Cat Power

Cat Power
Cat Power

Performing in June 2008
Background information
Birth name Charlyn Marie Marshall
Also known as Chan Marshall
Born January 21, 1972 (1972-01-21) (age 39)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Genres Indie rock, folk rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter, actress and musician
Instruments Vocal, guitar, piano
Years active 1992–present
Labels Runt, Matador, Smells Like, Plain
Associated acts Beck, Steve Shelley, Appaloosa
Cat Power performing Joni Mitchell's "Blue"

Charlyn Marie Marshall (born January 21, 1972), also known as Chan Marshall or by her stage name Cat Power, is an American singer/songwriter and occasional actress and model. Cat Power was originally the name of Marshall's first band, but has come to refer to her musical projects with various backing bands. Over a twenty year career she has produced eight studio albums, one live album and two EPs.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Marshall loved soul, rock n roll and country music from childhood and began to play guitar in experimental bands with friends. After a move to New York at age 20, Marshall recorded two lo-fi, improvised solo albums. Cat Power signed to Matador Records to release her third, more focused album, What Would the Community Think? (1996), which united her with notable indie musicians. She followed with Moon Pix (1998) and The Covers Record (2000), receiving notice for her spare, intense originals and radically stripped down takes on folk songs and familiar songs. You Are Free (2003) was more structured indie rock and brought Cat Power wider attention. Marshall followed it up with the one-take performance film, Speaking for Trees (2004), filmed in a forest. The Greatest (2006), in which she worked with classic R&B and gospel musicians, was her most recent collection of original songs, and her best-selling. A second covers collection, Jukebox (2008), with a horn-led backing band, is her most recent album.

Marshall has been praised for her soulful vocals and raw, minimalist guitar playing. Cat Power's concert appearances were unconventional and unpredictable for many years, and critics often called her an erratic live act. Marshall faced substance abuse problems which she said affected her performances, and recently her act has been notably more polished, although her musical style has also changed significantly. Marshall has also done modelling work. She has been photographed by notable fashion photographers and in 2006 became a spokesperson for Chanel. She has appeared in three films, including Wong Kar-Wai's My Blueberry Nights (2007).


Early Life

Chan Marshall was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Marshall's father, Charlie, is a blues musician and pianist. Her parents divorced when she was a child and were reconciled at a later date. Her mother remarried to another man, the family travelling around a lot because of her stepfather's job. Marshall attended 10 different schools throughout the Southern United States in places such as Greensboro; Barlett and Memphis and throughout Georgia and South Carolina. At times she was left with her grandmother. In interviews she stated that the constant traveling prepared her for the touring life of a professional musician. She was not allowed to buy records when she was growing up, but she listened to her stepfather's record collection which included such artists as Otis Redding, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones.[1]

Marshall became estranged from her mother at 16 at the same time she dropped out of high school, having no contact with her until she was 24 and says they are still not close. She went back to live with her father in Atlanta but only stayed with him until she was 18, when she moved out. Marshall claims he never taught her any music, forbidding her to play his piano. Her first instrument was a 1950s Silvertone guitar, which she did not touch for a year after buying it, because “It was art in the corner.”[2]

After leaving home, she started playing in Atlanta with a collective of musicians made up of Glen Thrasher, Marc Moore, Damon Moore and Fletcher Liegerot, who would get together for jam sessions in a basement. The group were booked for a show and had to come up with a name quickly, when a man walked through the door of the pizzeria where Marshall worked, wearing a Caterpillar trucker cap that read: "Cat Diesel Power". Marshall immediately decided on Cat Power as the name of the band.[3] While in Atlanta, Marshall played her first live shows as support to her friends' bands, including Magic Bone and Opal Foxx Quartet. Due to her close relationships with the various people involved, she has stated that her involvement in music at this time was primarily a social interest rather than an artistic one. She also stated in a 2007 interview for Soft Focus[4] that the music itself was more experimental and that playing shows was often an opportunity for her and her friends to get drunk and take drugs.

Music career

Early work (1992–1996)

In 1992 she moved to New York City with Glen Thrasher. It was Thrasher who introduced her to New York's free-jazz and experimental music scene. In particular she cites a concert by Anthony Braxton with giving her the confidence to perform in public. Her first New York show was at a warehouse in Brooklyn and she has described her early New York shows as "more improvisational."[5] One of her shows during this period was as the support act to Man or Astro-man? and consisted of her playing a two-string guitar and singing the word "no" for fifteen minutes.[6] Around this time she made the acquaintance of God Is My Co-Pilot, a relationship that resulted in them releasing her first single "Headlights" in a limited run of 500 copies on their Making of Americans label.

Cat Power performing in New York in February 2009

In 1994 she opened for Liz Phair in New York. In attendance were Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Tim Foljahn of Two Dollar Guitar, who encouraged her to record, and played on her first two albums, 1995's Dear Sir and 1996's Myra Lee, the latter taking its name from Marshall's mother. Both albums were recorded in New York on the same day in December 1994 and display a lack of conventional song structures.

Matador records (1996–present)

In 1996 she was signed to Matador Records and, along with Foljahn and Shelley, recorded her third album, What Would the Community Think, which spawned a single and music video, "Nude as the News". In 1998 Marshall released Moon Pix, composed of new songs that resulted from a sleepless night resulting from a nightmare whilst she was living at a farmhouse in Prosperity, South Carolina. The record was recorded at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne in eleven days with backing musicians Mick Turner and Jim White of the Dirty Three. [7] The album was well-received by critics, and gained her recognition in the indie rock scene.

The Covers Record was a collection of cover songs by Marshall recorded at various sessions in 1998 and 1999. A selection of covers that didn't make it on to the album were recorded at Peel Acres, home of the British DJ John Peel. The session was broadcast on his BBC Radio 1 show and featured Marshall's own interpretations of Bob Dylan's "Hard Times in New York Town" and Oasis's "Wonderwall", amongst others. her contract with Matador Records for 2000's The Covers Album reportedly consisted of a Post-It note signed by herself and the company's founder.[8]

Cat Power performing in Toronto in September 2006

In 2003 after a long gap Marshall resumed releasing original material with You Are Free, which featured guest musicians such as Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl, and the Dirty Three's Warren Ellis. A music video directed by Brett Vapnek was released for the song "He War." The Greatest was released in January 2006. This was not a greatest hits record but rather the Matador Records-arranged collaboration with Al Green's guitarist Teenie Hodges and other musicians. The Dirty Delta Blues band recorded an album of covers called Jukebox which was released on January 22, 2008, on Matador Records. On December 9, 2008, an EP entitled Dark End of the Street was released by Matador. The release consists of left-over cover songs from the Jukebox sessions.

Cat Power performing in June 2008

New work

In an article from Spin, Marshall says of her next proper studio LP, "I'm producing it. One song is called "Leopard," I used to sing it when I was 26. There's another song, a spiritual song called "Mountaintops." And there's a really sweet song called "Funny Things" that's like a little kid's tap-dance song about having special secret thoughts: "Funny things in your dreams/Can you whisper talk to me?" And then there's "Silent Machine," which I actually wrote a long time ago. There's another song called "Oh Time." It's about my ex and it's about forgiveness. My friend Susanna always cries when I play it." [9]

In an October 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Marshall confirmed her work on an upcoming album, stating "I'm trying to play all the instruments myself. There's an inspiration [on the record] of being furious about wanting to achieve your goal. I was inspired by being disappointed in myself that I'd just been holding a microphone and [...] that I hadn't been playing an instrument."[10] In a January 2011 interview, Marshall hinted that new material may not see release until as late as summer 2012, stating "[...] I would like to continue what I'm doing [professionally], but I'd also like to not divert from what I've been creating in my personal life. I don't wanna jeopardize being a mom by working. Because in my work, I have to 'go', y'know?"[11]

Live Performances/Tours

In late 1996, Cat Power completed a three-month tour co-headlining with the band Guv'ner in support of the release of What Would the Community Think. By 2000 Marshall states that she had grown tired of touring her own material. This resulted in a series of shows during 1999 where Marshall provided musical accompaniment to the silent movie The Passion of Joan of Arc. The shows combined original material and many covers, many of which would later see release on The Covers Record, a collection of cover songs Marshall toured extensively through 2003 and 2004 on a tour that covered Europe, Brazil, the US and Australia. [12] Marshall toured through 2005, including an Australian tour supporting Nick Cave and an appearance at the Patti Smith-curated Meltdown festival. The shows largely consisted of material that would appear on her next album. She returned to live performance in April 2006, playing with the Memphis Rhythm Band and as a solo performer, including a performance at a Bob Dylan tribute concert in New York, a fund raiser for the charity Music for Youth. Marshall put together a new band in Winter 2006 with whom she toured and recorded throughout 2007. The Dirty Delta Blues Band features Judah Bauer (from Blues Explosion), Gregg Foreman (The Delta 72), Erik Paparazzi (Lizard Music), and Jim White (from Dirty Three).

Collaborations and contributions

Around this time, Marshall collaborated with Mick Collins (of The Dirtbombs) on a recording of Ludwig Rellstab's poem "Auf Dem Strom" for the film Wayne County Ramblin'.[13] Marshall sang the poem in German, though she does not speak the language. Since returning to the stage Marshall has contributed guest vocals to several albums. She performed a duet with model Karen Elson on an English cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Je t'aime... moi non plus" for the tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited. She also sang lead vocal on the Ensemble track "Disown, Delete" and reworked "Revelations" with Yoko Ono for Ono's 2007 album Yes, I'm a Witch. She also performed guest vocals for Faithless and El-P. She also duets on the Dexter Romweber Duo song "Love Letters". In 2007, Marshall contributed songs to the soundtrack of Ethan Hawke's movie The Hottest State, recording with Jesse Harris and Terry Manning, and the Academy Award-winning film Juno. In early 2008, she collaborated with Beck and producer Danger Mouse on the album Modern Guilt. She contributed backing vocals to two tracks, "Orphans" and "Walls". The album was released in July of that year.[14] Chan Marshall provides backup vocals on Marianne Faithfull's cover of "Hold On, Hold On" by Neko Case on the 2009 album Easy Come Easy Go. In 2011 she also featured as guest on "Tonight You Belong To Me" on Eddie Vedder's Ukulele Songs.[15]

Other work


Early the 2000s Marshall was embraced by the fashion industry for her 'neo grunge' look and seen as a muse by designers such as Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquière. She was invited to many high profile fashion shows. In 2001 she modelled in New York Magazine's Fall fashion issue. and photographed by her friends Mark Borthwick and Terry Richardson, who featured her in Purple Magazine alongside Catherine Deneuve.[16] In October 2006 she became the celebrity spokesperson for a line of jewelry from Chanel, after being seen by Karl Lagerfeld smoking a cigarette outside the Mercer Hotel in New York. Lagerfeld chose Cat Power to be the soundtrack to his Spring 2007 fashion show. He also photographed Marshall for a purple magazine feature. [17]


In 2007 Marshall's voice could be heard in commercials for Cingular[18] and De Beers[19] in the United States and Garnier in the United Kingdom. Previously Marshall had done advertisements for GAP. In September 2008, Marshall and members of the Dirty Delta Blues (Erik Paparazzi & Gregg Foreman) recorded their version of David Bowie's Space Oddity for a Lincoln car commercial.[20]

Film work

2004 saw the release of the DVD Speaking for Trees, which featured a continuous, nearly 2-hour static shot of Marshall performing in a woodland. The set was accompanied by an audio CD containing the eighteen-minute song "Willie Deadwilder," featuring M. Ward on guitar. She had a small role in the 2007 film My Blueberry Nights opposite Jude Law.[21] She also appeared in Doug Aitken's MOMA installation Sleepwalkers,[22] which followed the nocturnal lives of five city dwellers. Marshall can be seen as a postal worker living in New York, performing with other notable participants such as Tilda Swinton.

Charity work

A live version of the gospel song Amazing Grace – culled from a performance with the Dirty Delta Blues band – was released on the charity compilation Dark Was the Night. Released by independent British label 4AD on 17 February 2009, the set benefited the Red Hot Organization, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS.

Performance style

Cat Power performing in May 2008

Marshall’s live shows have been known for their unpolished nature, with songs beginning and ending abruptly or blending into one another without clear transitions. She has also cut short performances without explanation.[23] On some occasions this has been put down to her suffering from stage fright[24] and the influence of alcohol.

Recently, Marshall's performance style has been said to be much more enthusiastic and professional. An article in Salon[25] called The Greatest "polished and sweetly upbeat", stating that Marshall was "delivering onstage". In the article, Marshall states that her newfound musical collaborators and sobriety are largely responsible for her increased confidence onstage.


Also in 2007, she became the first female solo act to win the Shortlist Music Prize when The Greatest was voted album of the year in June.[26] Earlier in the year she was nominated in the Best International Female Solo Artist category at the annual BRIT Awards.[27]

Marshall was featured in Maxim's Hot 100 women of 2009, she was placed at number 19.[28]

Personal life

In 1992, Marshall moved into a New York apartment which she maintains to this day, only paying $160 a month in rent. Around 2003 she bought a house in South Beach, Miami from a high school friend. [29] In 2009 Marshall moved to Los Angeles to share a house in Silver Lake, California with her boyfriend. They also have a rental house in Malibu where she has a studio.[11]


When Marshall was working as a waitress in Atlanta her boyfriend passed away, causing her to have a breakdown. She says this coupled with the prevalance of heroin use amongst her friends and the loss of her best friend to AIDS was the impetus for her moving to New York. Her boyfriend in New York helped her get a job in a restaurant, but she realised he was having an affair with the owner, a married woman with two children.[12]

In late 1996, following a three-month tour co-headlining with the band Guv'ner, Marshall disappeared from the music scene, initially working as a baby sitter in Portland, Oregon and then moving to a farmhouse in Prosperity, South Carolina with then boyfriend Bill Callahan. The plan was to permanently retire from public performance but during a sleepless night resulting from a nightmare, Marshall wrote several new songs and returned to recording.

In 2001 Marshall was romantically involved with a runway model named Daniel, who was seven years younger than her. He left her in 2003 at a time when her drink and drug use was out of control. Marshall referred to him as “the ex-love of my life”.[30] Following the release of "The Greatest", Marshall cancelled previously arranged live shows in North America and Europe. She was struggling with a relationship with a young Miami investment banker.[31]

According to an interview in January 2011, Marshall has been in a relationship with actor Giovanni Ribisi since 2009 and lives with Ribisi and his 13 year old daughter in L.A.[11].

Alcohol and mental health difficulties

By the turn of the century, Marshall's live performances had become erratic and unpredictable, with The New Yorker suggesting, "It is foolhardy to describe a Cat Power event as a concert," citing "rambling confessions" and "[talking] to a friend's baby from the stage."[32] Marshall later attributed this period to a drinking problem, telling HARP magazine in 2006 "I didn't know I was messed up."[33] Marshall has admitted abusing alcohol in the past; in a 2006 interview with The New York Times, she declared herself to be sober, which she defined as having had "seven drinks in seven months."[34]

Following the cancellation of the arranged tour of "The Greatest" album in 2006, Marshall used the hiatus to recover from what she described as a "psychotic break," brought on by mental exhaustion and alcohol abuse, which had left her feeling suicidal. As part of her recovery, she was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Miami's Mount Sinai Medical Center but left after a week, stating "being in there wasn't me." She later likened the experience to "a pit of hell."[35] Marshall gave a first person account of her breakdown in an interview for the November 2006 issue of Spin.[36]

Partial Discography


Year Film Role Notes
2007 Sleepwalkers Dancer working as a FedEx Clerk Short
Credited as Chan Marshall
2007 My Blueberry Nights Katya Credited as Chan Marshall
2009 American Widow Singing Woman Main Role


  1. ^ Hightower, Laura. "Power, Cat, Biography". enotes contemporary musicians. Retrieved 15 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Van Meter, William. "Cat Power: I'm A Survivor". New York Magazine. New York Media LLC. Retrieved 15 September 2011. 
  3. ^ By roberto on February 5, 2010. "Happy Birthday, Chan Marshall: Five Reasons to Celebrate Cat Power :: Blogs :: List of the Day :: Paste". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  4. ^ Chan Marshall interviewed by Ian Svenonius, 'Soft Focus' show, 5-March-2007,
  5. ^ Pitchfork Media interview[dead link]
  6. ^ "Chickfactor interview". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  7. ^ Kelley, Trevor (Jan/Feb). "Cat Power: Ordinary People". Harp Magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-09-19. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The Spin Interview: Cat Power". Spin. 2006-11-22. Retrieved 2006-11-22. 
  10. ^ VIDEO: Cat Powers' Furious Vision For New Disc Retrieved 2011-02-24.
  11. ^ a b c Cat Power interviewed by Wilfred Brandt Retrieved 2011-02-19.
  12. ^ a b Hodgkinson, Will (Friday 23 May 2003). "Southern Gothic". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "Wayne County Ramblin' Official Site". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  14. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (2008-07-06). "New York Times article". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  15. ^ "Cat Power guests on Eddie Vedder's ukulele album | News". Nme.Com. 2011-03-22. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  16. ^ Larocca, Amy (27). "Folk Heroine". New York Magazine. doi:August 27, 2001. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "Is Cat Power Couture?". Sound on Sound, February 14, 2007. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  18. ^ Cingular Covers the Hits
  19. ^ Video: Cat Power Covers Cat Stevens, Hawks Bling[dead link]
  20. ^ "Cat Power Covers David Bowie To Sell Cars". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Doug Aitken exhibition". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  23. ^ Irving Plaza gig review[dead link]
  24. ^ Rolling Stone article[dead link]
  25. ^ "The cat comes back". 2006-09-30. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  26. ^ Shain, Shapiro. "Mercury Music Prize, worldwide: DiS assesses the awards...". Drowned in sound September 3rd, 2007. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  27. ^ "Cat Power BRITs proflie". Official BRIT Awards website. BRIT Awards Ltd.. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  28. ^ "Maxim 2009 Hot 100". Maxim. 05. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  29. ^ Armisen, Fred. "Interviews: Cat Power". Pitchfork. Pitchfork media. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  30. ^ Cairns, Dan (27 January 2008). "Cat Power's nine lives". The Times. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  31. ^ Uhelszki, Jaan. "Cat Power:Beauty Secrets". Harp Magazine,December 2006. Guthrie, Inc. Archived from the original on 2011-09-19. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  32. ^ [1] New Yorker Magazine, 2003
  33. ^ Uhelszki, Jaan. "Cat Power:Beauty Secrets". Harp Magazine,December 2006. Guthrie, Inc. Archived from the original on 2011-09-19. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  34. ^ "9 Lives and Counting: Cat Power Sobers Up". The New York Times. 2006-09-20. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  35. ^ Uhelszki, Jaan. "Cat Power:Beauty Secrets". Harp Magazine,December 2006. Guthrie, Inc. Archived from the original on 2011-09-19. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  36. ^ Maerz, Melissa (December 2006). Spin. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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