By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Britt Chester
By Noah Hubbell
"Are you Asian?" Chan Marshall asks me over the phone.
"Yes," I reply. "I am."
"You are!" Marshall exclaims. "You sound Asian."
"I don't know what that means. How can you tell?"
"I don't know," she says with a squeal. "I guess I'm psychic."
Or maybe she picked up on my obviously foreign name and made a mental connection. Either way, Marshall, better known as Cat Power, seems to be able to read people in a way that gives her music a quiet, sentimental touch. Cat Power is a one-woman band that turns indie rock into a soulful dance and makes singer-songwriter a pop experience. She's a soft-spoken songbird whose live shows have been noted as unpredictable, mostly because she's been known to run off the stage in a huff of frustration and stage fright. But that was years ago, and the now older and more experienced Marshall -- who's touring in support of her latest effort, The Greatest -- has learned to calm her nerves and, most important, to do it sober.
Westword:So, earlier this year you canceled some tour dates due to health problems?
Chan Marshall: I was just really depressed. Over the past few years, I had just been on tour constantly and drinking so much that it was a normal thing. And then I just realized -- and I realized this because a friend of mine realized it -- that I stopped upkeeping. There was so much on the back burner, and there was so much that I hadn't been taking care of emotionally, psychologically and with my physical health. I had been living in Miami the past few years, and I had stopped talking to friends because I was so exhausted from touring, and I just realized, 'Fuck, what am I doing?' So I got sober, and my record label saw that I was really exhausted, so they pulled the plug on the tour. The label said they were going to try and reschedule, but I really thought, 'Fuck, I'm never going to tour again, and my life is going to change, and I'm going to have to get a job.' I was happy about that.
A few months later, the label came back and said that these clubs still wanted me and that they would book me again for another month if I wanted to try it. So the same friend that came down to help me out when I was a mess volunteered to go with me on the tour. But it had been so long since I had been stationary. I remember being afraid of being around people again and being in front of people without having to be on Xanax -- like popping pills or drinking a fifth of Scotch every night -- just being in front of people completely sober.
It cost me a hundred thousand dollars to pull the plug, with all the bookers, all the venues, each individual club. And all the bandmembers are union, so I had to pay them. But it's okay, because I got my health back and I regained happiness, so it was worth it.
Are you still drinking?
I've had about ten drinks in eight months, so that's pretty damn good.