Kal Cahoone on being a single mom and why boredom is good

The best is yet to come for Kal Cahoone. Which is crazy, because her musical resume is already quite impressive. She began writing songs while living in Chile. There, she collaborated with composer Christian Basso (one of their songs appears in the film Dot The I). When she came back home to Colorado, she formed the band Tarantella with John Rumley, and they recorded one album, Esqueletos, which was released on Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles imprint. For the past five years, Cahoone has been working on solo material, and the beautiful EP and full-length that resulted will get an official release this Saturday at the Walnut Room.

Westword: Argentina was a big influence on your record with Tarantella. Was it this time around?

Kal Cahoone: The new CD does have some of that, but not much. Which is weird, because when you really dominate another language you really become another person. Once you're really fluent, you have to adapt to different ways of speaking, different ways of moving, just being. I miss that person. But at the same time I got back in touch with who I was before. My native language, my native town, my native all of this.

Would you say this version of you is truer?

Oh yes. This piece is way.... who I am. This comes from a period where I suddenly became a single mom. I had to process a lot of bullshit. It's hard as hell. It's nice to have music. It kind of saved my life when my daughter was an infant, to have that way to deal, by writing songs. But at the same time playing them alone and being completely alone, like I felt like I had to be because I had this baby... I got stronger, I guess.

How big a part of your life is music, at this point?

It's smaller than I would like it to be. Because I do have my hands in a lot of things, I'm very interested in a lot of things. But music is, I believe, the strongest of all the arts as far as reaching the core. It's nice to have that outlet, so you feel. I'm on meds now, so. [laughs). No, I'm on very little meds, honestly. But I probably should have been on them a long time ago. But the music helps.

If you don't mind me asking, what do you need meds for?

I'm an insomniac. So that all ties into writing those songs as well, was having no sleep. I was a wreck. I mean, for Tarantella I was fine.

So you're talking about the songs on the EP as well as Saints and Stars?

Uh-huh. It's been about five years. I think there's definitely emotional shifts or brain stuff that changes. It's a lot better now. I just got married six months ago. He's a saint. And I'm doing a lot better spiritually.

Do you think music can help heal in somewhat the way medicine can?

It's interesting. I definitely think music helped. It's pretty depressing music. But I don't think we embrace that enough in this culture, that suffering. And I embraced it a little too much, maybe, in my life. I could have embraced something a little more... you know, playing country covers or something fun. But it wouldn't have helped get the deepest suffering out. I had to be real, very real. Very raw.

What kind of music are you making now?

It's never going to be entirely happy, but with my new band, we've tried to find that middle ground. And that's why the band is called The Dirty Pretty. It's about the dualities. It's not a totally conscious effort, but I would like to get more in that place, a little more upbeat. I like it better. But I wouldn't have been in that place, five years ago.

When did you start writing the solo material?

The EP, I started two months after my baby was born. I did that for a Belgian dance company. They asked me to come there, and I went with my baby. But they had this idea of a dance. They wanted me to dance this Mary Magdalene, very abstract dance piece, and write all the songs, and it was really overwhelming. I decided all I could do was try and write the songs. Which I did. They just paid me to have them in then show, and then I just forgot about it and decided last year I should do something with them.

What about Saints and Stars?

The LP started four years ago. Never thought I'd be finished. There are four people who recorded that [Mark McCain, Randall Frazier, Colin Bricker and Jason McDainel]. There were just a lot of people involved. I can't believe it's done.

Have things calmed down now?

Things are much better. I started to sleep a little better about a year ago, and my business started booming up about a year ago. No drama. It's a whole new life.

Do the songs bring you back to that time when you play them?

We're not playing any of those songs.

So what are you playing?

We're playing one or two off of there for the CD release. But I'm enjoying co-writing again with The Dirty Pretty and I'm liking the songs. We have nine or ten already. Again it's like Tarantella. A closed book. I know that's not the way most people recommend making a CD, because you don't get a following, but I do want to close that book.

What is the best way to experience Saints and Stars?

Probably when it's cold out. Probably while somebody's reading or doing something else, almost like instrumental music.

Why is that?

Because I really like the open spaces. I don't like music to be too much in my face. Maybe meditate a bit. It's spacious. And boring, for many people, I'm sure. But I think our culture is so obsessed with not being bored. It kind of forces you to be bored. And to be OK with it.

To me boredom is not the same thing as it is, maybe, to many people. It's really just being there and being still. And when music is too in your face, it affects you too much. Hopefully there's enough room in there to just be in your space and not be drawn here or there.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kiernan Maletsky is Westword's music editor. His writing has appeared in alt-weeklies around the country as well as Miley Cyrus's mom's Twitter feed.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky