Spotlight: Cat Power
Given Chan Marshall's reputation as a lugubrious songstress and sometimes-unhinged performer, it's hard to know what to expect upon entering into conversation with her.
Not surprisingly, Marshall's mind wanders far and wide over the course of 20 minutes, from the club fire in Rhode Island and what effect that might have on her own performances to our stupid president and fighting with her boyfriend. In truth, it's pretty difficult to pin her down on her new Matador release, You Are Free -- the reason we're speaking.
The album, Marshall's first set of originals since 1998's haunting Moon Pix, is concerned with being good, being free, and is marked by the elegiac tenor of her previous work. Marshall infuses each baldly confessional track with lyrics so raw that someone wrote recently that Marshall's songwriting was therapy. The singer isn't necessarily disposed to agree.
"Therapy is someone you're paying to tell you that you're OK because you know you are in the first place, you just need a confirmation," posits Marshall. "I don't think that writing songs is the same, but sometimes journalists set stuff up for you, because they just want the answer they want. That's why I write music, because I fucking can't say what I mean."
In fact, it seems that Marshall is the only person who doesn't really care if she's a rock star. She's consistently portrayed as peevishly cagey when asked about the famous guest stars on You Are Free (Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder, for those of you keeping score) but insists that the strategy is just another media angle to shape her persona.
"I don't want to talk about famous people -- fueling that machine is a danger zone."
And perhaps that's why interviewing Chan Marshall is such a trip: Her playful coyness in person forces you to turn back to the music for the answers you seek.