Covers

Cat Power

Covers

“It's never anything I'm looking for,” Chan Marshall tells Apple Music of how she chooses the material that she covers. “It’s just a song I want to sing, a song I want to hear live at that moment. There’s just too many better than my own.” On her third covers LP under the Cat Power alias, Marshall offers up another glimpse of her self and sensibility, with a mixtape-like journey through classic rock and country, contemporary pop and R&B, post-punk, folk, and a heartfelt update on “Hate,” from her 2006 breakthrough The Greatest. In keeping with her approach to reinterpreting other artists’ material, much of what’s here feels like a radical departure from its original form, each song stripped down to its essence, that primal and often magical thing that moved her from the start. (“The reason I don't play a standard cover, with the notes and chords, is because I don't fucking know what the chords are. I never know what I'm doing.”) As such, everything here is a first take. “I think that's the special ingredient, the Cat Power motto,” she says. “Artists shouldn't doubt themselves. Just try it and move on.” Here, Marshall tells us the story behind each cover.
“Bad Religion” (Frank Ocean) “I had an event happen in New York in the ’90s that was really, really traumatizing: being chased by people, struggling with childhood demons and religion stuff, nightmares, just a bunch of problems on this one night. I ran and got in a cab and I was able to get away. When you are alone and you experience traumatizing things that you could tell a friend about it, I always end up sounding half crazy. But when I heard Frank’s record and I heard the lyrics, ‘Taxi driver/Be my shrink for the hour,’ I was like, ‘Oh, he was there with me.’ It was like an invitation, an invitation to pay attention.”
“Unhate” (Cat Power) “I always like to do one of my own, because I think that a song usually stays the same, but in our lives, we still go through changes and growth. Before I wrote The Greatest, I was always suffering from really deep depression and I was just constantly suicidal. It was just a thing I had to go through, and then when I got sober, after The Greatest came out, I started doing therapy, I started learning about things that I needed to talk about and needed to unpack. When I would play ‘Hate’ solo, I liked that song. But I’d never played it with a band before. And we were in Australia, rehearsing for a tour, and we started playing it, the band really liked it. But I changed the lyrics to ‘I do not hate myself and I do not want to die.’ I thought I should probably let this one live—it’s a much better thing to say and I don't want that song to be so dark.”
“Pa Pa Power” (Dead Man’s Bones) “This song came out right before [Ryan Gosling] got super famous, before he did whatever that movie was with the sex something. I just love that song—it makes me feel a certain way. I love the message—it’s just appropriate. I started playing that in 2013 in China. The interviewers there were like, ‘No politics,’ but that was the first song I played.”
“White Mustang” (Lana Del Rey) “Just being a single mom, I've had love affairs and fallen in love and I've had my heart broken just like anybody. I could just relate to these lyrics. Lana, she's one of the greats. I know that she has millions and millions of people who love her, but you know, critically, she deserves utmost respect for her songwriting. I think she's a legend in her own time and I love her. There's nothing bad I'd ever say about her.”
“A Pair of Brown Eyes” (The Pogues) “It takes me right back to being 14 or 15 and hearing that song on a college radio channel in North Carolina, just hearing that story and hearing time and space go away. Whenever you get transported, you never forget that kind of stuff. I started thinking about people that I lost that had brown eyes. I'm Cherokee, Choctaw, Jewish, Irish. I started thinking about Uncle Wayne. My great-grandmother. I started thinking about my little sister. I started thinking about my friend who passed from cancer a couple years earlier. I started thinking about people with brown eyes who I love, and so I parked the car and ran into the studio and I said to the assistant there, ‘I need something like Mellotron. I need to get something that sounds like a lot of chords all at once. I need something. Let me go and let me listen.’ I put the headphones on and I found the sound that I liked.”
“Against the Wind” (Bob Seger) “The first thing I recorded. I had no idea I was going to sing that song for this record at all. That song was on my mind, like a million others were, but I was just trying to get the band to relax and jam a little bit. I asked [producer] Rob Schnapf if he was recording and he said yes, and that’s it. I never sang it before and we’d never played it before. I didn't really know that it would work, but it's my favorite song on the record.”
“Endless Sea” (Iggy Pop) “It is my favorite Iggy song, period. I was 13 and living in North Carolina, and there was this movie called Dogs in Space. It was one of the most beautiful movies, in my opinion, and the last scene, that's one of the hardest to watch because it’s the saddest scene. It's harsh, but it's also beautiful because of how it happens, and the song kind of gives it the way out, gives it the open door.”
“These Days” (Nico) “I knew that song from Nico, but it never hit me like a brick until I saw Gwyneth Paltrow's face in that movie, The Royal Tenenbaums. Gwyneth Paltrow with her blunt, short hair—she’s wearing the fur, she gets off the bus with the eyeliner. Those emotions and that moment where she gets to see the love of her life, her adopted brother, the sweetest guy, the loyal son who was the sweetest, madly in love with her. There’s so much love, and it's one of my favorite love scenes in any film.”
“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” (Kitty Wells) “That's been a favorite song of mine since I was probably 17. I found a cassette in North Georgia at a flea market in the mountains, in Helen, Georgia. It was Kitty Wells, and I'd never heard of the person, and when I started playing it, I just couldn't get enough of her. I just love her so much. The rest of my life, I'm always just singing her song. A lot of songs, but that song, constantly. I loved her keening, the keening way that she sings her version.”
“I Had a Dream Joe” (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) “It was me just trying to get the band to jam, to loosen up, as we started recording. They sounded menacing and I couldn't think of what songs to do, until I was like, 'Fuck, I should do “I Had a Dream, Joe,”' never thinking it would ever amount to shit. But I love it, the broodiness of it. That song was the first thought and the only thought, so I didn't think too hard with any of those. That first day there was no thinking, it was just gut, gut, gut—I think you get further with your gut in life than your brains or your heart.”
“Here Comes a Regular” (The Replacements) “When I was in high school, Dylan was god, and he had a couple kids—Nick Cave and Paul Westerberg, who was like a king to me. When I moved to New York I was 20, and I used to go by myself to this bar called Sophie's around the corner from where I lived. If I could scrounge up $4, I could drink a beer and I’d put ‘You Don't Know Me’ by Ray Charles and ‘Try Me’ by James Brown on the jukebox, and then I'd walk down the street to Avenue B, to another bar, Mona’s, and I'd play ‘Here Comes a Regular’ over and over and over and over and over. I was alone in New York City and I needed help, and anyone who has known what it's like to be alone, as an adult, who maybe also goes to the bar alone, can understand that song. I have a lot of friends in my life from over the years, who I would sit with at Mona’s from time to time, and a lot of them have passed. So when I think of that song, I think about being there with them when they were alive. I still love that bar. My dog’s name is Mona.”
“I’ll Be Seeing You” (Billie Holiday) “She's so magical. My favorite, my priestess—she showed me the transparent timelessness of spirituality and a voice. When she would sing I was taken out of time, and whenever that happens to me, it's like a big instruction. Philippe Zdar suddenly passed three years ago, and he's like my brother, the first person I've ever known, in the music industry, who I ever felt truly protected by and safe with. His wife Dyane had asked if I wanted to sing at his funeral in Paris. We went to his studio, Motorbass, to record, and I asked her if I could play this song for her, and that was that. They have a window in their bedroom that looks like one the painters used to have in these old studios that were all glass in the back so they could paint. And I hope she doesn't get mad at me for saying this, but Philippe, he was a sun, he was so full of life and love and brightness. I just thought I would sing that to her because that isn't going anywhere. So when she would be alone, this song, it would just be a reflection to her and to those who have experienced that depth of loss.”

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