'Life Is A Lesson, And Sometimes It's Difficult To Learn': Cat Power Steps Forward Six years since her last album, Cat Power has returned. The singer-songwriter talks about motherhood, memories and her latest album 'Wanderer.'
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'Life Is A Lesson, And Sometimes It's Difficult To Learn': Cat Power Steps Forward

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'Life Is A Lesson, And Sometimes It's Difficult To Learn': Cat Power Steps Forward

'Life Is A Lesson, And Sometimes It's Difficult To Learn': Cat Power Steps Forward

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/654495584/655345699" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The word first comes up a lot when talking about the latest album from Cat Power. It's the singer's first in six years, its first since she gave birth to a son. And it's her first since leaving her longtime record label. But one thing is not new here, as is often the case with Cat Power's music. This collection is spare and emotional.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOTHING REALLY MATTERS")

CAT POWER: (Singing) When you see my face in the crowd with a look of obsession, there's no subtle way to say there's plenty of defense and discretion.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Cat Power, whose name is Chan Marshall when she's not making music, joins us from our New York studios. Welcome to the program.

CAT POWER: Thank you so much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your new album is called "Wanderer." Let's listen to the title track.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WANDERER")

CAT POWER: (Singing) Oh, wanderer, I've been here wondering, if your brown eyes still have color, could I see? That night, that night with those hands, those hands. That night, that night, oh, galleon ring.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's something Celtic and lilting about that. Who is the wanderer? Is it you?

CAT POWER: It's more of a state of consciousness, I think. So the wanderer's everybody, you know? - that are on Earth.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we're all looking for something. We're all searching.

CAT POWER: Pretty much. I think so. I think it's our nature as the human species.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what are you looking for?

CAT POWER: I think I've found what I never thought I would ever see, which is becoming a parent. You know, I have this - it's like there's no words for what I have now in my heart.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. I think your little boy is now 3 years old. And we can just see the top of his head on the cover of the album. It's really cute.

CAT POWER: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I only ask because your son is now on the cover, and you mentioned how much it's changed you. Does motherhood influence your music now in a different way? Does it come from a different place? I mean, how does it sort of infuse it?

CAT POWER: I have a very, very strong sense of protection that I never felt before. I'm not sure if it comes from him or the act of being a mother. If that just happens to us, I'm not sure. And so it hasn't really affected my songwriting or my recording process. But it definitely has instilled a very strong sense of being grounded in my own human life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, that brings us to the song "Horizon," which has been called the emotional centerpiece of "Wanderer." And the lyrics talk a lot about family.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HORIZON")

CAT POWER: (Singing) Mother, I know your face. Father, still hold your place. Sister, I'm around you. Remember me.

This song is basically flowers, roses for the relationship from when I was a child. You know, these people that I'm singing about were everything to me in my life as a child. And, you know, I chose to have a different path in my life. And this song is just choosing love over any other story or memory, to choose hopefulness, to choose health and recovery and all those things on my path.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You use the word recovery. And you've been pretty open about talking about mental health issues and substance abuse issues. Are those things that you're still having to confront?

CAT POWER: The addiction and the mental health, I grew up with an addict parent. So I think it's just like with my child, my procedures of parenting, I try to make sure I never let this kid down in that way ever, so that's in any way, really.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You don't want to pass on what...

CAT POWER: No.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Maybe was passed on to you.

CAT POWER: Absolutely not. So - and I was never an addict. I suffered from very deep depression. So I was never an addict. I was never an alcoholic. I was trying to turn out the lights to function in society. There's so much pain that people carry and try to avoid. But this song "Black" on the album is actually about addiction and those who've come before and lost their lives. The story is being told from the ghost's perspective.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK")

CAT POWER: (Singing) Let me tell you a story about Black, the one memory and the one who threw it right back. He was down, so I took a ride. He moved the best way out of there, so I took his advice.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to talk about one more song. And this one is a cover on this album, which is Rihanna's "Stay."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAY")

CAT POWER: (Singing) Not really sure how to feel about it. Something in the way you move makes me feel like I can't live without you. It takes me all the way. I want you to stay.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Wanderer" seems to be such a personal album. How does someone else's song fit into your story here?

CAT POWER: Since the recording of this album, there were two friends that had passed, and - a few friends. I'm sorry. I just remembered. So I had to go to LA to mix the record. And I was in a cab before I went, like the week before I went. And, you know, the song came on in the cab. And when Rihanna sings, she took away all this, you know, certain recent grief. She pushed me through.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It seems like you've been through quite a journey. What do you want listeners to take away from this album now?

CAT POWER: That they're not alone, that we're all on this ball of mud, you know, this tiny speck of ball of mud together. I'm not sure where we're going, but just, you know, hold on. Keep your chin up when you can and [expletive] like that. (Laughter) Sorry.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Cat Power's new album is called "Wanderer." Thank you so much.

CAT POWER: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAY")

CAT POWER: (Singing) I want you to stay, want you to stay. Round and around and around and around we go.

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