Cat Power hasn't broken into the mainstream, but she proves she has nine lives

Written by
Time Out Tel Aviv Writers

She is not afraid of ghosts singing through her, and she could care less about record labels. Cat Power returns with her 10th album and continues to establish herself as an exceptional artist in the music industry.

By Nitzan Pincu

"My mother abandoned me on the day I was born. My grandmother came to the hospital to take me and she raised me as if I were her daughter, until I met my mother for the first time when I was two and a half years old. From that moment, all the love, care, and protection that every child on this planet deserves, has been given to me in the formative years of my life, and this has made me become the person I am today," says Chan Marshal, aka, Cat Power. Then she begins to cry.

It was supposed to be a standard interview for Cat Power's new album, "Wanderer". The plan was to talk about motherhood, her collaboration with Lana Del Ray and the record label that wanted her to sing like Adele and then dropped her when she refused to cooperate. But Marshal is not a standard woman. During the interview she bursts into tears three times, weaving a network of theories about the power of music, the deception of big corporations and her long-standing relationship with ghosts.

Her new and 10th album is a development for her, but in some ways leaves her at the same point. Cat Power is a familiar name for indie lovers, but has never broken beyond her status as a cult artist that is known to musicians with a fondness for melancholy guitar. This album is an attempt to break out. The collaboration with Lana Del Ray in "Woman" and the cover to the hit song "The Stay" by Rihanna were meant to bring her closer to a new audience that did not necessarily grow up on her albums from the end of the nineties. However, despite the favorable reviews from the indie media, the protest songs against Trump and the devoted audience that has followed her over the years, the album did not create the expected crossover to the mainstream.

The conversation with 46-year-old Marshal is fascinating, and is sometimes reminiscent of a preacher in church. She repeats words, emphasizes them and sometimes even spells out the things she says. She uses biblical metaphors, such as metadata from another dimension and water that split in two, but unlike a preacher, she repeats the sentence "I don't know what I'm talking about." Marshal opens her heart entirely - with the generosity of a creator, who finds it more important to be heard than to be understood.

With the release of her new album, Marshal was interviewed quite a bit about her former record label Matador, who expected her to record an album that would sound like Adele. This disappointing demand has so far overwhelmed Marshal. Her previous album, "Sun", was an unprecedented commercial success for her, but the success was bitter because she did not receive credit for the production. When I ask her about it, she bursts into tears and says that this is the first time she has been asked about it. "They created a contract behind my back and used my advance money without me knowing. I became so sick from the stress that when the album came out, I collapsed completely."

Cat power © Eliot Lee Hazel

"They learn how to make money out of people! Fuck them!" She continues angrily. This industry is so powerful, these are corporations! Firms! Their spectacles are huge, they feed each other. They went to Harvard to learn how to make money out of people, they want to take advantage of you and take every drop of blood from you, not to serve you, not to serve humanity. Making money for the corporation, not for the artist, not for the message, the music industry was not created for the artists."

Marshal sees a direct connection between the record labels' treatment to the birth of her son, which she carried in her womb while recording the album. She built her studio during the recordings, so that the works of the album and of the child are closely related to her. "I cannot let them take anything away from me again, especially now; I have to create a safe place for my child. There was a significant spiritual change in my life ... When I became a mother I felt more of a human being than ever." When I ask how she recommends that artists avoid such a situation, she breathes deeply and answers: "If you are good, they will find you. If you don't trust them, do not work with them."

Suitable for a tenth album, "Wanderer" has a feeling of coming full circle. Accordingly, throughout the conversation, Marshal often returns to her childhood and to the opportunities she was not given. "When I was in high school in the south, and was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said that I wanted to be a comedian and make people laugh, or that I wanted to be a journalist and go to cover wars to understand what was happening in the world. Then I thought about studying child development and become a child psychologist - that's what I would have done if I had gone to college, but the one thing I think I've always wanted to be, and I feel we all want, is to be happy. "

Although Marshal is an admired artist, she carries a sense of missed opportunity. In interviews with her, she once again notes her disappointment that she was unable to go to college. When asked why she is not going to study now, she answers enthusiastically: "I have a plan: my son, whom I hope will understand me when he is a teenager, when he wants to go to college, I will be happy to go with him. I'm not doing it alone. I'll be fucking 64 years old! Do you think I want to go alone? "

On the threshold of the other dimension

Marshal's music has a strong presence in the supernatural world. Like the "Moon Pix" album, released 20 years ago, "Wanderer" also feels like ghosts are bursting out of the songs. "Black" is sung from the perspective of a ghost of a drug addict who died. "My relationship with this dimension has invited itself to my life and my dreams since I was three," she says. "It seems to be related to the folklore of my Native-American heritage, part of my inheritance, of the experience. The first few times it happened to me, I instinctively knew that it was a secret, a good secret, and when it comes to me now I don't want to feel the fear that is expected of me. I choose to talk about it, to remember. I tell it to friends, neighbors, band mates. For some people it sounds normal and for some not ... I have always been on the threshold of this dimension and we always played together in my music...It is part of the consciousness of who I am. There are many people who are unaware that they have this connection to a previous life. I think that all our lives we are on the threshold where the other dimension is available to us, and we need help with it. I don't know what I'm talking about."

Cat power © Eliot Lee Hazel

Marshal treats herself as having been rescued by music. In her youth she was surrounded by drug addicts in the harsh towns of the southern United States, and lost many of her friends to addictions. She talks about the voices of Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan as the ones who led her out of this darkness. "All I have, and what I really know, is how I feel, through those voices that helped me break away from my pain. That's the only thing that makes the pain disappear, without shooting myself or taking heroin. When I was young and started recording songs, my soul was tired and had no idea why. I didn't know how to talk, like I am with you, today. Music is a savior," she says. "When you look out of a window, your eyes are drawn up - to the light, to the stars that illuminate the darkness...maybe there is only that...Maybe there's nothing, no music to hear in your surroundings. But my soul definitely understands what it means to feel secure and to be rescued through music. I don't know, maybe because my brain thinks he knows what my soul feels, that I don't know myself, I have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about." When I laugh, she says, "You see how we laugh, this laughter is freeing, it's free! That's why in every kingdom there were court clowns. Laughter and love are the only way of getting out of this hell."

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