PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Trivett
THE superb Kat Cunning has been discussing her great single...
Birds and how it came to life. I was keen to know if there is more material coming and what sort of music Cunning is inspired by; how important it is to be an advocate of L.G.B.T.Q.+ rights and body positivity – she picks a couple of rising artists that we need to get involved with.
I wanted to find out if there are tour dates coming up and how, as an actor, that discipline blends with her music work; how she relaxes outside of music and a few albums that mean a lot to her – Cunning selects a great song to end the interview with.
Hi, Kat. How are you? How has your week been?
STELLAR! Played a showcase in London where David Bowie used to track; released my single, Birds, and I’m gearing up to release the video to follow. Most importantly, I got to watch plane movies on my way back...Heaven.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Alt-pop? Inclusive? Sexual? Soul influence? Hot fire? It’s so hard to describe yourself but I’m often compared to vocalists like Florence and The Machine and Fiona Apple. I think it’s less about how I sound and more about the feel of the music. I write songs that mean something to me and I put my heart into them.
Birds is your new single. What is the story behind it?
When I wrote this song, I didn’t even know what it was about: it just fell out of my mouth. It felt like a nursery rhyme until the symbolism of the birds revealed themselves to be a metaphor for anxiety and insomnia. This song is for anyone who has ever been agitated, bothered or gone completely mad.
Me, personally, I sing the song to combat the voices in my own head and the structures that are built inside and outside of me, designed to hold me back. Metaphor is cool that way. It doesn’t really shove my experience at you. You can hear your own story in the song.
Might there be more material coming later in the year?
Lots of stuff cookin’. I have two songs in particular that I’m already so excited to release and a forthcoming E.P. THIS FALLLL! I’m dead. It’s been so long; I can’t wait to share it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Marc Harris Miller
You are an advocate of body positivity and the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community. How important is that to you?
I am a curvy and strong person. I am always being reminded that my body is weird, extra: specifically female or utterly sexual. I don’t see women like me on T.V. that play anything other than hookers and vixens. Body positivity is important to me because I feel underrepresented and I know and love so many women in more extreme cases that feel the same. The Internet is starting to turn the tides when it comes to user-generated imagery - we’re showing you what we want to show you and affirming what we want to see. That’s cellulite, scars; different ages, colors and abilities.
The same goes for queer people. I am a queer person. I want to see examples of same-sex couples and gender-fluid people thriving. I see them and love them in my life. I want to see more diversity and fewer stereotypes represented in the media. It would be more realistic, interesting and helpful to the kids that aren’t so lucky to have the colorful community I’ve found. All it takes is one character on primetime; one song that speaks to you, to motivate you to find your way.
As an actor, how does that work blend with your music? Do you bring acting disciplines into your music?
Ya. Acting helps me to be a brave performer. It also inspires me to be empathetic when I write. It’s cool to step into other people’s shoes.
How influential is the diverse New York scene when it comes to your own sound?
Hugely! I come from a really small town in Oregon. I value space in music like my hometown. I value color in music like my community here.
When you were growing up, which artists/records did you hold dear?
I was a weird kid, man. I had a record player that my grandma saved and would play old records which were mostly show tunes and The Beatles. I think I was just as in love with the sound of the record scratch as I was with the songs themselves. As a teenager, I was into Neutral Milk Hotel, Interpol; Modest Mouse, the Ramones; The Clash and Dandy Warhols. I discovered Soul and R&B in college…
Erykah for life.
Do you have a standout memory from your time in music so far?
Getting to open for LP on tour was a dream.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
James Blake - James Blake
I danced alone to this album every day for a year.
Beyoncé – Beyoncé
She presents every part of herself in this album. It’s what made me really want to dive into this industry.
Rihanna - Anti
She f*cks with every genre, sings in her own dialect; the imagery for the album is so androgynous; she champions other artists and overall doesn’t seem to care what you think.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I would love to open for Christine and the Queens, Sia or Lady Gaga. I think they all draw freaky crowds that love strong women and they put on huge shows. My rider would include tequila, popcorn and Blue Point Oysters…cus I’m classy.
Are you planning any gigs in the coming months?
Yes! Come see me in N.Y. on April 17th at Elsewhere space and I might be back in London the following week. Stay tuned!
How important is performing? Do you prefer it to life in the studio?
I need to perform. I love to write. I much prefer to sing my records on stages for people than alone in a booth. I kind of hate that and it makes me want to die. My manager is always laughing cus I have tried singing in every corner of the studio.
IN THIS PHOTO: Katie Von Schleicher
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I take myself dancing. Not the bougie venues where girls stand in cocktail dresses waiting for someone to buy them a cocktail: the places you go to sweat and grind.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Love in This Club by Usher! Xoxox
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