Cat Power: ‘I didn’t know I loved myself when I was younger’

Erratic stage shows, psychotic breakdowns, rehab… Cat Power’s chaotic life is in direct contrast to her soulful music. Now a new album and motherhood have given her a profound sense of calm

Cat Power, whose real name is Chan Marshall, meets me in the lobby of her London hotel, and things do not go as expected. First, she is warm and inviting, when her smoky, melancholy records had led me to expect someone much more remote. And second, she is immediately in full swing with her impersonation of my English accent. “Life in the old dog yet, eh!” she says, after we decide to go to her room to avoid the noise and the smoking rules. “Good old Blighty!” she adds, as we get into the lift. I didn’t see this coming – not from a woman who grew up in the Deep South of the US, where she learned to sing about drunks and devils and depravity while dodging them, and has been dodging them ever since. I didn’t know she’d be funny.

“Aaaaand relax,” the 46-year-old says, sitting down on the rooftop balcony of her hotel room, after opening a bottle of red wine from the minibar and lighting cigarettes for us that she keeps in a leather pouch she bought in Mexico. As we talk, she tops up my glass but not her own, “I can get you drunk, but not me,” she says, because she has to go on stage tonight. If you’re a fan of Cat Power’s music, you might be thinking: “Well, hang on a minute, she was drunk the last time I saw her live, in fact she turned her back on the audience, muttered something inaudible, stopped in the middle of three songs and then walked off.” Such erraticism is indeed something her live shows became known for; in her own life there were psychotic breakdowns, and she went to rehab for alcohol and prescription-drug addiction.

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