave after playing, so as not to get into the party routine after the concert. But you don’t sleep very well on the bus, and I take a hotel room to take a nap before going to the living room. By the way, what time is it? Ah well, I still have three hours.
“I am not an alcoholic. I have taken refuge in alcohol to survive depression. As a young man I felt such deep pain that living in a bottle was the only alternative to suicide.”
It is the same woman who has this memory of her first visit to Madrid: “I spent the afternoon with some people I had just met drinking in the street that thing you do mixing Coca-Cola and wine.” It was the mid-nineties and he went on stage with a monumental drunkenness. Unable no longer to act but simply to speak. “I do not remember. I’m sorry. I am not an alcoholic, but I have taken refuge in alcohol to survive depression. As a young man I felt such deep pain that living in a bottle was the only alternative to suicide ”.
That has been her life: Cat Power, with her tragic songs sung in a very sweet voice, was an admired artist. Chan Marshall, a tormented person. In 2006, just after publishing his eighth album, the beautiful The greatest, suffered a psychotic break and was admitted. The tour was postponed, leaving his finances in a precarious state. “In the end, that break was good. When I got back on the road I stopped drinking so much and discovered that alcohol was part of the cause of my stage fright ”.
His popularity grew. Even Karl Lagerfeld surrendered to her charms and it was the face of a Chanel collection. He even learned to metabolize annoyances in another way. When she broke up with actor Giovanni Ribisi, who married model Agyness Deyn shortly thereafter, Marshall, who had lived in Los Angeles as the mother of his partner’s teenage daughter, moved to Malibu and composed a luminous pop album. Even her new look, short hair dyed blonde, suggested a rebirth.
Sun was published in 2012 and reached the top ten of the best-selling albums in the US, its best position to date. But then the body failed him. “I had immunological, neurological and cardiovascular problems. My lymphatic system was wrecked. ” He assures that after an ordeal of doctors he found the solution in alternative therapies. Obviously, it does not seem very credible that holistic medicine would cure her as she claims, the fact is that she was recovered when she feared that the nightmare would begin again.
“In 2014 I was on tour in South Africa and I felt terrible. I thought, ‘Shit, not again.’ I was so fatigued all the time that I considered all kinds of possibilities: maybe it was the diet. Or he had caught HIV. I came back home. And then I assessed my symptoms. My breasts had grown, so I took the pregnancy test. And I was pregnant. I immediately called the father. We weren’t a couple, we just dated for five months and we were friends. The next call was to one doctor and then another. Before deciding to have my child, I wanted to be sure that my body was healthy. I was scared, so scared … Actually, when I received the news what I felt was fear. And I was like that until he was born. I kept thinking that I or my baby could die. I was terrified the whole process. And then I saw him and it was a revelation. Possibly the happiest moment of my life ”.
Boaz is now three years old. “He was with me until the concert in Berlin. I bring him ten days of touring and then he comes home for a week with a babysitter or he goes with his father, upstate New York. That’s great. I like that I spend time with him ”.
Chan and Boaz’s home is in Miami, in what seems like the final destination of a traveling life. She is a native of Atlanta, the daughter of a pianist from blues absent and a hippie mother who abandoned her in the hospital when she was born. “They found my grandmother and she came to pick me up. I received a lot of love from my grandmother. I have felt love throughout my life. From couples, from friends or from my dogs. But the one I feel for my son multiplies all of the above to infinity. And it grows without stopping ”.
“I had immunological, neurological and cardiovascular problems. My lymphatic system was wrecked “
What seems to have felt a lot is disappointment. The last one with his lifelong record company, Matador, which he abandoned when he rejected his new album, Wanderer. “It didn’t seem commercial enough to them. Already with Sun They pressured me, they told me they wanted an album of hits. I was surprised, because it is a record company indie and they are not supposed to care about such things. They wanted it to be Adele, something overproduced, with famous producers. And yet I did it all alone. I worked on it for four years, everything you hear on the album I did. But when it came out they lied to the press saying that Philippe Zdar had produced it, when he had only been mixing it for the last week. She wasn’t angry, she was disappointed. I felt manipulated, exploited … I completely lost confidence in them. But I did not tell him. I shut it up. I did something I had never done before: I got a manager. I learned from him that my lawyer had been a Harvard roommate with the director of my label. Then I understood a lot of conversations that I had had with my lawyer. I will not go into details, because they threatened to report me if I did ”.
Wait: how could you survive 20 years in music without a manager? “Because I thought those people were my friends. They said they were my family and I believed them. They directed my life, we had a lot of experiences together. I thought we cared about each other. I was flattered when they said, ‘Chan, you’re part of the family.’ They lied, they are liars. I felt terrible, but I didn’t have time for duels. I had to be myself, be real. Going forward, I couldn’t waste time ”.
He gets out of bed. “Do you want to smoke?” He asks. It’s forbidden, Chan. She takes a cigarette, opens the bedroom window and when she is about to light it she regrets it. “Would you like a coffee?” No thanks. “I’m going to get one. Have children?”. It is clear that for a few minutes she does not want to talk about herself. Any other artist would have closed the interview. She does not. “Did you like the album?” He says, getting back into bed. Yes I liked it. It is a return to the most folk part of his career. Beautiful and simple songs, but vigorous.
“When my son hears one of my old songs and recognizes my voice, he asks me: ‘Why are you crying?’
“I like that of vigorous. I don’t want them to sound sad. When my son hears one of my old songs and recognizes my voice, he asks me: ‘Why are you crying?’ So this album had to sound optimistic. I want to be strong”. Speaking of which, isn’t it weird that there hasn’t been a movement like #metoo in rock? “There could be. And it should. Because actually the motto of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll it is the origin of all these abuses. Create fake idols who think they can take anything they want. I am sure that the list of musicians who have committed abuses is long, endless. I have heard stories. But I don’t think such a movement will be born in rock. I’ve talked about it a lot with Lana ”.
Lana is King’s wool. They went on tour together in 2018 and collaborates on Woman, one of the songs on the album. “I met her years ago, at the pool at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. He approached me saying something like: ‘You are a goddess’. And I didn’t take it too well, I thought maybe he was laughing at me. I take this kind of thing that way. Later someone told me that he included me in the acknowledgments of his album. And it moved me so much, it reminded me of that time in the nineties when bands were throwing messages at each other from their records. It was something nice and sweet, made to connect. And I felt connected to her. And then we coincided at a charity festival, I went over to thank her for those words and she was moved and even cried a little. And when my company rejected the album, he spoke to me on Twitter. And she asked me to go on tour with her. It’s all love Lana and I have talked a lot about how hard it is sometimes to be a woman. And we have one thing very clear: we are not going to let ourselves win anymore. We owe it to ourselves. “
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.